Being a single parent is hard. I remember coming home from the hospital with my son, holding him, and sobbing for hours. It didn't get better. In fact, it got worse. Suffering from postpartum psychosis and lack of sleep, I desperately needed family support - but I didn't know when to ask for it. Looking back, there were many signs I needed help - here are 4 to look out for.
1. You are crying often.
Crying is a sign of multiple things. It could be a sign you are overwhelmed and need a break. It could signify that you are getting sick, as crying is an immune response when everything else is getting too weak. Crying is also a sign of severe sleep deprivation. Any of these are a sign that it is time to get a full night's sleep and get some help. Call a family member who can come, or even a close friend. If you cry a couple of times because you are momentarily overwhelmed, that is one thing. If you feel like you are crying more often than smiling (no matter how old your kiddos are) it is time to bring in the reinforcements.
2. You are feeling off.
By this, I mean you are feeling dizzy, weak, nauseous - anything that doesn't feel right. Recovering from childbirth, or a particularly hard week with school or a teenager, can break down your body's defenses and leave you much more vulnerable to becoming ill - which you can’t afford as a single parent.
3. You are thinking of hurting your child
As much as I wish I could say it doesn't happen - this happens all of the time. With postpartum psychosis, I STILL frequently consider throwing my son (whom I love more than anything else) into the garbage - and he's almost 9 months old. While this is most often found in parents with young children who are still adjusting to single parenthood, it can happen to any overwhelmed parent - no matter how much you love your children. Having experienced this desire first-hand - ADMITTING IT DOES NOT MEAN YOUR CHILD WILL BE TAKEN AWAY!! I cannot stress this enough. If you are truly overwhelmed and feel you may hurt your child, CALL SOMEBODY. It doesn't matter if it is family, friends, the cops.......any of these people will come to your aid.
4. You need an adult.
Lastly - as much as kids rock, you can't really vent to them - it's not appropriate and they do not deserve that burden. Sometimes, you just need that interaction with an adult. This is crucially important to your mental health. If you feel yourself getting frustrated or anxious, it is time to organize a visit to your family - either to drop the kids off or enjoy time in a larger unit. Doing this before you hit a breaking point is by far the healthiest thing you can do for you and your children.
Just remember - even when things are getting particularly difficult, you are not failing as a parent. All parents hit the point where they just need some help - married and single parents alike. It doesn't mean you can't do your job - it means you are doing exactly what you need. And your kids will love you through it all.