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Single mom burnout is a real struggle and if you’ve experienced it, I know exactly how you feel.
Burnout is defined as a “physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress”. Or as I like to call it, basically every day of my life.
Single mom burnout is hard to avoid because overwork and stress are the norm much of the time. It’s hard trying to be a parent and have a career and a social life when you’re the only adult around. It’s super easy to feel overwhelmed.
I mean, there have been days when I’ve literally cried after looking at my to-do list.
Trying to run a business and homeschool and get my kids to soccer practice and art class and co-op and do the cooking and the cleaning and the laundry–it’s a lot for anyone to handle.
When there’s not another adult you can tag in to take your place, the stress starts to pile up.
Single mom burnout can show its ugly head in different ways.
If you’re not sure what it looks like, here are some ways to tell if burnout is setting in.
7 Clues That You’re a Burned-Out Single Mom
1. You’re exhausted.
This one is a major giveaway that you’re burned out.
You fall asleep the second your head hits the pillow, get a good night’s sleep but still wake up exhausted.
It feels like you’re always in a fog and all you can think about is when you can go back to bed.
That’s burnout. It’s your body and mind trying to keep up as you grind your way through each day.
2. Sleeping is a struggle.
The flip side of the burnout coin is having trouble falling or staying asleep.
You go to bed feeling completely worn out but then your brain clicks on and starts going a mile a minute.
You start thinking about all the things you have to do the next day, or all the things you didn’t get done today and boom–you’re wide awake.
Your dreams can also be a clue that you’re over-stressed.
Whenever I’m getting close to burnout, I have several recurring stress dreams. I’ve had these dreams at different times in my life and every time I have one, I know it’s because I’m doing too much.
3. Everything sets you off.
Not getting enough sleep makes you grouchy. Even when you’re getting enough sleep, you can still feel like a major grump if you’re suffering from burnout-driven exhaustion.
This is one of the suckiest parts of single mom burnout.
You can easily find yourself snapping at everyone around you, kids included, and you don’t mean to do it.
But when you’re constantly tired, your fuse runs short and you end up feeling annoyed, irritated and frustrated.
4. You’re having a hard time getting anything done.
Burnout is a guaranteed productivity killer.
It’s hard to nail everything you’re supposed to do at work and home when you can barely focus. You end up doing just the bare minimum to take care of yourself and the kids.
Some days, you might have a hard time even doing that.
Meanwhile, the chores start piling up around the house, your performance at work or in your business takes a huge nosedive and you feel more stressed than ever.
And you have zero mental motivation to do anything about it.
5. You have no interest in anything (besides taking a nap).
One of the side effects of single mom burnout is that self-care ends up on the back-burner.
You don’t have time to pursue hobbies anymore and even if you do, it just doesn’t interest you.
One thing I want to say here: lack of interest in things you used to enjoy is also a sign of depression.
Single mom burnout and depression are two totally different things. If you’re not sure whether you’re burned out or depressed, consider talking to a counselor or therapist who can help you figure out exactly what’s going on.
6. You feel run down.
Too much stress can make you sick, literally.
A study from Michigan State University suggests a link between higher stress levels and health issues like asthma, irritable bowel syndrome and lupus.
I mean, sign me up, right?
Yeah, no thanks.
If you seem to get headaches more often, you’ve got a cold you can’t shake or everything just hurts, that could be your body’s way of telling you you’re burned out.
7. You beat yourself up mentally for not being a perfect mom.
Single mom guilt. I’ve had it and chances are, you’ve had it too at some point.
It’s that nagging voice in your head that tells you you’re doing a terrible job raising your kids.
And by the way, your house really could be cleaner and oh my god, you’re not really going to feed your kids frozen chicken nuggets, are you?
That’s the voice of mom guilt. And if it seems to be getting louder and meaner, that’s a sure sign that single mom burnout is at work.
How to Conquer Single Mom Burnout for Good
Being a burned-out, stressed mom is no fun.
Not for you and definitely not for your kids. But you don’t have to stay that way.
Ready to beat single mom burnout? Here’s how.
1. Know your stress triggers
The first step in fighting burnout is knowing what’s behind it.
Early on in my single mom journey, for example, my biggest stressor was money. I was always worried about how much I was going to be able to pay the bills.
These days, my stress is usually triggered when I’m not able to manage my time effectively. There are only so many hours in the day and I want to make the most of every one of them.
Think about what stresses you the most from day-to-day.
It could be your money, your job, your ex. Grab a notebook and write it all down, every big (or small) thing that puts you on edge.
Now, brainstorm some possible solutions for making them less overwhelming.
You may not be able to make a huge transformation right away, but taking even one small step could cut down on stress.
2. Nail your routine
Routines. Kids love them, right? Routines are comforting because they make you feel more in control.
They’re not just for kids either. When you’re burned out, having a routine cuts through the chaos.
I have a morning routine that I follow that helps me get ready for my day.
It seems like I get so much more done on the days when I stick to it, compared to the days that I don’t.
If you don’t have a morning routine or a bedtime ritual, start with those first.
It’s important to bookend your days with a plan. Then, figure out a schedule for the hours in-between so you have a road map to follow.
3. Make sleep a priority
Some people daydream about their celebrity crushes. I daydream about crawling in bed and sleeping for 12 hours straight.
If you’re suffering from single mom burnout exhaustion, you’ve got to find a way to get the rest you need.
That might mean going to bed earlier, getting up later or snagging a 20-minute nap in the afternoon.
The quality of your sleep matters too.
Sleeping 8 hours sounds great unless you’re sleeping on a worn-out mattress or trying to do it with a kid jabbing their elbows into your sides. (Been there, done that.)
If you can’t increase your sleep time, make it as comfortable as possible.
Get a new mattress or a new pillow. Invest in some quality sheets. Give your kid the boot to their bed or a pallet on the floor if you co-sleep.
Do whatever you have to do, but make every minute of sleep you get count.
4. Simplify your schedule and stop multitasking
Schedule overload is a fast track to burnout. It’s hard to feel energized when every day is packed with things to do.
Think about where your time goes every day, and what your kids are doing.
Look for activities that add to everyone’s stress that you could cut out.
Here’s a simple rule for scheduling if you want to avoid single mom burnout: less is more.
When you have fewer things to do or fewer places to go, you have more time to slow down.
Doing 10 things at once might make you feel more productive but the bottom line? Multitasking doesn’t work.
Not only does multitasking make you less effective, but it also makes you less attentive and less mindful of what you’re doing.
If you’re already burned out, realizing that you’re not really getting anything done and you’re zoned out isn’t going to help.
Instead of multitasking, work on one thing at a time and don’t stress about everything else on your to-do list.
5. Plan ahead
It’s hard to do things when you’re burned out.
Your brain gets all fuzzy and you just can’t think straight. Or worse, you start forgetting things.
Mom brain is real and it gets worse when you’re approaching burnout level. Some simple planning can help you stay on track, especially if you’re already feeling stressed.
Prep all your meals for the week so you’re not scrambling to make dinner every night.
Pick out your clothes for the next day the night before and have your kids do the same to cut down on the morning frenzy.
These are simple things but they can make a big difference in cutting down on stress.
How to Be Kind to Yourself as a Single Mom
1. Take care of your money
The money struggle is real for a lot of single moms.
On the list of biggest financial challenges single parents face, low income, inconsistent child support, poor credit and debt are all near the top.
Thankfully, I’m in a place where money doesn’t stress me out anymore. But it did, once upon a time. so I decided I had to change that.
And it ended up being a kind of financial self-care, though I didn’t realize it at the time. By paying attention to my money situation, I was able to remove a major source of anxiety in my life.
So for my single moms reading this, here’s what you need to work on to take care of your money:
Learn to budget
Making a budget is a must as a single mom. Even if you’re clueless about budgeting, you can still learn to create a basic plan for managing how you spend every month.
Pay off your debt
I had $50,000+ in debt when I first became a single mom, between student loans and credit cards. And I hated it so I made paying off my debt one of my top financial goals.
Grow your income
Turning my freelance writing side hustle into a business was the smartest money decision I’ve made as a single mom. It’s given us total financial freedom as a family.
(And you can learn more about how I make $200,000+ per year freelancing in this interview at Live a Blissful Life!)
So, if you want to be kind to yourself as a single mom, pick one thing you can do right now to make your financial situation better.
Here are a few posts that can help:
- How to Start a Side Hustle: An Ultimate Guide for Moms
- 12 Profitable Side Hustles That Are Perfect for Single Moms
- 6 Smart Ways to Manage Your Finances as a Single Mom
- 20+ Creative Ways to Make Money in 2020
2. Take care of your health
Good health is so important as a single mom.
Because you know what happens when you get sick, right? The entire world comes screeching to a halt.
If you have friends or family nearby who can help you out, it’s not so bad. But if you don’t, then being sick is something you just don’t have time for.
So, you have to stay on top of your health. That means physically, mentally and emotionally.
Here are some of my favorite ways to stay healthy as a single mom:
I try to work out at home every day if I can because that’s my “quiet” time. If you can do the same or hit the gym, then great.
But if you can’t, then just walking around the block with the kids can make a huge difference in how you feel.
Get enough sleep
I cherish my sleep and I hate when it gets interrupted. Make sure you’re getting enough rest so you don’t feel like a total mombie in the mornings.
Making three meals a day can be hard when you’re a busy single mom, whether you work at home or outside of it.
If you don’t have time for organic, home-made everything try to fit in at least one healthy meal a day, for yourself and your kids.
Bonus tip: Check out HealthyWage–you can get paid real money to lose weight and get healthy!
Make time for self-care.
Practicing self-care matters for all moms but it’s can be tougher as a single mom if you never seem to get a break. But carving out even 5 to 10 minutes a day can give you the time you need to be kind to yourself.
This is a real struggle for me. My kids are with me 24/7 because I work from home and we homeschool. Except for soccer practice and our once a month art class, we’re always together.
But alone time is something every single mama has to prioritize if they want to avoid burnout.
You can’t take care of everyone and everything else without taking care of you first.
If you think you can’t find any time for self-care, start small. Try for 30 minutes a week at least.
If you can set aside more time, great. But commit to taking that time every week to focus on yourself.
Check out these posts for more ideas:
- How to Create a Morning Routine (When You Hate Mornings)
- 15 Simple Self-Care Rituals for Busy Moms Who Need a Break
- How to Create a Self-Care Routine as a WAHM
3. Say no
Being a yes woman can almost guarantee that you’ll end up with a bad case of single mom burnout.
If you frequently say yes to doing things or making commitments when you really mean no, ask yourself why.
Is it because you feel guilty if you say no? Or you’re worried about disappointing someone?
Those are valid thoughts but you have to think about what the cost is to yourself when you say yes to everything. If it just makes you feel more stressed and frazzled, permit yourself to say no, at least once in a while.
And I know that’s hard.
Saying no, whether it’s to a freelance writing gig, a field trip with our homeschool group or some other trivial thing, makes me feel guilty.
I know I’m not doing myself any favors. I just don’t have time to do all the things, no matter how productive I try to be.
And saying yes to social things just plain stresses me out as an introvert.
So, learning to say no is something I’m working on.
If you want to be kind to yourself and not add to your stress load, then get comfortable with saying no too.
Try taking the KonMari approach if you don’t know where to start. Say no to things, situations or people that don’t spark joy.
Now, I’ll warn you. Saying no will make people unhappy.
Heck, some people might even try to make you feel guilty about it.
But stand your ground. Don’t let other peoples’ expectations dictate what you do–or don’t–do.
4. Skip the mom guilt
Ah, mom guilt.
I think every mom feels it at some point or another but it can be especially strong if you’re a single mom.
Because we get judged all the time, right?
Society attaches this stigma to single moms that we just can’t seem to shake. And what’s worse is when you get judged by people you know, like your parents or mom friends.
So the last thing you need to do is add to that with your own personal guilt trip.
If you want to be kind to yourself as a single mom, you can start by accepting these truths:
- You are not a perfect mom. (But hey, NO mom is perfect.)
- It’s okay to not be perfect.
- It’s even okay to not feel great about being a mom sometimes.
- You will screw up and make mistakes as a parent.
- Your mistakes don’t define who you are or how much you love your kids.
Look, I would love to win a mom of the year award but…it’s not happening. But I’m okay with it.
And if you want to be okay with it too, you have to kick that mom guilt firmly to the curb.
5. Ask for help
I’ll admit, I’m terrible at asking for help. I’d rather do everything myself than ask someone to lend a hand. Doesn’t matter what it is.
And that’s not a great character trait. In fact, it just makes life as a single mom harder for me a lot of the time.
Maybe you’re the same way. But if you want to be kind to yourself and beat single mom burnout, you have to get out of that pattern.
Asking for help is hard, I know. Every mom feels the pressure to try and be a super mom.
But sometimes asking for help is the very best thing you can do to beat single mom burnout, for yourself and your kids.
If you don’t have a tribe you can call on for help, work on building one.
Connect with other moms, get friends and family to pitch in, pay someone to do a chore around the house that you can’t stand or don’t have time for.
Reach out to coworkers, your church family if you have one, your next-door neighbors. Join a single mom support group on Facebook or through a local meetup.
Bottom line, the more people you can get on your team, the better.
What Are You Doing to Beat Single Mom Burnout?
Burnout can leave you worn out if you don’t know how to fight it.
These tips are meant to help you find solutions for dealing with the stress that goes along with being a single mama.
Now, over to you —
Do you have a personal experience with single mom burnout to share? Or a great tip for being kind to yourself?
If so, be sure to tell me about it in the comments.
And remember to share this post with another mama who needs it if it helped you!