Next Your Direction Workshop, for teenagers and young adults whose parents have separated.

2nd November 2022

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The mental exhaustion of single parenting

My mum is French which makes me half French. Now some say that the French are better at parenting than us. Indeed, there is a book about this very topic called ‘French Children Don’t Throw Food’ – a fascinating read. Whether you agree with the book or not – personally, I think that a societal change would be required to enable us to adopt anything mentioned in the book – there is no denying that having children adds a whole new complexity to life. This is, even more, the case when you add divorce into the mix.

Being a parent is very much like juggling – bed times, nap times, homework, screen times, laundry, shopping, cooking, house admin, life admin, parties, running other people’s social lives. The point is, having small people in your life involves a massive amount of logistics which become even more complex if parents are separated or divorced. All this juggling must happen between two people whose relationship has broken down. It’s a big ask. It often leads to one parent having to do a greater share of juggling and having to manage this mental load alone.

The French have invented a phrase for the mental load – la chargementale. My best stab at a translation is ‘mental load’. It basically represents all the parenthood balls we are constantly juggling inside our heads. What the French also do so well is admit that this ‘mental load’ is exhausting, bone-shatteringly, dog-tiredly exhausting. And so, for those of us doing the juggling mostly single-handedly, is it any wonder that we are tired?

Perhaps like the French – we should take time, where possible, to look after ourselves. It could be as simple as letting small people watch TV so that you can drink a cup of tea in peace. Juggling requires practice but I’m sure that even miracle-performing circus jugglers give themselves time off! It doesn’t do to drop too many balls too often!