Parenting alone is a 'hard and relentless' job
Q I am writing not so much to ask for advice, as to share with you the burden of life and, perhaps, highlight a problem that many might share with me. I will try to be concise.
I’m in my 30s and I’ve been separated from my husband for a number of years and am alone with a young child. I find lone parenthood almost a heroic act. It’s such a hard and relentless job. I have no family in Dublin but thankfully I do have many friends. Still, I am hesitant about asking them for help when I am worn out, unless it’s something really urgent. I find myself often on the verge of insanity due to all the hardship.
To top it off I have been struggling with severe anxiety for the past few years. I have a full-time job, yet, in the past I had to take time off as I wasn’t able to cope with all that. I find consolation when my child is happy, but I often worry that she will be damaged somehow by seeing me struggling 24/7.
My day often starts at 6.30am and finishes at 11pm, after being on my feet non-stop. It’s a lonely journey. Sadly, the general perception doesn’t seem to perceive anxiety as a very debilitating condition. Sadly, lone parenting is often perceived through some hurtful stereotypes.
I defy all of the misperceptions and stereotypes. I try not to worry, yet, sometimes, in times of sadness it does bother me and I wish people were more understanding.
A Thank you for taking time to email me and to share your story and the challenges of parenting alone with which I am sure many of the readers can empathise.
Your story highlights the burden and intensity of parenting and how isolated and lonely you can feel at times. Your email also highlights the stress parenting can put on your mental health and after a long hard day alone most readers will appreciate how this can push you onto the “verge of insanity”.
Once you become a parent, the stress, long hours, lack of sleep and reduced leisure time can all compromise your own mental health. If you had a pre-existing tendency to be anxious or depressed, these problems can all be aggravated under the stresses of parenting or can be triggered for the first time for parents who never had problems before.
Though parenting has the potential to bring the most joy and meaning, most people describe it as the hardest job they will ever do and it is doubly hard when you are doing it alone without support.
I know in your question you say you are not looking for advice, but it might be useful to share a few thoughts on possible ways forward for other readers who might find themselves in a similar position.
Prioritise your own self care and mental health
The quality of your own mental health does, of course, have an impact on your parenting and your children. The more positive and cared for you feel, the more you will be able to dedicate yourself to the task of parenting.
Children need “cared for” parents as much as they need their parents to care for them. As a result, you owe it to your children to prioritise your own mental health and to do what you can to improve this. This could be as simple as ensuring you have daily moments of relaxation and to develop coping strategies for managing the day-to-day challenges.