OK, life threw us a curveball. Our partnerships ended, and we’ve found ourselves needing to be the breadwinner for our households. It’s scary as heck. Not only are we recovering from heartache, but we’ve been out of the work world for years and are struggling to find the confidence in taking the next step. The pressure of being present with our kids, paying the bills, keeping up with the house, the shopping, the broken toilet, and the car in the shop, while making sure everyone is fed, hugged, and kissed goodnight, is intense. Never mind remembering to take a shower. The plates are spinning, and adding a full-time job into the mix makes them spin even faster. Here are four things every working mama should keep in mind to avoid losing her mind:
It takes a village.
They say it takes a village to raise children, and that’s even more true when you’re a single working parent. I’m lucky to have my parents in town, and my mom is a tremendous help. Not only is she there to pick my kids up after school and get dinner started every day, she’s also there for life’s inevitable emergencies. I’ve also had friends who’ve brought me milk for the kids when I was sick at home, been a shoulder to cry on, and even pitched in to help me out during my first Christmas as a single mom. It can be hard to reach out when we need help, but it’s important to speak up and let your friends and family know when life becomes overwhelming. There are people in your life who care deeply about you, and they are just a phone call away.
Your kids see your strength.
With all that I’m doing it’s still easy to feel like I’m not doing enough. There are days when I am just beat and the waterworks turn on at the end of the day. But I stand back up and face each day head on, and my kids see that perseverance. In fact, studies show that working mothers raise more empathetic sons and successful daughters. No matter how challenging life can be juggling work and home life, it’s empowering to show my kids what I’m capable of, and they’re going to benefit from seeing that.
Take care of yourself.
The only way you’re going to be able to keep all those plates spinning is knowing when to give it a break and take time for yourself. I have shared custody of my kids, and although it can be quiet and lonely when they’re not here, I try to spend at least some of that time taking extra care of myself: going for a hike, spending time with friends, getting a massage. Make sure that you’re setting aside time to decompress and just be—no matter what your schedule looks like. I like to get in a bike ride or workout during my lunch hour; physical activity is crucial to my well-being, and I add it in wherever I can. I also try to meditate every day and empty my mind. You’ve got to put on your oxygen mask first before you can take care of everyone around you. And make sure you’re getting enough sleep—we’re so good at putting that off, aren’t we?
Show yourself compassion.
You’re going to drop at least some of those spinning plates from time to time. An appointment will be missed, you’ll forget to buy cat food or coffee (God forbid), get short with your kids, or fumble over your words during that presentation at work. Life happens, and we’re only human. Don’t let it trip you up. Show yourself the same mercy and compassion you would to a friend. We can be our own worst critics when we need to be our biggest cheerleaders. Show yourself some love—you deserve it.
Becoming a single mom wasn’t the life I envisioned. But life happens, and that’s where I am. As part of this Plan B, supporting my family as a single parent is a necessity. I’m going to cherish the years I had the opportunity to stay home and raise my kids, and I’m going to step forward and rock it just the same as a working mom. It’s time to let go of the ever-lingering mama guilt and keep on keepin’ on. You can do it, too. I believe in you.