This past year has been a year like no other — and not in a good way. The pandemic has radically challenged the life that we all knew, a particularly excruciating experience for single mothers.
Self-care for single moms is more important than ever but can be difficult to achieve.
Not only have many lost the positive outlets they created in their lives, but many have had massive amounts of unexpected responsibilities heaped upon them without any additional resources to ease this titanic transition.
Something had to go and for most mothers, it was anything resembling self-care.
Self-care is often the first sacrifice for single parents.
Dakota is one example. She wasn’t old — at least, she didn’t think so. In her mid-30s, she was divorced with twin girls aged 10.
Life was hectic but had its fun moments — nights out the girls, gym workouts, and occasionally a hot date with her latest pick from an online dating site.
And her girls were well cared for, as her mother lived nearby and loved the idea of being with her granddaughters.
Everything changed with the pandemic.
Now, she was working from home, homeschooling her girls, who suddenly had to argue about everything, and she had no relief as her mother didn’t feel comfortable leaving her own home.
A year into this “new normal,” she was drinking too much, had gained 15 pounds, and had no sex life.
Dakota felt stuck and angry.
One late night, over too much wine, she thought, “If I die tonight, is this how I want my girls to remember me?” She heard a very loud “No!” in her head.
She was watching the original Wonder Woman movie when she had a radical thought, “How about I think of myself as a superhero?” She laughed out loud, spraying white wine all over her couch, but thought, “Why not?”
Self-care for single moms means becoming your own “superhero.”
You’re probably mostly living in your head as it is, obsessed with thinking about all the problems you face, acutely aware of how little positive attention you are giving yourself.
What re-focusing your thoughts in a fun way that will provide real opportunities for you to care for yourself? Sound nuts?
Becoming your own superhero isn’t as much work as you think it will be. It’s an inside job and you’re already thinking all the time, anyway.
Thinking about how you are a superhero will give you a new way to consider how to care for yourself.
You may now be a little annoyed at the suggestion that you do more work when you’re already stressed out, feeling like no one understands how bad things are.
The important thing is that you understand.
It’s always important for you to honor how you feel, not necessarily to act on every feeling but to know what you’re feeling.
Superheroes are full of feelings, but they weigh their actions.
They’re strategic, their origin story taught them that. They take brave actions often full of passion but now based upon their new wisdom of who they are and what they need. You can do the same.
How to capture these thoughts? Write them in your journal.
But, if writing in your journal feels like too much work, make a video of you speaking your truth. You’re probably glued to Zoom, anyway.
Or create a podcast and speak into your phone, recording your thoughts.
Here are 3 ways self-care for single moms can be achieved by becoming your own superhero.
1. Know your origin story.
Like all superheroes, your origin story begins with a moment that alters the course of your life. You are in such a moment now. Describe it.
What are the challenges you are facing now?
2. Name the monsters in your life
Naming the struggles you face makes them clear and more manageable.
These are what you must slay.
3. Name your superpowers.
Like Wonder Woman, you may not know what superpowers you have until you find yourself using them.
It’s in how you face these new monsters that push each of us out of our comfort zone and make us grow.
So, as you delve into self-care as a single mom, what are some of your superpowers?
Know that hope can drive positive change. In what may seem like a paradox, the more you hope that you can do something, the more possible it becomes.
You can begin with the hope that you can drive your fears away.
Hope makes you positive. It makes you curious. It unleashes your creativity.
Hope is solid. It reminds you of what you’ve done in the past that maybe you can use now.
You can begin by thinking of a problem-solving technique you’re used in the past. Was it using your planning ability, learning to speak your opinion, being patient?
Being kind and supportive to yourself as opposed to spending your energy being critical of yourself is huge and a game-changer.
This can allow you to invest your energy in doing active problem solving as opposed to digging yourself a deeper trench.
Making a daily list of three things you’ve well, is a beginning.
Self-compassion is the payoff. This means learning to give to yourself what you would give to a friend who is going through the same struggles that you face.
Self-compassion is holding up a mirror and zapping yourself with the same love and acceptance you send your best friend.
Positive affirmations are a good way to do this.
What happens when you live in a space where you hold your pain and your challenges?
The space that forms your origin story? Where you can name the monsters you face without being overwhelmed by them?
Where you recognize that you have the tools and abilities you need to fight back?
Where you own your strength, your needs for tenderness and acceptance, while you can acknowledge and love yourself, allowing you to craft the life you deserve?
You feel free! And this is true self-care.
Empowering yourself is the ultimate self-care.
Owning your superpowers can empower you in small ways as you can begin to construct the big changes you deserve in your life.
It all boils down to this simple formula, by owning that you are more than your struggles, you can discover that you are also your solutions.
Now that’s being a superhero!
Patricia A O’Gorman, Ph.D. is a trauma and addiction psychologist, author of 9 books on resiliency, women, and self-parenting, and the mother of twins. Learn more on her website.