First of all, welcome here if you’ve found yourself splitting from your baby partner let me tell you: it’s not easy. I’ve put together this article to help you navigate life now as a newly single mom.
The first few months
I’m not going to sugar coat it, some days can feel like you’re on top of the world and winning at your single mom game. Others, you might feel despair and most of all loneliness as you don’t have any one you can rely on for support. This is especially true if you don’t have family nearby as in my case, but it won’t always be this way.
Little by little you will find your tribe and as you start to understand the strength in your decision (because no one wants to find yourself alone if you can avoid it) and that is what will get you through even the hardest nights.
Expect the beginning to be finding your feet, reshaping your identity and healing from your relationship. Be gentle with yourself as this process takes time. So, without further ado, here are some tips to help you through:
1) Let go of perfection
I can’t stress this enough. I know the kids need you as their rock, but that doesn’t mean you have to hide your emotions from them. Kids are way smarter than we give them credit for, and they will know you’ll feel sad sometimes.
So now is not the time to get the crafts out every day and try new activities (unless you have the energy to do so) but rather focus on getting through each day. Take things one step at a time and expect less of yourself in the beginning.
Taking the pressure off yourself will help you feel more normal as you start this new life for yourself. This means making things as easy as possible, preparing simple meals, letting the kids go wild with some paint at the table as long as you get a break, filling up on snacks ahead of time.
You don’t have to prove yourself to anyone. Your friends and family will know that you’re going through something big, so you don’t have to put on a show like everything is okay when it’s not.
If your kids go to school, inform them as well in case your kids miss a day or arrive late. Adjusting to the new organisation of doing it alone can take time and you need people on your side, rather than judging you.
2) Get yourself a teddy
This might sound absolutely ridiculous, but one of the things that has helped me navigate the loneliness the most is having a teddy bear of my own to cuddle. The nights can be long as a single mom without the usual company by your side, and sometimes you need a little extra comfort.
There is nothing wrong with being a grown up with a teddy. Cuddling can help you release happy hormones, so if you’re not cuddling your kids or you feel touched out from them, reach for the teddy!
You never know when you’ll need a good hug and a cry.
3) Work on your evening routine
There is nothing better than getting your kids to bed and having some time with yourself, even as a parent with a partner. However, this is even more important when you’re a newly single mom.
You won’t get much downtime during the day, let’s be honest, so a good evening routine will help you all get some rest. The kids will be adjusting too, so an early night will do them good to catch up on some sleep and integrate the new situation.
One way you can do this if your kids are old enough, is to have routine cards or a chart that demonstrates what your evenings look like.
Or you can explain it as you go through the motions: “Now we’re going to have dinner. You can play for another 10 minutes until it’s ready”. Never underestimate the power of a good timer that lets them know when it’s time to move on to the next thing.
Songs are great for and when you meet resistance too, for example a pyjama/brushing teeth song, a bath song or a clean up song.
My favourite for cleaning up is that of Cocomelon:
4) Prioritise rest
When I first broke up with my partner, after the initial shock of having left, I couldn’t understand how I was so tired all the time. It turns out that processing a separation can leave you emotionally exhausted!
Cut back on activities that are draining you, place boundaries with those that wipe your energy and don’t be afraid to say that it’s not the time if it requires more effort!
In the same way, don’t feel guilty if your kids watch a little *too much* screen time, if it means that you can cook dinner or shower in peace, it’s way worth it. You need little snippets of time as a newly single mom.
You can even watch a film together, if you just can’t with the chores.
If you put your kids down early, get an early night too. If you make a commitment to at least a couple of night’s decent sleep a week, you’ll have enough energy to get through the week. And you need all the energy you can get!
5) Focus on what matters
It can be tempting to want to get new toys for the kids or anything else that will take their attention away from the current situation. Learn to be okay with your children’s emotions, just as your own. Explain to them that it’s okay to be a little sad sometimes as this is new to all of you.
Your kids will be more clingy than normal, as you are their safety net.
Do silly things like pyjama parties, dancing in the living room and baking cakes from a packet that needs no prep time.
Draw, play, get silly! Your kids will remember your presence, more than more toys.
6) Learn how to budget
Chances are this is not the first time you’ve lived on your own, but probably the first time with kids. There is a lot to take on financially and it can be overwhelming in the beginning, when you’ve been used to two salaries.
Start by getting pen and paper and writing down all that comes in and out every month. If you have an okay relationship with your ex, try and get on the same page so that he’s helping you out if you need it.
Check whether you can get government aid for things like housing, electricity, school dinners. It all counts.
7) Don’t badmouth the other parent
This goes without saying but when you’ve broken up, no matter how hard it is and how much resentment you carry, try and stay respectful with your co parent.
Showing your kids that mom and dad can still get along despite being separated can show them that a break up doesn’t have to be painful.
Spend a little time all together when you drop the kids off, stay for a coffee before leaving and try and make the transition smooth at first. This will make it easier on them, even if it feels a bit awkward at first.
Don’t worry if it feels difficult, just keep trying and showing up however you can.
8) Remember that you are important too
I know that you’re worried about how your kids will turn out – let me tell you this, they will be fine. Especially at a young age, kids adapt well to new situations.
Pretty soon it will be their new normal and they won’t remember life with their parents together.
So, remember to take care of yourself on the days the kids are with daddy (if there is shared custody) or whenever you get a break: take a shower, rub in some lotion and love on yourself.
It’s okay to take time for yourself and vital that you do so to feel better.