Today I’m sharing my survival tips for single Mums.
Over the years, I’ve developed a sixth sense for spotting the newly single Mum in a crowd.
It’s a curious mixture of panic and defiance. One half is all, “Oh God, what am I going to do?” and the other, “I’m doing just FINE, actually.”
As a child of divorced parents, I swore I’d never raise a child in a single parent family. But life happens. I split from my ex soon after Flea’s first birthday.
What I remember about those days is how MEAN I was to myself.
I’d failed as a parent. I’d failed to maintain a relationship. I’d failed to do a sensible degree like medicine or economics. I was sad, and I was scared, and I was paralysed with guilt.
Ten years down the line, I’ve learned some stuff about how to survive as a single Mum. Even – unlikely as it seemed back then – how to be happy as a single Mum.
So today I’m sharing some of the lessons I’ve learned. These tips are for you, fellow single Mamas.
Take It One Day at a Time
The first year after divorce is hard. When you’re trying to re-build your whole life, there’s a lot to do. And you can’t do it all in a day.
Every day that you get everyone up, everyone has some fresh air, and they’ve all eaten something? That’s a win.
One day those big future plans won’t seem so impossible. But give yourself time to heal and find a new normal before you start them.
You’re Going to be Just Fine.
Don’t read The Daily Mail.
Don’t hang around with relatives who adopt a sympathetic expression every time they see you.
Don’t compare your life with your married friends.
Sure, life’s going to be challenging while you figure this stuff out. And “single Mum” is often portrayed as a negative label. But you can choose to focus on the positives. You’re raising your child in a loving, stable home.
You’re going to be JUST FINE.
If They Don’t Have Your Back, It’s None of Their Damn Business
One of the tricky things about being a newly single mum is that you don’t just lose a partner. You’ll lose friends.
Things some of my (former) friends said to me in the weeks after I left my husband:
- “I can’t be friends with you any more, unless you convince me this was the right thing.”
- “I’ve known [your husband] a lot longer than you, and I know for a fact he wouldn’t do that.”
- “It sounds like you’ve made a really hard decision. If you’d like, come and have tea and cake with us.”
Guess which of these people are still in my life?
Don’t use your precious time and energy spilling your guts to people who judge you, or use your life as gossip to pass around their friends.
Be Kind to Yourself
Single parenting is 24/7. You have to do all the things two-parent families do. But without having someone to help, or even just make sympathetic eye contact with over the chaos.
Sooner or later, you have to give yourself grace because you can’t do EVERYTHING the way you used to do it.
It’s okay to relax the rules and make packet Mac and Cheese for dinner when you’ve had a long day. It’s okay to co-sleep if it means everyone gets some rest.
It’s okay to not do the laundry for a week or two. Seriously. When Flea was five she once announced to the supermarket check-out lady, “My Mummy says you can just take clothes out of the laundry if you don’t have any that are clean.”
Self-Care is an Actual Thing
When I first became a single Mum, I told myself that I didn’t need to worry about me. I’d ignore my social life, love life, hair, clothes. Because I was going to DEVOTE myself to being the best parent I could be.
Fast forward seven years and I was in A&E having a panic attack. And I had really bad hair.
So make the time for regular exercise. Get a massage once in a while. Don’t neglect your medical check-ups. Have haircuts at the same time as your child.
Invite people over, once in a while. Because more often than not, you’ll not be invited to the old sort of gatherings.
Healthy, happy women make better parents.
People Are Going to Judge You
People think a lot of stupid things about the single mum.
They’ll think you cheated. They’ll think you got cheated on. They’ll assume you’re a quitter. They’ll assume you don’t work, or you work too much. That you get loads of benefits. They’ll assume you’re going to try and sleep with their husband.
They tell you that they’re single parenting when what they mean is that their partner is away for a few nights.
Try not to care.
Although the first time someone says to you, “Oh, I’m SO GLAD I don’t have to worry about dating any more, now I’ve got my Kevin!” it’s perfectly okay to want to stab them in their smug, who-knows-what-the-future-might-bring-karen eyeballs.
Find a Sounding Board
I’ve said it before but I think the hardest thing about being a single Mum is that it all comes down to you.
Every decision, from what school to choose to what’s for dinner – it’s down to you. And the terror of getting it wrong – especially in the early days – is huge.
Decision overwhelm is a big problem for single parents, and my hearty advice is to find yourself a sounding board. Ideally two.
These are trusted, older friends or family members who don’t mind if you ring them twice a week to check in when you’re worrying about a choice, or parenting dilemma.
You’re Probably Going to Sleep with Someone Stupid
Almost EVERY single parent I know has made an impulsive decision to sleep with someone stupid after their marriage broke up.
So go for it. Just remember that anyone you sleep with in the first year after you split up from your partner is probably just a sticking plaster.
Don’t take it too seriously. Don’t move in with them. Don’t introduce them to your child.
On the off-chance you have met your soulmate, they’re still going to be around when all the dust has settled and you’ve regained your decision making abilities.
As a single Mum life is different. But there are plenty of upsides. And after the initial shock wears off, I promise, you’re going to do GREAT.