Single mums: 8 coping strategies we all need


by Lorna White |
Updated on

Between 1996 and 2012 the number of single parent families in the UK increased by almost 600 thousand, proving that us single mums can handle everything motherhood throws at us successfully without the help of a partner.

What all single mums will tell you however, is there are some coping mechanisms and things to remember on those days where it does all feel a bit too much to handle by yourself.

So, take a deep breath and stick this to your bathroom mirror to make the most of your not-so-unique situation.

1. Use your support

Don’t be afraid to lean on friends and family – the likelihood is they’ll want to help out, especially if it means time with your kids. Also remember there are plenty of people in a similar situation to you who can give you advice or be a sounding board.

Think about different friends and look for online forums, blogs and Twitter accounts you can relate to. You could also join our #Mumtribe group on Facebookwhere mums share tips, advice and also their own worries and dilemmas. It's a great place to seek advice and also friendship with other, like-minded mums.

2. Believe in yourself

Whether you’re overwhelmed or panicking, nobody ever feels 100 per cent confident all the time. So, take a deep breath, count to 10, put on some music or phone a friend – whatever calms you down.

‘There are two million other single parents out there, so tell yourself – out loud if that helps – that you’re not alone and you can do this,’ says Rebekah Barry, part of the advice team at single parent charity Gingerbread.

3. Make time for you

Find something you love and make time for it – schedule it in your diary or let those dishes wait. Whether it’s swimming, watching Downton or seeing a friend, giving yourself headspace helps you feel refreshed when you’re frazzled.

Even think about something that’ll give you time to yourself and also boost your confidence – perhaps an Open University course, which you can do over time and increases your skillset.

4. Get organised

Not only are you responsible for your children, you're also having to make sure your house is running smoothly and all the admin is taken care of, and having all this on your shoulders can be daunting. ‘Ask other single parents what works for them, so you can develop your own system,’ says Rebekah.

Become the queen of to-do lists and consider where you can afford to ease the load. Can you spare £20 a week for a cleaner to free you up, for example? Even if it’s just in the kitchen and bathroom.

5. Don’t compare yourself

That other single mum at nursery might seem like she has it all together, but remember everyone tends to put a brave face on. ‘We all compare ourselves to other people from time to time,’ says Rebekah.

‘In fact, no one has it all worked out, so just concentrate on what you and your kids need and keep doing things your way.’

6. Keep relationship issues separate

Depending on the situation with your ex-partner, try and keep anger moments for when you’re not around the children. It’s tough for them to see, and chances are you don’t want them to have a negative view of their dad (even if you do).

‘When you're finding it hard to be reasonable, keep coming back to the thought "What is best for the children?"’ says Rebekah. ‘That’s not to say you’ll always agree on what that is, but it may help you work towards getting on the same page.’

Think about stepping out of the room for phone calls or rescheduling for when your toddler’s in bed.

7. Find your feel-good tricks

Put on lipstick or dig out that top you always feel good in – little touches, but good for a lift. There’s a school of thought known as colour psychology that suggests certain hues influence mood too, so raid your wardrobe for something bright green – it’s meant to refresh you – or pop on something in calming blue.

Ready to date again? Think about easing into it with a speed dating night or joining a dating site where a friend writes your profile. She can highlight all the qualities you wouldn’t shout about yourself.

8. Pat yourself on the back

Write down key achievements at the end of each week, from fun you’ve had with your child to something you checked off your to-do list.

‘You deserve to be happy – however bad you feel, don’t forget that you are loved and appreciated. If you need a reminder, look at your kids,’ says Rebekah. ‘Get a solid routine in place and just focus on one day at a time.’

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