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When You Can’t Do Everything, Give Yourself a Break

Maybe this sounds familiar: you work all day, only to come home to a house that could use some attention. Your dog needs to be fed. It’s time to pay your bills. Maybe your lawn needs mowing or at least your houseplants are starting to droop. But you’re tired. All you want to do is plop down on the couch and rest. Plus, it’d be nice for someone to cook dinner.

It’s so easy, as a single person, to feel like you’re drowning under the weight of responsibility. While there are many things that complicate coupled life, the idea is that you have a partner to work through those complications with. If you’re exhausted after work, maybe your partner can feed the dog. Maybe they can be the one to pay those bills this time around.

If you’re single, however, no one is going to do these things if it isn’t you.

It’s tempting to feel like you’re truly independent as a single person. After all, you make the money, support yourself and take care of all of your appointments. But the truth is, none of us are truly independent, partnered or not. You might take the trash out, but there is a whole team of people who are paid to remove it far away from you. You might buy the groceries, but there are farmers and truckers and grocery store employees who make it accessible for you.

One thing I have always worried about is that I’ll become too entrenched in being single, and I won’t be able to live with another person. To avoid this, I’ve always had roommates, hoping that my frustrations with how often they cleaned or whether or not they hogged the living room would make things easier when I did find a partner. While this has been an acceptable dream, it hasn’t addressed something more fundamental about my “independent woman” status: it’s hard for me to ask for help.

A few years ago, I was having a really rough week. Things weren’t going well at work, I was dealing with some depression, and my bathroom was very dirty. This might seem like a small thing, but it annoyed me that I couldn’t muster the energy to clean my bathroom. A friend reached out to see how I was doing and I poured my frustrations out to her. She found time to leave her kids and husband and she came over to scrub my bathroom. It was one of the purest gifts of love I’ve ever received. It reminded me that you don’t have to be in a couple to have another person help you pick up the slack.

I’m not one of those people with a huge rolodex of friends I can call when things get hard. I feel alone sometimes, largely because a lot of my friends are married, with kids. I know that they are busy with their families—they have a lot on their plates. But more people are willing to help than most of us realize—most people don’t know that we are struggling until we say something. It’s worth that initial text, even if it feels awkward. It’s worth it to bring it up over coffee. Who knows, maybe there are ways you can support your friends and family you weren’t aware of too?

Even for those with partners, there isn’t a magic bullet that makes life easier. Not everyone has a partner who will thoughtfully help them with their needs. Some coupled people choose to do it all on their own, like they did when they were single, because they don’t know how to ask for help, or they don’t think their partner will share responsibility. Whatever the case, no one can do everything. We all need other people or we’ll burn out.

Beyond a friend group, another way you might take the pressure off yourself is to think about hiring someone to help you. You might think that hiring someone to rake your leaves or clean your house is a luxury, but it might make more sense to allow yourself to rest or play during that same time and save yourself the stress. No one gets a medal for doing it all, and that includes you.

At the end of the day, if you think about it, you know the truth. You might keep all of the plates spinning, but you have help. Maybe the kindest thing you can do when it all feels like too much is give yourself a break. Ask for help. Consider whether this thing is really a priority. I promise the world won’t end.


About the author: Cara Strickland writes about food and drink, mental health, faith and being single from her home in the Pacific Northwest. She enjoys hot tea, good wine, and deep conversations. She will always want to play with your dog. Connect with her on Twitter @anxiouscook.