Rebuilding yourself as a single parent

By Samantha Smadella

A young caucasian woman with long reddish-brown hair stands in front of some trees and holds a three year old boy on her back while hugging a 5 year old girl with the opposite arm. All three people wear blue jeans. The woman wears a brown jacket and a simple necklace, the young girl wears a grey sweater and a pink scarf and the young boy wears a grey knit sweater and brown boots. The woman smiles at the camera while her daughter looks up at her with a joyful, laughing expression. The young boy looks towards the camera and smiles while clinging on to his mother's back.
My children and I when they were younger. I am so grateful that I did a photoshoot for the three of us.

Starting over after a break-up can be exhausting and overwhelming. It is easy to put all your focus on your children and job, but you must keep in mind that balance in your life is more important now than ever before. Without balance, you risk burn-out and other mental health effects. Not only does this affect you, but your children as well. In order to care for your children, you need to care for their mother first. A great way of doing this, is through leisure activities!

Leisure includes activities that you do outside of work, home duties, and the normal tasks of living. It is the time you spend doing things that you enjoy and that improve your well being. Let’s talk about the five domains of leisure and how they can help you find your new balance in life.


A caucasian woman with long brown hair hangs on to a rope net by her hands and feet and looks up towards the camera while hanging upside down at a ninja warrior course. There is a red mat on the floor and obstacles can be seen in the background including hanging rings, a plastic blue climbing segment with holes cut out of it, and monkey bars. A woman in the background is hanging onto the rings while a father supports his son on the monkey bars.
Hanging out at Kanata's Altitude Climbing Gym. This center has a fun ninja warrior course that you and your kids will love!

Physical Activities are a great way to stay healthy. Not only does it benefit your physical health by keeping your muscles, heart, and body strong, but physical exercise has many mental health benefits as well. When you are feeling down, physical activities can give you a boost in endorphins, the chemicals that make the brain feel happy. It is also something you can do anywhere and fit in to your daily routine.

Some great ways to participate in physical activities include: yoga, walking/running, dance, weight lifting, martial arts, and team sports. You can do these activities in a group, on your own or even with your kids!


Two blue-eyed young caucasian women with brown hair pose and smile at the camera. The writer is on the right and rests her hand on her chin while her friend smiles at the camera beside. In the background are decorative touches in a restaurant in Dublin Ireland.
My mom cared for my children for a few days, and my bestie and I took off for a quick trip to Ireland!

Social activities are the ones that allow you to spend time with others. This can be anything from going on a walk with a friend to joining a team sport to joining a meetup to meet new people. Humans are social beings and it is important to find people you connect with. Spending time with others will help avoid loneliness and depression. You may also notice that it boosts your confidence and self esteem. If you are able to get a sitter or a family member to care for your children every now and then, it will be a great benefit to your mental health to get out and spend some time with people who make you happy. Don't forget that you are more than just a parent. You are a unique individual and need time to be with other adults in order to be your best!



A tattooed woman holds a pink coffee mug and holds a book open
Getting up early gives you a chance to set yourself up for a great day!

One of my favorite parts of the day is sneaking downstairs before the kids wake up, pouring a mug of coffee and doing my daily sudoku or crossword puzzle. Keeping your brain active and challenged provides great benefits throughout the day. It can help improve your memory and problem-solving skills. Some great ways of practicing cognitive leisure activities are: taking a special interest course, doing puzzles, escape rooms, and puzzles.



A woman's left hand rests on an open notebook while their right hand is ready to write. A coffee sits on the table above the notebook as well as a croissant with a bite out of it.
Journaling helps you to put your ideas and thoughts down on paper when it is hard to meet up with friends

These are activities that help you process the emotions and work through your psychological growth. It is often difficult to find quiet time to reflect and heal from your experiences, but this is an excellent way of carving out that time for yourself. Some of the activities in this category are: journaling, creating process based art, playing or singing music, expressive dance, or even taking some time for yourself to quietly reflect in a hot bath or a walk in the forest.



A woman with long pink hair holds a purple electric bass on stage. A guitar player is semi-visible in the background.
Slappin the bass in church one Sunday

If you believe in a higher power, there are many opportunities to participate in spiritual leisure. These could include participating in a religious service, attending worship nights or bible studies, or meditating. If you do not believe in religion, you may wish to spend time reflecting, journaling or doing art in nature or even just taking time to reflect on your life, your morals and values. I found a lot of comfort in becoming active in my church community during the hardest points in my life. I joined the worship band and helped serve others wherever I was needed. It helped me feel connected to something bigger than myself and allowed me to let go of things that were outside of my control.


As you navigate your new normal, keep in mind how important your own happiness is throughout the process. Find things that make you happy and do more of them. Spend time with the people who make you smile. Be kind to yourself and allow yourself to grow and flourish through leisure!





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