The Mental Drain of Being a (Temp) Solo Parent

Disclaimer: This is not a whinge, sob story or sharing how hard my life is blog post. This is a personal observation and appreciation of what parents (especially mothers) feel when looking after their children on their own 24/7 with little or no help.

It’s school holidays with 4 days to go. I’m happy to say I have good kids, my wife raised them well and I think I can take at least 20% credit somewhere. Tash is in Las Vegas for 3 weeks and I’m here managing the house, the kids and trying to work (out how to get some business flowing). Managing multiple responsibilities is challenging at the moment to say the least.

Just before I started writing this blog post, I sat with my kids and felt mentally drained. Although I could do it, I didn’t really want to exercise, the executive function of my brain isn’t firing on all cylinders and I feel rather like I have no mind of my own. I starting thinking how my energy picks up when they go to bed, how between their bedtime til morning is the time I look forward to the most. Like I said, I’ve got good kids, but for some reason I feel I’m “on” when they’re conscious and I can’t turn “off” until they go to sleep.

I can certainly see why chocolate becomes your best friend!

As I was feeling drained, I started observing if this is a glimpse into what solo parents or mothers with young children are feeling day in and day out. They’re using a lot of mental energy to keep life moving as smoothly as possible. They have to be multi-skilled individuals for as long as it’s required that day. I started to consider my feelings and thought just how strong and resilient these parents are and tried to fill up my cup of empathy for them.

In this state, I don’t really aspire to achieve much but get through the day. Althought I’m physically there, I’m not there. I can feel and see the challenge to feel motivated to achieve your potential. I know from the stress, and fatigue it’s turning off my prefrontal cortex. That part of the brain is responsible being actively engaged.

In order to feel alive again it requires a change of environment and time away from the workload. There’s no other way around it. The mind, body and spirit needs time to recharge and whatever that looks to you and whatever support you have to make it happen, take time out to recharge.

When my kids go back to school, I’ll have all day to myself and all is well. I’ll get quiet time to work, exercise (which I’ve done once) and run errands without lugging 3 extra passengers around. For those parents who don’t have that luxury yet, I have a deepened respect for the effort you give each day. So like I said in the disclaimer, I’m not complaining but learning to observe and try and feel at some level how those who do this day in and day out feel.

I concluded that in order to find as much satisfaction and joy in this experience, I’ve decided to live by these guidelines.

  1. Do the best you can today and be okay with it being less than what you believe you’re capable of doing.
  2. Only do the most important tasks today.
  3. Pray often and give thanks for what you have.
  4. Make the best out of the resources you have available.
  5. Take care of your personal health as best as you can, especially mental/emotional health.
  6. Strive to keep your mind centred in the moment. Too much wasted energy thinking about the past and future.
  7. Don’t bother trying to be a hero, try to be human. There’s less pressure to live up to extremely high expectations.
  8. Tell yourself you’re doing better than you think. So hold your head up when you’re feeling weary.

I’m going to enjoy my quiet time now, but I want you to know that you are amazing and that I’m grateful to have a strong wife to raised our kids and did it so well. Keep going and keep doing the best you can.

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