In a world where parenting is definitely a job for a village, being a single parent can be challenging. After all, there is only so much time in the day. And there are only so many things you can do at the same time!
Whether you’ve worked it out for yourself, or you’re still soldiering on alone, at some point you will come to the realisation that you need help.
One of the most important things you can do for yourself and your children, is to build a sturdy, reliable support system. They are more than just a back-up plan if you are delayed coming home from work. They provide peace-of-mind, security and companionship.
But how do we build a support system that works now, and into the future?
ACCEPT THAT YOU NEED SUPPORT
The first step towards reaching out for support is accepting that you need it. And there is absolutely no shame in it. Everyone needs help at some point. By building a support system, you know it will be there when you need it.
KNOW WHAT SUPPORT YOU NEED
We all have our strengths and weaknesses, and we all have different families and lifestyles. For this reason, the support you need will be unique to your situation.
Here are some different reasons why you might need support:
- Your work dictates that you may be home late and are unable to do the school run, extra-curricular activities or make dinner
- Your work includes weekend shifts and .. help .. what to do with the children
- You have several children with different commitments and you can’t be in more than one place at once
- You have an illness which restricts what you can and can’t do
- You simply want a child-free night out every now and then
- You want a friend to chat to and share experiences with
Understanding ‘what’ you need in terms of support, will allow you to build a support system that fits the needs and requirements of your family.
STRENTHEN THE TIES THAT WORK
One of the easiest ways to create a healthy support system, and something that many single parents find themselves doing naturally, is to strengthen ties they already have.
If you have close friends and family members who are ready and willing to help you, use them!
The people who love you will be more upset watching you struggle alone than if you ask for help. Knowing they are making your life easier makes them feel good. So, turn sporadic support into more structured support, which eventually will be your support system. Do this by giving people set tasks or ask them to be on standby at certain times.
UNDERSTAND SUPPORT SYSTEMS ARE A TWO-WAY STREET
All this talk about people helping you, but for your support system to be a success long-term, favours need to be repaid.
Make sure you offer your support to those that help you.
Perhaps a parent at school takes your kids every Monday evening and feeds them so that you can work late, offer to take her kids another evening. Or, if Miss 3 is unwell and a friend jumps in and takes Mr 8 to his soccer match, offer your support if she gets stuck anytime.
If, for any reason, you are unable to help in a practical sense, show your appreciation in other ways. Bake them some cookies, pop a bottle of wine on their doorstep or just send a text letting them know how much their support means to you.
DON’T OVER COMMIT
Following nicely on from our last point, yes, it is super important to offer your fair share of support, but be careful not to over commit.
The last thing you want is to realise you are even busier than before because you have offered too much support! And, if you commit and then can’t follow-through, ultimately letting people down, you are not being a great support friend.
Just be careful and think things through before committing. And remember, it’s OK to say ‘no’. If you feel bad, offer to do something else that you know will work, or get baking those afore-mentioned cookies.
REACH OUT FOR THE SUPPORT YOU NEED
Don’t be that person who claims they have no support. Instead, get proactive and reach out for it. Whether it’s family, school parents, old friends, just ASK.
If you’ve exhausted all your local options, get online. There are some great single parent support pages out there. Sometimes chatting to other single parents who get you, is all the support you need. Plus, you’ll get great support ideas from people who have been there, done that and got the tshirt.
Lots of online friendships turn into ‘real-life’ friendships, so make sure you join online groups that are local to your area to allow for a natural transition.
JOIN ALREADY ESTABLISHED GROUPS
Get the word out in the school playground, on the side of the netball court or wherever you may be. Tell people you are looking for a support group.
You might be lucky enough to tap into an established one.
Finding a group of parents who you get on with and have children similar ages yours, is life-changing. Not only will you have great friendships, but you will have a team of people who have your back.
Volunteering might be the last thing on your mind as a single parent, however it has its benefits. Put your hand up for tuck shop duty or reading support at your child’s school. You’ll be welcomed into the inner-fold where there are lots of other amazing parents in the same boat as you.
VISIT YOUR GP
Your GP is part of your support group btw, so if you are struggling to get the support you need, book an appointment.
Lack of support can cause stress, which can lead to physical and emotional issues. A GP would rather put preventative measures in place now, than see you in six-months when you have driven yourself into the ground.
Plus, they have a host of resources at their finger-tips, including local groups and professionals. It is these people that create firm foundations for your support system.