A few years ago (probably more like 6 or 7+) there was a story in the news about a mother of two, who took the lives of her two children, then her own in a welfare office (or some type of government assistance office).
I read that story, and I felt like I knew immediately what that poor woman must have been feeling. Mentally and emotionally, she was DONE.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t condone what she did, but I felt like I could understand her frame of mind leading up to when she did it.
When my kids’ father and I split up, I remember struggling with feelings of anxiety and feeling like the weight of the entire Universe was on my shoulders. I always felt just ‘this side’ of rage.
As the full-time caretaker of three kids, the youngest being only 3 years old, I felt like I got this massive job hoisted on me, and I had no choice but to deal with it.
Don’t get me wrong (and don’t send me angry mail or comments), but I felt like… “what the fuck did I do to deserve a life this difficult???”
And it was constant.
Twenty-four seven, I felt like I wanted to scream. I always felt like I had a rock in my throat that was strangling me, keeping me from taking a deep breath.
When I think back on it even now, I cry.
I was responsible for the lives of 4 people including myself. Being responsible for my own shit wasn’t a biggie. I’d have to do that regardless. But being solely responsible for the well-being of three other human lives was almost more than I could deal with.
There were times when I’d get into the shower, just so that I could have a mini-breakdown without the kids hearing me. I couldn’t take a breath without feeling like I was sticking a finger down my throat.
There were so many days when I thought to myself “I’m not equipped for this”.
I was certain that no other mom on the planet was feeling the way I was. I went through the mothering motions on autopilot. I had no doubts about my abilities as a mom, but the responsibility of that position was emotionally draining.
This isn’t one of those fluffy posts with some useless advice telling you to ‘suck it up’. This isn’t a ‘suck it up’ situation. This feeling of overwhelm can sneak up on you, and make you feel like you’re losing your mind if you don’t get a grip on it…and quick.
Looking back, I was so buried in my own ‘grief’ that I never thought of reaching out and letting anyone else in. Honestly, with three kids, I didn’t consider making time to get into a conversation about it with anyone else. I’m not the type of person who gives a shit what other people think. I just didn’t want anyone in my business.
I didn’t feel like anyone else would understand. So why say anything?
Let me clarify something; this was back in the ’90s. We weren’t nearly as ‘emotionally advanced’ as a society then as we are now. Back then, you kept that shit to yourself. Being a mom was all sunshine and rainbows, and don’t you dare contradict that image.
I should tell you that my children are no longer “children”. They’re all grown up, moved out and have lives of their own. When they moved out, it was like Christmas. I have friends who cry and actually spend valuable time grieving the fact that their kids aren’t at home anymore. I don’t understand it.
When my kids left the roost, I celebrated. Not because I don’t love them (I’d take a stray bullet for any one of them), but because my days of being responsible for 4 people are DONE.
As mothers, we give up everything of value that we have when we have children; our youth, our potential, our bodies, and our career aspirations (for those who have them). Of my three children, two are girls (women now) and I’ve told them since they were about 12 years old, that they should “do for themselves” until they can’t think of anything that they have left to do.
I’ve told them not to let anything or anyone sidetrack them from what they know they want for themselves. They should get all of their “partying, traveling, dope-smoking, and having extended alone time out of the way” because once they have children, life as they know it is no f*cking more, and they can’t go back.
Being a single mother is a lonely, overwhelming job, but the key to getting through it without running away is to realize that THAT is what you’re feeling, and deal with it.
Here are a few ways to manage overwhelm if you’re a single mom going through it:
- Tell someone. Preferably another single mom.
Tell someone who can relate. You’ll probably find that she feels exactly the same way. I hate to say it, but the old adage “misery loves company” is true here. But the “company” can make you both feel a certain level of camaraderie, helping you feel like you’re not alone.
2. Give yourself a regular “time out”.
Girl…you NEED to take a break. And that break NEEDS to be AWAY from your children. I don’t mean just plop them down in front of Netflix and grab a cup of tea 10 feet away (though that’s useful too).
I mean LEAVE THE DAMN HOUSE! Arrange a play date for the kid at a friend’s house, send them to the other parent’s house (if that’s an option for you), and go see a movie, or go have a meal at your favorite restaurant alone, etc. Make your “time out” a regular, scheduled occurrence. It’s something that you’ll look forward to weekly, or monthly. Do NOT take that break with another mom, or friend, or whoever…unless you feel like you’d benefit from the adult company. Make it a time for pure peace.
Take time out for yourself. Period.
3. Get a pedicure.
Sitting in that salon, feet in hot water with the chair massaging your back is pure Utopia.
Get out and get pampered. You spend all of your time taking care of others. It’s time to take care of yourself. Make it a regular thing.
4. Go see a movie.
Sometimes sitting in a dark theatre with no one there to ask questions about what’s going on, is just what the doctor ordered. In addition, you can get YOUR favorite candy!
Write about what’s going on in your head. I started writing when I became a single mom. That was almost 20 years ago. I’ve grown as an individual and as a writer. Writing has given me something that I never thought I’d have. Writing will give you a voice, a place to put things that you don’t necessarily want to say out loud. Just write.
6. Go for a walk.
Get out. Wander around. Take an aimless walk to nowhere in particular. Look at the birds, pet the dogs, pay attention to the other moms managing their own kids. It’ll give you some perspective on your own shit.
7. Don’t Overthink it.
So you feel shitty. Don’t think about why, or how, or when it’s going to end. Do one of the things that I mentioned above until that shitty feeling goes away.
How you deal with overwhelm as a single mom can be as easy or as complicated as you want it to be. But “dealing with it” whatever that looks like to you, absolutely needs to be a regular thing, or it will follow you into the years when it should be just a memory.
Thank you for reading this article. If you found it helpful, please feel free to click the 👏 button to help others find it 🙏