I'm a single mum, now what?
This month, we've asked Julia Hasche to write us a blog on what to do, if you find yourself as a single mum. Julia is the perfect person to write this blog, as it is not only her lived experience, but she has also created a career out of helping mums navigate this tough time.
You’re a single mum, now what?
If you’re anything like me, I’m guessing being a single mum was not one of your #lifegoals. But maybe, like me, you are in that position. Rebuilding your life after separation or divorce as a mother is challenging, but also an opportunity for growth and a brand-new chapter. It involves a combination of emotional healing, practical adjustments, and personal growth.
Here are 10 steps to help you navigate this process:
1. Allow yourself time to grieve
There is a lot to grieve and let go of when you become a single mum. You are not only grieving the end of a relationship, but also the end of the family unit, dreams of the future, certainty about the future, and so much more. Along with grief and loss, there are some really hard emotions to navigate – anger, anxiety, uncertainty, loneliness and isolation, self-esteem and questioning your identity, fear of the future and the unknown, regret, guilt, and shame… just to name a few. It’s really important to acknowledge these emotions and allow yourself to grieve the end of the relationship and all the other things you are letting go of. Give yourself the space and time to process the emotions associated with the separation.
2. Get emotionally regulated
When you find yourself as a single mum, you will need to make a whole lot of decisions moving forward. This might be related to things such as parenting plans, divorce and settlement agreements, and where you are going to live. When we go through a trauma (and yes – divorce or separation is a trauma) or a highly stressful situation (FYI divorce is considered the second most stressful life event after the death of a loved one), our nervous system can get very dysregulated. We can go into flight, fight, or freeze. When this happens, the front part of our brain which is responsible for problemsolving, and logical and rational thought is switched off, or foggy, and our amygdala which is responsible for our survival kicks in. This means that it is very hard to make decisions in a state where we are literally unable to think clearly. And all this when we need to potentially make some of the biggest decisions of our lives. Nurturing your nervous system is a priority. You want to be able to bring yourself to a place where you are emotionally regulated and able to think clearly. There is no quick fix, but consistent practices of things like mindfulness and meditation, yoga, vagal toning exercises, and breathwork can help calm the sympathetic nervous system, promote self-regulation and emotional resilience, reduce tension, and improve our overall well-being. Therapists and coaches trained in trauma-informed care (like me!) can also provide techniques and strategies specifically designed to regulate the nervous system, such as Somatic Experiencing.
3. Establish a support system
Building a strong support system consisting of friends, family, or support groups is incredibly valuable in helping you rebuild your life after separation or divorce. Surround yourself with people who understand your situation and can provide emotional support. Try to connect with other single mums, because they will get it! There is nothing like connecting with like-minded women. It is also worth considering seeking the guidance of a therapist, counsellor, or coach to help you navigate the emotional challenges of separation or divorce. Professional support can offer valuable insights and coping strategies.
4. Prioritise self-care
Self-care is crucial during this challenging time. Taking care of your physical and mental well-being during this time is essential. And sometimes, that means getting back to the very basics of our human needs; ensuring you get enough sleep and eating a nutritious healthy diet. It is also important to lean on your support network and try to get some time for yourself. Write yourself a list of things that bring you joy and relaxation and engage in these activities. As a single mum, it can be very difficult to prioritise self-care. I get it. I lived it for 8 years. And even now, it is still sometimes hard when there is always so much to do and other things seem to matter more. But... as cliche as it is, you can’t pour from an empty cup. It’s important to take time for yourself as a single mum. It's NOT selfish and NOT a luxury; it's essential.
5. Contact Services Australia and Child Support
Logistically, it is a good idea to contact Services Australia. It will help make you feel a little more organised and less stressed. They will need to be informed of your new single-parent status and there are a range of benefits you may be eligible to receive. It can be a bit of a process but stick with it as it will make your financial life a lot easier. Next, contact Child Support. It is a good idea to get the ball rolling on this as soon as possible, as again, it may help you financially if you are struggling.
6. Create a co-parenting agreement
As a single mum, negotiating parenting agreements is a crucial step in ensuring the well-being and stability of you and your children. These agreements lay the foundation for co-parenting and provide clarity on important aspects of raising children post-separation or divorce. A parenting plan is a written record of an agreement between you and your ex about the care of the children. However, it is not a legally enforceable agreement. A parenting plan clearly stipulates whom the children will live with and when so there is no confusion. It may also include religious, cultural, or educational considerations, what happens during school holidays, going overseas, domestic travel, what happens when the child is sick, co-curricular activities, and more. It can also define roles, responsibilities, and communication strategies to ensure a more stable and supportive environment for your children.
7. Reassess your finances
As much as you may want to hide under the covers and not think about money, it is important to review and reassess your financial situation. You may be going from two incomes to one. Create a budget that reflects your new circumstances and seek professional advice if needed.
8. Update legal and administrative documents
It is important to update your legal and administrative documents and ensure that all relevant paperwork reflects your current circumstances. This might include things like your passport if you change your name, your insurance policies, and beneficiaries. It is also vital to create a new will so that you can rest assured things are sorted for your kids in case the worst-case scenario happens.
9. Rediscover your identity
As devastating as this transition may be, it is also an opportunity for personal growth, self-reflection, and reconnecting with who you are as an individual. I had completely lost myself when my daughter’s father and I split up and it was the start of getting back to me. Rediscover your interests, hobbies, and passions that may have taken a backseat during your relationship. You may also want to reconnect with old friends that you have lost touch with. Setting goals is also a really great part of this process. Set some realistic short-term and long-term goals for yourself. These goals could be related to personal development, travel, career, or any area of your life that you want to focus on. These goals will provide you with some purpose, direction, and motivation. You may also want to consider pursuing education, training, or career advancements that align with your interests and goals. This is the start of a whole new chapter; one which doesn’t require compromise from a partner. It’s all about what you want now.
10. Focus on parenting
Finally, check in with your kids, and try to be present and attentive to their needs. Depending on their ages, they will require varying forms of comfort and communication about what’s happened. Maintain open communication with them, and reassure them of your love, that it is not their fault, and that you are not going anywhere. Try to create a stable and nurturing environment for them during this transition.
Remember that rebuilding after separation or divorce is a gradual process, and it's okay to take it one step at a time. Acknowledge and celebrate your strengths and resilience. Reflect on the challenges you've overcome and the personal growth you've experienced. Be patient with yourself, seek the support you need, and embrace the opportunity for a new and fulfilling chapter in your life.
Julia Hasche is a Certified Divorce Coach and a Certified Divorce Transition and Recovery Coach for mums. She is also a blogger, podcast host, author, and owner of the global online membership experience for single mums - Thrive Tribe. Julia also contributes to other online publications such as Kidspot, Mamamia, and Huffington Post, has been interviewed on many podcasts (including Kidspot’s The Juggling Act), and has been live at the desk on Channel 7’s The Daily Edition talking about single motherhood, and on SBS’s, The Swiping Game, talking single parenting, sex, and dating. You can connect with her via her website, Instagram, or Facebook.