We’ve all done it. Stayed up late folding laundry or baking cookies or otherwise serving our kids. We’ve also not done it. We’ve been the one to swing by the store and pick up store-bought cookies instead of baking cupcakes ourselves. We’ve also completely forgotten to send the treats. Before Trevor died, I was so organized and never recall missing an appointment. Things change when you’re suddenly responsible for everything. Every appointment, phone call, grocery trip, sports practice, dress rehearsal, etc. Everything falls on your shoulders. You will forget things, and that’s OK. Sometimes you won’t forget things, but you’ll pretend to forget them so you can just sit at home for a night and have a moment to catch your breath. That’s OK too.
Some evenings I’ll watch TV with the kids or play a game with them. A lot of nights, I am cleaning the kitchen, folding laundry, or paying bills. Some nights, I just sit and read or watch TV in my room because I just need a minute to myself. All of those are OK.
Do what you can, but sweet friend, don’t beat yourself up for the things you can’t. It’s exhausting to be a single mom. It’s exhausting to grieve. But doing both? Nothing short of a miracle provided by our Lord. If you get out of bed each morning, you’re doing great. Even if you are still in your pajamas come afternoon and haven’t showered yet.
Be careful about things you commit yourself or your kids to. Every time you say yes to an activity, you’re saying no to a lot of other things, including your sanity. Know your limitations. If you’re having a particularly tough time emotionally, you won’t be able to do as much without wearing yourself out. Don’t overcommit. It’s better for your kids to have a healthy mom and do fewer activities than getting to do all the classes and lessons and sports, but having a mom who is stressed and exhausted all the time. I know that for me, when I’m extremely tired, I’m much more likely to lose my patience with my kids or struggle with depression. Lack of sleep or wearing yourself thin during the day can also cause you to get sick more easily. Since it’s just you, it’s vital to balance things. It’s always a juggling act, but if you find yourself constantly overwhelmed or stressed, reevaluate what you’re doing and cut out things that are not absolutely essential. Before you sign your child up for an activity, know exactly what you’re committing to and whether or not you can handle it. Think about the times and what you’ll do with your other kids and how you’ll prepare meals and make sure it’s worth it. There’s always other activities they can do.
Make sure that you allow time in your schedule for you, doing things that recharge you and give you the emotional energy to keep pouring into your kids. It might be one morning a week at a coffee shop by yourself. It might be getting your nails done or going jogging. It could be reading a book in a favorite spot without the kids. It could just be time when a friend takes your kids to the park so you can take a nap. Whatever it is, make time to do it. The most important thing you need to have in your daily schedule is time with the Lord. It’s essential for any believer, but particularly as a single mom, you need to stay connected to Christ in order to gain the wisdom, strength, patience, and grace it takes to walk through this season of life.
I listened one day to a podcast by Sally Clarkson, an author I absolutely love, and her daughter Joy. They spoke straight to my heart. One of the things they spoke about was living in the story God is writing for you. Don’t try to live in another story. It’s hard when you’re living a story that feels more like a nightmare than a fairy tale, but remember – Cinderella’s life seemed like a nightmare until the prince came along. God is writing a beautiful story, even if you can’t see any beauty yet. You just have to trust his plan. Live the story God’s put you in; you’re the heroine, sister, which means you’re going to make it. There are days that may seem chaotic and messy and absolutely insane, but that’s life. Live it. Embrace those days because, without them, the good days wouldn’t seem nearly as bright.
Remember – it’s OK to be that mom, whichever mom you are, on any given day. Yesterday, my three-year-old ran outside naked and unashamedly played “bad guys” in the driveway. He’s my superhero, taking on villains in the nude. This morning though, he leaned over where he sat watching cartoons (while I tried to do my Bible study) and laid in my lap and said, “I wuv you, Mama.” Don’t worry about what others think of you. Embrace the story God is writing for you; after all, he’s the master storyteller.
“Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Psalm 30:5