I started this blog to share my experiences as a single parent, something I initially found very isolating and challenging. One of the best pieces of advice I got from a fellow single mum was to find myself a single-mum-best-friend locally. The problem was I had no idea where to start? I was going through a divorce – my most important connection had failed – the idea of making new ones felt impossible. I wish I had known then how to connect with the single parenting community and what an amazing support they are. Many of us are in the middle of some serious crap when we become single parents – divorce, abuse, infidelity, death. Others arrive here through choice. But either way challenges can and do arise. At such moments, although Google might feel like a God send, it can also overwhelm.
With that in mind, I’ve put together this completely non-expert post on support for single parents. If you happen to come across this and you’re a single parent (especially a new one) then please try some of the links below, you might be pleasantly surprised. If you know a single parent please share this – it might just be a life saver. These links are mainly UK based, if you have suggestions for others in your country, please do share them in the comments below.
An online community is available anytime, from the comfort of your own home – perfect for those with young children and few childcare options. If, like me, you’ve never really engaged in facebook groups, don’t be put off. A simple search for ‘single parents’, on facebook comes up with lots of closed groups that provide support. The benefit of these is that only other members can see your posts so there’s a level of privacy from your facebook friends. The largest active one in the UK is Single Parents Support
(they also have offshoot groups for specific issues such as mental health/ raising children with additional needs), another big one is Single Parents
, but there are other more specific ones such as Single Black Parents
. Keep looking till you find one you click with.
Divorced Moms is an online community which pretty much does what it says on the tin. It has an American focus but lots of the topics have global relevance.
Face to Face Groups
When I first engaged with single parent groups I was gobsmacked that there were people who just got it – got me! Gingerbread
has a network of volunteer-led local groups across the UK. These are a great way to meet people
in similar situations and if there isn’t one near you, they will help you set one up. Joining a group has changed my weekends from being lonely and depressing to having options of what to do. Some of the single parent facebook groups also arrange meet-ups too, like Single Parents Support
. Widowed and Young
are the only UK based organisation to support people under 50 who have lost their partner – they arrange social events and provide practical support.
Practical Advice (debt, housing etc)
Gingerbread provides support and advice for single parents, they have a helpline and an online hub for advice and information on separation. This factsheet is useful if you need legal advice. Citizens Advice are a really good starting place for support with benefits, work rights, legal rights etc etc. Housing support is generally only available through Shelter or your local council. Single Parent Support also has a website that provides information for single parents. One Parent Families is a great resource for those based in Scotland. One Family has a helpline and advice for people in Ireland. Only Mums and Only Dads both provide advice on issues such as debt, relationships and legal matters. Many of the single parent facebook groups also have very knowledgeable admins and members who can be of great assistance. The University Mum has written a great post for young single mums who are looking to study at university.
Pregnant and Single
Maybe you planned this from the start – if so congratulations. Maybe you’ve found yourself single and pregnant and it fills you with dread. There are lots of avenues for support though, whatever your situation. If you’re worried about not having a birthing partner, then Doula’s UK
can help you find a doula near you. Doulas provide non-judgemental support for mothers through pregnancy, childbirth and the early days of motherhood. If you don’t have the money to pay for a doula then there is an access fund
which helps people on low incomes, and doulas who are still in training are significantly cheaper (you can search for people training in your local area on their website). If you are on a low income then your midwife should be able to refer you to Home-Start
for support. There are also often local charities who provide buddies or volunteers who can support you through your pregnancy. I haven’t come across a national organisation that does this – Bump Buddies is London based and they may be able to link you up with local organisations. Otherwise Google or your midwife/ GP should be able to assist. In some areas (globally) the baby box university will provide you with a free baby box (a safe place for your baby to sleep) once you have watched their baby health and safety videos. Once you’re at the (thinking about) returning to work stage it can feel mighty daunting how you’re going to balance it all. This post has a lot of useful links of the support and resources available.
Child maintenance is one of the biggest issues facing single parents in the UK. Over £4 billion child maintenance is owed in the UK. This calculator
can help you work out payments. Although the system is far from perfect, if you aren’t able to make direct agreements with your child’s non-resident parent, then Child Maintenance Options
can explain the different payment options. If the non-resident parent is outside the UK you can claim through REMO
. There are also a number of facebook groups which provide advice on support on navigating the CMS – Child Maintenance Service – Right the Wrongs
has a large and growing base and tries to maintain a neutral stance which doesn’t bias against either resident or non-resident parents.
If you have, or are, experiencing domestic abuse then Women’s Aid
, or your local domestic abuse service
, can assist. The Freedom Programme is recommended by many survivors of domestic abuse as a great way to break the cycle of abuse. If you are in doubt of who to approach or how, speak with your GP.
Losing a Partner
Losing a partner and becoming a single parent can be an incredibly challenging time. If you are in this situation then Widowed and Young are a lovely supportive organisation group that organise social events and run a peer-support network.
Solo Parenting By Choice
Parenting solo is often a positive choice for many, often through adoption or donor conception. Specific groups support parents and would be parents on this journey and they can be invaluable for both the practicalities such as explaining your child’s background to them, to just finding other parents in similar positions. The Donor Conception Network
runs specific workshops and holds an annual conference, as well as having local groups around the UK.
Single Parent Blogs
Blogs can be a great way to share single parent experiences and their social media channels often provide a supportive non-judgemental community. I’ve highlighted a few single parent blogs below and given you an idea of the main areas they cover – I hope I have done them justice.
- The Comeback Mum features the writings of hard hitting single parent activist and artist Cash Carraway
- Daydreams of a Mum gives a very real insight into the long-term impact of domestic abuse
- Single Mum Speaks is a quirky blog about the escapades of a single mum by choice and her young son
- Single Swan writes about relationship breakdown and co-parenting challenges
- Mama unexpected talks candidly about the challenges of being a single mum to a child with special needs
- More Than Toast writes about dating as a single mum (amongst other things!)
- Inside Martyn’s Thoughts gives a single dad perspective on single parenting
- Dilan and Me is written by a single mum who’s following gentle parenting methods with her toddler
- Single Daddy Daycare writes about his experiences and gives advice on co-parenting
- Ellamental Mama gives a no holds barred account of divorce, lone parenting and mental health whilst trying to raise a feminist son (it had to feature somewhere – right!)
There are loads more single parent blogs out there – I hope you find one that gives you your own corner of the web to commiserate and celebrate life as a single parent.
Arts and Culture
“Arts and culture”, I hear you cry, “but I’m a single parent, I don’t have time for such luxuries!” When we see ourselves in other people’s words it helps us understand ourselves – it’s really not a luxury. With that in mind, if you are ever lucky enough to see Muvvahood, you won’t be disappointed. It’s a one woman show that profiles six single mum stories. I was feeling emotional the day I saw it and it had me in tears; we hear the real stories of single parents so rarely and it’s incredibly moving when we do. This is a list of critically acclaimed films featuring single parents
and this list is specifically of single dad films. I’ve recently started watching the Gilmore Girls on Netflix, admittedly it brushes over the harder parts of single parenting but it’s perfect for a bit of feelgood fun.
If you’re looking for books for your child which can help you talk about single parenting and broach some of the challenging topics that often go with lone parenthood, this is a great list. This is another a good list of books for 0-10 year olds on divorce/separation and single parenting. And one more list of books for modern families which includes topics such as divorce.
Single Parent Holidays
Now to the best bit – holidays! For some single parents, holidaying alone with children can be too daunting to even contemplate. I am a firm believer in the power of travel, so if there’s a way to make that easier for single parents I’m all for it. The first time I went away with other single parents was a camping holiday
. It was a revelation to be surrounded by people in similar situations. Suddenly I didn’t feel ostracized; these strangers understood me better than my own family.
Below are a few holidaying sites I’ve come across (I should point out, I’m in no way being compensated for including any of these groups and I’ve not been away with most of them so please do YOUR own research before booking a holiday with any of them). I know money can be tight but there are a lot of options out there which cater for varied budgets, both in the UK and overseas.
There’s also the option of going it alone. I’ve done it a fair bit with my little one and although it’s challenging, it’s also pretty amazing. This post links to lots of solo parent travel stories if you’re looking for some inspiration. There is also a Single Parent Travel Club on facebook where you can join forces and arrange to travel together – sounds like a perfect solution to me.
“I Can’t Cope”
Many of us go through difficult times. I always think it’s not about what challenges you experience, but who you have to support you through them that really counts. Being a single parent, especially in the early days, can often be isolating. If you’re reading this and thinking, but I just can’t cope, please seek help. It took me over two years of struggling (to put it mildly) before I went to my doctor. I had been trying to do everything on my own, including ‘getting better’. I had a plan and I was putting it into action – counselling, new job, the works. It wasn’t enough though. Sometimes when your life is crumbling around you it’s hard to breathe let alone stop and take stock to work out what to do. If you’re really struggling your doctor can help you get time off work if you need it, they can refer you for talking therapies and other support services, and (if appropriate) provide medical support.
If you’re a single parent I wish you all the luck in the world. It’s an unbelievably hard, but amazing, job. Single parenting has benefits for us as well as our children, so ignore the scapegoating rubbish we so often hear and remember you’re great!
What’s your best tip for single parents? Do you have a favourite blog/support group? Share them here or on my facebook and I’ll try to incorporate them.
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