Finding 1-on-1 Time with Kids as a Single Mom – “Date Days!”

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On August 6, 2013, I suddenly and unexpectedly became a single mom.

Someday I hope to find the courage to write the story of the worst day of my life, but as you can read on my About Me page, you’ll see that my husband passed away from complications due to bacterial meningitis.

And that’s when I found myself to be a single mom to 3 kids under the age of 2.  Our twin daughters were 19-months-old, and our son was 4-months-old.

I had never, ever planned on being a single mom.

Just being a mom is hard.

Being a single mom is HARD.

Being a single mom to 3 babies while dealing with the loss of the love of your life is HARD.  It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. And that is a total understatement!

For the past 9.5 months, I’ve been drowning.  Just barely surviving, by instinct and habit alone.  My body knows how to get up and get showered.  It knows how to dress and feed the kids.  It knows how to work at my job as an engineer.  And believe it or not, it can smile and laugh and converse with other people.  It can do all of these things despite the turmoil my head and heart feel.  It goes on auto-pilot.

And I’m still drowning.  But over the last month or 2, I might get a quick gasp of air.  The fog clears.  And I can SEE what is going on in my life around me.

One of these moments of clarity happened a few weeks ago, when I realized our bedtime routine needed to change.  Since Chaz died, I’ve been plopping the kids in front of the TV with a cartoon movie playing to “settle them down for bed.”  We’d watch for about 15 minutes, and then I’d bring them up to their room and put them in their cribs to go to sleep.  That was it.

Yes, I realize people out there might be tsk-tsking, but put yourself in my shoes and see how well you can do!

I just couldn’t bare going back to the bedtime routine we had been doing that involved Chaz.  We used to take turns reading books to the kids, sometimes we’d even alternate pages of 1 book.  And then we’d both go up to their rooms to put them in their cribs.

But during that short moment when the fog cleared, I realized I needed to start reading to these kids again.  And that’s what I’ve been doing ever since!

Another moment of clarity came one day when the kids were fighting over sitting in my lap.  They seriously push and shove each other out of my lap, so that they can sit there.

If you’re a mom of more than 1 kid, you know that you can fit MORE than 1 kid in your lap.  I try so hard to explain that to them.  That if they would just stop fighting, we’d all be able to sit there together, I can fit all 3 of them!

But a gasp of air came, and I realized WHY they were fighting…

It was because they never had to NOT share ME.  My attention is ALWAYS divided in 3 directions.  Even if I’m holding 1 child in my arms, I’m probably holding the hand of another, while listening to the 3rd tell me about a bird they saw outside!

They were just fighting to have a brief moment with just me.  Just me and Charlotte.  Just me and Will.  Just me and Violet. No brother or sister stealing my attention away from them.

And I thought to myself, that is just not fair.  It is not fair to my kids to never have 100% of their momma’s attention.  And it’s not fair to me, because I’m missing out on really getting to KNOW my kids.

I needed to do something about this.

Finding 1-on-1 Time with Kids - Date Days! A single mom's story - MePlus3Today.blogspot.com

Since I work part-time, the kids go to daycare 3 days per week.  I decided that I was going to take 3 days off from work to have “date days” with the kids.

In other words, I was still going to send 2 of the kids in to daycare each day, but keep 1 out to spend the day with me!  I had Violet on Monday, Charlotte on Tuesday, and Will on Wednesday.

I was incredibly nervous about separating the girls, because I can’t even remember the last time they’ve been apart.  But I told the daycare what my plan was, and they helped keep 1 of the girls distracted while I left with the other.  And they both did really well being apart!

We were given a membership to the zoo near our home, so I had originally planned on bringing them each to the zoo.  But unfortunately, the week I took off was yucky, rainy weather!  So I scrambled to find some indoor activities.  So here is what we did on our “date days!”

Violet

First, I took her out to breakfast!  I NEVER take the kids out to restaurants.  Basically because of logistics, and lets be honest, fear!

She was a little hesitant at first, and didn’t really know what was going on.  But after a while, she enjoyed coloring on her placemat/kiddie menu, and pointing to all the things on wall and hanging from the ceiling.  She wanted to sit in my lap while she ate her breakfast, so I let her! (No sharing with brother and sister!)  She also loved drinking her milk from a “big girl cup.” 🙂

Finding 1-on-1 Time with Kids - Date Days! A single mom's story - MePlus3Today.blogspot.com

Next, I took her to a new indoor playcenter that just opened near us.  It was AWESOME!  She is my energetic, rough & tumble, little one.  So, it was absolutely PERFECT for her.  She was able to climb, jump, run, and basically just be herself with no restrictions.

And I just loved letting her run loose, and not having to worry about anyone else.  I was able to let her lead the way.  She could do whatever she wanted, for however long she wanted.  We both had a lot of fun!

Finding 1-on-1 Time with Kids - Date Days! A single mom's story - MePlus3Today.blogspot.com

We went home for a nap and lunch.  Unfortunately, she didn’t really nap because she had gotten a 10-minute cat nap in the car!  🙁  While that lead to a melt-down during dinner time, we were able to get some snuggles in!

In the afternoon, I wanted to take her to the store to find sandals for summer.  They’re building a house next door, so we sat and watched the “big truck” for about 15 minutes before we left.  There was no rushing on our date day!

At the store, she enjoyed a nice little treat too!  🙂

Finding 1-on-1 Time with Kids - Date Days! A single mom's story - MePlus3Today.blogspot.com

It was wonderful to spend a day alone with Violet.  I loved having 100% of my focus on her.  I loved having no other worries.  And I loved seeing how happy and excited she was.  It was a really good day!

Charlotte

I took Charlotte out to breakfast on her date day too!  I was trying to get a feel for different “kid friendly” restaurants, so we went someplace different than the day before.

She was also confused by what was happening, but after we ordered our food, I told her they were cooking it for us, so we had to wait.  So she kept going on and on about “our food cooking…”  🙂  She enjoyed her “big girl cup” and coloring on her placemat too!  And she was more excited about the banana on her pancake than the fact that it was in the shape of a face! 🙂

Finding 1-on-1 Time with Kids - Date Days! A single mom's story - MePlus3Today.blogspot.com

For Charlotte’s activity, we went to the children’s museum near us.  She is outgoing and social, but also more “steady,” where she can sit and do one thing for a long time.  I thought the museum would be good for that.  I had never been there, so I didn’t know what to expect.  I think there was actually a little too much for her to do!  It was almost overwhelming!

Because there was so much to do, I had to keep reminding myself to let her lead the way, to not force her to move on to the next activity.  Since she does like to do just one thing for a long time, we didn’t get to see and do everything.  But that is OK! She was able to play at a sand table, chauffeur me in a VW bug, and play on a rock climbing wall.  But I think her favorites were making a cape, building a tower, going on a slide, and playing with a giant light bright!

Finding 1-on-1 Time with Kids - Date Days! A single mom's story - MePlus3Today.blogspot.com

We went home for lunch and a nap.  She also got in a 10-minute cat nap in the car, which meant no nap at home.  So again, we snuggled and just relaxed.

In the afternoon, I also wanted her to try on shoes, so we took a quick trip to the mall.  We were there longer than expected, so we were running late to pick up the other kids from daycare, but I still snuck in a quick selfie near one of the entrances. 🙂

Finding 1-on-1 Time with Kids - Date Days! A single mom's story - MePlus3Today.blogspot.com

I loved my day with Charlotte.  And I think she loved being spoiled by me! 🙂

Will

With Will, I wanted to take him somewhere that we didn’t have to wait for food.  Plus, I had a gift card, so we checked out Tim Horton’s for breakfast.

The logistics with Will were a little different, because he isn’t as independent as the girls.  I got him oatmeal, but I realized I wasn’t willing to deal with the mess in public, so I shared my sandwich with him. 🙂  He loved looking at the cars going through the drive-thru, and the lights on the ceiling. 🙂

Finding 1-on-1 Time with Kids - Date Days! A single mom's story - MePlus3Today.blogspot.com

Will is typically in a stroller or I wear him in the Ergo when I take all 3 kids out.  So I wanted to bring him someplace where he could move and play without restriction!  There is a local “playhouse” near us that specializes in entertainment for kids age 0 to 3, which is where I took him.

It was so fun watching him explore.  As soon as I set him down, he was off to play with all the toys!  I basically just followed him around, and only intervened if he looked to me for help, or if he was trying to steal a toy from another child.  I think he loved all the freedom!

Finding 1-on-1 Time with Kids - Date Days! A single mom's story - MePlus3Today.blogspot.com

We went home for lunch and nap, and fortunately, he took a nap!  🙂  I had debated on running out on an errand in the afternoon with him, but I realized from the previous days that I had over-scheduled, so we ended up just staying home and playing with our toys.  He loves that ball-popper! 🙂

Finding 1-on-1 Time with Kids - Date Days! A single mom's story - MePlus3Today.blogspot.com

I really loved having bonding time with Will.  We never really had any of that because he was so incredibly young when Chaz died.  So I really try hard to enjoy those 1-on-1 moments I have with him!

What I Learned

This was obviously the first time I had ever done anything like this.  It was actually a pretty exhausting week! 🙂

As I reflected on each day, I realized that I tried to fit too much into 1 day!  I think I was so excited about having 1-on-1 time with each kid, that I wanted to do EVERYTHING!

And while these fun activities and outings were great for them to have, that’s not what they really needed.  They just needed TIME with ME!

I’m going to try and have these special, exciting, activity filled “date days” maybe twice per year.

But from now on, I’m going to try and find time in our normal, everyday routine to just spend a few moments, with 100% attention on each kid.  It’s really hard to do since it is just me plus 3 most of the time, so I’m always outnumbered.  But I know that I need to really make a point to just focus on 1 child at a time.

I need to do it for them.  And for me.

How do you get in some 1-on-1 time with your kids?  I REALLY need the advice!

Well, that’s what Me Plus 3 are up to TODAY!

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4 Comments on "Finding 1-on-1 Time with Kids as a Single Mom – “Date Days!”"

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Katy Blevins
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I love this post. You are smart, courageous and a fantastic mommy. I struggle big time with feeling like my kids rarely get one-on-one time. The twins are almost always together and my older daughter often takes a backseat to the pure chaos that is raising twins. I do the "date day" thing with her, so we can catch a movie or go out to eat or shopping. That's a big hit. For the boys,

Sarah @ MePlus3Today.blogspot.com
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Thanks so much! My son usually takes a back-seat to the twins too, and I also enjoyed a sick day with just him about a month or 2 ago, it was the first time he fell asleep on my shoulder in a LONG time. I loved it! 🙂 And thanks for the tip about the timer! I think that will be a big hit with the kids, I'm going to try it this week! 🙂

Katelyn
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This is such a great post and I am so sorry about your loss. So sad. So tragic! And with three little kids and working! This is a wonderful idea you had. But your conclusion is right – they just want YOU mom. I don't usually get out with my twins or son individually either, so I just try to take advantage of the quick 5 minutes moments I have with one of them. I nurse my son so I take an

Sarah @ MePlus3Today.blogspot.com
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Thanks again for your condolences. And I definitely need to get better at making it a priority to just squeeze in those 5 extra minutes of 1-on-1 time somewhere like you do with your son. Thanks again!