As a single mum, I wear many hats, play many roles and fill in where before I didn’t. My time is precious yet I kept giving it all away so much so there was no time for myself. As a (now reformed) people pleaser I would regularly overcommit themselves sometimes (ok a lot of the time) and ended up exhausted and resenting the reason I overcommitted in the first place. It left a bittersweet taste in my soul and I began to burn out – not just at work but at home too.

  • Parental burnout = exhaustion, emotional distancing (eg “I really don’t care…) and inefficacy (eg. I can’t do this.)
  • Professional burnout = overwhelming exhaustion, a depersonalisation of the beneficiaries of one’s work, and a sense of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment

Parental burnout is a lot like professional burnout and we need to treat it the same.

That means sticking to our priorities… and saying “no” sometimes.

For those who have difficulty saying no, how about, before you say “yes”, you honestly answer these 3 questions for yourself.

  1. CAN  I actually do this? 
  2. Do I have the CAPACITY to do this? 
  3. Do I CARE enough to do this ? 

Note that you must answer YES TO ALL THREE BEFORE YOU COMMIT

  1. CAN you do this? 

As single mums we tend to think we need to do “everything” because if not then we are not measuring up. Some of us may be grappling with the idea of failure as a wife and so we agree to anything else to claw back our self esteem. Funnily enough, in order to take back our self-worth we need to admit what we can’t do to give space for what we can. The truth is that no-one is that supermen on Instagram. If you don’t know how then do NOT agree to take on something new.

You are doing enough and learning/growing enough navigating life as a single mum. You do not need to bake a 5 tier cake for school canteen if you do not know how. Delegate, suggest someone else who is better, offer a different solution (store bought brownies are always yummy!)

  • IF you can do this – GREAT and answer YES
  • IF you can’t do this – GREAT and NO

2. Do you have the CAPACITY to do this? 

Working mothers tend to find themselves rushing from place to place and this is because they do not give themselves enough time between activities. We overload our plates and deprioritise ourselves in relation to others so that even we do have time with our kids, we are not fully present and enjoying this time because we are thinking about something else or too tired to move. This time is not quality time and the kids know it instinctively.

When your manager at work asks you to do this extra activity, no matter how small, my recommendation would be to have a conversation about what else needs to be deprioritised so that this can get done and what extra support is required to achieve it. You may be surprised by the shuffling of work that can happen if you ask.

  • IF you can do this – GREAT and answer YES
  • IF you can’t do this – GREAT and NO

3. Do you CARE enough to do this ? 

If you care enough (ie. this is your passion and joy) then you will override 1 and 2 but if you don’t care enough then you must say no respectfully.  Simply say that other things are priority for you at the moment and you are focusing on those so you cannot do this at this time.

When you answer YES TO ALL 3, then go for it with your best self.

When you answer NO to any of the questions, as a woman who values herself, it is best for you and your kids to say no respectfully and without regret.

Of course, unexpected and urgent things will come up (even when writing a blog on the subject lol!) and there will be times that we take ourselves to the breaking point with overcommitment. When those times happen, and especially if you know that they are going to happen, it is important to schedule in some selfcare afterwards so that you can recharge and be able to come back even better as a loving, functioning single mother.

It is about shifting from comparison to compassion – the first step – the C in the care factor process. According to pioneering researcher Kristin Neff, PhD, highly self-compassionate people turn out to be more motivated, courageous in the face of risk, and quicker to bounce back when they fail. They also report being more fulfilled in the following areas:

• Achieving their goals

• Being more creative

• Feeling more satisfied at work and in their personal relationships

You, and your kids, will thank you for it.

About the Contributor. Shannon Young, also known as the care factor coach is a single mum and founder of the care factor coach. She can be found through the following avenues below.




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