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Navigating Single Mothership

It’s unbelievable to think that in the 21st century we are still seeing stigma aimed at the stereotype of single parents, when societies overwhelmingly put pressure on individuals to become parents and conform to ancient social ideals.

In the UK we are shown the ‘2.4 children’ with binary parent’s family model relentlessly, from family discounts on days, out to the Royal family being used as the foundation of divisive opinion pieces. But in reality, an average of 42% of marriages end in divorce and Gingerbread states that there are estimated to be 1.8 million single parents, around 90 per cent of those are women.

As a single parent, you’re expected to be everyone to your child. Equally they look up to you as their hero; someone who can handle everything from bills to life admin, gardening and entertainment. Instilling the can-do attitude in your kids to become the same. This article aims to help equip you with the resilient power and esteem to feel, rightly, that hero.

Finding the emotional strength you never knew you had

It’s not easy to be a parent, and going it alone presents additional challenges for all aspects of this life phase.

Some of the emotional impacts of dealing with perceived societal norms can be lessened when you practice not undermining yourself, which you might unknowingly be doing by:

  • Comparing your parenting to others
  • Imagining what people are saying about you
  • Feeling obliged to be the perfect parent
  • Not making time to think about your needs

Have clear boundaries with anyone who tries to downgrade your efforts – it’s your child, you are the one steering the mothership.

If you are widowed, you may be suppressing emotion for the benefit of the kids and supporting your children with their feelings of loss. They may be experiencing changes of behaviour while you all journey through grief. Winston’s Wish can support you with the many different challenges you may face.

Decision Making Fatigue can erode a limited pool of mental resources when you are making potentially 122 informed choices per day for the whole family, which can lead to brain fog or overwhelm. The way to handle it, according to academic Grant Pignatiello, is to “automate the number of choices you make each day” by creating routine.

If you are caught in a pattern of negative talk and thinking, experiencing extreme symptoms, anxiety, depression or PTSD, consult your GP as you may have burnout.

Filling the physical ‘hole’ that’s been left behind

Single parenting can feel lonely and zap your physical energy, as you have to keep going through all eventualities around the clock.

If you are feeling a lack of physical contact or intimacy, make connections with other people and take a look at these ideas:

  • Make regular times for video calls
  • Make your home feel cosy and safe
  • Ask a friend you have missed for a hug (then don’t let go!)
  • A relaxation treatment (a massage, getting your nails done or a face mask at home). The benefits it brings to your body and mind can give a strong sense of nurturing
  • Cuddle an animal; become a pet sitter as a family

Dating or being tempted into casual sex for a quick intimacy fix can be a positive or negative experience, on your self-esteem.

Feeling strong by knowing what you do and don’t want out of a relationship and whether you want one or not is your decision. It could be truly freeing to be single and to make all the decisions in a smaller family unit. Now is your chance to build your vision of stability and family completion, without social pressure or patriarchal norms.

Time for myself, how do I get it?

Loving yourself will have the biggest impact on your child(ren). It may feel hard to justify time to yourself but give yourself the same things you provide for your kids without guilt. Regular mealtimes, good sleep habits, daily exercise and fulfilling interests are basic needs, and even more important when you are 100% on demand every second of their waking day.

Recharge in small doses by cancelling doom scrolling, taking social media breaks or calling a friend for a laugh.

Meditation and yoga help you to switch off, become aware of yourself (remember that person?) and focus on tasks. Pranayama breathing can help you to cope by releasing anxiety. Weave in relaxation and exercise after the kids are in bed and release the struggles of the day.

Time management and organisation to carve out time

If you’re feeling stressed with the repetition of the daily tasks; structure, organisation and consistency can help you to cope. Whilst not everyone’s forte, try to build in as much of this as you can as it’ll charge you with a feeling of control. Try to leave space for flexibility and be realistic about how much energy you have. We can’t all be the beige social media parent with clean carpets and balloon arches.

Borrow from business, the Eisenhower Matrix organises importance vs urgency. What’s important and urgent for you and your family?  Consider a time management app to help prioritise

Try focusing on one task at a time and telling yourself how well you did at the end of the day.

On the flipside, can you combine tasks (dog walking, with child bike riding, with your run) to achieve peak efficiency?

Building Support Networks

“If you’ve got childcare issues, you should throw a big party – you invite 30 kids you get 30 invites back, that’s free childcare. I’m having a lovely afternoon without my son right now!” Diane Morgan as Liz in Motherland

Unfortunately, not all kids parties are a drop off. If you have a family and friends’ network, ask for the help you’d most likely be willing to offer to somebody yourself.

Invite parent friends to have a kitchen disco and sleepover with the kids – elevate the experience of parenting by having some FUN!

For parents of kids with additional needs, networking with other parents who have children with similar needs can offer you informed support, inspiration and mental energy.

If you don’t have family or friends you can lean on, time banks could help and Ofsted registered baby-sitters (depending on your location) may have special needs or newborn specialisms, first aid training, driving licence or be available for 24 hour periods.

The Government offers 15 and 30 hours free childcare when you are in work. Tax Free Childcare and Universal Credit can help with the costs of childcare.

How to handle being really ill when there’s just you in charge

Bank time with play dates while everyone is well, then call on the parents when you are really ill. Batch cooking, frozen dinners, pizza, crisps and TV are your friend. Perfection can wait.

If you take your health seriously, you can lower stress and be a little healthier as a result, perhaps avoiding burn out.

How to cope on one income

On top of the economic burden of being a woman, being a single parent can be the toughest on your available income. The lack of social housing means that over 70,000 Families with single parents were at risk of facing eviction this past winter.  

Government schemes provide a little support and it’s important to keep on top of these, for example Tax Credit awards are changing over to Universal Credit. Changes like this could mean you’re missing out on what you’re entitled to.

Tips and financial tactics can provide ways to boost your income day to day, making a little cash using buying and selling methods.

There are also longer-term permitted ways to have more monthly money, via side gigs and spare room rentals – please look into the finer details of this as benefits could be affected.

Auto savings apps that round up your spending little by little can mitigate emergencies. You may find it helpful to operate more than one current account so that you can be aware of the bills and manage them with more authority.

Be sure also to look forwards to safeguarding your future, so that long term you can build security.

Finding out how invincible you truly are

It can be hard navigating single life as a mother and to step back and see how far you have come and how invincible you can be.

It’s often said that you grow stronger through challenges, so being aware of how much you have learnt and grown and giving yourself credit for what an accomplishment that is. Where it will take you next is the interesting chapter you are stepping into.

However you have become a lone parent, be sure that at Kari Health we have your back, and we see what a strong mother/carer you are, even when perhaps you don’t.

Remember: you are doing your best which may be better than people in a couple. You have had to step up and you most definitely have got this more than you know.

This article has been reviewed by our Kari Health Experts and Editorial Board to ensure accuracy and reliability of the information presented. However, please note that the content provided is for informational purposes only and should not replace advice from your medical professional.

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