Many of us have a partner-in-crime to help us along the perilous parenting path. Even when things aren’t going well, it’s good to know there’s someone who’s got your back. The single mum doesn’t have that luxury.
Whether it’s down to death, divorce or deliberate decision, being a single mother brings its own set of unique circumstances. Life can be tough. Here are a few things single mums want you to know.
1The details don’t matter
Any mum could find herself single. Her partner could be hit by a bus or run away with someone else. She might have chosen to go parenthood alone in the first place.
The point is, it’s none of your business. If she wants you to know, she’ll tell you. Don’t assume either that every single mother is bitter about their circumstances. Even though it’s hard sometimes, for many it’s preferable to being in an unhappy relationship.
2Being a single mum can be isolating
Sadly, society can be very judgmental about single mothers. People make assumptions. She doesn’t fit in with married mums, but she’s not part of the single and childfree group either. That doesn’t mean you should exclude her.
Organise playdates between your kids and hers. Invite her to barbecues and parties and nights out. It doesn’t matter whether there’s a partner in the frame or not. Treat her like any other mum you meet, rather than pausing or showing surprise when you find out she’s single.
And remember that while she might have to turn you down if it’s short notice or she can’t find a babysitter, she’ll still appreciate being asked in the first place.
3She’s not trying to steal your husband
There’s a stereotype of the single mum as a desperate predator, in search of a man to provide for her and her child. Mostly, nothing could be further from the truth.
Single mums are a picky lot when it comes to dating – after all, they’ve got their children’s wellbeing to consider. A single mother doesn’t want someone too demanding because her first priority is her kids. She doesn’t want someone who won’t accept and love her kids unconditionally.
What’s more, she knows she can manage on her own, thanks. So she can afford to be choosy. Remember that the next time you think about not inviting her round for dinner – or setting her up on a date.
4She’s not ‘lucky’ to get a break
Some single mums co-parent with their ex-partner. It probably means she gets a night or weekend to herself now and again. Longer, if the kids go on holiday with their dad.
Don’t tell her this occasional child-free break makes her lucky. It doesn’t matter how crazy they’ve driven her lately, she misses her kids when they’re not there. She’ll worry about what they’re doing, whether they’re ok. She’ll miss tucking them in at night and seeing them in the morning.
Yes, she probably does make the most of time to herself. A night out with the girls, a spa treatment, or an early night with a takeaway and a glass of wine are to be relished. It doesn’t stop her from thinking about her kids or wishing they were there.
5It means a lot to be told you’re doing a good job
Every parent questions their abilities at some point. But the single mum doesn’t have anyone to tell her she’s doing ok. If someone praises her child for good manners or kindness, it’s reassuring. It means she’s bringing up her kid with the right attitudes and values, so don’t be afraid to let her know.
6Their love is unconditional
If a relationship ended because of a divorce or a partner’s death, it’s easy for people to assume a child is a painful reminder.
Yes, of course a child is a living memento of what once was. That doesn’t make it hard to have them around or care for them.
No matter what the circumstances, the single mum will love her kids as much – or more – as she always has. That won’t change.
7Being a single mum makes you a better person
Single mums have to rely on themselves. They’ve learned to be independent and totally selfless. After all, the kids come first. If you feel like staying in bed when you wake up in the morning, you can’t. There’s nobody else to make breakfast or see them off to school. Single mums are resilient, capable and strong – they have to be.