It’s normal to feel fatigued, overwhelmed, and sad as a single mom. Single mom blues are a natural response to the intense emotions and responsibilities that come with your life circumstances. But drowning in those feelings is not okay for you or your kids. Here’s how to get out when you want to give up.
In my first year as a single mother, I told my therapist, my mom, and my close friends the same thing over and over: I’m not okay. I was really good at keeping it together on the outside, but on the inside I was falling apart. Whenever I’d confess “I’m so tired” or “I’m so sad,” the inevitable response would be, “Well, no wonder.” Of course I was fatigued. Of course I was down in the dumps. It was only normal for me to feel that way in the first year after a traumatic divorce while learning to care for a one-year-old and three-year-old on my own.
Eventually I got sick of feeling burnt out. I knew it had to stop—or at least ease up—so that I could continue doing life and caring for my kids. That’s the thing about being a single mom. You don’t get to just quit. You can’t lie in bed all day and cry. It’s a blessing and a curse.
Over the years I’ve acquired some new habits and skills to minimize the amount of time I stay stuck in the single mom blues and avoid getting to the point of true burnout. When you’re down and out, it’s easy to see the negative in everything and the reasons why nothing will make you feel better. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my struggles, it’s this: You don’t have to feel bad every day. There are concrete steps you can take to feel better. Start practicing these six healthy habits now to pull yourself up and out.
1. Tell somebody.
Know who to go to on the days or weeks when you’re losing it. My go-to person is my mom. She doesn’t always know how to help me, but just telling another living, breathing person is therapeutic. Speak, be heard, and rest in the knowledge that you are not alone.
2. Ask for help.
Too often I’d rather not ask for help than risk the possibility of the rejection I feel when someone says no. But you won’t get the equally possible yes unless you make yourself vulnerable. Verbalize your need and wait to see who wants to help and how. Your mom may not by readt to keep your kids overnight, but she might surprise you by offering to fill up your freezer with home-cooked meals.
3. Shift your thoughts.
This is a hard one. If you’re truly struggling, being told to shift your thoughts from negative to positive is about as helpful as telling someone with anorexia to just eat more food. You’re not going to be able to flip a switch and see results. Instead, use techniques like affirmations or a gratitude journal to start telling yourself a more helpful story than the one you’re stuck in right now. The book that is helping me get my training wheels in this department is You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay.
4. Care for yourself.
You don’t hesitate to give your kids what they need. Whatever they need, whether the emotional or physical resources are there or not, you find a way. Figure out what you really need right now, and then give it to yourself. It may not seem possible, but I’m telling you it is. And only you know how to do it.
5. Indulge your senses.
When your mind gets carried away, the body is an essential grounding tool. Feeding your senses is a powerful way to anchor yourself into the physical reality that you are okay in this moment. Try diffusing essential oils, playing music, eating good food, taking a hot bath, getting a massage or pedicure, doing exercise, or taking a walk in nature.
6. Find your vision.
Don’t stay stuck in thinking that things will always be how they are today. Find a vision for what you really want. Allow that vision to guide your thoughts and actions as you move forward in life and love.
Here’s where I’d like to tell you to hang in there because it’s all going to be over someday. It may not be over anytime soon. Being a single mother is hard. The good news is that it does get better, but it takes time and endurance. Life doesn’t get a whole lot easier, but you do get stronger and more savvy over the years, and that helps a hell of a lot.
What inner and outer resources have you discovered that lighten your load as a single parent? Are you willing to try any of these six habits?