How to cope with loneliness as a single parent

woman looking lonely-loneliness


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 that you had to be there to appreciate, yet there is no one else there. Yes, single mums may feel lonely, too.

Parenting is ideally a two-person gig, but not all mums are fortunate enough to have the support of social relationships. 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?

Fortunately, after eight years (and counting!) into single motherhood, I’ve managed to build myself an arsenal for coping with the impact of loneliness as a single parent … and I am here today to share them with you.

Further reading: How to manage social anxiety and live again.

Handling loneliness as a single parent

Find a sense of belonging

It might come as a surprise to realise that although you experience a lack of social connections, 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 Single Mum Vine FB group, where we focus on everything positive about single motherhood. It’s also worth looking up single mother groups in your area to help fill your social needs.

Never underestimate the power of community. Being part of one can help you cope with feeling lonely as a single mum and improve your mental health.

Further reading: Why single mums can feel like the loneliest people on earth.

Know your lonely moments

You’ll be familiar with your “lonely moments”. For example, 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 alone and 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 tough times can help you cope with further feelings of desolation that are harder to cope with.

Further reading: How I manage my depression as a single mother.

Get on the canteen

It’s a catch-22 situation when you're feeling lonely but don’t have time to do anything about it.

However, there is a pool of mums right on your doorstep, at your children’s school – if they are school-age, that is.

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 to help with their mental health (and maybe physical health as well). And there’s no doubt that your child will love you being a part of their world.

kids school canteen - loneliness

Final tips for dealing with being alone as a single parent

Nurture friendships

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 their mental health problems (a.k.a. the “lonely single mother” syndrome) caused by social isolation and loneliness.

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 prevalence of loneliness.

Master meditation

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.

Further reading: Meditation for mums (no it’s not a joke).

Frequently Asked Questions about handling isolation and loneliness

1. What is loneliness?

Feelings of loneliness are a complex emotional response to perceived social isolation. Loneliness is a feeling of being alone and lacking social connection with others.

2. How does loneliness affect my mental health?

Loneliness can have significant mental health consequences. When you feel lonely, it can lead to feelings of sadness, anxiety, and even depression.

3. What is the effect of loneliness on physical health?

Chronic loneliness may also affect your body. Studies have shown that lonely people are prone to health issues such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and weakened immune systems.

4. How can I cope with feelings of loneliness?

To reduce loneliness, it's important to reach out to others, engage in activities you enjoy, and prioritise social relationships.

5. What are the effects of chronic loneliness?

This not only impacts your emotional and mental health conditions, but it can also lead to physical issues over time if left unaddressed.

6. How can I reduce my feelings of loneliness?

Various strategies exist for reducing loneliness, such as joining clubs or groups that share your interests, volunteering, and seeking support from friends, family, or mental health professionals.

7. Is there a difference between loneliness and social isolation?

Loneliness and isolation are related concepts but differ slightly. Social isolation refers to being physically separated from others, while loneliness is the feeling of being emotionally disconnected.

8. How common is loneliness among older adults?

Older people are more vulnerable to loneliness due to factors such as living alone, limited mobility, and the loss of friends or family members. Addressing loneliness in older adults is essential to improving their overall well-being and quality of life.

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Sally Love

About the author

Sally Love is a pseudo single mum author who has been writing about single motherhood, separation and divorce for 8+ years. She has been a single mother for 10+ years and has two daughters, one of whom she co-parents and the other she solo parents. Sally has experienced all aspects of single motherhood from legal, financial, parenting, dating, travel as a single parent, re-partnering and re-building a career. She is an integral part of the Beanstalk community chatting and helping single mothers across the globe, as well as sharing her expertise, experiences and genuine reviews with major national newspapers and appearing on nation-wide television shows.

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