Most of the time, I would describe myself as happy and fulfilled in my role as a single parent. I live for the daily hugs, the butterfly kisses and the sweet just-before-bedtime snuggles. Coping with loneliness as a single parent is usually not an issue on my radar.
I do not fit the misguided stereotype of lonely single mums who are pining for a new boyfriend or husband. Nor do I want to get back together with my ex. You won’t find me in bars frequented by commitment-phobic guys who almost exclusively “date’”lonely single mothers. In fact, if you ask my family or friends, the term “lonely single mother” would never be used to describe me.
But here’s a moment of honesty, just between you and me:
At times, I do feel lonely. It creeps up on me some nights when my daughters have gone to bed and there’s no one to chat to about my challenging work day. Or I see a gorgeous dress and think: that looks nice, but even if I splurge, where would I wear it? It even sneaks up on me during moments of joy – like when one of my daughters innocently says an unintended, hilariously dirty pun which you had to be there to appreciate, only there was only the girls and me, no one else.
Parenting is ideally a two-person gig, but not all mums are fortunate enough to have support. Worse, a lot of lonely single mums also find themselves grappling with financial worries and/or work demands. Is it any wonder the burden can feel too heavy and we may sometimes feel lonely, possibly even depressed.
Fortunately, after four years (and counting!) into single motherhood, I’ve managed to build myself an arsenal for coping with loneliness as a single parent. Today, I thought I’d share them with you.
COPING WITH LONELINESS AS A SINGLE PARENT
FIND A SENSE OF BELONGING
It might come as a surprise to realise that although you experience isolation, you are not alone. Just being aware of others out there in the same position is a comforting thought. And not only that, there are resources to reach out to these mums. Try our Anonymous Single Mum Forum where you can chat about anything single mum related. It’s also worth looking up single mother groups in your area. Never underestimate the power of community, being part of one can help you cope with feeling lonely as a single mum.
KNOW YOUR LONELY MOMENTS
You’ll be familiar with your ‘lonely moments’. Certain times, such as when your children go to dad’s house (that is once you’ve revelled in the peace and quiet). It is common for single parents to experience separation anxiety at this time. Being alone in your home might make you feel unsafe. Prepare yourself by staying busy. You don’t need to clean the kitchen cupboards or organise the sock drawer. Just do something that positively engages your mind. Read, do some sport, practice self-care, call a friend, watch a movie. By dispelling feelings of loneliness at these key times, can help you cope with further feelings of desolation that are harder to disperse.
GET ON THE CANTEEN
It’s a catch-22 situation when you feel lonely but don’t have time to do anything about it. But there’s a pool of mums right on your doorstep, at your children’s school. There’s no need to head-up the PTA. Maybe offer to assist with canteen duties or classroom help at a time that works for you. You’ll meet other mums, many of whom are also looking for companionship. And there’s no doubt that your child will love you being a part of their world.
FINAL TIPS FOR COPING WITH LONELINESS AS A SINGLE PARENT
This may seem like an obvious suggestion. Yet, as busy single mums, we can be forgiven for not making an effort to stay in contact with our friends. And the reality is, your friends are probably wrapped up in their own worlds too. The result: A loss of contact. Sad really, as there’s nothing like chatting with a friend to alleviate ‘lonely single mother’ syndrome. Work on a schedule with your close friends and family. Arrange a phone call every week or a coffee every month. If it’s planned, you have something to look forward to and are building barriers to help cope with the loneliness.
Meditation allows you to be aware of yourself as you live your life and gives your headspace a break. It is an effective way to cope with the loneliness of single parenting by calmly accepting your thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations. It allows you to pinpoint what’s bringing you down at any given time, which means you can do something about it. It’s unfair to assume single mothers are lonely because they lack a romantic partner; it’s more complex than that. Anytime you feel unhappy or lonely, ask yourself, why am I feeling like this? When you know what the problem is, you are one step closer to a solution.