From the moment your first child is born, you’re destined to be a 24/7 mum, with your kid’s wellbeing on the top of your priority list, all the time.
This decision was ours to make, and we took it proudly – and not a single experience can ever compare to the one of loving and nurturing our little ones into becoming adults.
While giving birth may have transformed us into mums, this role doesn’t come with any superpowers attached. We still have the same set of traits, needs and wants but the number of mouths we have to feed has increased. Those fragile little beings were given to us fully dependent, and it’s up to us to fulfill their needs until they develop their independence.
And this can be, and I’ll put it mildly – exhausting.
Even though the burnout syndrome has finally been recognized as an official medical condition, there are no sick days you can take when you’re dealing with single mum burnout and trying to be at least two people at the same time.
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And if you don’t do something to beat it, it will take the better out of you.
There is a saying that one should learn from other people’s mistakes. Here is what I’ve learned about it from mine.
Learn to Reconnect
When you’re a single mum, it’s easy to forget you have your own needs to fulfill too. Even your most basic, physiological needs, such as eating and sleeping, lose their priority, while your needs for social belonging, for example, start to feel like a luxury you can’t afford. You just learn how to suppress them, until you’re no longer aware they’ve existed, and you can easily do something else instead. A pile of laundry, for example.
This way you’ll be on the way to single mum burnout in no time, and to avoid it, you need to learn how to reconnect to the very same parts of yourself that you’ve put down to sleep. To be able to do this, you need to schedule some me-time too and spend it looking after your own needs.
But, don’t fall into the trap of postponing it in favor of your regular daily chores – mark it in your calendar and book an appointment just like you do when it comes to meeting other people.
Plan for Relaxation
When you’re a single parent, time ranks high on your shortages list – sometimes you feel as if two days wouldn’t be enough to cover all that you usually handle within a single afternoon.
Me- time? Relaxation? Those two minutes of time alone right before you fall asleep, completely drained?
It’s not enough to even sketch out your daily schedule for tomorrow.
Still, you can’t afford to put off meeting your own needs until your kids leave for college, or go to a summer school – either you’ll meet them at your own pace, at your own time, or you’re going to let burnout creep up on you when you list expect and leave you devastated, trudging your way through your own life.
Make it your priority to schedule some chunks of me-time every day, and spend it alone, in activities that relax you and bring you closer to yourself. It may be a twenty-minute morning run or a relaxing evening bath, just as long as you spend it with your thoughts only.
If you can afford to hire a babysitter for a few extra hours each week or find a willing relative or friend to look after your kids for a day, schedule that ahead too, and spend that time focusing on nothing but your own needs.
Organize Your Time
When your days are loaded with errands, it’s high time you found out how actually you’re spending each minute of your day. That’s when good time management skills can come to your rescue.
Add another task to your never-ending list and monitor your activities and how much time you spend on each one of them for a week or two. It will be worth the effort, I promise, as you will be able to spot all the traps you tend to fall into regularly.
Mine was the trap of saying yes where I should have been saying no. Even now I see myself carelessly slipping into it from time to time, but I’ve learned to set priorities and stick to them.
Learning how to prioritize your tasks, or split the activities you detest into chunks which you find easier to swallow, can save a lot of your energy but some of your precious time too.
Being a full-time single mum means having a lot of really great moments with your kids that you enjoy. But, it doesn’t end there, and you know it far too well.
If you want to save your energy for the activities that matter and be there for your kids not only with your body but with your mind too, learn to incorporate short breaks during your everyday activities. Even if it means you’ll skip doing laundry for the day. Let it wait – your kids will appreciate having a fresh and fully-present mum and you will be more agile and happy too.
Recognize What Your Body is Telling You
To avoid burnout, you need to listen to the signals your body is trying to send, all carrying the same message – you need some rest. It can be a headache you’ve been dealing with for a couple of days or your aching neck, and you’ve probably found a dozen reasons for why it hurts, starting from your sleeping position to possible dehydration.
To be able to continue with your duties, you took a pill and made a promise that you’re going to carry a water bottle wherever you go.
But what if it’s all your stress and anxiety and burnout lurking in and piling up? Learn more about the burnout symptoms, such as insomnia, increased illness, and chronic fatigue, so you can spot them on time, and try to prevent the negative outcomes.
It’s important to not try to self-cure your burnout with some medicine. Taking sleeping pills or any other substance in order to sedate yourself and get enough restful sleep can alter your natural sleep process, so it can, in fact, have negative effects on your sleep quality. If you have trouble catching enough ZZZs, opt for natural remedies instead, such as a cup of chamomile or valerian tea before your bedtime.
Ask for Support
If you find that it’s hard for you to cope with your everyday life tasks and that you struggle with your resources to carry them out on your own, don’t delay asking for support. A burden is less heavy when you have someone to split it with, and your friends and family may be your powerful allies when you’re going through a rough patch.
Life can be overwhelming for single mums at times, but it is also full of unforgettable moments filled with love and joy. Focus on what’s truly important – your kids and you, and use these tips to prevent and fight single mum burnout.
How do you fight mum burnout? Tell us in the comments below.