15 Things I Learned After Being A Single Mum For A Week

Over Christmas I took it upon myself to offer my services as stand-in mother to my sister while she went away on holiday.

With my sister, Libby right

With my sister, Libby (right)

Of course, I’ve been on babysitting duty for my nephew William (otherwise known as “Boo”) many times. But this was the first occasion he had been under my sole care for almost a week…and I knew it was going to be no picnic.

Don’t get me wrong, I love kids. I am not child-phobic nor a stranger to having little people around – I have two young siblings who I regularly babysit and have helped my sister Libby out with her son ever since he was born in 2015.

But being solely responsible for a child on a 24 hour basis is another thing entirely. While I expected less sleep, a change in routine and not much time to myself, it was truly fascinating, and ultimately beneficial, to see what it’s really like to be in a single mother’s shoes.

I believe it’s important to share what I learned, not only for those who have no idea what parents go through on a daily basis, but also to honour ALL of the mothers and fathers, single or not, who are raising children as best they can. We salute you!

With my 2 year old nephew, William "Boo"

With my 2 year old nephew, William (“Boo”)

Nap Time Is Only For Babies

Shockingly, I found that sneaky naps are strictly forbidden as a parent. There is simply no option to daytime-snooze when a two year old needs to be fed, changed and constantly cleaned up after.

You can also forget about trying to get them to nap with you – this only resulted in a chubby finger being shoved up my nose and Boo deciding it would be hilarious to sit on my head with a wet nappy.

It’s Okay, And Sometimes Unavoidable, That Your House Will Look Like It’s Been Ransacked

You know the whole 1950’s image of a serene mother tending to her well-behaved children in a spotless house? Well, it’s a lie.

Kids are messy. Some days you will be too tired and busy to tidy up or wash the dishes. Some times you will have to leave the violently scattered Cheerios on the floor. And that’s okay, because you are not a machine.

wc-1210963_960_720Peeing In Private Is Not A Thing Anymore

I became used to having Boo follow me everywhere, including the bathroom, pretty quickly.

Running off to take a private pee or brush my teeth soon became impossible as he would simply yell my name and crawl determinedly up the stairs in hot pursuit.

You Get Excited When Your Child Eats A Whole Meal

I used to think it was terribly dull when Libby called me to announce excitedly that Boo had eaten ALL his vegetables or finished a bowl of spaghetti without launching it across the room.

But these little things become great accomplishments, especially when you are irrationally paranoid about them eating/drinking enough or becoming malnourished under your watch.

girl-1641215_960_720Your Belongings Are No Longer Your Belongings

By Day 2 of being Substitute Mum, I realised that none of my belongings were safe from being chewed, broken or puked on.

Sadly, it took Boo splattering a mouthful of banana over my new suede boots to learn this vital lesson.

They Need You. ALL. THE. TIME.

Parents have a hard enough time being constantly needed as it is, but it is even more difficult for single Mums and Dads. Having a vulnerable human life completely depend on you, and only you, for its survival is quite frankly terrifying.

Just when you think you have everything under control – child fed, watered and cuddled, nappy changed, clothes clean, Peppa Pig on the TV – they will hit you with another demand. Or a remote control.

NOTE: If you are wondering how to predict exactly when a two year old will decide to dirty their nappy, it will be approximately 3 minutes after you’ve put a clean one on. (Thanks, Boo)

Me and Boo

Me and Boo

…But It’s Also Kind Of Nice To Be Needed

I have to admit, it did make me feel all warm inside to see my Boo snuggle up to me with his blanket knowing I had managed to keep him alive and well all day.

Waking Up To Small Chubby Human Cuddles Is Actually The Cutest Thing Ever

Even if it’s a 5am wake up call and they’ve chucked the contents of their bottle everywhere during the night, there’s nothing better than waking up to a beaming squidgy face and morning cuddles.

Personal Hygiene Kind Of Goes Out The Window

It’s apparently perfectly normal as a parent to realise you haven’t had time to shower for three days. Gross, but normal.

newborn-753819_960_720You Get Used To Feeling Perpetually Tired

At first the lack of sleep was the most difficult thing about being a “single mum”. But after a day or so, instinct kicks in and being zombified becomes your natural state.

Others Commenting On Your Parenting Is The Most Annoying Thing In The World

When you have been up since the crack of dawn, tried to feed a kid who prefers to put food everywhere except his mouth, maneuvered a pram, changing bag and screaming child around the shops, changed their clothes fifty times and been smacked in the face by a cup for filling it with the wrong juice, the LAST thing you need is someone telling you what you could be doing better.

Your Priorities Change

Many of the things you thought were important take a back seat. Eating, for example. My first priority was always the Boo’s well-being, and this meant that things like answering work emails, scrolling through Facebook and self-care now came second, if at all.

kids-1826980_960_720Going To The Shop For Milk Becomes A Full-Scale Operation

Forget about popping round to the shop for a few bits. Getting out of the house involves a carefully calculated set of procedures including dressing (repeatedly) both yourself and the child, diffusing epic tantrums, loading the buggy, wrapping up said child in various layers and timing it exactly right so you don’t miss mealtimes.

Baby Talk Becomes Normal

I discovered that the word for blanket was actually “clankey”, food was “om noms” and “uffoo” was “love you”. It’s surprising how natural it is to integrate Mum-speak into your vocabulary.

Boo and Libby

Boo and Libby

Devoting Your Day To Caring For A Child Is Exhausting, But The Love You Have For Them Will Get You Through It

Yes, it’s tiring, monotonous, and at times really stressful, but the love you feel from watching a child you’re committed to caring for laugh, say a new word or fall asleep in your arms gets you through the day.

More than anything, this week taught me to seriously appreciate the simple indulgences in my life – uninterrupted morning coffee, spontaneous naps, wine at 1pm. Child-free folk should also never underestimate the beauty of bathing in private, dating without attachments, or having time to think about their own wants and needs.

While I won’t be making a trip to the sperm bank any time soon, I am grateful for this reminder and the opportunity to build on the bond I have with my gorgeous nephew.

15697908_1054450374666963_5121095352862814317_nMy sister Libby, 19, said: “The best thing about being a mother is having that loving company when you are having a bad day. But the worst is the fear that, because you’re a single mum, you may not do it all right.

“If I could say one thing to people who don’t have kids it would be to make the most of your life now. Don’t take your freedom for granted. Becoming a mother unexpectedly isn’t the end of the world, though, because of the amount of love you will feel.

“I think it was extremely beneficial for Abby to step into my shoes. I wanted her more than anyone to experience what I do every day so we can understand each other more.

“Most mothers have trust issues about leaving their babies while they are away or at work, and this experience made me feel like I could actually take a break occasionally and leave Boo without worrying. It was great for both of us.”

About the Author

Abby Williams
Belfast based author/writer specialising in entertainment, mental health and human interest.