It was 10.30 pm one night about 3 months ago. I climbed into Aiden’s bed, wrapped him in my arms and I hugged him tight. Then, I lay there and cried.
I never feel alone anymore. It’s hard to ever feel alone when you’re never on your own long enough to pee or a shower without an audience. But this was the first time in a long time that I felt lonely.
I remembered this feeling well. I remembered how sad, painful and completely overwhelming it was.
When you become a parent, your entire world is turned upside down. You adapt to a whole new lifestyle. Once things settle down you can struggle to rebuild a social life because you forever have a mini me demanding your attention. When you’re a single parent, you can go days without interacting with another adult. Every night, every weekend. It’s just you. I can literally go a week or more where the only time I see or talk to anyone other than my son is when I drop him off and pick him up from nursery.
You can easily become isolated and that’s when the feelings of loneliness start to creep in. And it was starting to catch up on me.
I’d been in this place in the past. Before I became a mum. The loneliness I used to feel was like a relentless pain that was almost unbearable. I know it’s a place that you can get swallowed up in and it can be hard to get out of it. So, as I lay there crying, I promised myself that I’d allow myself to feel it but before it had a chance to take over me, I’d find ways to learn to cope and hopefully, in time, it would pass.
It’s been 3 months.
Here are my 6 ways to overcome single parent loneliness
1. Remember, you’re not alone
You might have times where you feel lonely, but during those times you need to remind yourself that you are not alone. Understanding (believing) that you’re not alone helps.
Raising a child as a single parent is tough and brings about a lot of challenges. Sometimes it’s hard not to dwell on the sadness or depression at doing it on your own and feeling isolated. Find other single mums to reach out to. Whether it’s mums in your area, online support groups or find a single mum blog (there’s a certain mysinglemummyself.com blog by a witty yet, charming single mum that’s pretty good, hint hint).
By finding people who understand it, who live it too, who feel all the same things you feel allows you to talk to others who can truly relate. It helps to talk to others who are going through the same experiences and emotions. You’ll realise that you’re the only one. It becomes a comfort and you can build a support system with similar people. You feel less lonely.
2. Reach Out and Lean on Your Support Network
There is no time you need to reach out to family and friends more than when you are a single parent. If they offer support, take it. I found it tempting to try and do it alone. Like I felt I had something to prove. But take the help. It doesn’t make you weak.
If they offer to come and see you or want make plans to do something together, accept the offers. Don’t shut yourself off from people who are reaching out. I shut myself off a lot as a way of dealing with things. But it can make things worse. Let them come around and tell them how you’re really feeling. An hour of talking it out with a friend will bring a huge sense of relief. Try to make plans with both mum friends for play dates and non-mum friends for coffee dates at least once or twice a week.
Don’t wait for friends – new or old – to come looking for you. Single parenting (parenting full stop) is hard and consuming. But everyone has their own issues to deal with. Their own busy, stressful lives. They might not get in touch because they’re having a tough time themselves. Reach out to friends you haven’t seen or heard from in a while. Lending an ear to someone else will help them and help you to take your mind off your own problems. Never underestimate how much good friends can lift each others spirits.
3. Stay Busy
Part of the reason I started this blog is because the loneliness was starting to creep in and it keeps me so busy that I don’t have time to think about it. Like I said earlier, join groups to keep you occupied through the day.
Find mum and baby groups or build a circle of mum friends to have play dates with to get you out of the house in the days. It can be terrifying introducing yourself to new people but the thing to remember is, if there’s anyone who understands your motherhood struggles, including how lonely it can get, it’s other mums. If one baby group doesn’t suit you, try another one.
If the whole mum and baby groups isn’t your thing, join a gym that has a crèche. This way the little one can socialise with other kids while mummy zones out and goes swimming, or runs on a treadmill or punches the heck out of an invisible person at body attack. The key is to try to find ways to surround yourself with people, make new friends and reconnect with those you lost touch with when mummyhood took over.
Set up a daily routine: wake up, breakfast, dressed, go out to a groups or play dates, lunch, housework….. all the way to bedtime. Do different activities together each day – go swimming, go to the park, long walks, soft play centres. Keep your days as busy as you have the energy for.
At nights, keep yourself occupied. If you have the energy then sort out the house. Invite a friend round. Take a long bath and pamper yourself. Get some munchies and watch a good movie. Before you know it, it’ll be bedtime.
4. Focus on the Positive
The loneliness you feel when you’re a single mum is completely different to what it ever would have been before you had kids. Because when you’re a mum, although you feel lonely, you’re never really alone when you have that tiny shadow following you or needing your attention. Focus on how amazing it is to have this little person around you, no matter how much that means you don’t get much free time.
It’s easy to become overwhelmed by all the responsibilities and demands of single parenthood. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the loneliness that comes from being a single parent but try to overcome these feelings by focusing on what is positive in your life – your kids being the first and foremost. Yes, they’re challenging work. But how much better is your life now they’re here? There is so much to look forward to, so many great times ahead waiting for you. Embrace it.
5. Put Your Energy into Your Kids
Throw yourself into being a mummy and trying to be the best mummy you can be. Hopefully, one day a new relationship will happen or you’ll learn to love being on your own. But until then, focus on the most important relationship. The one you have with your kids. The rest will follow.
Spend your days with your kids enjoying fun times, making memories they’ll have forever. Savour the time together, just the two of you, creating a bond like no other. You’re allowed to be happy with it being just the two of you (or however many of you there are). No one said you must have a partner to make your family a whole one.
6. Focus on you
It’s hard to get proper ‘me’ time when there’s no one else to share the parenting with. But make the most of having evenings to yourself. I use the time between Aiden going to bed and me going to bed to focus on myself. Sure, this would be an ideal time to have peace to do the housework, but sod it, the housework can wait.
Learn to take care of yourself and enjoy some ‘you’ time, time to shut off and relax. Sunday nights are pamper nights. I do the whole beauty thing – bath, scrub, mask, moisturise, nails. Things to make me feel good about myself. Write down a list of goals. What do you want for your future. What do you want the next 10 years to be like?
I know this feeling only too well. I know it comes and goes. Some days, mostly nights, are lonelier than others. If I need to take a day or two to feel it and cry about it then I will. But I’ll force myself to get back up and get back on with it.
If you are experiencing this feeling too, the only advice I have is to embrace it. Use the feelings you have to make you stronger. Change. Become the person you want to be. Enjoy being self-sufficient, independent. It’s bloody liberating! Learn how to do DIY – google and YouTube are your friends. Learn a new skill. Study something. Do anything that’s just for you as a person, not you as a mum. Look at this time as a chance to really get to know yourself without the influence of a partner or anyone else. Embrace being alone, as lonely as it might get sometimes.
Will I ever meet someone and end the cycle of loneliness that keeps coming back around? I honestly don’t know. All I know is you can’t ignore your sadness but you can’t let it drag you down either. Every so often let yourself have a good cry (and don’t let yourself feel guilty for it) but then brush it off and carry on pushing through remembering that nothing lasts forever, including how you feel. And you have a little person who adores you to keep fighting on for.
Who knows what my future holds, but I’ll be dammed if I’m not going to let it be a happy one.
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