Single Mom Burnout Prevention Guide

I hit the ground running as I wrapped my mind around raising eight children as a single parent. Ugh, I hated that term, I was a widowed mom which, to me, sounded much better even though it probably felt the same! And to be honest, I’m not sure I ever “wrapped my mind” around the fact that my husband was gone and that I was raising kids alone. Today, as an empty nester, I still can’t believe that was my story! I had a big job ahead of me, it was not optional, and trusting that God would keep His promises was my anchor. I had to accept that my new responsibility was raising a small group of fatherless kids.

With the adrenaline rush and God’s grace, life moved forward after the death of my husband. I told myself we were going to beat all statistics about the fates of fatherless children, and my children were going to be okay—more than okay! I hardly stopped to go to the bathroom much less take time to evaluate the day-to-day situation until one morning, seven years in, I woke up and gasped . . . I was burning out! I must admit, I was scared! I was only half-way through this really hard job of single parenting, and here I was not sure I could finish the race, much less another day.

So, I did the only thing I knew to do, I dropped to my knees, literally, and cried out to God. I desperately needed Him to intervene. I can’t explain what happened, but in that moment, God answered my prayer. No, He didn’t give me a list of ten things to do to prevent burnout, those evolved over time, but somehow someway I knew I would make it just one more day because He was with me.

Just one more day was the bite-size plan to keep going.

Widow-Mom Burnout Prevention Guide:

  1. Live one day at a time.

Death teaches us that we aren’t promised tomorrow, but your dreams and plans don’t all have to die with your husband. A plan is important and having something to look forward to is crucial. The big picture is often overwhelming; therefore, on those days it’s okay to live in the moment. For the planners out there, plan away holding those plans loosely in your hands.

“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.’ Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.’” (James 4:13-15)

“Do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34)

  1. Be intentional about pacing yourself.

If you don’t, you will find yourself in a danger zone. It’s oooookay and necessary to pamper yourself from time to time. For me, that meant taking time in the morning to shower and make myself presentable for the day. For some reason, feeling that I looked my best made a difference in my approach to the day. It’s understandable that your budget may not allow for a massage or manicure, so when people ask how they can bless you, don’t shy away from asking for a day at the spa to meet your emotional need. One of the greatest commandments teaches us to love ourselves:

“Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:31)

  1. Divert daily, withdraw weekly, abandon annually.

This should be a goal even though it might not be a reality; HOWEVER, I really can’t stress this one enough. During the peak of widow-parenting, I went away, alone, for a week every summer. Often it took several days to unwind, several days to truly rest, and then several days to prepare to get back in the saddle again.

We wrote about this topic of rest a few times in How do I Balance Everything Alone and Rest Isn’t Another To Do.

  1. Ask for help. 

Soon after my husband died, a new friend made the comment that “it takes two moms to raise a child.” She wasn’t referring to a relationship outside of biblical marriage but a partnership of tackling this task together! I took her words to heart, enlisting her as one of my “second moms.” Like the pied piper I added more moms to my community of support. Together, as single moms, we spent hours side-by-side at the pool, attending extra-curricular activities together, and holding each other up in prayer.

We also wrote a blog about The Importance of Mentors for the Fatherless.

“Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)

  1. Remove as much from your plate as possible (kids do not count).

But there are times when you need a break from your kids. Know your limitations. For some, “limitations” is a word you hate especially now as a widow-mom. I did not want to admit that my new role as a single mom came with limitations! But realistically everyone should evaluate what should and should not be included in their lives. Even though you are undoubtedly extremely capable, and may want to prove to yourself and others that you can conquer this single-parenting thing, the bottom line is you are still raising kids in a one-parent home and that is an important factor to consider. Having limitations doesn’t make you weak.

  1. Maintain the proper perspective.

Your mental focus is half the battle. Enlist someone who will pray for you. Find a trusted friend who will speak truth into your life. It is easy to believe the lies of the enemy which will quickly bring you down. Stay in the word of God—memorize and meditate on God’s promises.

  1. Release yourself from unrealistic expectations.

Your kids don’t have to make straight A’s, your home doesn’t need to look like Pinterest, and your family will look and live differently from others—it should. Relax your performance standards. You are one and can only do so much. Your children may be grieving and unable to produce as formerly expected.

  1. Look to God as your Husband and Father to your children.

“Fear not, for you will not be put to shame; and do not feel humiliated, for you will not be disgraced; but you will forget the shame of your youth, and the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more. ‘For your husband is your Maker, whose name is the LORD of hosts.’” (Isaiah 54:4-5)

“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.” (Psalm 68:5)