Are you a single parent? Or maybe you are thinking of becoming one… Life as a single mum is very busy; there is no time to stop and deal with the issues we face. Does this sound like you? If you’d like to start addressing the struggles of being a single mom, check out the solutions below. It’s time to take a breather and let someone else help.
A single mother is a mother who parents on her own. Maybe you were in a relationship, then separated at some point after having a child. Or perhaps you decided to have a child by yourself, as a solo parent. There are so many different paths to which we can find ourselves in this position. Once in it though, we face stereotypes and discrimination in often very unexpected areas. problems single mothers face in society struggles of being a single mum
Statistics on amount of single mums and finances
Gingerbread (leading UK charity working with single parents) states that there are 1.8 million single parent families in the UK today. These account for 25% of families in total. Of these, 90% are headed by women. Considering we equate such a high percentage of families in total, it confounds me that there are stereotypes that still abound and can often serve to hold us back.
Single parent obstacles
What are your biggest struggles of being a single mom? Although being a single parent can be seen as more challenging, I want us to remember there are many joys to be had as well. Let’s take a look at potential obstacles that can trip us up on our solo journey then find the resolutions that are most definitely there. Your life will become much simpler and that cloud of anxiety, stress and feeling of not being able to do it will start to clear.
1. How do single moms survive financially?
It definitely can be tough, having one wage split between more than one person! One wage is essentially only meant for one. Not for also paying for the clothes, food, rent, etc of somebody else. So looking at your weekly or monthly pay and figuring out how to split it between you and your children is tough.
Single mums also often find themselves in lower paid jobs. Flexible work, e.g. term time only or part-time, pay less than the equivalent full time job. But these are often the jobs that mums take, whether from necessity or because of choice. A briefing paper from the House of Commons on ‘Women and the Economy’ (link below) 2021, shows that 9.61 million women were working full-time whilst 5.88 million were working part-time.
2. Self-Doubt (real struggles of being a single mom)
This is an area I have definitely struggled with over the years of being a single mum. Mainly because every decision has to be a solo one. Whether it is ‘can you afford it?’ to ‘do I take my child to the doctor or the hospital?’, it can be crippling, anxiety creating and a massive cause of self doubt. This doubt can mushroom into a huge, stagnating situation. At its best, you may not act on that one question you were considering. At worst, it may impact on all areas of your life and that of your child’s.
Work/life balance struggles of being single moms
A survey by the ONS (link below) said that men have an average of five hours more leisure time each week than women. To make us feel even more tired, women with children under the age of 15 take 14 hours less leisure time a week compared to women living on their own. These statistics add up to the fact that women with children do not have a good work life balance.
The fact that women make up the majority of the part-time work force already puts us at a disadvantage. Whatever your contracted hours are, part-time work usually expects full-time effort. Which does not work well with mothers who also have to deal with school pick up, chauffeur duties, household chores and more. I know many women who struggle with fitting everything in. Consequently, the work they do at home erodes into their leisure time causing stress and potential burnout. How are working mums able to find a work/life balance? Don’t worry, there are solutions below!
Living arrangements and custody can be a minefield of explosive issues. Definitely a top problem, part of the struggles of being a single mom and one that can be ongoing. As both parents now have different schedules and lifestyles, arranging custody can be difficult. Depending on how close both parents live to each other can mean extended travelling time transporting your child.
Custody can also cause emotional issues for both you and your child. It can be pretty traumatic having to hand your child over at certain times every week. Having to talk to them when they are unhappy with the situation and explain why it has to happen is expecting a lot of a child. It is a draining time for the both of you.
In the UK, child maintenance can either be managed privately or through the courts. The parent receiving maintenance is usually the mother for two reasons. One, she is normally the primary care-giver. Two, she is also often the lower wage earner due to also having to care for her child. Most parents try to arrange maintenance privately, which the courts recommend but in certain situations it can become necessary to go the legal route.
Maintenance can be a very stressful issue for single mums. Not knowing if it is going to come through regularly every month means you cannot factor this into a monthly budget. This really depends on your relationship with your ex partner. However, it is wise to view this money as a welcome extra, as it can take months to claim it back if gone through the legal route.
Loneliness as a single mum
This makes me feel a little sad just writing it! The level of loneliness as a single parent can depend on your situation. The part we often struggle with the most is not having physical support. Families do not always live near each other so cannot provide the physical support needed.
It is often grandparents that babysit and without them or other relatives near, single mums can struggle with childcare. This means we do not see friends as often as we used to. Sadly, in some situations, friends do not know how to deal with your new status and can drift away. At a time when you need more support, this can exacerbate the feeling of loneliness.
Not only is there the physical loneliness of not having a partner, seeing friends less and in general less adult company; the mental and emotional loneliness is also heightened. When we are going through a change in our situation, we often need to talk through our problems. To know that there is support there when our mood fluctuates due to the pressure of single parenting. Even to have a shoulder to cry on it if gets too much.
How to survive the life of a single mum?
How long have you been a single mum? Although it can be pretty challenging at the beginning when everything is new, it is also true that there are solutions to the above problems. So please don’t feel down about your future. Since I ‘got organised in my single mum life‘, every area of my life has improved. There are lots of positives to be had in being a single parent family but we will explore more on that topic later. For now, lets look at how to take control over the above list.
How to get your finances under control
Whatever your financial situation currently is, it can be improved. Taking control of our money is a big step towards independence as a single mum. Taking steps towards a healthy bank balance is a great step towards peace of mind.
- Take a deep breath and have a good look at your bank account
- Create a spreadsheet for monthly incomings and outgoings
- Open a savings account if you do not have one
- Once you know what is left over each month, use an app like Chip to automatically build savings
- Make an appointment with a financial advisor. It may seem optimistic at the moment but in order to plan for your future, you need to know your options.
- Stop spending until you are in control of your current account and savings.
- Lastly, make plans. One year, five year etc. With spreadsheets and timelines, our goals seem that much more achievable. Who needs a man when you can do it by yourself?
Letting go of self-doubt
Wouldn’t it be the most exhilarating feeling if we knew how to overcome our insecurity and low self-esteem? We would be free from any self-doubting and constantly questioning our own decisions and motives. Following these tips below will result in us moving on with our lives, mentally and emotionally.
All of these are achievable with work on our mindset. It doesn’t come overnight but you can start right away and see your confidence flourish.
- Change your language. Whether it is spoken to others or just your thoughts, your language needs to be positive. Talk and think about yourself in the affirmative, not negative.
- Make yourself daily affirmations and say them every morning. They will set a positive, can-do tone for your day ahead.
- Surround yourself with positive people. As single parent families are often seen as a negative thing, it is important that we fill our lives with positive people. Who recognise how we are changing our lives for the better.
- Don’t doubt past decisions. If you know some of your choices have been bad ones, there is no point in dwelling on them. Feel confident that you have learnt from any mistakes and know not to repeat them in the future.
- Lastly, use the above points to give yourself confidence with the future. With affirmative thinking, affirmations and positive friends our mindset will start to grow and our self-doubt will start to vanish.
How important is work life balance (to you?)
Really, the answer to this should be the same for everyone. The need for a work life balance is within us all. With single mums, we have many invisible threads pulling us in multiple directions. ‘Mum, where are my clothes?’, ‘When will dinner be ready?’. Our boss asking us to work overtime. It can feel never-ending.
There is always a point where we need to say ‘no more’. Whether it is work or home life, we have to say to ourselves that we need some personal time. Not just the once, for a temporary fix but as a long-term solution.
- Go through your calendar and list the main jobs you do each day and week
- See which can be delegated to others. Can your children help more with chores? Should you be sharing jobs with colleagues?
- Work out how much time you think you should be dedicating to work and home life chores each day.
- Set a fixed time to finish each day.
- After doing these, draw up a routine for yourself.
- After trying it for a couple of weeks, tweak it for any improvements.
- List what you would like to do in your leisure time and make sure at least a couple of these are factored into your week.
Making split custody work for both you and your child
Believe it or not, custody arrangements can work well for both you and your child. The important thing to remember here is that your child is the priority.
- How old is your child? As your child’s needs are paramount, it is imperative they are looked at first. It is important they have a good relationship with both parents but also important they feel like they have a primary home for a stable routine. As they get older, they can have more of a say in where they want to be during the week.
- Before deciding anything, look at your daily schedule. What rota would suit you?
- How far does your ex live from you and your child’s school? This should be an important part when deciding on custody.
- Make sure you look at your child’s current relationship with the other parent. If it is not a good one or the parent does not have the best reasons for wanting more custody, then fight for what you think is right for your child.
Custody arrangements can be a stressful time. It is best to get a routine in place that suits all of you as soon as possible. If you decide to do it informally, make sure it is in writing. This way, it is easy to refer to if there are any arguments.
Child maintenance calculator
When couples split up, money often becomes a destructive issue. As the primary care-giver you are going to be paying the most day to day costs out of your pocket for your child so you need to get it right. We want to give our child as many options as possible and a lot of these require money.
Both parent have a responsibility to pay for their child but it is not always seen this way and can cause a lot of stress. Hence why it is on this list! The CSA (child support agency) says it is always best to try to resolve this issue privately. They tend to only get involved when the parents cannot settle it amicably. In order to resolve it quickly and with as little stress as possible, I would recommend the following.
- Use the CSA calculator as a guide. Enter both of your incomes and details including how often your child stays at the other parents. It is an easy calculator to use and gives a rough idea. Bear in mind, this is the basic recommended amount the non-primary care giver should pay and only covers the essentials, e.g. rent/mortgage and food.
- Once you have this amount, look at your own financial situation. Write down your incomings and outgoings and work out how much your child costs a month. This extra amount should be shared between the two of you.
- Try not to rely on maintenance. Unfortunately, it is not a guarantee you will receive this money every month so to factor it into your monthly budget would be a mistake.
- If you and your ex cannot agree on maintenance, maybe try a mediation or counselling session. In this, you can both put across your point of view. The person with you is impartial and will help you understand the other persons viewpoint. This would hopefully be a peaceful way of rectifying the situation.
- As a last resort, you need to approach the CSA for help with making sure both parents are contributing financially for their child’s upbringing. To learn how maintenance is calculated, go to the Child Maintenance Service . They will set up the process legally for you. If, in the future, you do not receive some contributions you can go back to the CSA for them to contact your ex. However, this process can be stressful and ugly so it is always best to resolve it amicably between the two of you.
Don’t forget that any stress between the two parents is bound to show to your child. Money can be a difficult situation to get right between the two of you but if it is done as smoothly as possible, both you and your child will benefit; financially, emotionally and mentally.
Combatting loneliness in your struggles as a single mom
We have all experienced loneliness at some point in our lives. But sadly, it is almost a given that single mums will feel this more than others as part of their struggles of being a single mom. But don’t reach for the packet of biscuits and wail if you are reading this on your own. As an experienced single mum (five years and counting), I have been there and come out the other side singing and dancing.
- Accept the fact that at the beginning of your single parent journey, you are going to sometimes feel lonely. And upset. Then lonely again.
- Learn to love or at least like your own company. What activities do you enjoy doing by yourself? Can you add to this list?
- When planning your week ahead, look at the time you will be either by yourself or just with your child. Instead of panicking, plan. Family activities for both of you and solo ones for you.
- Learn to enjoy down-time by yourself. This is a time for you to relax, with no one telling you what to do. You can do whatever you want.
- Make sure you keep in regular contact with both family and friends. Friendship is a two way street and requires work to keep it healthy.
- Recognise times when you feel the most lonely and plan in advance. For example, if there are dates you would rather not be by yourself, like an anniversary then call a friend and plan a day out.
- Take care of yourself. Loneliness can be part of the road to poor mental health. Looking after yourself physically and paying attention to how you feel mentally is all part of good mental health.
Positives in being a single parent family
As a single parent, you are on a journey. The beginning is going to be rocky with some bumps along the way, but with perseverance, confidence in yourself and maturity you and your child will succeed in building a beautiful life together. Society sees a single parent family as a negative thing but you don’t need to. Your relationship with your child will grow closer. As you are challenged with your struggles of being a single mom, your confidence in your abilities will increase. With daily affirmations, organizing your finances and planning for your futures, both your lives can only get better.
Take note of this list above and see how it relates to your personal situation. Don’t feel demoralised, rather energised. Make a plan for your immediate and long term future and rejoice that you recognise what areas can be improved and that you have the tools to do so.
You are not just a single mum, you are a warrior!