Single parent advice for nurturing a newborn
Whatever your circumstances, being a single parent is a challenge. There are many theories about how to raise your child ‘properly’, but with every family situation being unique, it’s important to focus on your own needs. As a single parent, what needs do you have? And what are your concerns? Here we share 10 top tips to help you through the first stages of single parenthood.
- Surround yourself with loved ones If new parents and babies need one thing, it’s lots of love. As a new parent you have gone through a huge life change and will most probably be exhausted, so surrounding yourself with people you love who can offer their support is precisely what the doctor ordered. Make lots of happy memories with your friends, family and newborn that you can cherish forever – and don’t forget to capture them all on camera!
- Accept help and support Being a single parent is often like being a superhero – whizzing around resolving problems and contending the world independently. But even the best superheroes have their sidekicks. It is not a defeat if you accept help from others and, if you want the best for your baby, you will gladly take it. Even if it’s your neighbour picking up some groceries or a friend driving you to a postnatal appointment, little gestures go a long way in preventing single parent meltdown.
- Voice your needs Ignoring your needs is self-destructive behaviour. As a single parent you need to learn that voicing your needs is not demanding or selfish – it’s responsible. Keeping quiet about wanting to see more of your friends, to have more support from your parents, or even to want more space, will only lead to built-up frustration. A lot of the time, your friends and family or your healthcare provider will not be aware of your needs until you express them.
- Spend time with your child As much as it is vital to spend time with loved ones or community groups, it is equally important to enjoy one-on-one time with your baby. Whether or not your circumstance changes in the future and you find a partner, you and your child need to bond on your own and develop your own unique relationship first. Sharing a solid bond will make single parenting easier, and also means that new partners in the future may have less of an impact on your closeness.
- Seek financial advice One aspect of parenthood that single mothers or fathers can find challenging is financial stability. Being without a main breadwinner or steady two-person income can be extremely tough, but there are ways around it. Be sure to talk to other parents for their advice on finance and don’t forget to read up on your rights to find out if you are entitled to income support. There may also be support available for childcare costs, so make sure you find out what’s available to help you.
- Take care of yourself How can you care for your baby if you’re not caring for yourself? As a single parent you may find that you aren’t blessed with time, but the best parents are those that know how to treat and care for themselves too. Whether it’s a relaxing weekly swim, a catch-up with friends or a DIY manicure, allowing yourself time to just be ‘you’ is an important part of parenting. And don’t forget – if you can, sleep when they do, the housework can wait!
- Talk to other single parents The feeling of isolation can be quite common with single parenting, so it’s important that you find a community to be part of. You could start by chatting on our forums or by attending story or play sessions in your local area. It can also be quite common for single parents to doubt their parenting ability, so seeking reassurance is normal. One study showed that 44 per cent of mothers increased their Facebook use after giving birth, with 98 per cent of them uploading photos of their child. In doing this, parents are in pursuit of experiencing higher levels of satisfaction in their parenting abilities when a friend comments on or ‘likes’ their picture. So if you feel like you need a boost, don’t rule out social networking.
- You can’t be a mother and a father You need to realise from the start that you are not and cannot be two people and you shouldn’t have to be. Running yourself ragged in pursuit of fulfilling the roles of both a mother and a father won’t do yourself or your baby any good. The sooner you accept this, the better. Remember that you can only do so much.
- Don’t be resentful or envious Depending upon your circumstances, you may at times feel resentment towards those who are raising their child as a couple. This envy can create bitterness which is not the ideal trait of a single parent and can affect friendships as well. Instead, try to be more proactive and confident. Things wouldn’t necessarily be better than they are now if you had a partner and although at times you may think all of your problems would halve if your support doubled, you should not be under the illusion that having a partner would make everything perfect.
- Make your own rules Breaking the mould and creating your own parenting rules is one of the benefits of single parenthood. You only have yourself to answer for and not having to negotiate parenting duties with a partner means your child’s needs are put first more frequently. For example, getting up in the middle of the night is all well and good when you can share the shifts with a partner, but when you’re on your own this can be exhausting work. Therefore, keeping the cot in your bedroom for longer than is advised, or letting your baby cry without seeing to them every time, aren’t things you should penalise yourself for.