Sometimes I write for other people. Here is an article I wrote for mumzine ‘Selfish Mother’ who are an amazing source of parenting wisdom. It is always fun to push the boundaries and write in different styles and all that jazz. I’ve had some lovely feedback from other single parents and hopefully will have the opportunity to write more on this topic real soon.
I’ve posted the article in full here too just in case the link doesn’t work in your browser.
Finally, if you are a Single Parent too, I would recommend checking out the Gingerbread website as they are super helpful and have lots of meetups and a forum etc…
How To Be A Badass Single Parent
I think it’s about time someone is honest about being a single parent- and by honest, I for once don’t mean all ‘doom and gloom’. Yes, single parenthood isn’t always easy and yes, some days you feel like you’re acting out a scene from ‘I, Daniel Blake’, but there is light at the end of the tunnel and with a few minor tweaks, you can reframe single parent life and make it a really rather awesome and rewarding experience. So, read on reader, because I’ve got 5 really simple sure-fire ways to help you nail this single parenting lark like an absolute badass:
1. Find your tribe
Let’s get the ‘controversial’ one out the way first. IMHO for you to flourish as a total Badass SP, you NEED other single parent friends; even it’s just the one. Of course, before you troll me, I’m not saying ditch your married friends, or even your single non-parent ones, but you’re gonna need to broaden your friendship base to include some SPF’s (Single Parent Friends, not Sun Protection Factor, although please get some of that too, as it’s roasting out there…) and I’ll tell you why- you are gonna need that commonality and someone who gets it and who gets you when you feel the need to moan about the CSA (or any of those other pesky acronyms that only us other single parents will really know/want to hear about).
More to the point, as much as you need single parent friends, so too do your little ones need friends with single parents. A SPF gives you that much needed context when it comes to those awkward questions such as, “why do all my other friends’ mummies and daddies live together?” and instantly helps normalize other parenting models, “well, Hayley’s parents don’t live together either and that’s ok, too”. After all, the goal in life is always to normalize as much as possible, right?
So how do you find these fabulous single parents to hang out with? Well, libraries, soft play centres, mother and baby groups, but if you can’t get out much, I recommend downloading one of the new ‘mum apps’ out there. I admit, I at first felt incredibly nervous and a bit of a loser when I started ‘internet mum dating’, but the apps- much like dating apps in fact- allow you to identify other single parents in your area (dads, as well as mums) with similar interests and kids of a similar age. Want to find a single mum with three kids under ten who works part-time and also likes hiking, fencing and eating hobnobs? No problem! Technology, eh?
Yes, it all sounds a bit calculated, but you know what, I had a total result on there. I made the most amazing friend who is an absolute ray of sunshine and she and her daughter are now a huge part of my life. We joke about how we would never have met if we hadn’t been single parents and it’s true. How lucky we are to have met each other (despite the circumstances)! We’re even planning our first holiday together with our little ones. And that’s the thing about single parenting, it forces you to make new friendships, to be brave and put yourself out there. Maybe you won’t have a family, at least, not in the way you pictured it, but at the very least, you may well find your tribe.
2. Get Thrifty
According to Single Parent Charity, Gingerbread, 47% of children in single parent families live in relative poverty, around twice the risk of relative poverty faced by children in couple families (24%), so you don’t need me to do the maths for you- being a single parent can be financially tough.
This, my friend, is why you need charity shops and baby sales (check out your local NCT for starters), but most importantly, this, my friend, is why you need Poundland.
A trip to Poundland is the ultimate high for you and your kid/s. Nowhere else can you walk into a shop all ‘Daddy Warbucks’, saying, ‘Choose whatever you want, darling!’ and actually mean it. It literally is the best feeling ever and is the ultimate way to make you feel like a badass. Trust me, it feels amazing when your toddler scoops up tonnes of toys, feeling like they’ve won the lottery and yet you can rest assured that you’ll come out of there having spent less than a tenner.
Better still, if you’re feeling really flush, give them a trolley each and let them play ‘Supermarket Sweep’. Hit the timer on your smart phone and see what they can only cram into a plastic bucket on wheels in 30 seconds. Who needs to know everything in there was only a pound? Certainly not your darling kiddiewinks because If they’re little, they will yet to be learn the basic principles of economics so it’s win-win all round.
3. Choose a Celebrity Single Parent spirit animal
Does what it says on the tin. I chose Angelina Jolie (The Queen Of Single Parent Badasses) for my International one and Claire Sweeney for my UK one, after I saw her nailing it Badass SP style at Butlins last year, unfrazzled and unphased by her toddler to the point she was wearing white jeans and looking like a real life supermodel. White jeans plus toddler is definitely one of my life goals…
4. Contrast, Don’t Compare!
Guess what, you are not like everybody else. You are in the minority now, with only two million of us fabulous single parents in the country. Maybe you were already a minority in other ways before you took on single parent life so you’ve already experienced other people’s judgment, but either way, I say, embrace who you are and be the difference. What is the point of comparing yourself to anyone else anyway? And yes, I know its bloody hard when you see a picture-perfect family with none of the pieces missing, laughing and seemingly having a wonderful time, but that’s just the filter you’re looking through and no-one knows what goes on behind closed doors. I speak from experience.
Let’s be honest, at parents’ evenings, weddings, dinner parties, anything which requires you to have an ‘other half’ you’re gonna stick out like a sore thumb, so you might as well have fun with it- stick on a tie dye kaftan, sport a mohawk and a gold bumbag if you wish and make yourself small for no-one.
5. Creative Childcare
And finally, one of the most difficult issues a single parent faces is freedom- freedom to have a social life or even just to pop to Tesco’s or read a book (hell, even a magazine would be nice). With no other half to share the load, it can be both expensive and time-consuming when it comes to childcare options. The prospect of a social life can feel like a luxury, a solitary night out requiring its own spreadsheet, Project Manager and budget code and subsequently, it can just be a darn sight easier to give up, give in and save yourself the money/headache. The pressure to have a good time if you do manage to make it out the door and sort out a babysitter is just overwhelming at the best of times (remember when you used to go to raves, actual raves?…).
What I find I need most is the odd hour here or there to get articles written or to go to the tip (#livingmybestlife)- little chunks of time to stop me from falling behind.
Well, the trick is to get creative. Childcare really doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Ikea has its own creche where you can drop your kids off for FREE for a whole HOUR. That’s 60 minutes to shop, nod off, or sit there refreshing the Daily Mail gossip page - whatever floats your boat. Another idea is the gym- most gyms have a creche these days. Now I know the point is to use that precious time to exercise, but for the Badass Single Parent, we know that gyms aren’t about running machines, rather they’re all about coffee machines. And cake. And wifi. Let your gym be your own personal office for an hour of life admin- catching up on emails, cat videos, etc…
And on that note, if you actually ARE interested in going out and doing some exercise (but feeling like it’s too much of a childcare ‘mission impossible’), might I suggest staying in? And by that I mean, stick on YouTube- you’d be surprised how many full session workouts are on there- HIT, yoga, pilates etc- I often stick on a nice free Zumba class and sweat and grunt my way through it with my little one doing her own version in the background. After all, we can’t all be celebs with a roster of personal trainers – sometimes, you just have to do what you can. And you can!
So, stay calm and carry on, wherever you find yourself on your single parenting journey right now, because I promise you, you’ve GOT this! Maybe you don’t have anyone else to do the ole good cop/bad cop routine with, but guess what, you get to be both cops now and there’s nothing more badass than that!