We asked a relationship expert for her tips on dealing with single-shaming as a parent. Here's what she said...
Raising a human is a mammoth task that requires endless plate spinning that even nuclear families can feel overwhelmed by, let alone those who are single parents. As well as nappy changes, school runs and everything else you need to think about for your children, there are co-parenting boundaries and childcare arrangements to consider too. We know it can be tough, but you're not alone. Divorce after a baby is more common than you might think, and government figures suggest there are around 2.3 million separated families in the UK.
But while some worry about the effect separated parents might have on their children, it can be tough on the adults involved too. Because even if you're a parent who found the right time to walk away from a relationship and you've embraced your new life with open arms, chances are you know what it's like to be single-shamed.
Single shaming comes from the idea that being in a relationship is superior to being alone, and the assumption that anyone who isn't in one must be actively looking. It can be well-meaning (we all have a relative who loves to say "there's plenty of fish in the sea"), but when you're raising kids all on your own and it's being implied that you're still not good enough, single-shaming can be tough to deal with. (And, by the way, you ARE good enough.)
With Valentine's Day on the horizon, we've spoken to Kate Daly, relationship counsellor and co-founder of amicable, who shared her tips on dealing with being single-shamed as a parent. Kate said: "Being a single parent is hard enough without other people’s negative opinions, but the only way to combat this issue is through education and acceptance by others. I know first-hand how tricky it can be, especially when you feel deep-rooted shame about your situation." Here are Kate's tips for dealing with being single-shamed as a parent...
5 tips for dealing with being single-shamed as a parent
1. Re-frame negative thoughts
Shame is an emotion often linked to feelings of unworthiness and failure, and it's not uncommon for single parents to be made to feel this way by a society that favours monogamy.
"A way of combating shame as a single parent is reframing any negative thoughts," explains Kate. "Start by acknowledging your thoughts and then practice challenging them. Is the thought based on fact, your perception, or a mixture of both? If it’s based on a fact, ask yourself if it’s something that you have the power to change or fix. If you don’t, then ask yourself why you are dwelling on it and, instead, try to reframe how you feel about it and accept it."
2. Find your support network
If you are a single parent, it’s important to build a community of like-minded people who will be able to support you in a positive and helpful way. If you think people are shaming you, it can be helpful to speak to close friends and family to air your thoughts. After all, a problem shared is a problem halved!
Kate tells us, "You can find support networks in a variety of ways: through charities, such as Gingerbread, or community platforms such as Frolo, and social media support groups. It is, however, important to be cautious of certain negative spaces within groups and pages on social media, where there are extreme views and voices, as these are likely to polarise single parenthood in society."
She adds, "Another way to feel part of a supportive community is by listening to podcasts and reading blogs from other solo parents."
3. Don't compare yourself to other families
As tempting as it might be, don’t compare yourself and your family to others. Kate says, "This will only lead to negative feelings such as shame, guilt or perhaps jealousy. Your family is unique and special in its own way.
"As easy as it might be to think that the grass is greener, this isn’t usually the case. You never know what others are going through, and whilst you may experience some obstacles in your solo parenting journey, you will also experience many positives."
Instead of dwelling on things you can’t change and comparing yourself to other families, focus on what you have and what you are able to do. If you have certain lifestyle aspirations, try setting realistic and manageable goals. As Kate says, "It’s unlikely your children will remember the material things in the future, but rather the experiences they had with you and the love you showed them."
4. Set boundaries
If you think someone is shaming you, remind yourself it’s their issue and not yours. Kate advises, "Keep doing you and if anyone is impacting your well-being, don’t be scared to distance yourself from them to cut out unnecessary negativity. You can’t change how they feel, but you can change how you respond and how you let it impact you."
Explain to people close to you that teasing and commenting on your single status makes you uncomfortable, and that you'll remove yourself from the situation. It's worth remembering that these comments may not be out of malice, meaning people will stop making them once they realise it upsets you.
5. Teach your children resilience
"As a single parent, you have a unique opportunity to teach your children the value of resilience," Kate tells us. "Emphasize to them that the quality of relationships, rather than the quantity, truly matters. By openly discussing this and guiding them in understanding and managing their emotions, you equip them with essential skills to handle life's challenges."
By raising children as a single parent, you're modelling resilience to your kids every day, and that's something to be proud of. Hopefully, when your kids are old enough to understand, they'll be proud of you too.
In other news, a psychotherapist shared five co-parenting tips for divorced parents. Meanwhile, we talked to women who regret their divorce and asked the experts about the rules for taking your kids on holiday after a divorce.
Kate Daly has spoken passionately in the media about changing the narrative around divorce and has featured on the One Show, across the BBC, Women’s Hour and ITV News. She co-founded amicable with CEO Pip Wilson, following on from her own ‘trainwreck’ divorce, where she spent thousands in legal fees which spanned over several years. In 2019 Kate successfully challenged the legal status quo preventing couples from working together on their divorces and won the endorsement of the High Court for amicable’s services. Kate also hosts The Divorce Podcast, where she explores divorce, separation and co-parenting with a variety of experts and celebrity guests. Since starting amicable she has collaborated with the MOJ and HMCTS on improving their understanding of consumer behaviour, and the digitisation of divorce, separation and co-parenting services.
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Ellie is GoodtoKnow’s Family News Editor and covers all the latest trends in the parenting world - from relationship advice and baby names to wellbeing and self-care ideas for busy mums. Ellie is also an NCTJ-qualified journalist and has a distinction in MA Magazine Journalism from Nottingham Trent University and a first-class degree in Journalism from Cardiff University. Previously, Ellie has worked with BBC Good Food, The Big Issue, and the Nottingham Post, as well as freelancing as an arts and entertainment writer alongside her studies. When she’s not got her nose in a book, you’ll probably find Ellie jogging around her local park, indulging in an insta-worthy restaurant, or watching Netflix’s newest true crime documentary.
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