It is no wonder that single mothers and working mothers become depressed. We are doing the jobs of too many people. We usually do not have enough help. The help that is offered is often more of a burden that it is helpful. People guess at what will be helpful rather than asking us.
It is hard for other women to understand the stress on single mothers. This is also true for working mothers that do not get enough support from their husbands.
We cannot go out and spend time doing social things that other women do. They ask us to come along with them and they are offended when we keep telling them no. It becomes a burden on the relationship and we end up losing the friendships with our female friends. We become more alienated.
Our families may try to help but they do not know what would be helpful. If their effort to help us, they often create more anxiety for us. The teachers at the school expect us to be able to all the things that other mothers do, but we cannot keep up.
Our boss is demanding when we are at work. Being a single mother is no excuse for not living up to all the obligations of our job. We are exhausted when we get home from work, but there is no rest.
We are still working until we drop from exhaustion.We fall into bed and have thoughts running through our heads about all the things we did not get done today and have to add onto tomorrow’s schedule, which was already overloaded.
We have little time to do anything for ourselves. We have little or no time to rest. There is no end to the endless responsibility and endless stream of chores, errands, workload, and unexpected problems.
On top of that, people are always complaining to us that we “should” be doing things in a different or “better” way.What they mean of course is that we should be doing things their way. But they have no concept of how our brains are suffering in torment.
Everyone had suggestions and criticism about how we should be doing things differently. My ex mother in law once told me that I should spend all Sunday afternoon making casseroles to freeze so that I would not have to cook during the week. “Then you just pop them out of the freezer and microwave them”, she said. She had decided that this was the answer for me because my “perfect” sister in law did that.
First of all, I tried to explain to her that my kids and my husband (her son) hated casseroles and would never eat them. Then I tried to explain to her that I was entirely too exhausted by the weekend, from work, to stand in the kitchen and cook for five hours every Sunday. Nevertheless, the bought me the casserole book that my sister in law used and insisted that I try it.
My sister in law did not work and was maintained in a rich fashion be her husband. He ability and desire to make casseroles was completely different than mine. Come to think of it, I had no desire to eat frozen microwaved casseroles every night for dinner either!
Speaking of crying, we don’t even have time or any private space to do that. We don’t want to break down in front of the kids. We have no time for therapists or to go out with friends to vent. We cannot cry at work without appearing incompetent. So that leaves us to cry in our car for 5 minutes when we get home from work, before we go into the house.
We worry about the kids while we are at work. We worry about work when we are home. We feel guilty about leaving the kids to go to work.If we cut back our hours to spend more time with the kids, then we feel guilty that we are not making enough money to take care of them.
No matter what we are doing or where we are, we feel like we should be doing or worrying about something else. We are happy we have children but at the same time we feel guilty that we have ended up in a position of being so overworked that we do not have enough energy for them.
The guilt leads to a lowering of our self esteem and we become depressed. The constant worrying turns into a severe anxiety condition that interferes with our ability to function as well as we used to.
We feel behind all the time. We have trouble keeping up with the kids doctor appointments and their homework. We feel more and more like we are getting sucked into a pit of quicksand.
Our own minds begin to work against us. Our brains begin to fill with obsessive thoughts that are fearful about the future and regretful about the past. Why did we end up here? How can we keep going like this? Who are we anymore?
We begin to lose touch with our own identity. We are not a whole person anymore. We are fragments of different people who wear different hats at different parts of the day.We keep changing hats from work, to mom, to nurse to the kids, to the person that has to talk to the teacher, to the bad friend who has said “NO” the last 5 times our girlfriend has asked us out for lunch.
We have little time to talk on the phone to a friend and even then we are interrupted. We crave a moment to ourselves, a moment of rest and peace. We feel guilty that we want to do something for ourselves. We want to be beautiful again and desirable to men. We want to be a woman who is allowed to have needs and desires.
But there is no time and if we make the time, we feel guilty the entire time we are out. Men have trouble understanding that we want to check in with out kids while we are on a date. They feel slighted because after all, men want our attention as much as the kids do.
We are more and more and more drug along by life and the schedule that we are not able to keep up with. We cannot continue without something having to give somewhere. We are headed for a breakdown.
We can become very depressed to the point where we have clinical depression. At this point we need help but we are still in the same boat of not having time to do anything for ourselves. We have no space during our week to schedule a therapy session or even a doctor appointment.
We put it off, We become filled with more and more anxiety and depression. We cannot continue.
This happens. It happened to me. We have to find a way to reach out and get help from someone, somewhere.We cannot just keep ignoring the feelings that our mental health is in jeopardy. Our feelings are trying to tell us something.
It does not get better without reaching out for help. Reach out to someone, whether is be a friend, a paid service for chores and errands, a therapist for counseling, the church, or anyone who will be compassionate. You need to talk to someone who will listen.
Look through your schedule and find something that can wait, even if for a few weeks, so that you can use the time to help yourself. You have become conditioned to feel that all of those things you do for others are life and death. You might be surprised when you take a second look at your routine. If you change your perspective, to seeing the situation as a personal mental health emergency, you might find something that can be put aside for a time.
Behavior that repeats over and over becomes imbedded in the brain. It feels like there is no other possible way to do things. Find someone else to take your kids to church for you every other week and take a yoga class or sleep in. Have a niece help help you around the house and pay them by a barter. They may be glad just to get out of their own house for a change and spend time with you.
Think of anyplace that might have free counseling and also might offer assistance to you for a short time, like the church or a community organization. Be creative and barter for services, like laundry and making dinner.
Another parent from the school may be in the same boat as you are. They may be happy to trade days driving the kids to school, so they can have a few mornings to themselves also. Or maybe to take turns one night per week, making the dinner for all of the kids. This way each of you has one night off.
Seek out other single working mothers who might feel like they are drowning just like you are. Get ideas and help each other. Think outside the box a little and do not stay locked into your same schedule.
Every tiny difference you make, could make a difference to your mental health. Being locked into the same exact routine for too long is devastating to your mental well being. Humans are built for some variation in routine. It stimulates the creative centers of the brain and will help you to think of more ideas and to be less depressed.
The longer we go without help, the worse it gets. Make the time for yourself. Do not feel guilty. If you crash then what will happen? You are not superhuman, even though other people may be relentless in their efforts to demand the world from you.
All the adults that are making demands of your time are only looking out for their own agenda. It is your turn to look out for yourself and your family.
Your kids will probably not mind a change in the routine, because they are probably stressed over the same day to day routine as well. Get help and be creative. The more you think outside the box, the better you will be able to make small alterations in order to preserve your sanity.
Take care of yourself.