What’s it like to be a single mum?

We asked three women who are primary carers for their kids to share both the positive and negative aspects of shouldering that responsibility. Here are their thoughts on what it’s like to be a single mum… 

There around two million single parent families in the UK – making up a quarter of families with dependent children – and 91% of those parents are mothers. We spoke to three, asking what they like and what they find most difficult about their situation.

Single mum #1: Gemma, 35

The positives:
Teaching my kids those big (and not so big) things in life like bike-riding, swimming, how to eat properly, how to wee standing up AND put the seat up (quite tricky as a mum!) and making stuff happen like making a fire that the kids love and thinking: yeah, we can do this.

As ekk as it sounds – loving myself and my world again. We’ve found contentment and peace as a threesome with no compromises and I am able to nurture this precious and ever changing world we’ve created – I feel like we’re a force that no one could ever break.

My time – after six years of giving my all to the kids and spending a lot of time mothering my world has reached the stage where their dad is up for having them on certain weekends. It is great to see that side of the relationship invested in PLUS it means I get time, precious time to do whatever my heart desires: smug lie-ins, Sunday strolls, uninterrupted work, nights out/hangovers – initially I felt like I was having a double life but now I absolutely embrace the gift of having time to myself.

The negatives
There is this future fear as a single parent and wanting the world for my kids – starting with buying a house and the security that brings – and knowing the struggle to do that alone. Being the main carer, financial provider – as well as mother – is a huge scary pressure.

That tumbleweed moment when the kids go to bed and the house is quiet. It can be very lonely. Luckily, I have a constant conversation stream of hilarity on WhatsApp with my girlfriends that fills the void.

Not having anyone there I can give a knowing nod to when the boys do something brilliant or say something profound, equally when the going gets tough, I’d like a sidekick to share and deflect to when the boys give me the run around.

I worry that I can’t give him everything that he needs to help him grow into a balanced man

Single mum #2: Laura, 29

The positives
The extremely close bond I have with Jesse, my two-year-old son. Although I have support from friends and family, there have been many moments where it feels that there is only the two of us, and it’s quite a magical feeling.

The freedom we have to decide what we want to spend our time doing, without the stress that comes with compromising to satisfy other people’s needs.

The courage and strength that being a single parent has given me. You get pushed to your limits, and although it is challenging, you get the opportunity to witness and experience the inner power inside of us.

The negatives
Having to wear too many hats all at once: good cop, bad cop, chef, gardener, breadwinner, cleaner, teacher, administrator. Running a home and raising a child has so many different small and large responsibilities, it is frustrating when your to do list is never-ending and ever-growing.

I sometimes long for the feeling of sharing the joy of co-creation that takes place in making and watching your child grow. Being able to smile at your partner and say “look at what we’ve made”.

Having a son, I worry that I can’t give him everything that he needs to help him grow into a balanced man. He does spend regular time with his dad but I don’t think it is the same as living with a father, so I have learnt how to split logs with an axe.

Single mum #3: Chloe, 28

The positives
Having so much love from my two little ones. All the kisses and cuddles and wanting to involve me in their games.

Finally being able to trust my own judgement and make the decisions and being happy with that.

Not missing a moment – first day at school, swimming lessons and bedtime stories.

The negatives
Having to ask others for help.

Feeling like the bad cop lots of the time and having things taken out on you.

Feeling like a headless chicken sometimes – driving here, there and everywhere. Having a Skype call with my children when they are with their dad and them crying because they want to come home – but they can’t.

*Some names have been changed