The best thing I did when I became a single mum was meet other single mums. Having a young baby, I found I couldn’t relate to other mothers as much. We had different challenges. All my friends either didn’t have children, or were partnered up. I did have one friend who was a single mum, but her children were in primary school and she had completed the baby phase a long time ago. So I sought out meeting other single mums with children around the same age as my daughter, but I had no idea where to find them.
I decided to start an online single mums group in my area (which happens to be the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney), and hoped that I would gain some members with babies. When I started the group (in early 2014) I had two members: me, and my one single mum friend. However after the first week, I had 30 members, and now, after 2 years I have over 200 members in the local single mums group. That’s over 200 single mums that live near me. We are everywhere! Some people find this strange, but starting that group completely changed my life. I felt a belonging and connection to women that I have never felt before, and made some fabulous friends. Some of these mums are now some of my closest friends. It made me a much happier person.
Here are nine reasons why I love my tribe of single mum friends, and why as a single mum you should find your tribe of single mums.
- Free babysitting swaps. Generally, single mums are pushed financially and can’t afford a babysitter whenever they want. If they’ve got family around, great! But some single mums don’t, and some that do have families around cannot use them as babysitters for various reasons. Several of my single mum friends and I have swapped babysitting services. It’s fantastic, and can be a life saver.
- Advice. This may be the most important point. When you first become a single mum you really do feel like you have entered this abyss of the unknown. Having people around you who have actually gone through what you are going through, and have navigated the world of Centrelink, child support, custody arrangements, and worst case scenario, going to court, is incredibly useful. Then there is Tinder. For many people, dating is something they haven’t done in years, perhaps even before online dating was around. Dating when you have children is a whole new territory. You need to speak with your tribe about this.
- Having a whinge with people who “get it”. No matter how much you talk to your family or best friends, no one will really understand what you are going through except for a fellow single mum. Not only have you possibly broken up with your partner, but you are suddenly alone and with children. It’s an extremely emotional and turbulent time for everyone involved, and there is potentially a lot of conflict and toxicity present. Sometimes you just want to have a whinge with someone who is going through the same thing.
- Holidays! Going on a holiday with childless friends, or friends that have children and are in a relationship, is often not much of a holiday. Either they don’t have to worry about a thing and can simply lie back and drink cocktails, or they have a two person team to share the load. Meanwhile you’re trying to deal with a toddler who is losing her s*** because you forgot to pack her Frozen bowl and now she can’t eat Cheerios. Going on holidays with your kids and other single mums, and their kids is simply the best! Firstly, you actually get a break. I have been on a long weekend away with two single mum friends and all our children, and all we did for three days straight was rotate the napping schedule. That’s the napping schedule for the adults, not the kids. We literally just took turns sleeping whilst the other two looked after the kids. Clearly we were exhausted. Secondly, you have more than one person there to share the load. This is a foreign concept for single mums. You don’t have to do everything by yourself. So one person can do baths, whilst the other cooks dinner and has a glass of wine, and one person does the books before bed whilst another mum cleans up. I imagine this is what happens in relationships. Right?
- Emergency back up. Since starting my online local single mums group in 2014, I have been blown away by the practical help that single mums offer to each other. Some mums in the group have gone through weeks where they have struggled to financially support their children and they are too embarrassed to ask their family or other friends for help. Yet other single mums, who are likely struggling financially themselves, have delivered food or nappies to help someone, often someone they have previously never actually met face to face. There have been instances where mums have had an emergency and had to go to hospital, or needed emergency child care, and it is always fellow single mums that have come to the rescue.
- Weekend activities. If you are a single mum, often your other friends with children have “family time” on weekends, and are therefore unavailable for socialising and playdates. Becoming friends with other single mums will ensure that you will never be lonely on weekends again. There is always someone up for a playdate, or a glass of wine on child free weekends.
- Special occasions. If you are a single mum with no family around, certain special occasions can be really difficult. You may feel that you are not making Easter or Christmas a special enough occasion for the kids. If you have other single mum friends in the same situation, you can collaborate and organise a really special day for all the kids, and yourselves. This Mother’s Day, for example, I organised a big lunch within my local single mums group. There were 20 mums and 20 kids there. It was such a fun day, and for me, the first Mother’s Day that didn’t feel the same as every other day.
- House sharing. Let’s face it, the cost of living is becoming more and more expensive. For many single mums, renting a place to live on a single income (or no income) is virtually impossible. In Sydney, where I live, you cannot rent a decent two bedroom apartment for under $550-$600 a week. If you join forces with another single mum, you can get a bigger place and both end up paying less rent. You also have the added bonus of adult company, having someone else around to share the duties and another adult in the house in case of an emergency.
- It’s good for your child. There is no “normal” family unit these days. My daughter has friends whose mums and dads are together, separated, and divorced. She has friends with two mums, and friends with one mum and no dad on the scene. Anything is “normal” which is great, however it is still more common for children to have a mum and dad who are together; particularly when children are young. I love the fact that my daughter spends time with all her friends and sees all sorts of “normal”. And when she is around other kids that have a family unit like hers, it normalises her situation for her. My daughter doesn’t know any different. Her father lives in another city, and she doesn’t bat an eyelid when she asks why we can’t see her friend (let’s call her Jane) on a certain weekend, and I respond that Jane is with her dad that weekend. She knows that her dad lives in Perth, another friend’s dad lives in Canberra, and Jane’s dad lives in Bronte (only a couple of suburbs away). It makes me happy though that she knows her family unit is “normal” too. Maybe not “traditional”, but “normal” nonetheless.
So if you are a single mum, I encourage you to venture out and meet some other single mums. A good starting point is looking for single mum Facebook groups in you area. If you are stuck and cannot find anything, why not start up your own group? I promise you, finding your single mum tribe will change your life for the better.