Shouldering the Mental Load on Your Own
written by Adrienne Farr, posted on Parents
Parenting is tough. Worrying about finances, household chores, morning and bedtime routines, child-friendly recreation, doctor’s visits, and everything in between can feel unbearable—for two parents. When this mental load is the sole responsibility of one parent, what’s unbearable can start to feel impossible. Single parents often suffer greatly by carrying the full mental load of these responsibilities.
Right in this moment, my elderly mom and 3-year-old daughter are bickering about a myriad of things, I have no idea what we’re having for lunch and dinner, nor do I feel like cooking. I am behind on work and just want to go to sleep but when I tried to get in a 10-minute nap, my daughter jumped on me and said, “I’m hungry.”
I feel drained, stressed, and neglectful toward not only my mom and my daughter, but to myself, a burden many caregivers feel, especially among the sandwich generation1—but even more so as a single parent. I wish I had someone to help, but I do not. Although I have a unique situation in being the single mom of a toddler and taking care of an elderly parent with Alzheimer’s/dementia, I know from listening to other single moms that they are feeling the weight of the sole mental load as well.
“24/7 with a 3-year-old—it’s like I can’t remember the last time I completed a thought from start to finish without interruption,” says Naomi Nedd, mother to a 3-year-old son in New York. “Sometimes you just want to yell, ‘Geez, let me finish a thought’ or ‘let me wipe my butt.’ But you can’t scream those things at a 3-year-old.”
Adding to the regular everyday stress is being a single parent during a continuing worldwide pandemic.3 “I can’t possibly be the only single parent who has had the thought, ‘Oh my gosh, what’s going to happen to my kid [if I get sick],” says Nedd. She also notes that actually going to work, as stressful as it can be, is a much-needed break. “The parenting during a pandemic—I can’t even describe it.”