Whether we parent alone through separation, divorce or the death of our partner, or we’ve chosen to parent alone through personal choice, it’s a tough gig. One that takes stamina, strength and resilience. It’s a role that we can often find ourselves plunged into with little or no warning about what lies ahead. It can be scary stepping into the unknown.
Parenting alone is going it alone in every sense of the word. From parenting decisions, to providing emotional, financial and mental support, to simply managing the household every day. We’re juggling and multi-tasking like crazy! From having to get our children to school and ourselves to work, plus the constant shopping, cleaning, and cooking. We’re constantly having to be ‘on’ with no end in sight!
It’s exhausting, isn’t it?
What no one tells you about parenting alone
LOSS OF FRIENDS
The logistics of parenting alone can be challenging. For me, I was dealing with the death of my husband, while looking after my 3 young children.
For years, I barely kept my head above water. The fact that I had no support from close family meant relying on friends. And sometimes friends can disappear when one partner is no longer in the picture. This can be confronting and raise questions. It happened to me and I wondered, why? Don’t they care?
Luckily, I had a few close friends around, and I was grateful for them. There are many single mums, who have moved to another place to start afresh and the support network just isn’t there. It can be a very lonely time in the single mum journey.
SELF-DOUBT WHEN PARENTING ALONE
When our children are trying to make sense of loss or upheaval, we are responsible for meeting their immediate emotional needs.
In the years after my husband passed away, my children’s well-being was paramount. My focus was always on them. How are they coping with our changed environment? Am I enough? What should I do?
This uncertainty about whether we’re doing a good enough job as a single mum is common and really, we’re doing the best we can.
DIFFICULTIES OF CO-PARENTING
Unfortunately, there are too many situations in which co-parenting with an ex or new partner is a minefield of angst and frustration. And even then, the so-called support might be there in name only.
Single mums in these situations face many challenges. What lies beneath can be a web of miscommunication, different schedules, different priorities and different parenting techniques. Too vast and complex to unravel. So, they go it alone in supporting their children. They’re it.
And to all the single mums out there going through this, stay strong and be true to yourself.
NO EMOTIONAL SUPPORT WHEN PARENTING ALONE
There’s a lack of emotional support for single mums parenting alone. Who supports us? Who helps us navigate our thoughts, feelings and emotions about our situation? When there was nobody there for me, I felt so empty. My emotions were all over the place, I was grieving yes, but there were all sorts of other emotions going on and in retrospect they got shoved to the side to be dealt with later.
What no one tells you about parenting alone (cont.)
LACK OF SLEEP
Parenting in general is tiring! Parenting alone is twice as tiring. All those nights of disrupted sleep with our children or babies. I remember those! And even now, with teenagers there are other issues that pop up.
How do we manage our own well-being when we’ve been running around all day, followed by a night of disrupted sleep? Somehow, we keep on keeping on. Go us!
PUTTING OURSELVES LAST
How many of us as single mums often forget to fill our own buckets? We’re always filling other people’s first. Prioritising our self-care is often pushed to the ‘do later’ list. Until we’re running on empty and burnt out.
Too busy for self-care? That was me, until I ended up in hospital! What a wake-up call. Putting ourselves last isn’t something we do consciously, it simply happens when we’re running around after everyone else.
This one’s a biggie. Money, money, money. We all need it to survive and thrive and live the life we want to live, but how do we make it work for us? When every dollar must be accounted for and when sacrifices must be made.
I tossed up between working for myself, which has its own challenges, or working for someone else. I chose to work for myself and I appreciate the flexibility that allows, from taking school holidays, to unexpected sick days. For many single mums it’s not an option and the pressures of juggling work, sick days and school holidays can mount up.
COMMUNITY AND SUPPORT
Establishing a solid and reliable community or group of people around you to talk to about the highs and lows, to share or bounce ideas off, to provide inspiration during the dark days is what we need more of.
When we feel like we’re not coping, when we feel like we’re in the midst of a dark tunnel, reaching out for help can be the difference between suffering in silence or making a little change that will have ripple effects for you and your children moving forward.
No matter where you are on your single mum journey, know that you’re enough. You matter and you can do this.
My children and I have the most amazing relationship. Whether or not our experience losing James brought us closer together who knows. We’ve always shared, laughed and cried together. Looking out for each other and collaborating together as a family.