Thirty-something, city-dwelling, single mother to a lively toddler, Ellamental Mama blogs on 12 reasons you should give single parent groups a try.
You might not know it, but there are lots of groups and holiday companies out there just for single parents. Some single parents I’ve met are so on it they have joined up before the baby is out of the womb. For me, it took a while before I had the energy and confidence to join any but they really are genuinely fab. Here’s twelve of the best things about them.
1. You can share your story.
The first time I went on a single parent holiday, I was surprised when people asked ‘what’s your story?’ It was a shock to suddenly be surrounded by people who automatically thought I’d been through something; something I would want to share. It was a far cry from the baby groups where I had kept my head down trying to avoid having to let out my sordid little secret and nodded politely as people talked about their partners. I couldn’t quite bring myself to say I was doing it alone (partly for fear of how the questioning would go and partly for fear of crying). I didn’t need to worry about what people would ask though, if I did ever mention that I was a single parent the news was generally greeted with an uncomfortable silence as the other person shifted in their place and quickly changed subject.
2. You don’t get judged.
These women (and occasional men*) have been through stuff. They know that life takes unusual and unplanned for twists and turns so whatever their story they don’t judge, even if they can’t relate. If they ever had been the judging type, single parenting removed the ‘would you ever’ attitude so many people seem to have. Single parents talk freely about IVF, drug addiction, death, abuse and everything in between. It’s a refreshing change and it feels so good to be able to talk within a safe environment where people understand the kinds of questions to ask and understand the unspoken pain and struggles each story can contain.
3. You meet some bad ass women*.
I think all women are strong and all mums are great. The women you meet at these groups are the crème de la crème. Whatever their story – filled with drama or not – they’ve been strong through the hard times and risen again, and again, and again.
4. They suggest cheap meet ups.
It’s great to be surrounded by people who are also generally managing on one salary. It means no-one suggests expensive activities and if you do end up in a café and bring along your own pre-packed sandwiches no-one bats an eyelid.
5. They get it.
They get it’s exhausting, emotionally as well as physically. They understand the loneliness and the relentlessness. They know first-hand that desire to share stories and experiences. Crucially,they also know all the best bits of being a single mum too. It was only once I was surrounded by people who did get it, that I realised how reassuring and simple this made things.
6. You can find someone willing to go speed dating with you.
If you become a single mum when all your friends are planning weddings then it can be hard to get back on the dating scene no matter how desperate keen you are, single parent groups are perfect for finding a wing woman, or two.
7. It’s an instant group of friends for your little one.
If you (like me) are worried your little one’s missing out on siblings then these groups have kids a plenty.
8. They’re always up for socialising on the weekend.
Unlike coupled up friends who are rarely free at the weekend because of family time and couple commitments, single parent groups often organise weekend meet ups for this exact reason. My weekends have gone from being genuinely lonely to almost, dare I say it, action packed.
9. They’re a diverse and interesting bunch.
Contrary to mainstream media images and popular opinion, single mums are not a certain type of person. They are as diverse as any group of mums. Our stories are not the same. Yes, we may find ourselves in similar current circumstances, but not one of us took the same path to arrive here and we are all dealing with it differently.
10. They’re a proactive bunch.
These single parents do things. Life may not have worked out quite how they had once imagined. Life might not have given them a soul mate to share it with, but that is not stopping them live it. These single parents are meeting up with strangers to create new friendships. These mums and dads are going solo travelling with little ones, no matter how challenging that is. These people are rising again, and again no matter the hardships they face and that’s quite a bunch of people to have the pleasure to know.
11. They normalise your situation.
One in four families are headed by a single parent, but if you don’t know many in your current circles it can make you feel like a failure or odd one out for having a relationship breakdown or deciding to go it alone down this parenting path. When you’re amongst people in a similar situation you are suddenly no longer an outcast or a failure. Far from it. Just spending time around such women gives me the strength to consider doing it all again (the parenting thing) and realising that it really doesn’t matter what different circumstances my children come to me under, the fact that I love them is the most important thing. This can give you the confidence to keep going the way you are, or even give you that added strength to know that however you decide to expand your little family will always be the right way for you and yours.
12. Single mums are giving me the power not to believe that I will find someone else.
Yes, I would love to meet someone else, and no that isn’t a typo. Many friends try to reassure me that I will meet someone. I know they are trying to lift my spirits and I wish so dearly that they are correct, only time will tell. But that is not what single parents are telling me. They are letting me see that contentment as a single mum is about accepting the hand you have been dealt, not hankering after some ideal and they are reassuring me that this very acceptance will come. At single parent meet ups, these other parents aren’t only encouraging me to see that being single is OK, they are pushing me to see the benefits of being a single mum. Sure, it might not have been in the original life plan, but neither were a lot of other amazing things I’ve experienced. I can’t say I’ve quite reached the acceptance yet, the road has been bumpy and certainly not direct, but with other single parents showing me the path and calling me on from in front, it’s a whole lot easier, and dare I say it – more enjoyable too.
*I’ve yet to meet any single dads at the meet up groups, but it is more common to meet single dads on single parenting holidays.
Gingerbread is a fab resource for single parents and have groups up and down the UK. There are lots of single parent holiday companies depending on what kind of thing you want… camping in the woods or flying to the tropics – you can find more info on Gingerbread’s forum.
You can read more blogs about the serious stuff and the silliness at Ellamental Mama’s blog.