Being a single mother is one of the most demanding jobs in the world, and the challenges that come with it can be overwhelming.
As a single mother, I know firsthand the difficulties of this role. Separating from my child’s father in 2019 was one of the most challenging things I’ve ever had to do. Yet, how little support I have received since has baffled me. I often have conversations with single mum friends, clients, and colleagues about the lack of support that single mothers receive, not just from their ex-partners but from family and friends too. It’s so perplexing to understand. Why don’t more people offer support?
As a single mother, I face a constant stream of responsibilities. Balancing finances and providing for my child on a single income can be tough, not to mention taking care of household chores, lawns, gardening, remembering to put the bins out, and household maintenance, which often requires external help.
When my child gets sick, it can be particularly challenging; not only do we hold space for them emotionally, but there may be additional medical bills to pay and extra care needed with no one to help, which, as a counsellor, often requires rescheduling a full day of clients. On top of all that, there are endless extracurricular activities and playdates to manage, including regular fortnightly two x two-hour round trips to Melbourne for drop-offs and pickups for my only respite time away from my son. And to top it all off, I work full time in practice. It’s safe to say it’s a lot at times.
Being a single parent is like trying to juggle the work of two people, which often feels like the job of five. On top of running a household and supporting my child, I also have to prioritise my emotional well-being, which hasn’t been easy. My heart took a beating, and my mind, body, and soul suffered. Adjusting to this new way of life has been a massive transition, and the stress has left me feeling exhausted and overwhelmed. Unfortunately, I’ve recently been dealt a blow with a hat trick of health issues—PCOS, endometriosis, and adenomyosis. But no matter what life threw my way, I refused to give up. I was determined to push through and be the best mother and person I could be, no matter how challenging the journey was.
As a single mother, I’ve not only had to support my emotional and well-being needs but also been a pillar of strength for my son who has struggled since our separation. It’s been a heart-wrenching emotional roller coaster for both of us, not the breakup itself as such, but the events and behaviours that arose post-separation. Helping children navigate the complexities of separation is incredibly tough; it’s a challenge for us adults to comprehend, let alone for young children to understand. And for my son, the back-and-forth transitions have been tough. It can feel like going from Pluto to Mars, leaving him needing time and space to self-regulate. During these transitions, his emotions run high and need to be released. This often causes him to act out or become more sensitive.
Being there for my son and providing him with a safe space to express himself is the most important thing to me and has been my only priority for the last few years. I needed to approach his emotional release with compassion and love as we navigated that challenging time together. As his mother, I listen to him attentively and empathetically. I knew that behind his behaviour, often resulting in physical releases, some emotions needed to be understood and validated. It wasn’t the ice cream, toy, or something someone said that triggered an emotional release or a tantrum; it’s the emotion behind the behaviour—often sadness, disappointment, frustration, anger.
My child often became emotionally overwhelmed on our many trips from Melbourne to the Surf Coast. It was tough for both of us, but I knew I had to find a way to help him express his feelings in a healthy way. That’s when I had an idea: I created a hand puppet named “Snakey.” With his silly voice and loving personality, Snakey became a constant companion on our drives home. He made my son laugh and reminded him that he is loved and supported, no matter what he’s feeling. Snakey would offer hugs and comfort, giving my son a safe space to express his emotions. Having this little puppet friend made all the difference in those moments when my child needed a bit of extra love and care. Transitions are tough.
Helping my son learn to self-regulate was crucial for his emotional well-being. We tried different strategies, but one of the most effective was using music and spending time in nature, especially at the beach. However, it wasn’t always easy. Sometimes, my son would resist leaving his dad’s energy and returning to mine. But we persisted, and after a few hours of walking, playing, and grounding ourselves in the sand and sea something magical would happen. My son’s mood would shift, his body and mind relaxing as he soaked up the healing properties of nature. He would return to me with open arms, ready to connect and share his feelings. It was as if the waves and the wind had cleansed his spirit and opened his heart.
Separation not only affected my son, but it also took a toll on my self-esteem. Rebuilding my confidence and self-worth was no easy feat. I struggled with a range of emotions, from empowerment to depression, anger to sadness, and frustration to fear. I also experienced shock, guilt, regret, shame, and grief. I needed to acknowledge and allow myself to feel these emotions. To help me cope with the pain, I purchased a ring that read “I am enough” and placed post-it notes around my home to remind myself of my strength and worth. While the journey has been challenging, I have also experienced many joyful feelings of relief, hopefulness, and excitement about our future.
Becoming a single parent has been a blessing. It has given me a profound sense of empowerment. I often feel like a Wonder Woman, managing everything independently and not relying on anyone else. This experience has taught me to be self-sufficient, independent, and an expert in multitasking. While the term “single mother” can sometimes imply a victim mentality, warranted more often than not, I prefer to see myself as a mum, a warrior.
Solo mums are powerful women who face life’s challenges with grace and determination, and their love for their children is unrivalled. Although motherhood has unique difficulties, it also creates remarkable strength and resilience. I have learnt lessons and had profound personal growth. I have since founded my own Family and Child Counselling and Art/Play Therapy practice, Happy Souls Kids, to support other families with the challenges of big feelings and supporting those with separation or divorce.
Being a single parent is a challenging journey that can only be fully understood by those who have lived it. If you know a single mother or father, showing practical support, lending a listening ear, or even offering a hug can make a huge difference in their day. Simple acts of kindness like asking how they are. Preparing a meal or offering to babysit can make their life easier. While single mothers take pride in their independence, they may not ask for help but still appreciate love, support, and any small gesture of kindness.
To all the single parents out there, I see you and know how hard you’re working. You’re doing a fantastic job; your strength and resilience are inspiring. Don’t be afraid to ask for help; remember to care for yourself. Filling up your cup and nourishing yourself is so vital; it supports you to be a better mum to your babies. It’s okay to put yourself first.
Solo mums (and dads) are heroes, and their love for their children is awe-inspiring. Let’s take a moment to celebrate single parents’ remarkable tenacity, strength, and resilience. Let’s uplift and support each other with love, kindness, and compassion.