How to Cope with Loneliness as a Single Mom
There is no shame in being a single parent. Quite the opposite.
Single-parenting takes dedication, hard work, and lots of love. And while our children provide company being a solo parent can still feel lonely sometimes. Feelings of loneliness arise when we don’t have peers, friends, or a significant other to spend time with when we need a break from parenting.
Single-parenting also means you have little time for yourself, so your mental health often suffers. The majority of single parents are single mothers. But many single dads struggle with the lows and challenges of parenting too.
Related: 9 Dating Tips for Single Parents
This article takes a look at the biggest struggles single parents face. Then, we’ll discuss why feelings of loneliness arise and how to deal with loneliness, tips to make friends, and even start dating if you desire.
What Do Single Parents Struggle with Most?
Single parenting comes with a lot of self-doubts. Without a co-parent to share the burden of work and ideas, single parents often feel like they’re somehow failing their child.
Without a partner present, no one can observe your parenting, offer advice or provide feedback. And if your child is facing a particular behavioral or developmental challenge, you may begin to think you did something wrong.
If you’re a single parent, especially if you’re not receiving child support, anxiety over money is often a significant concern. Parents of young children need to find reliable childcare and babysitters so they can work full-time.
The COVID-19 pandemic made finding affordable, quality childcare an even bigger challenge. There’s also the cost of housing, food, clothing, and medical bills single parents must cover on their own.
Making Decisions Alone
Single parents are faced with making decisions, big and small, alone. Of course, they can always speak with family members and friends, but ultimately any decision they make concerning their child is theirs.
Lack of Self Care
One of the biggest challenges single parents face is a lack of self-care. Insufficient self-care may come from a lack of time or time for a social life or other fun, relaxing activities.
When a person is battling loneliness, a lack of self-care can intensify feelings of loneliness for single moms and dads.
Why Do Single Moms and Single Dads Feel Lonely
Single moms and dads feel lonely due to a lack of interaction with other adults. Spending time with our children is fulfilling in many ways, but it is not the same as meaningful relationships with other adults.
Single parents who work from home, especially during the lockdown, struggled with a sense of belonging to an adult community. Humans are naturally social creatures, so it is normal to feel lonely when cut off from social interactions.
Even parents who live with a spouse or who co-parent have lonely moments. A 2021 global index across 16 countries indicated that a third of all new parents feel lonely.
Single parents are also inundated with images and social media posts, where many people only show a glimpse of their reality, usually the happy parts. Therefore it is easy to get bogged down by everyone else’s seemingly perfect children and lives.
How to Deal with Loneliness as a Single Parent
Join a Support Group
Support groups are an excellent way for single parents to chat with other parents, make new friends, and bounce ideas off other people.
You can find a support group or closed Facebook page online to join. Sometimes joining a Facebook page makes it easier for people to share their struggles and worries because they don’t know people on there that well. Plus, you can post anonymously if desired.
Engage in Self-Care
Self-care is essential. I am going to repeat this, self-care is essential. Parents, moms especially, tend to put everyone else first and neglect themselves. But you can’t put out the fire while you’re still burning.
Self-care isn’t selfish. It is ok to say no to a game of Candy Land once in a while; children need to learn independence and that you have needs too.
It is ok to hire a babysitter for a couple of hours to hang out with your best friend. Your child doesn’t need to be with you all the time. You’re allowed to be an adult.
It’s perfectly acceptable to take a half day at work, leave your child at childcare, and enjoy an afternoon to yourself. Even leaving work 30 minutes early and grabbing a cup of coffee before you pick up your child can sometimes feel like a spa visit!
If money is a concern, ask family or friends to help you get a haircut, take a relaxing bath, visit the gym, or whatever will recharge your batteries.
Ask for Help
It can be hard to ask for help. Asking for help, we think, signifies we can’t do it alone. But you know what? It’s ok if you can’t do it alone. That’s why the adage, it takes a village to raise a child, exists in the first place.
Lots of people think asking for help is a sign of weakness, but in reality, it is a sign of strength. Only strong people can admit they don’t know it all, and they can’t do it themselves.
If you find asking for help challenging, start with something small. For example, ask your girlfriend to pick up a loaf of bread and some coffee. Or ask your mother if she can come over for an hour so you can run some errands.
How to Make Friends as a Single Parent
Making friends as a parent, single or otherwise, is challenging. As adults, it becomes harder to make friends once we leave high school.
One great way to make friends is through a support or chat group that connects you with fellow single parents. Other single parents will understand your unique struggles and challenges and can provide excellent support.
Volunteer at your child’s school or join the PTA. Helping out at school and being a member of the PTA are free or lost-cost ways to meet other parents.
If you’re religious, attend services and join the choir, a devotional group, or volunteer within your organization. Volunteer work not only benefits others, but it promotes individual well-being too. Plus, it teaches our children how to give back to the community.
If time permits, start or re-start a hobby. Audition or volunteer to help with a local community theater, join a rec sports league or find a book club. Not only are hobbies a great way to meet friends, but they can also provide much-needed self-care.
How to Start Dating as a Single Parent?
When you’re in the throes of single-parenting, dating may be the furthest thing from your mind. On the other hand, you may be longing to find an adult to connect with and share your life and experiences.
Dating with kids can be hard, but there are many resources available now to help connect people who are interested in dating someone who already has kids.Online dating is one place to start because you are almost guaranteed to meet other single people and parents looking to connect.
There are even online dating websites designed specifically for single parents in mind like Single Parent Meet However, if you’re not sure you want to get involved with someone else who has kids, you can try other popular dating sites and dating like Ok Cupid, Hinge, eHarmony and many, many more!
If you’ve recently divorced or separated, it is wise to pause a few months after your breakup before seeing someone new. Take time to get to know yourself better and spend quality time with your child, who is likely feeling confused and a little lonely themselves.
Before dating, consider any deal breakers regarding the person you want around your kids. You should also prepare yourself for difficult questions and scenarios like whether or not you’re comfortable with your new partner disciplining your kids, do you or they want to have more children, and if they want a casual or serious relationship.
It is recommended you introduce a new significant other to your children only when you are sure the relationship is serious. However, that doesn’t mean you need to hide the fact that you are dating from your kids. On the contrary, engaging in a healthy dialogue and allowing your children to ask questions will assuage any fears and give them a sense of control.
Dating is one way to ease the loneliness of single parenting, but make sure you choose someone based on their merits and your attraction to them, not simply because you fear being alone.
You’re Not the Only One Feeling This Way
Single motherhood or fatherhood may feel daunting, but you don’t have to suffer if you feel lonely. There are many avenues to explore to seek out friendship and companionship and to ensure you have the help you need to thrive as an individual.
Amid the hard work of parenting, take time for yourself and engage in self-care; it will benefit you and your children. Sometimes a simple pep talk with a fellow single parent is all you need to regain your sanity and find your confidence.
For more information on how to meet people when you have kids, check out our guide to Staying Social as a New Parent!
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L. Elizabeth Forry, Preschool Lead
About L. Elizabeth Forry
L. Elizabeth Forry is an Early Childhood Educator with 15 years of classroom experience.