The Worst Part of Being a Single Mom is the Exhaustion

Being a single mom never gets easier. I’ve got my ways of coping – preschool and playdates help this introverted mama recharge and stay on top of the to do list – but there isn’t much wiggle room for when the schedule gets turned upside down.

Last week, there was a snow day. I knew right away that I had to avoid social media, because snow days here aren’t fun and seeing everyone’s happy snow men does not help me have a better attitude. I was already beyond exhausted after a couple weeks of children up in the middle of the night and waking up much earlier than they should. My tank was empty with almost no time to myself when a certain 4-year-old has decided to take at least an hour to go to sleep each night. I was pouring more energy out than I was recouping. A snow day meant no school for my extreme extrovert. Snow also seems to magically rob my children of the ability to listen.

It was a perfect storm. The kids seemed to have a decent day, but I was miserable.

To be quite honest, this complete exhaustion, frustration, and discouragement is not reserved for the perfect-storm-snow-days.

Week days aren’t so bad. We have a routine. The extroverts have planned in time with lots of people. The introvert (me) has scheduled time to be alone. Bedtime and nap time are sacred in our house and even the extrovert-iest extrovert is beginning to believe that his mama needs at least a few minutes to herself to function throughout the day and love him well. We enjoy the time we have together and I have the time I need to get the work, errands, and to-do’s taken care of without feeling like I’m constantly working, taking care of the house, and caring for other people. It’s far too easy to run out of time for self care.

Weekends are the absolute worst.

Without the structure of the week, we all start to go a little crazy. It’s hard to make plans — for most of our friends, the weekends are when they get their family time and I don’t want to interrupt or take away from that. Most people are gracious in helping us when they can and even inviting us into their family time, but at the end of the day, everyone goes back to their own lives and I’m left to keep the proverbial balls in the air. Alone.

Sure, I could hire a babysitter more than the two evenings a week I already have one. I could call a friend to help out when the stuff hits the fan by 9am. I could ask for more help if it were that easy.

Finding someone to watch the kids or a place for them to go play for an hour feels like a herculean task. Who to ask changes based on the day and time of day. I have to keep track of who I asked last so I don’t overburden any one or two people. I have to keep track of people’s work schedules and family schedules so I know when people are even available to be asked. I always seem to figure out a solution. Really, though, finding a solution is not the problem.

The fact that I constantly have to find childcare is probably more exhausting than the not sleeping. I have to find childcare just to get the time and space to recharge.

In my over-tired, running on empty, stupor, I’d rather step on 1,000 legos than have to find another babysitter just to sleep without getting woken up or spend time with friends without kids in tow or to exercise without having clothes yanked at.

I know that moms everywhere are tired. There are women with husbands who work long hours. Heck, there are women who work long hours and then head home to another full time job. There are moms whose husbands are deployed. There are moms who are sick, who have sick kids, or sick parents. I’m not minimizing the experience of any mom, we all have our challenges.

But, sometimes I want to climb on the top of my roof and yell until the whole world hears, that one person doing the work and the parenting and the loving and the laundry-folding of two people is impossible. It takes a village, as they say (I don’t know who “they” are, but they knew what they were talking about). Unfortunately, it usually takes more resources and energy than I’ve usually got available to figure out who and when and where to make the help happen.

I’m not complaining. I’m doing the best that I can with what I’ve got. I love my kids and our life is pretty wonderful considering the challenges. But at the end of a really long day, I’m alone and I’m tired. And I’m tired of being so exhausted.

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  1. amyja on March 13, 2017 at 9:53 am

    I feel for you.

    Sleeping is the worst. When that goes wrong, it seems to permeate everything else. This sounds terrible, but outsourcing the night parenting worked for me. Really. Ethan spent the first two and a half years waking up every 2 hours at night. Then one day he asked to snuggle with his brother, and Wyatt obliged- it’s been a miracle ever since. rather than them trading off who walks out of the room every 5 minutes for over an hour, they talk for a few minutes and then pass out in some adorable tangle that makes me forget that the kitchen in covered in syrup. Wyatt feels so proud to be the big brother and Ethan feels secure. Between that and this (it needs a US adapter, but the thing is amazing. I won’t go anywhere overnight without it.): sleep has undergone a miracle makeover.

    I can’t imagine the exhaustion. You’ve got the hardest job on earth. You are doing a great job, just keep moving forward. It’s always the most difficult experiences that result in the most growth. On the other end of this you’re going to be a redwood.


    • Becky L McCoy on March 13, 2017 at 1:01 pm

      Yes! We have a clock like that – it usually works, except a lot of the waking up has been due to nightmares 🙁

  2. Matt on March 13, 2017 at 10:18 am

    This is one of the best, honest, expressions I have seen. And yes, as you mention, there are many who are single parents functionally as well, for a variety of reasons. You hit the nail on the head – the work to find the help is as much work, at times, as the rest that it can give! And in the busy-ness of our world, the best well meaning friends have their own lives – but the alone-ness that single parents face, the at times rising sense of dread or panic when you feel like you are asked more than you can bear and there seems to be no help available, is so hard. I think that along with that, I find the lack of another set of eyes, another heart loving my kids, another creative planner helping to make life work – that is also makes the alone feeling more overwhelming.

    • Becky L McCoy on March 13, 2017 at 1:02 pm

      Yes, absolutely. The weight of doing it alone is heavy.

  3. Adrienne Terrebonne on March 13, 2017 at 11:11 am

    Becky, I can relate to the sheer exhaustion. Although I am not a single mom, I have been one (sort of) every time Peter deploys. I know it’s not the same but I can totally relate, particularly to the weekends without routine. I hope you find some rest and encouragement today!

    • Becky L McCoy on March 13, 2017 at 1:03 pm

      Deployment is definitely a good parallel to the exhaustion level!

  4. Deborah Kim Stirtan on March 13, 2017 at 12:58 pm

    I am so glad when you ask me to help 🙂 so never feel you have to track my schedule. God always gives me the energy and time. I love when that happens as I get to experience all of God’s gifts he has given me. Always know that God is looking after you 🙂
    Love you!!

  5. Ashley on September 15, 2018 at 10:14 am

    Beautifully written, can totally relate. Even if I could just sit in my room every hour and half for 15 min of alone time would be helpful but it is nearly impossible.

    • Becky L McCoy on September 18, 2018 at 2:32 pm

      I hear you. Sometimes it’s just 90 seconds in the bathroom with the door locked and kids banging it down.

  6. Heather on October 11, 2018 at 1:50 pm

    I found this while doing a google search about exhaustion and single mothering. I was in a low spot and just looking for an explanation or a connection. I’m so tired. All the time. It’s so isolating. And i’m glad I read your post. I’m not alone in this.
    I hate how it takes just one bad night of sleep to undo all the positive I felt the day before. I hate the juggling of people to call to help. I’m not above asking for help, but that task alone can feel so huge.

    • Becky L McCoy on October 11, 2018 at 2:13 pm

      Yes. Yes. Yes. Knowing who to call and not wanting to rely to heavily on anyone is so exhausting. You’re right: one bad night of sleep seems to undo all the hard work. But one good night of sleep (or even a nap!) can work wonders. Hang in there, mama! And if you need some cheerleaders, come join us in the BRAVEtogether Facebook group!

  7. Rebecca on January 6, 2019 at 5:16 pm

    I have found this last holiday season crippling! (I’m in the UK so nursery only starts tomorrow after three weeks break only my daughter doesn’t have a nursery yet!) I have no family support at the moment and it has literally meant that I am chomping at the bit to get her signed up to one – Tomorrow!

    I literally have a chest and ear infection so i’m feeling it physically as well. We’ve had an awful lot of fun together, don’t get me wrong but her dad was meant to have five days with her and not one of those days materialised… he has a new woman and a new life a couple of hours away.

    Keeping happy for myself and my daughter is vital. And listening when she’s sad and being there for her in the middle of the night… when she creeps in with me.

    I am so grateful for the gift God sent me with this little girl… and so, so tired too!

    Good to find this post. Take care of yourselves. Single parents (and all parents as I recognise there are different challenges in couples) rock! X

    • Becky L McCoy on January 9, 2019 at 10:42 am

      Hugs to you! I hope you’re feeling better!

  8. Rae on February 2, 2019 at 8:35 pm

    Hi Becky!
    So relieved I found your website. I am EXHAUSTED. All the time. I’ve been a single mom since my daughter was 6 months old. She’ll be 4 next month. I love her so much. Does anyone out there feel like the days pass slowly but the years fly by? Working full-time and raising my daughter doesn’t leave much room for self-care and I don’t know the last time I had fun. This is DEPRESSING!

    • Becky L McCoy on February 12, 2019 at 6:12 pm

      SO EXHAUSTING! I’ve found it takes so much time and effort to build in self-care and soul-care. It’s worth it though! Cheering you on!

  9. Crystal on March 28, 2019 at 7:45 pm

    I am a single mom to a 4 year old and an 8 year old. I am an introvert and my kids are both extroverts! I was googling why am I so exhausted and this came up. I always feel so alone like no one has ever been through this and this helped me that there are others out there… I feel so guilty for my exhaustion especially when the kids want to play or go places. I often feel so envious of married women and I ask God to help me. They often compare their lives to mine saying they can relate. They have no clue. There is no comparison to say the least. I am just being transparent. Nevertheless, the only thing that helps me is having faith, having the outlet of singing, finding time for pampering and naps, naps, naps… I know one day this will all be my past but right now I feel like I am the hamster that can’t stop spinning!!!

    • Becky L McCoy on April 19, 2019 at 9:40 am

      Crystal, I totally understand! It’s hard when people try to be encouraging but say unhelpful things. Glad you’re making time for yourself and I hope your kids will come to understand and appreciate that we all have different needs and they can love you by leaving you alone sometimes!

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