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!

    • Ashley on April 23, 2019 at 2:08 pm

      I am studying and looking after my two little boys I am so exhausted and sometimes I just feel like crying , I love my boys to bits but I just need some support every now and then, my family dont really support me and I have trust issues when it comes to friends helping me so there you go , only thing keeping me going is the love for my munchkins 😊

      • Becky L McCoy on June 13, 2019 at 1:35 pm

        It’s exhausting for sure! On more than one occasion I’ve just sat down and cried on the couch or told the kids I need 5 minutes to go fall apart. Hopefully they’re learning some compassion 🤷‍♀️

  10. Sharonda Scroggins on April 30, 2019 at 6:23 am

    One of thee most authentic post I have ever ever ever seen in my life as a single mom of four!! Impossible is only the beginning of this life exhaustion that never seems to end! What I love is that you didn’t try to ANSWER IT! Because truly the only persons that can answer it is you, God and your children! No one else! No one gets it! Yes there are moms with other scenarios but the single mom scenario is a special one. Truly we need to wrap our arms around each and every one of them and give them HOPE! Thanks for sharing this ❤️

    • Becky L McCoy on June 13, 2019 at 1:34 pm

      *hugs*! There is no one answer. We’ve each got to figure out what works best for our individual situations!

  11. D on May 17, 2019 at 5:13 am

    I’m exactly the same, my daughter doesn’t see her dad and i only have my mam to help and that help is twice a week while i’m at work to try cut child care costs down. I have tried to explain how difficult i am finding motherhood on my own as well as running a home and working and all i keep getting told is i have to get on with it and that women have been doing this for years and years. I’m exhausted of being exhausted and have recently been diagnosed with PND which mentally is very hard to deal with. I sit and cry more than i sit and smile.
    I love my daughter and would do anything for her.
    I’m also grieving for her big sister who sadly passed away when she was a baby so this in its self is also a very difficult
    I’ve been told by medical professionals that I actually need a break but how is that even possible??
    I can feel that I’m close to having a break down.
    apparently the only way around me not feeling tired is to go to bed when my daughter does so this would mean not making tea for myself, cleaning, making the following day bottles up, showering or actually taking the time to unwind and look after myself.

    I suppose i’ll just have to get on with it and hope that my daughter will start to sleep past 4am

    • Becky L McCoy on June 13, 2019 at 1:33 pm

      I am so sorry you’re struggling so much. I hope you’re able to figure out how to get the kind of rest you really need.

  12. Dan on May 19, 2019 at 11:39 pm

    I’m a single father and I feel the exact same way. I have a 5yo girl and 15yo boy that mean the world to me. I easily forget to take care of myself and focus on them which has led me to now be so exhausted that during the weekends, all I can do is hope they play for a few hours in the house so I can get sleep. I fall asleep everywhere. Thank god I’m self-employed and I can sleep when I don’t have a contract, which is the only reason why I am able to keep going, however because of that I don’t have health insurance because I can’t afford it so the stress on the other side is killing me. I often wonder which is worse.

    I will say this, the pace at which today’s life moves at is an impossible pace to keep up with if you have any hindrance in your life or special circumstance. It’s bad enough when you’re in your 20’s but in the last year of my 30’s and I feel the “age” starting to be a factor and I just hope that in the future something will show me a better path or I’ll find a better way.

    Thank you for this article. Shot out to all my men out there that are in this same boat. Remember that there are guys out there too that are in the same boat but we don’t get the “encouragement” for being single fathers, even when we’re doing our best.

    • Becky L McCoy on June 13, 2019 at 1:32 pm

      I’m glad you found this encouraging! I agree that all of us single parents need support, but I can only speak from this side of the coin. I hope you’re able to care for yourself and rest well!

  13. liz smith on July 19, 2021 at 10:09 am

    i sit here crying at this, – the crippling responsibilities of doing this alone. always alone, avoiding all family orientated events as you feel your mental health slowly declining because you don’t have a family unit or any support. Too exhausted to enjoy my 2 year old. working full time as your the only one providing. dealing with one curve ball at a time. Nursery closures, sick days it doesn’t end. when does this get better? because right now i don’t see the end point. I’m 2 years in and its just got worse. I’m fed up of being so exhausted waking up tired, all day tired and the relentless endless duties. the “good bits” are not weighing out the bad.

    knowing I’m not alone helps. it really does, articles like this do give me hope,,. i had no idea it would be this hard. i just wish the time away. wish he would sleep more, wish i had help, the resentment that i feel being left to do this alone takes over. like a dark cloud that follows me.

  14. Stephanie on May 19, 2024 at 12:14 am

    A thousand times, yes!!

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