I hadn’t seen the early signs, but they were there—for weeks.
As financial worries grew and the demands for money kept coming, my anxiety had started to bubble away inside like water in a kettle.
After 18 months, the single parent syndrome was back. It started off with an overactive mind seeking solutions to my situation, keeping me up too late, and then waking me ridiculously early, heart racing.
Day after day, invoice after invoice, it felt as though the growing pit of debt was becoming deeper and taking me further away from daylight and hope of finding a way out.
Finally, after a particularly exhausting week of wondering how I could feed my children with what was left in the cupboards, I woke at 5 a.m. feeling physically ill. Over breakfast, my head pounding, red-hot from the pressure inside hitting boiling point, and struggling to catch my breath, I started to cry—and I couldn’t stop.
Eventually, I took my own advice and reached out for support. Then, with the clarity of thought that followed, I realised something—two things in fact.
The first was that I had actually been envisioning myself sitting at the bottom of a large hole surrounded by constant digging, which made the hole wider, deeper, and impossible to escape from. There were many spades, one representing each request for payment; even social invitations had come with a shovel.
Given I know how powerful visualisations can be, I was surprised that I’d fallen into this trap. That’s when the most important factor struck me; I noticed how I had been thinking.
I suddenly saw that while the situation was what it was, I had made it a whole lot worse by talking to myself in such a critical way. Accusations of being a bad parent, attacking myself with questions of “How could I have let this happen?” And, “Why did I let it get so bad?”
Watching reports of mothers and toddlers struggling to survive in war-torn countries had me telling myself off for feeling the way I did, belittling my problems as there are others so much worse off.
While I did need a reality check, berating myself was simply causing my feelings to escalate. There was benefit in acknowledging that my situation wasn’t anywhere near as bad as I was seeing in the news each day, but my fear and anxiety were real and deserved to be met with kindness and compassion.
I would never talk to my best friend this way, so why was I thinking like this?
Changing my internal narrative felt like the sun shining through a break in the clouds. Then, after seeking help to address the practicalities of my circumstances, I began to imagine building a rope net so that I could start to climb my way out of the pit.
All parents carry the responsibility of providing for their child/ren, but in a two-parent family the burden of financial budgeting and planning can be shared and there is often the option of two incomes.
For solo parents, with perhaps only one source of income, all that’s a huge responsibility. Then, add to that all the necessities of managing the household and caring for the family, and it’s no wonder my original article struck a chord with so many.
Single parent syndrome is a b*tch. But, perhaps, maitri is the cure.
Read Amy’s earlier article: Single Parent Syndrome is a B*tch.