I’m proud to be a single parent but it is my support network that enables me to be more than just proud, but also a confident and happy single parent.
As I watched Myleene Klass’s programme on single mums, the importance of support networks really struck me. Those single mums who seemed happiest were those who weren’t isolated and who had strong family and friend support networks.
I am really lucky to have a great support network. I have:
My mum looks after Cygnet 2 or 3 days a week so that I can work. She adores spending time with Cygnet and sees it as a privilege, which I am obviously thrilled about. But this support is massively important to me both financially and emotionally. I don’t know that I would be able to survive without her help.
My dad is also round at my flat a lot. I bought my flat from an 86 year old lady in June last year. She is a lovely lady and really looked after the place, but it is fair to say that her choice of wallpaper, her pink carpets and her avocado skin coloured work tops (they have to be seen to be believed) are not to my taste. My parents and I have spent a tremendous amount of time and effort decorating in the last nine months. My dad is regularly at my flat putting up blinds, sorting the electrics, drilling. I actually think he enjoys it too.
I don’t know what I’d do without either them.
New friends in the area
When I moved to the area nine months ago I didn’t know anyone. I took a week off work and took Cygnet to all of the free events for babies in the local area. I went to tumble gym, I went to rhyme time at the local library, we fed the ducks, we did messy play.
Cygnet still does a lot of this with Grandma while I am at work, but that week enabled me to meet local mums in the area. We bump into each other in the park at a weekend. We meet for coffee and a ‘play date’ when I have a day off.
I am also really lucky to have met another single mum whose daughter is only three months older than Cygnet. We regularly share dating stories, challenges of dealing with the ex, pictures of our little ones, thoughts about ‘me time’ when you really have no time.
Two single mum friends at work
Both of these women are about 20 years older than me. Both have been single mums for a long time. Both have older children. And, most importantly, both are willing to listen, to share their experiences and to provide non-patronising but supportive comments about being a single mum.
If you know a single parent, or indeed if you are a single parent, these are a few things you can do to make single parenthood a whole lot easier:
Reach out to other single parents
A lot of the challenges of single parenthood are not unique to single parents. All parents will probably suffer with sleep deprivation, tantrums, discipline challenges, sick children, financial strain, insufficient ‘me time’.
But there are unique things about being a single parent: co-parenting; dealing with the ex; feeling lost as you miss your children when they are with their other parent; wishing that you could have fifteen minutes off to have a shower when you are on your own with your children; having no-one to share the joyful moments of parenthood with.
I really appreciate being able to discuss, moan, just talk about these things with a fellow single parent; someone who has been and is going through similar challenges. My single mum friend and I meet, with our children, every Monday night and have tea at one or other of our flats for an hour or so. She has a girl, I have a boy. We jokingly call it “date night”.
Don’t forget the weekends
As a single parent I find the weekends hard. My other parent friends naturally want to spend time as a family and don’t really want to meet me and Cygnet, or just me, if Cygnet is with his daddy.
Cygnet and I do just fine. Recently we’ve watched a local tennis tournament, we’ve been to Monski’s mini baby disco at the Southbank Centre and we regularly go to the sandpit at the local park. But whilst we are doing all of this we are surrounded by families, happy families. Don’t get me wrong, I love families, but I can feel isolated and cut off from other people’s family units at a weekend.
If you do know a single parent, invite them to spend time with you at a weekend.
Company in the evenings
I try to be quite strict about bedtime and try to get Cygnet to bed by 7pm. This doesn’t always work, but when it does it means that I have about three hours of Netflix, boxsets, washing, cleaning or blogging time before I go to bed. The evenings can feel a bit solitary. A glass of wine and a gossip would be great.
I appreciate that it is really inconvenient for other parents, who, after a hard day’s work or a hard day entertaining children really just want to collapse on the sofa with their partner and a bottle of wine. But I’d like to invite you round to dinner – nothing special, just a pizza so that I can have some adult company and a natter. Just once a month. That for a single parent would be just lovely.