Being a Single Mom: 17 Seemingly Impossible Struggles & How to Overcome Them

Woman holds a struggling, frowning toddler while talking on the phone and working on her laptop.

Being a single mom is H-A-R-D, and it is easy to feel like you are all alone in your battle to make ends meet and hold your family together.

But did you know that there are more than 15 million single mothers in the United States going through similar struggles?

The challenges you face on a daily basis are shared by millions of women across the country, each with her own unique story and set of circumstances. Be empowered knowing that despite how you may feel at times, you are not alone in your single mom struggles.

That is why The Life of a Single Mom has compiled this list of 17 of the most common hardships encountered by single moms and how to conquer them. We are here to help you do more than survive as a single mom; we are here to equip you to thrive.

Single Parent Families: Hard but Not Impossible

Let’s face it. There is nothing easy about being a single parent. But then again, there is nothing easy about being a parent in general, and just because something isn’t simple doesn’t mean it can’t be great. Unfortunately there are many challenges associated with being a single mother. For example, when you are the only parent at home, you have a lot more responsibility and no one to share it with. You often operate on only one income, may have to interact regularly with a former partner and share time with your children, play both mom and dad on a daily basis, and cope with loneliness, stress, and self-doubt. People may judge you for your relationship status or minimize the struggles you face, but many fail to see the positive side of single motherhood. The reality is, for whatever reason, you find yourself a single mother, so you might as well embrace the advantages it may bring.Now for some advantages. There is a certain freedom in being a single mom that other women may not experience. It gives you the opportunity to grow as an individual and to grow in your relationship with others as you rely on a larger support group and God rather than only your spouse to be your source of strength, peace, guidance, and fulfillment. Single moms often have the chance to form a unique bond with their children that married mothers may not. Not to mention, you will never have to nag anyone to stop leaving the toilet seat up or worry about hogging the bathroom when you get ready in the morning. Motherhood is a beautiful experience and gift from God that is to be cherished regardless of your circumstances. We believe that every mother should have the opportunity to thrive, which is why The Life of a Single Momwants to provide you with the resources to cope with these 17 struggles unique to being a single mom.

How to Be a Single Mom: 17 Struggles & How to Cope and Thrive

You may feel like you have no idea how to be a single mom, but that’s not true. Every single mom has the potential to thrive, and we are here to help you unlock that potential. It won’t always be easy; in fact, it is going to be challenging and frustrating and feel overwhelming at times. But you can do it. And remember that there is no one right way to be a single mom, so don’t worry if your family does things a little differently than others. You have to determine how to be a single mom to YOUR family and discover what will help you to thrive. Let’s dive right into the list of 17 challenges…

1. Lonely Single Mom

Woman with dark, curly hair wearing dark glasses holds her forehead and cries next to her unmade bed.

One of the hardest parts of being a single mom is dealing with loneliness. Sure, you love your kids and enjoy the time you spend with them. But the parent-child relationship can’t replace having a partner and teammate to walk with through the madness that is parenting. So how do you cope?While you may not be able to eliminate loneliness completely, there are several little things you can do on a day-to-day basis to keep it at bay, starting with taking care of yourself. As a mother, it can be tempting to prioritize everyone (and everything) in the world before yourself, but making sure that your needs are being met is an important part of thriving as a mom. When self-care falls by the wayside, you are much more likely to feel rundown, which is when loneliness can hit the hardest. Other helpful tips for curbing loneliness include moderating the time you spend on social media, which might serve as a momentary distraction but usually results in feeling much more alone, building and maintaining face-to-face friendships, spending time reading the Bible and in prayer, taking time to pursue interests or hobbies, or joining a single moms’ support group in your area. It can be tempting to allow feelings of loneliness to cause you to withdraw and cut yourself off from the people and things you love, but all of these things can help take your focus off of feeling lonely and replace that feeling with a sense of fulfillment and purpose. The most important thing to remember is that you are not alone. Do not be afraid to reach out to others for companionship and support or to explore the resources available for single moms in your area.

2. Are Single Moms Allowed Free Time? Importance of Self Care

Being a mom often means placing your children’s wants and needs above your own, a responsibility that tends to be intensified for single mothers. While good parenting involves making sacrifices, it does not mean neglecting yourself or becoming isolated from others. Every mother needs to take time to make sure her physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs are being met. Though it may seem counterintuitive, taking time for yourself will actually make you a better mom. Feeling rundown and overworked is likely to make you irritable and less patient or could even lead to depression. Children are perceptive and will pick up on your negative energy, which could lead to their own negative thoughts and feelings. In short, if mom is healthy and happy, her kids are much more likely to be, as well.Having trouble finding time to yourself? Here are 10 ways single parents can get some much needed alone time.

3. Single Mom Depression

It may or may not surprise you to know that single parents are twice as likely to be depressed as mothers and fathers living in two-parent families.Depression is likely to come knocking at your door, most often at night in those few moments after your children are in bed and before your own tired head hits the pillow, but that doesn’t mean you have to open the door and let it in.First, you should recognize there are different types of depression with different causes, which is something to be aware of in addressing your own thoughts and feelings. Though it often goes undiscussed, postpartum depression is a real issue for many mothers regardless of whether or not they have a partner. The stress of parenting can be another cause, which may occur well beyond those first few years after having a child, and the loss of or separation from a spouse or partner may lead to depression, as well.There is no shame in feeling depressed; the key is not to let it get the best of you. By facing the issue and addressing it through support groups, self-care techniques, and professional help, you can overcome those negative thoughts and emotions and not allow them to affect your well-being or your parenting. If your depression persists or worsens, it is wise to seek medical guidance.

4. Surviving Financially as a Single Mom (and Thriving)

Finances are one of the top concerns of single moms, and it is no wonder since only 32% of single mothers earn $40,000 or more a year. In a country where the average cost of living for a four-person family is around $48,500 a year. That means millions of moms out there are struggling to make ends meet.There are several contributing factors. One of the most obvious is that you have to be the breadwinner and simultaneously play the part of the sole homemaker when you aren’t at work. This means less time to commit to work, or possible greater expense paying for childcare when office hours run late. Striking a balance between work and home life and still managing to pay the bills on time becomes a daunting task, but there are things you can do to ease burden.Budgeting, smart spending, and being faithful in your giving are three key ways to survive financially.

  • Budgeting requires some time and effort but is worth the investment when it comes to stretching your income. Sit down and figure out how much you have to spend each month and then determine where it will all be going. Start with the big bills and expenses and work your way down to the small things. It is always a good idea to leave yourself some wiggle room for any unexpected expenses that pop up, as well.
  • Smart spending is all about your attitude toward your money and what you do with it. Make lists when going to the grocery store rather than shopping on a whim. Look for discounts or off-brand products to cut the cost of your essentials. Shop for things you use regularly in bulk. You can also check out some of these money saving tips.
  • While giving money away may seem contradictory to saving it or feel unnatural when things are tight, faithfulness in giving a portion of your income to your church or other ministry is a way of expressing trust in God’s faithfulness to meet your financial needs. Many single moms can attest to God’s provision in their time of need that was rooted in their diligent giving even in the midst of their own need.

5. Worries, Fears, Stress, and Anxiety

Mothers tend to be worriers, but single moms have their own set of fears and anxieties that just add to the list of things over which to fret. Outside of finances, here are a few of the most commonly felt fears faced by single moms and how to handle them.

“Rest easy, real mothers. The very fact that you worry about being a good mom means that you already are one”.

~Jodi Picoult

  • No father figure. Without a father around, it is typical for single moms to worry about the effect this might have on their children. Don’t boys need a dad to be a role model to teach them how to be men? And aren’t little girls more likely to struggle with their identity and feelings of self worth without a daddy in their lives? While there certainly are needs fathers meet in their children’s lives that are hard for mothers to fulfill, it does not mean that your children are doomed without a dad. The two most beneficial things you can do are to find a man of solid character through your local church or nonprofit agency who can be consistent in the lives of your kids and serve as a father figure or male role model and to make sure your children know how much you love them. Children are amazingly resilient and can thrive beautifully as long as they are given the love, attention, and guidance they need.
  • Not measuring up. A fear that goes hand-in-hand with children’s lack of a father figure is that of simply not being enough. It can be tempting to look at other, two-parent families and wonder if you are really giving your kids everything they need. While it may be hard, the key to this one is to stop comparing yourself to them. Every family is unique, and different doesn’t mean your kids are necessarily missing out. Remember, two-parent families are not without their own set of struggles.
  • Emergencies and catastrophes. While most moms tend to worry about that moment when the unexpected strikes, it can be the source of even more anxiety for single moms. As the only one there to support and care for your kids, just catching a hold seems out of the question for you. What would happen in the event of something more serious? And what if something happened to one of your children that you were unable to manage by yourself? The truth is that no one is ever fully ready for those moments of disaster. The best things you can do are to have an emergency plan in place and to not let fear of the unknown to keep you from thriving in the present.

6. Coping with Co-Parenting

Working together and and sharing parenting responsibilities is hard enough for married couples, so doing it with someone who is not or no longer your spouse is likely to seem daunting. Co-parenting will look a little different for everyone and is something that might take some time for you to determine what works best for you and your family. There are, however, some basic guidelines that can be useful when first adjusting to the idea of co-parenting.

  • Keep it classy. Even if your children’s father is not a pleasant person or someone you think highly of, your kids do not need to hear it from you. Talking bad about your ex in front of your children will only create more problems and make co-parenting more difficult.
  • Maintain a shared calendar. Coordinating pickups, drop offs, school meetings, weekends away, and a myriad of other life events and activities is much less stressful if you use a calendar to which both you and your children’s father has access. This way there will be less surprise encounters, and it will be easier to organize everything going on. It also will help you establish a set schedule for your children’s time with you and their father.
  • Be flexible. While having a set schedule creates a sense of normalcy and routine for your kids, it is also important to be willing to accommodate reasonable alterations to the usual plan. If something special comes up and dad wants to swap weekends, consider going with the flow and working with him. Remember that withholding your kids from him is also affecting them, and what goes around often comes around. When the shoe is on the other foot, their dad might be more willing to return the favor.

7. Should Single Moms Date?

To date or not to date? For a lot of single moms, that is THE question. It’s a question that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Your future, and that of your children, could be riding on it. That said, here are 6 rules we recommend for dating as a single mom. Some of you might even be thinking, “Who has the time?”! Dating can be difficult to navigate as a single parent, and it’s one of the many challenges specific to one-parent households. Being a single mom does not mean that your dating life is over forever, but it does mean that your dating life is going to look very different than it did before. It can be helpful to set some basic rules for yourself and your family and to communicate those things to potential partners. It is better to be upfront and end a relationship early that would not have turned out to be healthy anyway than to invest yourself in someone that is not going to support you in your role as a mother.

8. Self-Doubt as a Single Mom: I Am Enough

Can I really do this? Am I making the right decisions? What if I do everything I can and it still isn’t enough?Every parent is likely to ask themselves these questions from time to time, but single parents may find them to be a common occurrence, which can lead to overwhelming feelings of anxiety and self-doubt.If you have or are experiencing those feelings, hear this: you are enough.God is enough for you, and He is enough for your children. And He will see you through. Every parent has shortcomings and makes decisions that turn out not to be the “right” ones. No one knows all the answers when it comes to raising children, but you can rely on God because He does have all the answers.In those moments when you feel at a loss for what to do or when you things seem out of your control, take some time to pray and remind yourself that “I Am Enough”. Have faith that the God who created the universe created you with the capability of weathering the storm and thriving in your present situation.

9. Single Mom Stigmas

When you hear the term “single mom”, what kind of woman do you imagine? Do you see a put together business woman effortlessly juggling PTA meetings, soccer practices, and preparing home cooked meals for her family every evening? Or does a woman a little less glamorous and more frazzled come to mind?The ugly truth is that sometimes people are going to judge you for being a single mom because single parenthood can conjure up a negative image in some people’s minds. There are all sorts of negative stereotypes and stigmas associated with single moms, and there will be people who will make assumptions about your life, your financial status, or even your character, without even knowing your story.This may seem unfair, and it is. But you cannot let someone else’s uninformed opinion of you define who you are or how you feel about yourself. And, while you can’t change the stereotypes, you can choose not to be one. You can choose to be a woman of high integrity and honor, full of forgiveness and compassion for others, and walking in complete freedom from past hurts or mistakes. You can be part of that change.

10. Not the Picture-Perfect Family

Most people have that ideal picture in their heads of what a picture-perfect family is supposed to look like. Coming to terms with the fact that your family is beautiful regardless of how much (or little) it resembles this image is an important part of thriving as a single mom.

Comparison is the thief of joy”.~Theodore Roosevelt

Rather than spending time pining over the family photos you wish you had or focusing on what you once had that is no longer, cherish the moments you do have. Be thankful for your children and your family and the beautiful chaos that is your life. No family is the ideal family, but your family is the one with which you have been blessed.

11. Solo Decision Making

No one likes to make hard decisions. Some of us don’t like to make decisions at all. And, being a single mom, you may be wrestling with some big life choices and the fact that you have to make them on your own. Don’t feel overwhelmed. Instead, when you find yourself stuck on a big decision, try:Take a step back. Once you’ve done your research and read up on all your options, walk away for a little while. Focusing on something else will help you de-stress and clear your mind, that way you can revisit the information you’ve gathered with fresh eyes and make a more informed decision.Journaling. If you are having trouble sorting through your thoughts and emotions, journaling can be a good way to organize and assess your options. There is no specific format you need to follow, just write everything that comes to mind. Once you put everything down on paper, you can go back through it and sort out all the thoughts, feelings, and facts and use them to help you in the decision-making process.Praying and reading. Just like taking a step back to clear your head, going to God for peace, wisdom, and guidance is a good way to take your mind off of your decision and refocus it on something more life-giving. Ultimately, know that God is faithful and will guide you in the way you need to go when you commit your life and your decisions to Him. Weighing the pros and cons. If you are stuck between several options and can’t seem to figure out which would be the optimal one, try making a list of pros and cons. There may be no “right” choice, but you have to decide which one will do the most good and/or least harm for you and your family. Being confident. Once you make your decision, move forward with confidence. There is no use second guessing yourself or wasting time on what ifs. Ultimately, whatever you choose, you will feel better if you trust yourself and the fact that God is truly the one in control.

12. Working Single Moms

A young woman sits at a desk with her infant son while working on the computer.

While many married women have the option of staying home with their children, most single mothers don’t have a choice about whether or not they work. For those with school-aged and older kids, this may not be as problematic (though it is still exhausting), but for mothers of infants and young children this can be quite a challenge, considering the cost of childcare and the burden of selecting the right option for your child. First and foremost, don’t be afraid to ask others for help, including your kids (they are part of the family, too). Next, don’t measure your success based on what you see other moms doing. Just because your child has to stay in daycare or you don’t have time to make homemade cupcakes for the PTA bake sale doesn’t make you any less of a mom. Single moms know how to be resourceful and shouldn’t feel guilty for the way they have to adapt the lives of their families to thrive within their set of circumstances.There is no perfect solution to this problem other than figuring out what works for you. You will probably never achieve the perfect work-life balance, but you can strive to prioritize the most important things in your life and develop a system that meets your family’s needs.

13. Questions Kids Ask Single Moms

Kids say the darndest things, and they also have a tendency to ask the hardest questions. Depending on the age of your children when you become a single mom, there is a whole slew of questions with which you might be faced, and it is good to have some well thought out answers on hand to offer your children to help them understand the situation. It is important to always be honest with your children, but this does not mean telling them everything. Try to give them only the information they need to better understand and process what is going on, keeping things factual and not unloading your own thoughts and emotions onto them. Encouraging your children to ask questions is a crucial part of allowing them to heal and cope with changes in your family. Don’t be afraid if you don’t know all of the answers, just do your best and respond in a way that conveys love and care.For more advice on answering the hard questions kids ask, here is a list of questions children ask about divorce and some thoughtful responses.

14. How Single Moms Stay Prepared

A smiling mother helps her daughter and son carve pumpkins at a table covered in Halloween treats.

Being prepared for anything is an important part of motherhood, single or not, but it is especially key when you are going it alone as a parent. Try these single mom hacks to make life easier and keep you prepared for anything:

  • Keep back-ups on hand. From sock to shirts to underwear, it never hurts to have extras stowed away for life’s little emergencies.
  • Think ahead. If you are out shopping for school supplies, why not pick up the party supplies you’ll need in a few weeks? If you are packing lunches for the next day, prep your dinner for the following night as well. You can maximize your time and minimize your stress by staying a few steps ahead of the game.
  • Have a Plan B. And maybe a Plan C and D while you are at it. Life rarely goes according to plan, so it is always helpful to have thought through your alternatives in advance.
  • Utilize technology. In this day and age, there is an app for almost everything. You can manage to-do lists, store important information, keep a running calendar of events, and just about anything else you can imagine. Don’t be afraid to put that phone to good use and find resources to help you keep things organized.
  • Stock up on supplies. This applies to both the cleaning and crafting variety. Messes can strike at any moment, so keeping an array of cleaning supplies ready can be a life saver. The same goes for school and craft supplies. You’ll be relieved to have them around when one of your children remembers that project for school the night before it is due.

15. Missing Kids When They’re Away

A blond woman kneels talking to her daughter who is holding a purple sleeping bag and wearing a pink backpack.

While being a mom can be tiring, it is also extremely rewarding and can easily consume all of a single mom’s time. However, when your kids become your life, it will leave you feeling lonely and aimless when they are not around. Whether you are sharing your children through a joint custody arrangement or they are simply getting older and spending more time with friends, learning to embrace alone time is important.As hard as it may be at first, embrace this time on your own. Use it to recharge and do some much needed self care. Whether you want to catch up with friends and do something social or take a mental health day and read a book or watch your favorite movie, find something life-giving to fill your time. Instead of spending the weekend your children are spending with their dad worrying and feeling lonely, trust that they are taken care of and make plans to do something you wouldn’t otherwise be able to.

16. Physical and Mental Exhaustion

A young woman in a denim blouse sleeps with her head back on the couch while holding her sleeping little girl.

“I don’t know how you do it!” How many times have you heard a friend or family member say that and thought, “Me either, but if I don’t do it, who will”?With no one else to carry the weight of parenting responsibilities day in and day out, it is easy for single moms to become both physically and mentally worn out. That is why it is crucial for single moms to both take care of themselves and to ask for help.When you are physically or mentally exhausted (or both), you are not doing yourself or your kids any favors. Everyone needs time to rest and recharge because you cannot continue to pour yourself into others if you are running on empty. Don’t be afraid to reach out to family, friends, and your community for assistance. We all need to feel supported, and you might be surprised by how big of an impact just a little help can have.

17. Single Mom Support Groups & Role Models

People sit together in a circle with their attention focused on one group member with her hands on the sides of her face as she looks sadly down.

As the number of single moms in America has increased, so have the number of resources available to them. There are both online and in-person support groups across the country, which offer fellowship, advice, and encouragement to mothers by connecting them with other women who either are or have been in similar situations. Consider attending a single mom support group in your area. Isolation is a dangerous part of the single parenting journey. Single mom support groups provide an outlet for making new friends and finding the backing you may feel you are otherwise lacking in your endeavor to parent solo. Try searching online or checking with local churches or community centers to locate support groups near you.Additionally, online groups for single moms can offer you extra support and give you that sense of community you may be longing for. Websites like DailyStrength, SupportGroups, and Single Parents Network provide single moms with the opportunity to connect in order to support and encourage one another. One of the perks to online support groups is that you have 24-hour access and can ask questions or seek guidance as needed instead of having to wait for your weekly or monthly meeting.

We Know Being a Single Mom is Crazy Hard Because We’ve Been There

Here at The Life of a Single Mom, we know firsthand the struggles you are up against. Founder Jennifer Maggio was a single mother of two for many years and battled the fears and frustrations of trying to provide for her family and hold everything together. After finding herself on the bathroom floor huddled in a pile of devastation, she decided to take charge of her and her family’s life. She was tired of just surviving. It was time to start thriving.She first took on the corporate world, receiving the Circle of Excellence award in Corporate America 11 times but never forgetting from where she had come. In 2007, she moved away from big business and turned to her true passion: giving back to single moms. She started by launching a support group in her local church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, which started small but eventually grew to be one of the largest church-based, single mom support groups in America. By 2010, The Life of a Single Mom was born. There is no doubt about it, single mom life is not for the faint of heart. It takes hard work, courage, and more energy than you might think you have. But we know you have it in you, and The Life of a Single Mom is here to walk with you every step of the way. Don’t allow your energy to be drained. Keep your focus on putting one foot in front of the other. Take things one day at a time and thank God for the blessings you have in your life. Reject the idea of negative self-talk and remind yourself that you ARE enough.For more information, check out our resources for single mothers here or find help if you want to start a support group here.