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Lone parents

Bringing a baby into your life changes your relationships with other people whether you’re part of a couple or alone with your child.

Some lone mothers feel that their own mothers are taking over, others resent the fact that their mothers won’t help them more.

However painful it may be, it’s best to try to be very clear about the kind of help you do want, rather than going along with what’s offered and then feeling resentful. Remember your mother is also having to get used to a completely new relationship with you and she won’t know what to do for the best – unless you tell her!

You may find that your old friends stop coming by or that they seem to expect you just to drop everything and go out for the evening. Try not to get angry with them. They don’t understand the changes you are going through. Keep in touch and keep some space for them in your life. Friends can be more valuable than money when the going gets tough.

You may be amazed and delighted at how much help you’ll get from relations and friends if you ask!

But the best support will probably come from other lone mothers.

  • Suggest a ‘swap’ arrangement with another parent so that you take it in turns to look after both the children, by day to begin with, and later overnight. The children will benefit too from having a close friend, especially if they’ve no brothers and sisters.
  • Suggest a regular evening babysit by a trusted relation or friend. You may well find that they’re delighted at the opportunity of making friends with your child.
  • Grandparents are often glad to have a baby overnight, even if they don’t much care for babysitting.

Making new friends

If you don’t already know people locally, try contacting other mothers through local groups.

  • Ask your health visitor what’s going on locally.
  • Gingerbread, a self-help organisation run by and for one-parent families has local groups around the country. Through these groups you can meet parents in similar situations to your own. And you can often help each other out as well as support each other generally.

Absent fathers

If you’d hoped to bring up your child as a couple you may be feeling very angry and hurt. One of the hardest things for a lone mother is to keep her hurt, angry feelings to herself and let her child make a different relationship with his or her father.

Unless your child’s father is violent to you or the child, or you feel he’s likely to abuse the child in some way, it’s almost certainly better for your child’s own development if he or she is able to see his or her father regularly, even if you remarry.

You may find that your child behaves badly at first when he or she gets home. Small children aren’t able to understand and explain how they’re feeling and this is the only way they have of letting you know that they’re confused. Unless you’re convinced that something bad is happening on access visits, the best thing is to be reassuring and calm. In the end your child will learn to look forward to visits and also to coming home.

Money and housing

Money may be a major headache. Look at Your rights and benefits to check you’re claiming all you’re entitled to.

The National Council for One Parent Families offers free advice packs to lone parents and will provide independent advice about maintenance problems to women on benefits.

If you need help with claiming maintenance contact the Child Support Agency enquiry line on:

0345 133133 (local call charge or 0345 139 896 in Northern Ireland). If you’re on benefits your case will be handled automatically. If you’re not on benefits, and want the agency to assess and collect maintenance on your behalf, there is a fee.

Lone parents - your feelings

You’ll almost certainly want (and need) to talk about your own feelings. Try to find another adult to talk to. Your children don’t need to hear the details of your feelings about their father and will feel confused and unhappy about loving someone who you clearly do not love.

We are indebted to Health Promotion England for their help in compiling this section.