I had an early morning appointment at the dermatologist this morning. Nothing major, just an annual checkup. After a close relative had skin cancer a few years ago, and I had a mole that changed (and turned out to be nothing), it’s now something I do once a year just to make sure everything is still okay. After, I got a quick haircut before we came back home to start school.
Both of those things put off our school day by a couple of hours. I’m not a fan of delaying our school day if I don’t have to. If we don’t get started at a decent hour in the morning, chances are, we’ll never actually get around to it. The problem is not my children, it’s me. I lose motivation. Well, no, that’s not quite true. It’s just that, if school doesn’t get done pretty much first thing, I get so caught up in doing my own work, chores, and online classes that I take that we never circle back to homeschooling. Getting it out of the way first allows me to feel comfortable with the rest of our day, whether that’s me working or us playing games or going to a playdate or whatever.
But sometimes, putting off school is worth it. Healthcare is a great example of one of those times. Whether it’s the dermatologist, the dentist, or another doctor, it’s important that you take good care of your health. Especially if you’re a single parent, you are all your children have. It’s critical that you stay on top of your health and ensure that you’re in the best shape possible to make sure you’ll be around to care for and guide them.
My haircut might not seem like something that’s worth delaying school for. So, let me explain why I feel it is:
- I planned it for after my appointment, since we’d already put off school anyway. I didn’t delay two different days, or cut into our schedule, or anything like that. I did it all at once, so it was only one big delay.
- I have very curly, hard to manage hair. When it’s shorter, it’s so much easier to care for. The longer it gets, the harder it becomes. I spend considerably more time trying to tame it. Or, I end up throwing it back in a ponytail so it’s out of my face, which leads to headaches, which interferes with school and work. Taking time to get it cut to a manageable length that allows me to quickly style it before we start school and won’t lead to headaches as the day wears on will save me time every other day of this week and several more.
It’s easy to get focused on routine. In my house, the routine goes a little like this: get up; spend some time waking up while checking email, Facebook, etc.; do a little writing; breakfast; school; lunch; finish school; writing; my classwork; dinner; finish writing or classwork; read; bed. It’s a good routine. It’s solid. It gives us a point of reference for each day, that we all know pretty much what to expect each day. Shaking it up to go to the doctor, get a haircut, or do something else that’s out of the ordinary for us isn’t something I look forward to.
But sometimes, it’s just something you need to do. It’s easy to keep putting off doctor’s appointments, haircuts, or other things that need to be done because “other things are more important” or “I don’t want to screw up our routine right now.”
Maybe it’s not that other things are more important or that you don’t want to screw up your routine. Maybe you’re more like me and it’s simply a matter of forgetting. Unless I’m sick enough to need to see a doctor, visiting a doctor for a general preventive care appointment just isn’t a priority for me. It’s a once a year thing, which means it doesn’t happen often enough to stay at the front of my mind.
But, as a single parent, your health really is crucial. Consider the things that could happen, should your health decline to a certain point or, worst case scenario, you were to die. Your ex would get custody, which may or may not be a terrifying thought for you. But this would still be a major upheaval for your children: losing a parent and changing households all at once. Your ex, or whomever takes custody of your children in the event of your death, may not want or be able to continue homeschooling, which would mean your children would end up back in the public school system. Even if you just end up in really poor health and retain custody of your children, it still puts you in a position where your ex could argue that homeschooling is detrimental to your kids’ education, and that’s not a battle you want to take on if you’re already in bad health. You could find yourself giving up and putting the kids back in school just because you know that you’re not up to the fight.
So now, the question is, how do you keep these things a priority when they’re a once a year thing that you don’t often think of? Here’s a couple of ideas:
- Set them all up for the same time. Some people choose one month of the year (maybe January because it’s the new year, or July because that’s when your birthday is), and schedule their dentist, doctor, eye exam and any other healthcare appointments they can think of for that one month. That gets them all done at once so you don’t have to worry about them anymore, and it gives you a reference point to remember when to do it each year. Maybe you want to choose your slow season – maybe summer is when you have more free time, and you can scatter them over the three months.
- Make a note in a more permanent location. Some people (me included) write notes on sticky notes, scraps of paper, notebook covers or whatever’s handy – and almost immediately lose it. Or they quickly tap a note into a note app on their phone, save it – and promptly forget it. Personally, I use a 12-month planner. You can use a calendar app on your phone (many even give you reminders!) or even a wall calendar. My planner allows me to look back at the last year and see when I last saw whatever doctor. It also allows me to look forward when scheduling appointments and see if I’m clear on a date that’s been set. When I have an appointment and I’m done, if they allow me to schedule that next appointment (a year in advance can be done some places and not others, I’ve found), I can go ahead and put it in, and if they don’t, I just go to the end of the year, and make a note to remind me to put it in next year’s planner to call and set up that appointment. You can do the same with a wall calendar – just go to December and make notes in the margins.
- Set up family appointments. No, I am not recommending you take your sons to the gynocologist with you. What I am suggesting is that when you set up appointments for your kids, set one up for yourself, too. I do this all the time. Especially for eye exams, I call several months in advance and ask for three appointments in consecutive slots – say, 9, 9:30, and 10. Sometimes, I have to settle for 9, 9:30 and 10:30, but the point is to get it all at once. This accomplishes two things: because I’m more likely to ensure my children’s health is a priority than my own, by doing mine when I do theirs, it ensures it gets done; and it saves on gas and time. Many times, we’re scheduled with the same doctor, and he or she will run right through all three of us in no time at all. This can be especially helpful if you see a family doctor rather than a pediatrician for your kids, but regardless, you can still make it work.(Side note: How do you go to the gynocologist with sons, you ask? Well, mine are old enough to simply sit in the waiting room and wait for me now. Previously, however, I’ve done everything from having a sitter to having them face the wall to finding a doctor who had enough nurses that one could take my children into the hall and entertain them while I had my appointment. Works with daughters, too, if you’d rather they didn’t accompany you, too.)
Mental and emotional health should be just as much a priority as physical health, too. If you need a haircut, a manicure, or a massage – or even just to go for a run or do some yoga by yourself – to help you feel relaxed and ready to face the world, make sure that gets on your schedule. No, it doesn’t need to be a daily or weekly thing, maybe not even monthly. Taking the time to make sure that you feel emotionally and mentally ready to face whatever’s coming will make it easier to deal with. Besides, as a single parent, how often do you get pampered without it being prompted with subtle (or not so subtle) hints from you? Go ahead and arrange your own pampering!