Single Moms: Why Do We Think We Can Do It All?

 A recent episode of the television series House really hit home with me recently.  One of the characters, the Chief Administrator at a fictional teaching hospital, adopted a baby girl, becoming a single mom by choice.  She beats herself up for not being able to do everything at 110 % capacity anymore.  A friend tells her that she, like all women, expects way too much from herself and that a man in her position would have a wife, two nanny’s, and a deputy chief administrator.

Even more recently, my brother has gone through a divorce and has joint custody of his 16-month-old daughter.  A well-meaning family member was terrified for him.  “What is he going to do with the baby when he has to work?” was her first question.

Not very nicely I answered, “The same thing I do, find reliable child care and go to work, only I do it with two children and no ex-spouse to share custody with.”

This person was taken aback by my answer.

As a woman, even as a widowed single mom, working full-time and dealing with her grief, I am SUPPOSED to do it all.  My brother, and all other men, need help to do it all.  I was shocked to find this double standard still existed in 2009.

And we, as women, are partially to blame.  We make way too many apologies for missing work because a child is sick, for missing a parent-teacher conference because of work responsibilities, for not having a sparkling clean home, for getting behind in the laundry and for all other “crimes” against our children and our jobs we imagine we have committed.

We also have a tougher time asking for or hiring the help we need.  The latter can often be a socioeconomic issue.  It’s not a secret that many single moms live below the poverty level and have difficulty making ends meet.  But the former is completely the fault of all of us who think we can do it all ourselves.  We can’t.  No one can.  And we have a few options:

1.) Stop trying to do it all. Let something go. You don’t have to have the neatest house on the street. Stop apologizing if you are late to work because your child was sick. It’s all par for the course.

2.) Ask for help when you need it. Friends and family members are usually more than willing to help, but they don’t know how to or what exactly you need from them. Spell it out. Ask grandma to help do the laundry or fold the clothes when she comes to visit. Ask Uncle John to fix the running toilet when he stops by to see the kids.

3.) Start a babysitting exchange with other moms, single or otherwise. You watch their kids for a few hours so they can shop or get their hair done; Another day, they reciprocate by watching your children.

Whether you are a single mom or a single dad, you can’t do it all and do it all perfectly.  Realize this, ask for help when you feel you are drowning, and most importantly, DON’T FEEL GUILTY!

Sandra Duffy


Sandi Duffy is a freelance writer whose article topics range from relationships to educational issues to parenting. She has been an educator for the past 13 years. Sandi once worked as a Project Manager for various Pharmaceutical Advertising and Medical Education Companies and has been employed an editor for medical and surgical publications. She left the advertising industry in 1995 to pursue a career as an educator and has never looked back. Currenly she works as a teacher in New Jersey and also runs workshops for other professional educators covering various educational practices.
Widowed suddenly in 2007 and left to care for her two young children alone, Sandi started her blog A Widow for One Year and is currently working on a memoir, Young Widow: One Woman’s Journey Through the First Year and Beyond. Sandra lives in Northern New Jersey with her two young children.