A single mom takes off the superwoman cape

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About Crystal

Crystal Ellefsen lives in San Diego with her husband and son, where she writes, works, explores, thinks, drinks coffee, writes, makes videos, paints, doodles, sings, and writes some more. Until recently, she published here and elsewhere as Crystal Hadidian, the 'single parenting contributor' around these parts.

Hi. My name is Crystal and I’m a single mom.

I do not set an alarm to wake up before my son. I don’t volunteer at his preschool. I do not make my own toothpaste and I have not cooked from scratch in weeks. My email inbox and my laundry pile are both out of control and I have no plans to tame either. If I remember to bring something to a church potluck, it is rarely homemade.

While I’m on a roll, I’ll add a real confession: I used to judge single parents – whether they were divorced or not – I judged them and I made assumptions I had no right to make.

Oh wait. This isn’t Single Parents Anonymous? That’s right, this is Simple Mom. So how does a single mom also figure out how to be a simple mom? Or at the very least, how do I incorporate a bit more simplicity into daily life? Because that list of things I don’t do – those are good things I would like to be able to do.

I’m no single parenting expert. I’m just in the trenches with a toddler. But, I know I’m not the only loyal reader of this blog who is a single parent. And I know there’s got to be many of you in this community who may not have the tax filing status, but you still function as a single parent much of the time. Whether you’re a military mom or dad, married to someone who is unable to or has chosen not to be engaged in parenting, your experience and challenges are similar.

And I also know that not every single parenting scenario is the same. We all have different financial and custody situations, not to mention children at various stages with unique personalities. We all have different paths that resulted in our entrance to this strange land called single parenting.

No spoiler alert needed. Parenting and running a household alone is hard. Add to that working and in some cases being the only financial provider, and it equals exhaustion.

As we all know, parenting (whether alone or not) is a 24/7 marathon, not an occasional side hobby you fit in when time permits. It’s the most incredible, most valuable marathon you’ll ever run, but that doesn’t mean you’re not exhausted, needing some cheerleaders and good coaches while you’re in it.

As a single parent, I know I make it harder on myself by expecting that I should be able to accomplish the same things as a stay-at-home-mom who has a healthy relationship with her employed husband. I have to daily accept my limitations, and deal with the disappointment that I am unable to have the experience of motherhood I had always imagined.

There are many things I’m in the process of learning because of these limitations. The most important thing is that I must focus on only the absolute essentials. Being a single mom has forced me to concentrate on what matters and not get distracted by what might please or appease those around me. I simply can’t raise my son, work full time, and also execute incredible, Martha-Stewart-worthy children’s birthday parties, rotate my house décor with the seasons, and also find time to occasionally sleep.

But you know what? That’s okay.

I’ve recently decided to permanently take off my super woman cape. I am going to cease the super human expectations, take a breath and focus on one thing I can do. Sometimes that one thing involves playing with legos or dump trucks with a beautiful little boy. But sometimes that means putting on a movie for him, so I can spend some time journaling and clearing my head.

Sometimes it means accepting offered help from friends. Sometimes it means spending money in ways that Dave Ramsey would not approve of, like eating out just because I’m tired. Sometimes that means showing up at a birthday party without a gift or a card and trusting that my friend actually does value my presence more than those polite gestures.

I’m not saying I exist in this clarity all the time. Or that I don’t need hourly reminders to let go of the expectations that others and myself place on me. I do not always float around in a cloud of peaceful acceptance. Not at all. I’m tired. I grieve. I get sad, I pray and reach out to friends.

Eventually, I get reminded that what matters are the essentials and it’s okay if I can’t “do it all.” For me ‘the essentials’ is a very, very short list that involves food, water and making sure my son is wearing mostly-clean underwear.

I can’t do it all. And comparing the things I am able to achieve as a parent to people in different circumstances doesn’t help my son or me. But, it’s not only single parents that feel this pressure, right?

I invite you to take off your super mom or super dad cape, too. Even if you’re not a single parent. Focus on one thing you can do, instead of being overwhelmed by everything your circumstances and energy limitations prevent you from doing.

I may not get be able to spend the whole day with my son creating the full-size sidewalk chalk fire truck mural we both dream of, but I can spend ten meaningful minutes coloring with him after breakfast before work. Being at peace and enjoying the time I do have with my son matters more than being super mom.

Do you need to take off your super mom cape and with it, some pressure and expectation? What is one thing you can do today, even if you can’t “do it all”?

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Comments

  1. Sing it, sister. I wrote about this here:

    http://twochicksandahen.blogspot.ca/2012/07/on-hibernation-reflection-and-use-of.html

    It’s hard not to feel that pressure or, worse, not to put it on yourself. But giving up on the Super (Single) Mom Myth takes a HUGE weight off your shoulders–just as it does for all mamas.

    I’ll be back to comment more in the morning because this is a great piece. Must go to bed now :).
    Two Chicks and a Hen´s latest post: Happy October!

    • Jaimie, yep. You get it. It’s so much better for the soul to let go of trying to be everything and do everything. Thanks for the positive response.

    • As a newly minted single mom of a toddler and type A personality, letting go of the superwoman cape has been hard, but the year has been a doozy. Thank you for reflecting on both the “cape” dilemma coupled with being a single mom. We need more of this in the parenting blog/media discourse. xxxo

  2. thank you so much for sharing this. it definitely hit home and has made me realize, even after being a single mom for 9 years, how much unneeded pressure i put on myself and that i need to let go of the mommy-guilt. it helps to know that i’m not alone.
    take care, s.

  3. i am not a single mom, but i totally admire you and so many single moms i know. i know i could not do it well all by myself. even with a very involved husband, i fall apart crying many days after just pressure and intensity being a parent bring. i really appreciate you sharing your perspective and focus – i think it is one every parent, mom or dad, single or married, could learn from.
    charis´s latest post: i am a runner

    • avatar
      Carmen Simon says:

      Here, here!
      I was just telling a friend that we (women) probably SHOULD fall apart crying about once a week to be healthy! Really. It lets off tension, and reminds us and our loved ones of what bothers us, or that we need a break or comfort or whatever. Anyone see the old movie “Broadcast News”? The heroine routinely unplugs her phone, and has planned 3 minute cries.

  4. Crystal, you are amazing. I am SO VERY GLAD you are choosing to send us some of your encouraging words here. Thank you, friend. You are needed in this community.

  5. Love this!! I know a lot of women, whose husbands are in med school/residency, feel like a single parent so much of the time. I will be sure to share this post with them. Thanks Crystal!
    Amber´s latest post: What I savored today {Day 2}

    • Amber, I’m sure they need some encouragement! It can be especially hard when you feel alone in a situation like that, but because you’re maybe not “technically” alone it can be harder to ask for help from your community. Women who support their men while they’re in school need community support and encouragement too!

  6. Really happy to see this, as there are many of us out here keeping up both halves of a household and you’re right, here just really isn’t as much time when you’re carrying the full load as if you’re carrying part of it. (Although it’s also true that a relationship too takes time and energy, and can have its own challenges as well as support. BTDT.) Thanks for sharing this reality and encouragement!

    • Good point, Stacia. Investing in a relationship with your spouse definitely takes time as well and has it’s own challenges and blessings.

  7. Put your cape back on! Laundry piles or not, you are still superwoman just by virtue of raising a child alone! I have so much awe and respet for single mamas and military wives. Great post.
    kelly @ view along the way´s latest post: How to Clean a Paint Roller: the Quick & Easy {Kinda Messy} Way

  8. Thank you for sharing this post. I will be sharing it with the single mothers I know. You are a rock star mom, even if you don’t feel like it some days. I promise you are. I have much respect for you. Parenting is HARD and like you said it is not a side hobby, it is 24/7.
    Brittnie (A Joy Renewed)´s latest post: 31 Days. . . maybe in 2013?

  9. Great insights. And you’re totally right, I think all moms feel that pressure. Although I would fit into the “stay-at-home-mom who has a healthy relationship with her employed husband” box, I have also struggled with chronic pain since I was 8 months pregnant with my now 2 year old son and I also struggle with unrealistic expectations for what I should be accomplishing. Similarly though, I’ve also found the blessing in realizing what is really important to my son, my husband and myself and focusing my energies there. Martha Stewart would not approve of the fountains of clutter that seem to well up in the corners of each room, but our family has found much more joy than two years ago when I was trying to “do it all”! Well written mama!
    Sarah G´s latest post: August 2012

  10. I am married to a very mentally ill man. So I am a single parent. This post is wonderful and real. I can relate to so much. You rock sister!! Thank you.

  11. I am going to work on being at peace with my parenting today. Though I am not a single parent, my husband’s new job has him away from us 85% of the time and I have been crumbling under the pressure lateley of trying to continue operating like I had before this change. I have to let some things go for my sanity and the sanity of my family. Thank you for sharing this!
    Julie Machado´s latest post: The Planning Begins…

  12. This is truly the best article on single motherhood I’ve ever read. Like Crystal I have found that I have to let certain things that might be important to other people go by the wayside and focus on what is important to my family, even if other people might think less of me as a result♥
    Diane´s latest post: Sunday Hymn

  13. I was raised by a single mom and I am inspired by your story and transparencey. Love this. Thank you.
    karen´s latest post: We could’ve never planned this :: 31 days of messy parenting {day 3}

  14. Thanks for sharing your side! I was raised by a single mom and she was so powerful in my life. Even though I’m in the “in a Waltham relationship with an employed husband” category my experiences growing up make me eternally grateful for the things I have in my life. Hang in there mama, you baby boy will appreciate all your hard work on down the line!
    Kaylie´s latest post: I Couldn’t Turn Off the Moon So….

  15. Thanks for sharing your side! I was raised by a single mom and she was so powerful in my life. Even though I’m in the “in a Healthy relationship with an employed husband” category my experiences growing up make me eternally grateful for the things I have in my life. Hang in there mama, you baby boy will appreciate all your hard work on down the line!
    Kaylie´s latest post: I Couldn’t Turn Off the Moon So….

  16. I really admire single parents. I can’t imagine doing it alone. And while I’m not in that situation, this is good advice for anyone. Let go of the unrealistic expectations and focus on what we can do!
    Johanna Hanson´s latest post: When You Are In Information Overload

  17. I loved this. I also love clutter, in fact, I am looking at the same stack of mail that I have been looking at for a week. I love that you have tattoos!
    Seriously Sassy Mama´s latest post: I Have Ninja Skills, And A Free Fall Centerpiece Idea

  18. So beautiful. I love these words. Thank you for writing.
    Ashlie´s latest post: I’ll just get this out and then move on.

  19. I love the line about showing up at a birthday party without a gift! I don’t know why but that struck me as so very brave (probably because it is a public situation so loaded with others expectations). You rock!

    • This was the only thing on the list that I found I did not support whole heartedly. A gift for another child’s borthday party or at least a card is important. It is just not nice to take a few minutes and buy another child a card for his or her birthday. This does not fall into the above and beyond super Mom category.

      • Yes, but the point she is making is that time and sometimes financial constraints can mean that you simply can’t get it all done. Sometimes it can come down to attending the birthday party without the present, or not attending at all. I’ve only done that once (and brought the gift for the child later in the evening) but there was a time when doing so would have been unthinkable. In that case, I decided to put my child’s need for friendship and participation first, over my own sense of shame. Sometimes you just can’t get it all done, and have to put yourself out there anyway, and trust that others will be understanding.

  20. Crystal – I love this post! I am a single mom of a toddler boy too, and I am trying to make sure my superwoman cape is not only firmly attached but clean and pressed too. I need to give myself permission to take it off. thank you for telling me it’s ok!
    Anna

    PS I showed up at a toddler birthday party at the weekend and pretended we had forgotten the gift, said I would send it. of course I had not had time to buy anything. why couldn’t I be honest? next time, and there will be a next time, I will

    • Anna, I understand it’s hard to be honest in those situations sometimes! I guess I’ve gotten used to just telling them it was either “not come or show up without a gift” and although it was hard to trust at the beginning, now I’m used to everyone being totally laid back and positive about it. Thanks for sharing.

  21. Wow, Crystal, I’m impressed you found time to write this beautiful post. My heart aches for you and then it aches for me. I’m that stay-at-home-mom with an employed/involved husband, but even I can relate to what you’ve written here. My cape is weighing me down. Just yesterday I visited a friend whose super-tidy house made mine look like a battlefield. So I berated myself for not measuring up. I’m going to let go of that today. Thanks for the encouragement. Blessings to you and your sweet boy.
    Becky K´s latest post: How My Walk of Faith Is Like a Stroller Ride

    • For me writing is a sanity-saving priority and in addition to help from friends, I traded sleep for writing. Thanks for your kind comments. Blessings to you too.

  22. LOVED THIS!!! Thank you for your authentic spirit and truth! As a previous single mom of 8 years, I know the same feelings and am so glad you have cracked the crazy mold – can’t wait to read more of what you write! May God Bless your reach -
    Susan´s latest post: What Does Time Mean to You?

  23. Thank you. I can’t tell you how good it felt to read this. As a single mom, there are so many things you want to get done and feel like you NEED to get done and SHOULD be able to do just to be as good as all those other mom that seem to breeze through mom-hood effortlessly. Thank you for reminding me that it is okay to be just me, to be the mom that I am, and that I don’t need to be a superhero every second of every day. Thank you for this post. I needed it this morning. :)

    • Thanks Julia! I know, we’ve got to let go of all the “should’s” and figure out which ones actually matter and which we are doing to please others. It can be a challenge to even figure out what the “essentials” are some days! You don’t need to be a super hero every second, for sure.

  24. “As a single parent, I know I make it harder on myself by expecting that I should be able to accomplish the same things as a stay-at-home-mom who has a healthy relationship with her employed husband.” — I remember perfectly the night that I had the exact same realization!!! I’m no longer a single mom, but I’m glad I had that realization in order to keep it real for me & my kids. And I think that is why I’m appreciating my new life a lot more now. Keep up the good work, Crystal.
    Carrie´s latest post: {Homecomings & Organizing a Laundry Room. Day 2}

  25. What an amazing post! Single Mom here, 2 kids. You literally took the words out of my mouth and I am grateful someone understands. On top of it all I have a chronic illness that limits me even further.
    The way I tackle it all is to organize. I have my daily work to-do, my daily home to-do, the kids have their chore lists. You start at the top and work your way down. I never get through it all and I don’t care. But those lists help me feel not so splintered.
    You should write a blog. Maybe we all should.

    • Hey Hillary, thanks for sharing. You are not alone! I don’t run my own regular blog because it’s too much time I should be sleeping! But, I’m thankful for the chance to contribute here. Blessings.

  26. Crystal, thanks for giving me permission to take the cape off!! My husband always encourages me to do it but hearing it from another mom is very powerful. I cried reading your post. A tidy kitchen doesn’t mean anything to my 20month old son. But building a puzzle does! Thank you :-)

  27. This was an empowering post because of your vulnerable honesty.
    Thank you.

  28. Beautiful!

  29. You are so right to stick to the essentials and let go of the rest. I was raised by a single mom and while things weren’t perfect, she did the best she could and we always knew that she loved us fiercly. When love is the overriding factor, the rest figures itself out.
    Audrey @ Mom Drop Box´s latest post: Breaks and Space

    • Thanks for the encouragement, Audrey! I’m glad you knew you were loved “fiercely,” That’s beautiful.

  30. Crystal, I rarely (never) reply to blog posts but this one touched my heart. I am a single mom of almost 15 year old twin girls. I have ADHD and related challenges to add to the mix. Thank you for your words of reality – I can’t even come close to “doing it all” and I have to continually remind myself that it is okay. I have realized that spending that 10 minutes with one of my daughters just listening to how their day was (without asking a million questions) is one of the greatest gifts I can give them AND myself. Thanks for your honesty and the inspiration to hang up my cape!

  31. My jaw just about dropped when I read the title of your article, Crystal! I just sent out a post on my blog yesterday about not being superwoman and having to step down from my voluntary committments. I’m a single mom as well and I’ve been living a crazy life of go, go, go. Now that my daughter is a teenager and I’m a homeowner, I can’t do that anymore. Besides, I need to be there for her even more now that she is facing teenage issues. Thanks for the beautiful reminder and permission NOT to do everything!

  32. Bravo Crystal! This was a perfectly timed and much needed post, and you hit it out of the park. Thank you.

  33. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I’ve written several published articles about parenting through a divorce and all the single-parenting pressures that ensue. You’ve hit the nail on the head, and very eloquently, indeed. Nice work.

  34. I was a single mom for 10 years until I remarried 2 years ago. Being a single mom was hard/scary and also amazing. It was wonderful when I came home after picking up my girls at school each day, and got to be with them, terrifying when there was no one to help cover the bills, and exhausting when I was sick or tired and there were no extra hands to help.

    Forget the homemade treats (kids don’t care), offer yourself endless and open permission to eat that occasional meal out, and know that the Lego time and the movie time are both good for both of you.

    Congrats on hanging up that cape. It weighs far too much anyhow. :-)
    Lindsay´s latest post: Texas rain

  35. wow… where do I begin. So very brave you are! I appreciate your willingness to be as candid and vulnerable about something we all as mothers really need to ponder through a lens as sober as yours.

    I think some of the themes and ideas projected on websites like this very one (along with others in her network as well as sister sites) create (perhaps inadvertently) the sensation of competition and drive for moms to be those perfectly imperfect *super* women. You touch on it a bit in your piece as you concede to not being able to be all things but rather being able to fucus only on the “essentials”. We should all be only focusing on the essentials!

    I think so often the sites that tout the power to make our lives simpler with just a few extra ideas really in fact often load them up even more. I think for those of us who have internet influence, we have to really care for our fellow moms single or married. One way of doing that is to really look at what we’re marketing online — I think you touch on that a tad here but definitely more exploration and honesty about how the content posted by online momprenuers and mom bloggers in fact add to the swell of pressure that encourages those feelings of being *super* moms/women. How do we begin to discuss that? Women want novel ways to make a living, but should it have to come at the cost of other women’s sense of balance and well being?

    While it’s certainly in our power to simply not follow such sites, I think it’s really our responsibility as women in community, albeit online communities to care for one another through honest and open conversations like the one you’ve begun here. Bravo to you for not just sharing your story, but for maybe cracking an egg to start a running conversation about how we as women can better support one another in all our facets/shades/shapes of motherhood. Particularly in not posing pressures that cause women to aspire to anything other than being absolutely amazing right where you are and shrouding it as help to simplify one’s life/kitchen/money/relationships etc
    Athaliah´s latest post: Talking To Strangers Is Vital For Your Health

    • Athaliah, thanks for your in-depth reply! I wish I had more time for a longer response! Honestly, I don’t follow a lot of blogs (shhh… don’t tell!) but I think that most of the women out there are really just trying to offer resources and tools for those moms who may benefit by what they’ve learned. We are all in different seasons of life and we have different priorities and personalities. People ask me how I find time to write. For me, writing is an essential. For another that may be making natural cleaning products or baking. Again, I don’t know other mom bloggers so maybe I’m just giving strangers the benefit of the doubt, but I’ve known Tsh since I was kid. I know that her desire is not to appear perfect or all together, but to simply share what she has learned or discovered in order to help others. I think it’s great to have a platform where those who have common priorities can exchange knowledge and learn from one another practical ways to be able to accomplish more if that makes sense for your stage in life. I don’t think the goal is to pressure every mother that we all have to value the same things or be capable of the same things.

      Just as it’s okay that I can’t do more, it’s also okay for those mothers who have energy, opportunity and motivation to accomplish what they want to! I’d love to discuss more, but my lunch break is over!

      • hmm, I totally hear you, I too believe that the intentions are to obviously help not harm, but that doesn\’t minimize the fact that the effect of so much discussion of how to do more in order to do less has significant effects on women/mothers. I guess for simplicity of explaining my heart I\’m finding more and more that these sites that offer themselves as \”resources sites\” to women, particularly moms tend to take a *works* approach … \”do all these things, and then…\” versus really offering a space governed by grace that allows room for women to share and encourage but mostly to be heard and can add to her own plate at her leisure. Whereas many of the momprenuer sites I find (and I am constantly observing an innumerable amount (!!!)) are delivering something \”to do\” or tackle, take on, accomplish etc. All well meaning — but again I posit the potential for these sites to be adding to the minutia that pressure moms to be \”more\” when clearly we need to be encouraged to know we are enough. yes we\’re all at different stages… my comment about focusing on the essentials as a requisite for all women implies that the extra stuff is simply that, extra. In no way should we downplay the effect that \”successful\” women have on others to the extent of bringing about feelings of competition, not feeling up to snuff or attempting to take on more than is necessary. I simply maintain there should be room to talk about those effects — the notion to be a super moms doesn\’t manifest itself out of thin air, does it? not playing the blame game, just saying those with influence must pay attention to what/how we market and be responsible. The best intentions can get lost in the motion of success, no? A series of blog posts which you can expect to hear from me shortly… Again, kudos to you Crystal. Blessings on your journey of knowing yourself — this is far greater than any super mom tool kit any blog site/book/social commentary/or whatever feeds the frenzy might attempt to offer you!
        Athaliah´s latest post: Talking To Strangers Is Vital For Your Health

      • “We are all in different seasons of life and we have different priorities and personalities.” Well said! (I just saw you had a website via Google+ and hopped on over!)

        Thanks for a well-written and encouraging article for all of us moms!

  36. I have been struggling with this a lot lately. I have a hard time balancing, and in turn I just wear myself right out. I am a single mother to 4 kids (ages 4-12), all of who are very active in one sport or another (hockey, dance, kickboxing, gymnastics). We spend almost every night driving around to their different activities, and it’s tiring. I guess I am most afraid that I will be judged if I can’t provide the things for them that they would have if we were in a dual income home with 2 parents. It’s tough to let go… but I’m working on it.
    Andrea´s latest post: Close enough to kiss

  37. avatar
    Sydnee Beam says:

    Your post is awesome – well – written and SO very thought provoking! I’m not a single mom but I DO need to do just what you said! Being a stay at home mom often makes me feel like I SHOULD do all those things you mentioned and do them often and perfectly! I’m working on recognizing and putting into daily living, “What REALLY Matters.” Thanks for your honesty and for inspiring us, me, to be just the best that I can be, not what I think others are expecting or seeing me to be. :-)

    • Thanks for sharing, Sydnee. Being married and/or a SAHM doesn’t magically remove all challenges! Focus on those things that are essential for YOUR family where you are now and let go of those things that don’t fit into this season. Blessings!

  38. Thank you! I really appreciate your comments and they were so timely for me today. I cried with recognition and relief reading this. Powerful words. You go, girl!

  39. Oh, if only I had your inspiration years ago! I have the utmost respect for single moms! I was a single mom to my first 2 children for about 6 years. There was enormous pressure to be more than perfect. I never felt I could take off my cape,. I worked more than full time, coached soccer, and was always the parent volunteering for whatever. My days started too early & ended in exhaustion. I felt like I was being judged every step of the way. Looking back on my single mom days gives me a sense of empowerment – if I could get through that, I can do anything! As the kids get older, it will get easier :)

  40. avatar
    Carmen Simon says:

    Thank you Crystal! I am not at all surprised at all the responses that came so quickly. I personally think your message is the single best thing we moms can remind each other of. Thank you for including all moms in your message. I too admire single moms, and beat myself up because I can’t do all the good things I want to as a married mom.
    I thank God for you and your words to us. I loved your examples, like not bringing a birthday gift. And I love that you showed us how to take time for yourself (writing this blog) to do something you enjoy and are good at and can benefit others with!

    • Thanks for the kind words, Carmen. Don’t beat yourself up. Everyone has their own challenges, whether married or not.

  41. I so appreciated this post!! Many wise words. Thank-you.

    We just made a move across the country so my husband could go to school. Our homelife looks a lot different and I’m letting go of a lot of previous expectations that I had. Thanks for the permission.
    Breanne´s latest post: Hennigar’s Farm: An excursion

  42. I have recently become a single mom…we seperated about 3 months ago. Up until last week I was trying to be a supermom. Trying to do it all. But I finally burnt out. I felt exhausted and emotional. Thank you for making me feel that it is ok to take the cape off and just be. This article is just what I needed.

    • Tricia, the transition to single motherhood is hard because you’re dealing with more than just parenting, but also your own hurts and need for healing. This is an important time to give yourself LOTS OF GRACE and lower the expectations to the bare minimum for at least a year! Just love & enjoy your kid(s) as much as you can. Let go of anything that makes you feel crazy. You’ve got a lot going on. Hang in there.

  43. YES.
    all of it.
    thank you.

  44. I really love this post. I think everyone needs to do this. It’s so easy to get caught up in all the really good things that you see others doing and know would be beneficial for your own family, but sometimes the stress of doing all that can just make your head spin. This quote, “deal with the disappointment that I am unable to have the experience of motherhood I had always imagined” struck a chord. I too feel this way but I’m also optimistic that I can make small, measured steps to reach my goal of making a better life for my family. I won’t get there by parking myself on pinterest and dreaming or absorbing my time with HGTV.

    Good for you for taking off your cape. I’m capeless right beside you. Let’s fly anyways!

    :)

    Kennedy

  45. Oh thank you. I needed to read this, as I balance on the moments before motherhood I wonder how to be supermom, and I also know what I really need to get to is acceptance, that I will just be me – which will be good sometimes terrible other times.

  46. Thank you for a beautifully written post that will surely change my outlook on this day! I am not a single parent but often feel as if I am, when my husband is periodically pulled away from us by work or his personal challenge to get in shape. As a SAHM most of the physical labor of running the household has always fallen on my shoulders (and that was true, as it probably is for most of us, even when I was working!), but I find that when he is exhausted and/or stressed from his own long days, he is unable to engage emotionally and be on the top of his parenting game. I don’t claim to feel that parenting when tired is easy at all, but I do feel a lot of pressure to do the job as best as I can on my own at times. Hang in there; I agree with you that the exhaustion is worth it!

  47. I am a single mom of 3 and I learned years ago what is important and what I just brush to the side. I do still get wrapped up now and again and volunteer a little too much or say yes a couple too many times. But, that is the song of every parent!

    What has become the most challenging is that my oldest son (12) has started to recognize that things are different in our house. Most of my friends are stay at home moms and they have a home-cooked, 3-course, dinner on the table every night. Clean clothes put away for their kids. No real chores or responsibilities expected of their kids. Heck, one mom even ties her daughters shoes (10) as she eats her breakfast before school. He has been struggling with his own ideas of the kind of mother he wishes I could be. And, that makes me struggle with the kind of mom I’ve become.

    I wouldn’t want to let my kids shirk their responsibility, I think it’s very important, but what additional things WOULD I provide with a little more resources? I have been trying to learn ways to show my son how we might not live the lives of families with SAHM’s, but we certainly have some wonderful things about our family that makes us pretty darn special too. How do you communicate that to a pre-teen?

  48. Crystal: You are amazing! My husband had to work late a few nights last week and I was at the end of my rope, having the full responsibility of our toddler from the time she woke up til the time she went to bed. I got to thinking about single parenting and I just can’t imagine never having that built in break your spouse can give you. I don’t know how you do it. I admire you.

  49. I read Simple Mom in Google Reader, but I had to click over to leave a comment.
    This is a brave post, and the kind that makes me sigh a sigh of relief. I made a to-do list this morning that mostly consists of the nessecities, and gave myself permission to leave off the ever-present-never-complete “scrub the house/come up with cheap yet gorgeous fall decor/alphabetize the kids’ books” items. Whatever! Forget it! I’m not doing them.
    I’m not a single mom, and I’m right about where you are, even with a great, supportive husband.
    You are a hero. No cape required.
    Sarah´s latest post: A good apple.

  50. Excellent, my friend. God does not put the same pressures on us that we put on ourselves. As a single mom myself, the to-do list haunts daily, but their little hearts drown out the guilt. I will rest in the Savior even if I have to remind myself every minute and repent of taking that yoke back over.and.over. again.

    I blog about single motherhood, particularly as it pertains to homeschooling. Would love to meet some of you!
    kim@notconsumed´s latest post: developing independent learners

  51. Both me and my husband were both in the Army when my first son was born. As soon as i got off of maternity leave i was gone to training and field exercises. i watched most of his big moments through my smart phone. When i was home I was a stranger to my own son. I would beg him to come home with me when i would pick him up from daycare. For about the first 2 yrs he refused to call me mom and hated being alone with me and I resented my husband for getting all the love. everyday i would tell myself i was doing all did for him but i was lying to myself i was doing it for me because i loved being in the army. i would cry myself to sleep every night i was home because it was the only time that he would let me hold him. Every year that guilt got stronger and stronger till finally when it came time to reenlist for another term, i had to walk away from the job that i loved. i had to decide being financially stable or not cringing every time Sunday night rolled around and i knew that the time that i had with him would be over again. when i got out of the army i was confused i was happy about being that mom who got to do crafts with her son and bake him homemade cookies, but i missed being a soldier and leader. it took me a long time and i still battle with depression and confusion but in the end i love my sons more than the military or any other career choice. My husband also decided to leave the military. We struggle everyday with our finances. I coupon, look for free activities but Not everyone gets that choice. after reading this i feel like you were reading my journal like someone had stolen my life lol your journey may not be what you had planned but it’s gonna be a beautiful one good luck with all your adventures.

  52. What a wonderful post! While I am married, my husband is traveling most weeks! Thanks for sharing an honest picture!

    Take good care!
    Elizabeth´s latest post: Mitts in Time for Fall

  53. Finally, somebody that can say exactly what I’ve been trying to say but shut down because I think everyone just thinks I’m crazy. I also am a single mom with a toddler. My house isn’t always clean and most days I prefer to buy meals rather than making them because I don’t have the energy. Lately I cry and I’m not sure why – the answer is exhaustion. I have been struggling lately with this and your blog brought me both peace and comfort. Thank you! I look forward to future posts. God bless!

  54. I am a happily married mother of three whose husband is out of the country for months at time for at least three quarters of the year. After the birth of my first child, a nurse upon hearing what my husband does for a living smiled and said, “you will have such a close relationship with your children.” What a gift she gave me! She was the first person not to recoil in horror at hearing our family schedule and she was right. Some days, some seasons even, are incredibly hard. But I know my children better than anyone else in the world. It is an amazing feeling to be that important in the life of the people that I love the most. I try to remember that on the days that my inner Martha Stewart cannot keep up.

  55. This was just what I needed this week. I too, struggle as a single mom who does not have a healthy dad to co-parent with. This week, I have already had a couple “mini meltdowns”. I am blessed, however, with people in my life who help support me in many different ways. It is so hard sometimes to reach for help as a single parent. Unless you are walking this, you just don’t get the pressures.

    Thanks so much for addressing this issue, making it real, and “taking the pressure off!”

    God bless,

    Dana

  56. Great article Crystal. I am not a single parent, but i have a husband who works long hours with no regular set pattern. Sometimes the day goes by without accomplishing everything i needed to do, but that is ok, because there is always tomorrow. The really important things get done, the other things are just window dressing.
    Today i can take a breath when the dog is barking, the cat is scratching at the door, and my son has asked me 3 questions in a row without letting me answer the 1st one, and not let my frustrations get the better of me.

  57. Crystal,
    Thank you for your brave and refreshing words. My husband is a surgery resident and many weeks it feels like I’m a single parent. There are many ideals I have to lay down every week and sometimes it feels like everyone else can do it all. Thank you for reminding me I’m not alone!

    • Lindsay, thanks for sharing. No one can “do it all.” Some mothers are in different stages and can do “more” and bless them because we need them too! But it’s hard to accept the season you’re in sometimes. Don’t give up. You’re not alone.

  58. My heart goes out to you! I am not a single mom and I feel overwhelmed at times. I tend to try to give things my all and put too much on my plate which is not ideal for my sanity. Thanks for sharing!!!
    Emily´s latest post: Why Avoid GMO Foods?

  59. Oh, Crystal! I’m so so so glad you joined the guest writers here at Simple Mom. I love that you are giving voice to this much needed topic, and your words were freeing to me even though I am not a single mom. I grew up with a mom who functioned as a single mom, and also have a sister that had a baby when she was 19. I hope you write here more often. I love you already! Your words speak so much truth.
    Archer´s latest post: Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)

  60. Thank you for writing this. As a single mom/full time employee/part time student, I often feel like I’m just failing on every level. But then I look at my daughter and how happy, intelligent, and well adjusted she is, and I realize that I have succeeded at the only thing that ever really mattered. So what if my house chronically looks like it’s been ransacked by burglars!

    cheers,
    Jen

    • You are not failing. Working and being in school is investing in your future with your daughter. You are not failing! It’s hard to balance so many responsibilities! I totally understand… and I am definitely going to borrow you “ransacked by burglars” line. That is my house for the past week!

    • Jen – I, too, did the single mom/full-time worker/part-time student and I look back on that time of my life and wonder how I did it all!! People would ask me that all the time and my response was always just “Because I have to.” You do what you have to do and I can only assume that you are going to school to try to make a better life for you and your daughter! That’s fantastic! It’s a great example to set for your daughter and just remember the school part won’t be forever! I don’t know how old she is, but she will be proud to be a part of such a big accomplishment in your life. My son was only 2 1/2 when I graduated (and I went through the ceremony!!), but he knew something important was happening and was happy for me and thrilled to be a part of it! One of the best things that anyone said to me during that time was a comment from my then boss who said he used me as an example to his daughter of what a woman can accomplish and that he was proud of me. To a never married, young, single mother who felt like everyone was looking down on her, that was music to my ears that needed to hear! It still makes me tear up! So don’t ever think you are failing! You are doing amazing things and setting a fantastic example for your daughter! Good luck to you and keep at it! It is so worth it!

  61. avatar
    MacknKeagsMom says:

    OMG! I need to read this EVERY day. I am still trying to figure out the single mom thing after 2 years but haven’t done very well. I truly needed to read this and now need to take it to heart and give myself permission to take off my cape, soiled and tattered as it might be. I have 2 kids (11 and 15 yrs), 2 jobs and am in pre-nursing school (3 yrs till I’m an RN!) and their dad chooses to live an hour away with his mistress so isn’t here to help with anything. I have no family here so it’s all me! I will now work on not feeling guilty when I don’t have home baked goodies when the kids have friends come over, don’t go to PTO mtg’s, don’t get involved in every school function, don’t spend hours whipping up fab dinners (LOVE the crock pot!). I am doing the best I can and my kids know it…why can’t I let myself believe it? Thank you for your wisdom and advice and I am going to try to live it everyday and not feel guilty. God Bless!!!

    • Don’t feel guilty when you’re already sacrificing and investing so much in being amazing. I totally understand the work, school and no co-parenting, no family in-town situation. Sounds like you’re already doing so much for your kids. You don’t need to be perfect. Thanks for sharing.

  62. I’m really glad to see a single mom voice on here! I started out as a young single mother trying to do the best I could and it’s crazy the amount of pressure we put on ourselves when a little one is involved. I am now a married SAHM to a 10 year old and 5 year old, and I have just recently started to take the supermom cape off. Being a SAHM brings a whole new set of expectations of what you should be doing – i.e. volunteering in class, perfectly clean house, baking for every event (“You don’t BAKE???” – seriously said to me by another mother who couldn’t believe I was contributing a store bought item to a class party). I’ve been a single mother, working mother, and stay-at-home mother and all of them were/are hard in different ways. I’m 34 and just now starting to give myself a break and realize I won’t be able to do everything I “should” be doing. It is a conscious effort though that I’m hoping one day will just come naturally. Thank you so much for your post and you are doing a good job mama!

  63. Thank you for writing and sharing an amazing post. This made my day!

  64. Crystal,
    Such great insight and encouragement. I’m not single but Jon travels a lot which makes me single at times :-) Your comment “focus on the things you can do” stood out as I often get bogged down on what I can’t do.

    It’s been fun seeing Lindsey the past few summers in Portland. You should connect with our daughter Courtney as she lives in La Jolla doing campus ministry. Blessings to you and what a wonderful blessing you have, enjoy him.

    Keep on writing and encouraging others.
    Cherie Werner´s latest post: Who or What is Influencing Your Children?

  65. avatar
    Elizabeth says:

    Thank you, Crystal, for taking the time to bless all of us with this post. I am widowed and have been raising my son by myself for 9 years. Just this morning, I was again feeling guilty because I work (and actually love my job) and am unable to homeschool, volunteer for field trips, and can’t keep up on laundry. What a great redirection you have provided! Yes! I really treasure the time I do get with my son and it was so encouraging to be reminded that IS what matters. The Lord is amazing with His timing! Thank you again!

  66. avatar
    Kristin Gram says:

    Crystal,
    Good words. Thank you for such poignant reminders. We put so much pressure on ourselves that God’s not putting on us. You are beautiful inside and out, and I am so glad you’re sharing your writing with Simple Mom.

    Kristin

  67. Amen! As a single mom of two for over four years now, I still have to remind myself to lower my expectations of myself. It’s also hard not to envy moms who have husbands who help out with childcare and housework.

  68. I’m not a mom {yet}, but I would argue that what you wrote here…
    “Being at peace and enjoying the time I do have with my son matters more …”
    does mean you are a super mom. You could do a million things and be pulled in a million directions but having meaningful time together is always more super.
    Megan´s latest post: in season… in this moment {september}

  69. Awesome!!! This is what every woman needs to hear!! I recently decided to dump the Superwoman cape myself and it has been LIBERATING.
    Enough Said!

  70. My husband works a lot. It’s what New Yorkers do. My two oldest finally stopped jumping on the beds in the bedroom and my youngest is still awake because the older kids were being too crazy (we only have 1 bedroom). I’m exhausted. I feel very alone much of the time. All the moms I know wear super women capes and so it feels very scary to show any signs of struggles. I just finished baking 6 dozen cookies for a school bake sale. Exhausting…completely.

  71. My confession – in my laundry room lives a dirty laundry pile and a clean laundry pile. I try to keep them separate. FOr me, as long as the clean laundry pile stays larger than the dirty laundry pile – I’m winning!
    My kids already understand that Mommy just doesn’t have time to make everything perfect. Washed, dried and NOT folded is better than dirty.

    My husband works out of town Monday to Thursday. For only 3 days a week I am a single Mom, and that is enough for me.
    Thank you for sharing your perspective! It will help a lot of people!

  72. This was a great post! I’ve been composing, for weeks now, a blog post on this same issue. Not Single Mom-ness, but the losing everyone else’s expectations idea. I’m not a single mom. I’m not a “working” mom. I’m a stay at home, homeschooling mom of 6. We are in the same boat. What we perceive, accurately or not, others to believe about us is often debilitating. Thanks for encouraging moms to be real with themselves.

  73. I wanna be your cheerleader, this post is fab, so feeing and encouraging. Go crystal go

  74. I am anticipating your next entry.

  75. Crystal,
    I applaud your honesty and transparency. You have definitely inspired me to publish a list of things I don’t do…and actually own each item on the list.
    Thank you.
    Raki

  76. avatar
    Brian Clifton says:

    As a father of 3 girls striving to be an interactive & engaged parent, I might be the only guy I know that occasionally reads this blog. And I’m glad about that because I came across your piece about positive attitudes being a decision, and it’s important even though it can be tough. What a great piece about superheros & parenting. I have been in Austin for over 20 years, and was a bit excited to hear that you are from here as well. Thanks for the great writing, keep it up and look forward to seeing more.

    • Thanks Brian! Yes, I loved growing up in Austin and I miss it. And I’m the youngest of three girls! It’s good to hear you’re striving to be engaged with them! Thanks for your feedback.

  77. As a single mom, who is truly a ‘single mom’ I have to say… unless you are truly a single parent, don’t call yourself one. I was a Marine wife, with a son, and back then I would be annoyed when my friends made comments about our husband’s being away and us being ‘single parents.’ No, we weren’t. In some ways we may have been able to relate to a single parent, but there are issues that unless you have a ‘single parent’ you don’t have to worry about. My ex-husband deployed several times and was gone a lot for training when he was actually home. Never, in a million years, would I have called myself a single parent… especially now that I am one. Because you have to parent by yourself for a bit until your significant other comes back, does not make a person a single parent in the true sense of the phrase. When you’re significant other in gone, you still have certain things in life you do NOT have to worry about. You still have certain securities.

    • Thanks Katie and Crystal for expressing this so well….. many just do not understand this. The pressure is immense. With persistent health problems and being self employed sometimes you just want the ground to swallow you up…but something keeps telling you that things will get better and you carry on with just the bare basics.
      Now I don’t feel so bad for turning up at parties with no present rather than her miss yet another one. I’ve realised not to invite disapproving mums who can’t handle any mess. Play dates at home are once a term and that’s by some miracle, when I decide to forfeit income to tidy up and scrub and scrub, which doesn’t make any sense but then the school holidays seem to be ideal for that. I’m learning to accept help with homework now and stop pretending I am super mum. She is doing so well and is so much happier and confident at school now. There is light at the end of that tunnel after all and a great friend is treating me and making me better too :)….maybe I can actually play with my daughter now! Single mums and dads those days of tears will get better. Accept the help and capes can stay on the wash pile…

  78. Nice article.. I realised the same and you have written it so well. When I got separated from my son’s dad, I was overwhelmed to make my house perfect for my son. But last weekend, I just sat with him, singing songs and released how precious those moments are. My son was dancing so happily.I feel that I worked hard 30 years of my life running around to please people, to be the perfect daughter, wife and mother only to be left alone half way in a foreign country with a toddler. I no longer care about any one’s expectations, I live every moment of my life as I am.. I never released I could have such happy moments being a single mom..

  79. Good article. Thanks for that. I’ve been a single parent DAD since my kids were 8 months and 20 months old when my wife died. No family in the vicinity, as the ones that were here moved a year or so before our first was born. It’s a struggle and I’ve also given the proverbial middle finger to society when it comes to expectations and judgements. My day is like a hamster wheel, and I usually don’t even know what day of the week it is. I work a 40hour professional job, visit family on the weekends because I feel its important and the laundry piles up to the ceiling usually, along with toys scattered throughout the house, and who knows what else. Every day I get up at 5am, get myself showered, breakfast and works stuff, then kids stuff together get kids up at 6:30, breakfast and dressed for them, hopefully brush teeth and all that crap, off to daycare by 8am, at work by 8:30, work until 5:00pm pick up kids at 5:30 or so, go home, turn on the oven not having a clue what I’m going to cook, clean out their lunch boxes, pick up whatever crap I can, throw dinner in the oven, on the stove, and probably feed them more crap than they should really have. Have dinner, clean up dinner do some laundry, go through mail, bills, etc, check email for work and bam, it’s 8pm at least. Get kids in their pajamas, read a book or watch a show and hope I don’t pass out before they do. Next thing I know alarm is off again at 5am and do it all over again. Saturday is usually up and off to Grandma’s or Auntie’s who are 2 hour drive away, back Saturday night, sleep in Sunday morning, catch up on laundry and whatever cleaning I can. I’ve been doing this for nearly three years now. It’s exhausting, it’s a grind, I can only hope it pans out in the end, at least with a couple well rounded kids. But I feel all I do is work and clean and cook with nothing else in my life… well that’s a mouthful for now.

    • I was just feeling overwhelmed and searched for single mom. My favorite thing is the time on the last comment. Always past bedtime for kids! I have been a single mom for 10 years of two children, we don’t have contact with my ex or support from him. I am exhausted, sad and mad at times, but I am also so full of hope and joy. My kids are incredible, and I know that I have done the best I can. If you are new at this, hang in there. It honestly doesn’t get better or easier, but you will. You are where you should be, doing what you should be and know that there are others out here cheering for you. It gets easier to pick yourself up over time too. My favorite idea for a reality show would be single parent with kids. Dates would be at 11:00pm -11:15 while you fold laundry or at 5:00am while you try to scrounge together food for the lunch boxes while you reheat day old coffee and your hair looks like a mouse ran through it! I guess no one would watch, but it makes me laugh to think about.

      • That is SUPER funny. Thanks for sharing. I agree, I don’t think many of the practical things get easier, but internally, we grow to be more accepting of ourselves and our limitations. Or at least maybe we have moments of acceptance? :) Sounds like you’ve got a great perspective.

  80. I recently became a single mom and I have to say it is very refreshing and encouraging reading this. I took of my super mom cape when I found myself teaching group fitness classes with a fractured toe. I woke up one day and said enough was enough, the money is not more important than my toe. If my toe doesn’t get better I will lose more anyways. So I am learning to slow down, enjoy the simple things with my son, scale down on the budget (AGAIN) and trust that God is my provider. Besides He has never let me down.
    webly´s latest post: How To Overcome Self-Doubt

  81. Thank you for your post! Just found the Simple Mom podcast and ended up getting an e-mail from my cell phone carrier, telling me I was close to going over my data a few days later — all from listening to the podcasts while driving to and from work.

    As a recently divorced single mom, even when I feel like I am doing absolutely everything I possibly can to be a good mom, there are times I feel absolutely at my lowest because I can’t be with my daughter all the time. Or, when I do have her for half the time, there are some moments I just want to be able to poop alone without letting her or one of the cats in with me because they all want to be around me.

    On top of losing friends because of my crazy work schedule and because when mutual friends ignoring us both during and after the divorce, I’ve found myself holding on close to the few people who understand my situation and the feelings and anxiety that come with it. For that, I thank you for your post and hope to be able to read more from you.
    Emily´s latest post: Hiking with a little one

    • Hey Emily, so glad you were encouraged. Hang in there! It gets better. And I mean that sincerely, from my heart.

      • Thank you for your reply Crystal! It truly does get better. Even in the two months since writing that post, I’ve been able to take a few steps to really enjoy life more, cherish those close to me.
        Emily´s latest post: Why I Like Yoga

  82. OMG, thank you for this. I am a single mom. My daughter is nearly 12, and yes, been a single mom the entire time. I know my reply is a year after your post.
    Most people do not get it. You are the head of the household (yeah, that is stressful enough, seriously), Mom, Dad, cook, maid, butler, dry cleaner, the driver… with little to no support – emotion, mental, physical. I have worn my supermom cape for a long time, but in the past 2 years have really crashed. It is nothing to find my crying at the end of the day.
    It is rewarding being a parent, I would not change it, I just wish someone would take care of my needs from time to time. That is the hard part. As a single parent your needs go unmet completely, so you are left to be your own cheerleader and pull yourself back up.

  83. This made me cry… i’m a newly single mom and sometimes we have tuna and rice for dinner because that’s all we have in the pantry on the Thursday before pay day…

  84. I really like this article. I’m a single mom to a 3 year old for 2 years now. I have a good friend that is married with a 2 year old. Her husband leaves sometimes for a couple months at a time for work then he is home for a couple months. I understand that it can be hard for her when he’s gone and that she can feel like a single mom. Also they only have one income just like me. So why do I compare myself to her and feel like I have it harder than her? She lives an hour away so its always a matter of who has to spend all the gas money to go visit the other. I find it frustrating that she asks me to do things that cost money on a regular basis and I always have to say no, then she complains she can’t visit due to not having gas money. Its like “well you just had money the other day to go out, but today you don’t have gas money??” I don’t have anyone to talk to about this so maybe yall can have some advice for me :) I hope I don’t sound selfish or self-absorbed. Its just an annoyance that I’m not sure how to feel about. I think it all boils down to me be stressed financially on a daily basis :( Also I’d like to add that I only have 2 friends, so its very important for me not to lose her as a friend.

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