Written by: Cally Worden
It is a rare parent who actively elects to bring up their children alone. In most cases, single-parenthood comes as a result of a relationship breakdown. Whatever the reasons behind your status as ‘Single Parent’ the reality is stark – you are alone, either completely, or largely, responsible for bringing up your children on a day-to-day basis. And many single parents also receive little or no financial support from their ex-partner. Add into the mix the emotional fallout and recovery from a broken relationship, you begin to see what single parenting is such a tough role.
Seek out and Accept Support
You do not have to face your challenges alone. This point is one that many parents struggle to reconcile. Feelings of pride, responsibility and guilt stand in the way of many single parents when they consider seeking support. You need to banish these blockages and accept your new reality for what it is. Don’t judge yourself; ignore those who may judge you. No one else really knows your story.
If you have family and friends close by then they can be a valuable source of support. If this option is not open to you, then it is perfectly possible to tap into a wider community of support wherever you live. Single parents are everywhere, organisations such as the charity Gingerbread offer support and advice to single parents, they can put you in contact with others in your local area that are in a similar position.
There will always be times when you need help – illness, unexpected work or financial difficulties, or simply needing a break. Having a support network to fall back on when times are tough can make all the difference. So try not to struggle on alone, thinking you have to do everything yourself. Asking for help is a sign of strength, not a weakness.
One of the biggest practical challenges for single parents is the need to live off a single income. Juggling the costs of living, childcare and bills can feel impossible. Empower yourself; take the time to find out if you are entitled to any benefits. There are allowances for those on low incomes, tax credits, childcare vouchers and the possibility of child maintenance that may all be available to you. Knowing who to contact and what to ask for can be tricky – the Citizens Advice Bureau or the likes of Gingerbread can be invaluable sources of advice on this.
- Liaise with other parents to share the school run once a week
- Divvy up household chores among you and your kids – even the little ones can help out by clearing the table after dinner, or sorting washing into colours
- Be organised – insist on school bags, uniforms and lunches being prepared the night before to minimise the morning stress
- Take time out to learn new skills that may help you improve your job prospects – talk to your Job Centre or the Family Welfare Association about what free or subsidised courses may be available
- Prioritise essential tasks for each day the night before – build a wish list of things you’d like to be done. Tick off your essentials and anything else you achieve each day – this not only helps you to stay organised and on top of jobs, but also helps give you a sense of achievement
Take Care of You
As a single parent you are your family’s champion. You are the provider, the carer, the nurse, the chef, the anything-else-that’s-required. ‘Me’ time is unlikely to be top of your list of priorities. And yet, to be effective in your role as all things to all people you need to be on top form. That means taking care of your own physical and mental well being. It can be hard to find time for you among the challenges and demands of daily life, but it’s so important to do so.
Try get up a little early each day, even just 15 minutes each morning to relax with a cup of coffee before the rush begins, this can help to recharge your batteries. Treat yourself to a long soak in the bath, or ring-fence one evening a week as yours once the kids are settled. No chores on this night, just You-Time. Rent a movie, treat yourself to a take-out, give yourself a manicure, read a book, listen to some uplifting tunes – whatever makes you feel good. Knowing this time is yours alone will help you to face the demands of your life with more energy and vitality.