We weren’t designed to do parenting alone and that is why being a single mum is the hardest thing you will ever do.
At 21, I was a single mother living on the pension, who had to go bankrupt. While I had family nearby, I never felt like I had that constant support network to rely on. Nevertheless, what didn’t kill me made me stronger and I was able to find a whole other village that wasn’t family. And that gave me confidence that the world is full of beautiful people.
If you feel lonely, lost, overwhelmed, overworked, hamstrung or about to break – you need some help from your village. If you don’t have a village, we need to find you one because you need to be okay for your kids to be okay. Think about that for a second. I live my life by a saying I picked up in all the years I travelled (oh those were the pre-covid days!).
“Fit your own mask first before you help others”. What?! A mum putting her first. Albeit a single mum! No way!! Trust me, if you make sure you are okay first, you will be a better mum and better everything.
A long time ago, finding a village was a lot easier because there were so many more village helpers, but COVID is making it challenging to find close ones. So, we now have to get creative to find our helpers and I have found the most unlikely people to be my biggest supporters. So here are my go-to tips.
Is it just me that found an entire new respect for my mum when I became a mum? I feel like I see her and want her more than ever. Not necessarily just a mum, but you might have a dad, siblings or extended family who are reliable, understanding and play an active role in your family, and live close.
But, your village helpers aren’t just family or in-laws – yes, they are amazing, and you must count your lucky stars when you do have that support from family but not everyone has family to rely on.
LOVE THY NEIGHBOUR
I am incredibly lucky to have lived next door to two wonderful women, who became like family to me. One I unfortunately don’t live close to anymore, but both women are still people I can call on and visa versa.
Karin has helped me with last-minute babysitting more times I can count! Fiona is not only my friend, but my children LOVE her, and she is always so supportive. Another person I couldn’t do life without is Sharon. She became part of our family when her sister was friends with my eldest sister. Sharon is my second mum and my children now know her as Ninny.
Delightfully unexpected surprise additions to my village were the wonderful schools and supportive sporting associations my children are a part of. The teachers and coaches have been such great confidants and helpers. I have felt so supported all these years and the teachers have understood my “out of the box” family dynamics. They have always offered to help where they can or pointed me in the right direction to find help. Not to mention, you have something instantly in common with parents of the other children in the class or team – so don’t shy away from starting a conversation.
Having an “established” routine and community group, like schools and sporting groups, can definitely make finding village support easier. But, what if you’re a new mum or a toddler mum who isn’t quite there yet? I say, park it! Visit your local park consistently and albeit you’ll find another mumma who is doing the same. You already know they likely live close by and have similar aged children. Leverage that; you’ll know quickly if they are someone you feel could be a part of your village. And, don’t be scared to ask for their number or arrange another time to meet. Sometimes finding your village feels a lot like mum dating (which I guess it is, in a way). But if you’re feeling the good vibes, it’s likely they are, too!
TINDER FOR MUMS
Speaking of mum dating… One of the newest ways to meet mums in your area is through, Peanut App. It is basically Tinder for mums. I met my now husband on Tinder, so I have a lot of faith in Apps. And now, I have also met lovely mums through Peanut. Peanut or other online forums, like Facebook groups, can be a great tool to use, especially during lockdowns when face-to-face meets are not allowed.
As a mother of three children and the cofounder of Nurch Childcare Loyalty Rewards program, I know my way around a centre and OSCH (outside of school care hours) or two, and good from bad. Your childcare should be nurturing and supportive, a likely and safe community to share the load. I once had a childcare worker ask if I cuddled my son. I was mortified that she alluded that my son was unsettled because I didn’t show enough love. I un-enrolled my son and we were much happier at the next centre where the staff supported my son and his learning needs. Your children’s childcare workers are saints in my eyes, and they have a relationship with your child. I have requested babysitting from my children’s carers many times. Just because they are paid, doesn’t mean they can’t be your helpers and confidants. Providing an income is helping them too so enjoy the nice exchange.
UBER FOR BABYSITTERS
Not all centres allow you to hire your childcare workers. But I am pleased to say I have found wonderful helpers online. Babysitting Apps, like Kiddo, make it easy to connect with close-living, prescreened sitters that have a valid Blue Card and a Police Check, checked references and ratings by other families – who are available when I need them.
Often when you need to hire a babysitter, it’s almost always an emergency and Kiddo has simplified the whole process. Unlike other babysitting websites where I post an advert and people apply, I choose the time I require and select the sitter available during that time. This makes finding a babysitter, last-minute, super easy.
As a new mum, I thought the mum’s group the hospital signs you up for was going to be lame. Like, “I didn’t need to go to them”. And it’s true, you don’t. But, it’s the best place to start. All of the parents there are in the exact same boat as you – tired, nervous, excited, smitten, scared, maybe even peeing their pants a little from a weak bladder. But, from 20 new mums in my group, I’m still friends with five of them, five years on.
Eventually mums, you do get to an easier age where they don’t need constant supervision, but it pays to have a supportive village. My now 14-year-old is very independent and prefers to take care of himself. He has his own phone, bank account and even orders his own takeaway or uber if he is home alone. But let me assure you, I still call on my village helpers as raising teens is beyond my pay grade and what teen listens to mum? Not many. So even if your children are closer to teen years than little children, still spend the time creating your little village as they make this whole parenting thing a lot easier and happier.