A love note to the exhausted single mama

The labor requirements of a single mother are uniquely intense. Sometimes when I break it down for myself I feel like a superhero and sometimes I feel even more tired.

A love note to the exhausted single mama

Every few months or so, a wave of exhaustion washes over me. I feel as if my energy is depleted, like I can barely keep up with my 2-year-old daughter. My patience is thinner and by the end of the day, I'm leaning against the wall of the shower because the effort to remain upright is just too much. Sometimes this feeling sticks around for a day or two, or when in combination with premenstrual symptoms, sometimes a week or two.

Before becoming a mother, I used to prioritize sleeping nine hours a night because that's what my body needs to feel fully energized. Just typing that sentence brings up all kinds of conflicting feelings: yearning, sadness and a resigned version of acceptance.

Giving up sleep to the unpredictability of nighttime parenting during the early years of my daughter's life while spending marathon-levels of caregiving energy during the day has been quite the adjustment, to make an understatement.

The labor requirements of a single mother are uniquely intense. Sometimes when I break it down for myself I feel like a superhero and sometimes I feel even more tired.

I care for my daughter, run a business that is the only source of income meeting our needs, prepare meals, often with my daughter clinging onto my leg, clean up after said meals, keep our home relatively tidy, run errands, work on creative projects and future goals, maintain friendships and weave in some form of daily spiritual practice.

I've learned to be intentional about how I spend my energy and with whom as a matter of survival, I fuel my body strategically, protect my available sleeping hours as much as possible, engage in some form of movement daily, take time for self-care each week, and sometimes I'm still just tired.

So to all the single mamas out there, who like me, hustle day and night to make sure their children have everything they need, I want to let you know I see you.

To the single mama staring down a sink full of dishes, lunches to be made, and emails to be answered after you finally got your little one to sleep, I see you.

To the single mama laying down while your child literally runs circles around you, I see you.

To the single mama working hard to buy the groceries, make the food, and clean up too, for each and every meal, I see you.

To the single mama holding down 100% of caregiving responsibilities, I see you.

To the single mama taking that really deep breath when your child has both peed themselves and spilled their breakfast all over before six a.m., I see you.

I see you, I am you, and you're doing an awesome job.

One of my clients once told me, "Single mothers are the most powerful women in the world" and I agree with every fiber of my being. We are powerful—and very very tired.

Sarah Lou Warren is a psychotherapist in private practice and certified maternal mental health specialist. She writes about single motherhood, coparenting, and self-nourishment at Single Mama Magic. She lives on the Big Island of Hawaii with her daughter and pit mix.
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