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How To Extend Compassion To Yourself as a Single Mom

Single mom holding baby


Sandra Bullock, Lucy Liu, and Charlize Theron are just a few Hollywood celebrities who effortlessly embraced motherhood without a partner. Though their parenting stories seem like a walk in the park, it’s not the same for everyone. No matter how glamorous their celebrity lives are, behind closed doors, their experiences are not all sunshine and rainbows.

Single Mom Compassion

According to the University of Oxford’s Marriages and Divorce fact sheet, single-parent households are among the most financially vulnerable groups. What’s more unfortunate is that, based on the same report, women are breadwinners in most homes. This fact has several implications, but the most glaring message is this – women bear the aftermath of their failed marriages.

The Pain of Ending a Relationship

It’s an understatement to say that a divorce or breakup is one of the most emotional and devastating experiences in a couple’s life. No matter the cause of the split, a separation can trigger all kinds of unsettling and painful emotions.

Even if both parties know their relationship is no longer serving them, giving up can be extremely painful. This is because the end of a relationship represents the loss of shared commitments, dreams, and partnerships. Couples start a romantic relationship hoping to stay together through thick and thin. When this fails, they experience grief, stress, and profound disappointment.

The breakup forces both parties to navigate uncharted territories. With everything in ruins, being sure about the future is challenging. You may start asking yourself what life would be without your partner. You may also wonder if you’ll find someone better than your ex. Most of the time, these uncertainties seem worse than being in an unhappy relationship.

On the bright side, uncertainty, disruption, and pain mean you’re moving forward. It may take time, and you must remember that you can endure the pain during this phase. Keep in mind that no matter how hopeless the situation may be, you can move forward and start anew.

What is compassion, and how can it benefit single moms?

It’s easy to express compassion and sympathy to other people, but often, it’s hard to extend the same to oneself. One of the leading reasons for this is that society equates compassion with wimpiness or indulgence. This is especially true for women undergoing a divorce. Aside from the pain of betrayal, they also face the responsibility of becoming single mothers.

According to Susan Pollak, Ed.D., of Harvard University’s Center for Mindfulness and Compassion, parents need self-compassion when raising children gets tough. Compassion means slowing down, forgiving oneself, and stopping yourself from shifting into judgment mode. It also means recognizing that you’re doing your best and have limitations.

Here are the reasons compassion is essential for single mothers.

Compassion means taking care of yourself

Most mothers feel like they’re bad parents for taking time for self-care. When you’re a solo parent, you do most, if not all, of the heavy lifting. This makes it hard to spend even a few minutes thinking about your needs.

Compassion teaches you to extend the same consideration and kindness you’d offer a friend. Many things could go wrong when you’re raising a child. You need to nurture yourself to tackle all these child-rearing demands.

Compassion is an antidote to grief and self-pity

Some parents think of compassion as being lazy, indulgent, or self-centered. They’re afraid their children won’t be disciplined or motivated if they’re not tough. They also think that too much compassion can end in self-pity.

Dr. Kristin Neff, Ph.D., author of the book “Self-Compassion,” suggests that self-compassion helps you cope with challenging situations like trauma and divorce. It also keeps you motivated, caring, and supportive in your relationships. In essence, it becomes an antidote to self-pity.

Compassion alleviates parenting stress

A recent study suggests that compassionate parenting exercises enabled mothers to show kindness to themselves. These exercises also allowed them to observe mindful parenting, helping them improve the mother-infant bond. Although this study focused on mothers experiencing post-partum depression, the stress level under this condition is similar to trauma-induced ones.

Your relationship may have ended, but it’s not your fault. This is the first and most compassionate thing you can do for yourself. A relationship is a two-way street. Two people must continuously stand up for each other, despite the odds.

No matter how hard you try, it won’t end well if you’re the only one fighting for the relationship. If the relationship ends, it’s on both parties. You can’t blame yourself for its imminent end. Realizing this sooner will help you accept the situation and move on faster.

Aside from this, here are ways single moms can practice compassion.

Allow yourself to grieve

Most people think that grieving is counterproductive. They believe that allowing yourself to mourn your loss is unnecessary and harmful. The truth is you’re human, and grief is a natural way to process any traumatic changes in your life.

Grieving allows you to free up the energy tied up to what you lost. By doing so, you replenish your energy to have something to re-invest elsewhere. Remember that until you allow yourself to process your grief fully, you’ll remain tied to your past.

Forgive yourself and your partner

Aside from grieving, you must also learn to forgive yourself and your ex. Hating might be an easier response, but it’s dangerous. You’ll have difficulty moving forward if you allow yourself to be consumed in anger. In the end, you’ll only be hurting yourself.

It’s healthier to come to terms with yourself and your lapses. You’re not perfect, but you’re doing your best despite this. In this circumstance, this is more than enough.

It will also benefit you if you accept that your ex is also human and highly susceptible to committing mistakes. They may have hurt you, but you don’t deserve the pain and betrayal. Your partner’s hurtful acts are a reflection of their values.

Remember that you’re not alone

Your family, friends, and children are waiting for you to reach out. Sometimes, the people who love you don’t respond as expected. However, this doesn’t mean they don’t care. Maybe, they don’t know how to react. They might feel that you need space for you to process your emotions. That’s why they take a step back.

On the other hand, some friends may be too clingy, but not because they think you’re weak. Maybe, they feel like you need them the most now that you’re having a tough time. Either way, never believe that you’re alone in your battle. Reach out to the people you trust and ask for help when necessary.

Practice an attitude of gratitude

When processing unpleasant emotions, it’s easy to focus on the negative aspects of your circumstance. This is normal, but remember that there’s always something to be grateful for, despite the situation.

You may have lost a life partner, but you’re also discovering how tough you are, even when alone. You may have to take the breadwinner role, but you also have many people offering unconditional help. By accepting the bad and counting the good, you’re showing yourself compassion. This helps you acknowledge that life will get better regardless of your circumstances.

An Ounce of Compassion Will Go a Long Way

It’s common for breakups, separations, and divorces to end badly. Even divorce law practitioners believe that every separation comes with a mourning period. However, these are just phases you go through. Keep these events from deciding how the rest of your life will play out.

The best way to start recuperating is by showing yourself compassion. Accept that you’re doing the best you can despite the odds. This may be a slow and tedious process, but you’ll soon wake up with a renewed sense of hope and optimism. This is a moment you should look forward to most.


Image by Alexander Grey by Unsplash