When my kids’ father and I split up, I remember struggling with feelings of anxiety and feeling like something was wrong with me. Like…I always felt borderline angry.
As the only 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, felt like I wanted to scream. I always felt like I had a rock in my throat.
When I think back on it, I want to 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 choking.
There were so many days when I’d think to myself “I can’t do this”.
I thought I was a terrible mother because I was certain that no other mom on the planet was feeling the way I was. I started to doubt my mothering abilities. I second-guessed every decision I made when it came to the kids.
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 can 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 that I could even make time to get into a conversation about it with anyone else.
I didn’t feel like anyone else would understand.
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.
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 time grieving the fact that their kids aren’t at home anymore.
When my kids left the roost, I celebrated. Not because I don’t love them (I’d take a bullet for any one of them), but because my days of being responsible for 4 people were DONE.
As mothers, we give up everything that we have of value 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 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.
There are a few ways to manage overwhelm if you’re a single mom going through it.
- Tell someone. Preferably another single mom.
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 a movie and grab a cup of tea 10 feet away. I mean LEAVE THE DAMN HOUSE! Arrange a play date 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, 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 like adult company. Take time for yourself. Period.
3. Get a pedicure.
Girl, get those toes DONE!
Few things are worse than looking down at raggedy feet that match your mood.
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.
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.
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 mood 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, needs to be a regular thing.
You’ve gotta love yourself more than you love your child. I know that sounds crazy, but it’s not a bad thing. You simply NEED to take care of yourself, or you’ll have nothing to give OF yourself.
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