Solitude, isolation and loneliness as a single mother

Solitude, isolation and loneliness mean many things to many people.  It was not until I became a single mother that I fully understood what they mean for me.  I have experienced solitude, isolation and loneliness as a single mother.

I know that my loneliness feels most acute when I am with people who don’t or can’t really see me.  Loneliness is a book that is flicked through but never read.  Loneliness is like music that plays in the background but is never listened to.  Loneliness feels like fading into insignificance.  Loneliness took hold of me when I was in the wrong relationship. 

As a single mother, I spend many an evening alone on my sofa once Cygnet has finally gone to sleep.   I am alone, but I do not feel lonely.  Tonight, as I sit here very much alone, tapping away on my Mac Book,  I feel at liberty to enjoy being alone.  I can enjoy my solitude.

For some, solitude is a respite, a room of one’s own, the ultimate luxury.  There are times when I dream of being alone, like when I am in the toilet inserting a tampon.  I dream of being alone in the cubicle so I don’t have to answer Cygnet’s question when he asks “What’s that mummy, what are you doing with it?”  It’s okay, we’ve had the conversation now.  My two year old knows that I put the tampon in my “gina”.  I digress. 

loneliness as a single mother

I love my hours of solitude when my imagination can run riot.  This time is short, but it is when I am my funniest, my sexiest and my most intelligent.  This is the time when I am a neuroscientist on the brink of figuring out exactly how our brains work.  This is the time when I am The Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton’s chief confidante.  This is the time when I am a badass Feminist who has finally figured out how to secure equality and fulfilment for us all.   This is the time when I am a gloriously strong gymnast causing my audience to gasp at my multiple backflips, twists and somersaults.

Pablo Picasso once said:“Without great solitude no serious work is possible.”  Unfortunately, for me, the opposite is true.  Great solitude means meandering day dreams and endless procrastination.  No serious work is ever achieved! 

Isolation is very different.  There are very few single parents in my area.  On sunny weekend days when families flood to the local park for picnics, frisbee, football, the sandpit and swings and slides, I feel very aware that I am a single mother.  I spot parents from Cygnet’s nursery.  They nod and say hello, but I am conscious that at the weekend they are in their happy family unit and Cygnet and I are just us.  In these situations I feel ‘different’. I feel ‘other’.  I momentarily feel socially isolated.  I reassure myself that I am enough.

But I am really lucky.

I am lucky because I chose to replace my loneliness with the indulgence of solitude.  I am also lucky to have an incredibly supportive and present family so my feelings of social isolation are not only momentary but also few and far between.

Not all single parents are so lucky.  Many single parents are single parents due to a wicked twist of fate, due to death, due to abuse or accident.  Society is not sympathetic towards all single parents and it is easy to feel isolated. 

Unlike solitude, loneliness and isolation are not something a person chooses to experience.  Loneliness and isolation are imposed by circumstance, by misfortune, by hardship and by loss. 

Isolation and loneliness as a single mother are devastating and common.  Solitude as a single mother can be heaven. Single parenthood is a dance between all three.  


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  1. May 31, 2017 / 5:14 pm

    Lovely, honest post. I think parenthood is often a delicate balancing at between solitude, isolation and loneliness, and this must be heightened when you are a single parent. I’m glad you feel you have found the right balance for you #triumphanttales

    • thesingleswan
      May 31, 2017 / 9:18 pm

      Thank you for the lovely comment. Pen x

  2. June 1, 2017 / 8:47 pm

    It is so lovely that you’re seeing some positivity out of your position. I assure you there are times that i’d love to get rid of hubby… then I realise that means I’d have to do the cats tray and the washing up hahaha! Unfortunately, there are some people in relationships who feel like they’re a single parent when they’re not so a relationship doesnt bring a happily ever after… I guess its all in how the person handles their situation and making the best out of it!
    Thank you for sharing this with us at #TriumphantTales. I hope to see you back next week.

    • thesingleswan
      June 1, 2017 / 9:30 pm

      Thanks for the comment. Pen x

  3. June 2, 2017 / 1:37 pm

    Solitude and being at ease in your own company is good, but loneliness and isolation aren’t. It’s about finding a balance and I’m pleased that you’ve found yours and you’ve got supportive people around you.
    Tubbs recently posted…The Grumpy ListMy Profile

    • thesingleswan
      June 6, 2017 / 8:02 pm

      Thank you. Pen x

  4. June 2, 2017 / 3:29 pm

    I feel more isolated now since my kids left home than when i did as a single parent when they were little. even though I’m married I can relate to a lot of what you are saying as we live abroad and don’t have a support network, family don’t think I need one as the kids aren’t here.


    • thesingleswan
      June 6, 2017 / 8:02 pm

      That’s really interesting and `i am really sorry to hear that you don’t have a support network. Pen x

    • thesingleswan
      June 6, 2017 / 8:01 pm

      Thanks Emma. Pen x

  5. June 6, 2017 / 1:50 pm

    Lovely post. I have always said I have my most creative periods when I’m bored and alone. Maybe that explains why I haven’t been very creative of late. Thank you for sharing with #StayClassyMama

    • thesingleswan
      June 6, 2017 / 7:53 pm

      haha, maybe. Thanks for your comment. Pen x

  6. June 11, 2017 / 9:39 am

    My sister made a good friend who is a single mum too and they pretty much raised their kids together. It mademe feel better being so far away from her that she had another ‘sister’ to look out for her. #kcacols
    Bread recently posted…Poem: AffirmationMy Profile

    • thesingleswan
      June 11, 2017 / 9:53 pm

      That’s really nice. Thanks for your comment. Pen x

  7. June 11, 2017 / 11:57 am

    Solitude and loneliness are such different things. I love my runs over the moor for the solitude from a big family, loneliness is very different and not nearly as pleasant #KCACOLS
    Fiona Cambouropoulos recently posted…Wild Child Island AdventureMy Profile

    • thesingleswan
      June 11, 2017 / 9:53 pm

      Thanks Fiona. Pen x

  8. June 11, 2017 / 7:48 pm

    I love your honesty Pen and have always really enjoyed reading your blog. I feel very at home with solitude but did experience some loneliness when Emma was first born and it was so difficult to cope with. Thank you for sharing your post with #dreamteam

    • thesingleswan
      June 11, 2017 / 9:52 pm

      Thank you for your comment and I am glad you enjoyed reading. Pen x

  9. June 12, 2017 / 10:40 am

    You make a very good point about distinguishing between isolation, solitude and loneliness. I think most mums crave some solitude – time away to be on our own and think. But I can see how isolation and loneliness can be painful. Thanks for linking up at #KCACOLS, hope to see you again next time.
    Cheryl @ Tea or Wine recently posted…5 Ways My Kids Have it Better Than MeMy Profile

    • thesingleswan
      June 12, 2017 / 9:52 pm

      Thanks Cheryl. I think every mum craves solitude once in a while. Pen x

  10. June 17, 2017 / 8:39 pm

    Great post and I can relate to this on some level. I was a single parent for a few years when my first marriage broke down, and I DID feel isolated. I was heartbroken, lonely and in a very dark place. That said my loneliness did eventually become solitude, and those were some of the best times of my life looking back. I think they made me who I am today. #KCACOLS
    five little doves recently posted…For Joseph on another Friday without youMy Profile

    • thesingleswan
      June 18, 2017 / 9:48 pm

      That’s lovely to hear. Thank you for your comment. Pen x

    • thesingleswan
      June 21, 2017 / 9:30 pm

      Thanks Madeline. Pen x

  11. July 1, 2017 / 10:32 am

    I’ve genuinely never thought about how single parents feel at weekends. Especially if they don’t have a great support network. This is insightful.
    I enjoy solitude to a degree but I am often dangerous left alone with nothing but my thoughts and a sprinkling of paranoia.

    My little boy also calls it a gina. The ‘v’ sound is quite difficult for a toddler I think. It’s still funny though. I’ve never had a name for my lady parts but she will now forever be known as giiiina 😂

    • thesingleswan
      July 1, 2017 / 8:24 pm

      Haha, I am glad I am not the only one who called it a gina. At least there are not many people who understand what our toddlers are talking about. Pen x

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