There are 1.6 million single mothers in the UK and yet it remains difficult to find the right support, so journalist Amy Rose teamed up with clinical psychologist Dr Emma Cotterill to write a book on how to boost your emotional wellbeing as a single mum…
Becoming a single mother can make you feel powerless.
Perhaps you’re unable to change the situation that led you to becoming a single mother, you feel powerless regarding your ex’s behaviour, or your children are being exposed to situations you wish could have been avoided.
Feelings of powerlessness may also grow when someone else (e.g. your ex, other family members or the system) is exerting their power in unhelpful or unhealthy ways.
Powerlessness often refers to the sense of having no influence over, or ability to determine, the outcomes you seek. If you feel powerless, you may believe you can’t control how you want things to be in your life.
This can make us feel anxious, fearful, sad, scared, worried, angry, frustrated and overwhelmed.
In contrast, when we feel powerful, we believe we have control over and an impact on how our life can be or how events will be.
A sense of having power in our life, can make us feel strong, confident, secure and positive about the future.
So how do we find this power for ourselves? How can you find your solo parent power?
Here are some ideas for you to try:
- Help yourself acknowledge, notice and name the powerlessness feelings when they show up.
- Help yourself process this by talking to friends, family or a therapist.
- Use journaling.
- Learn what you need to help calm and soothe you in these moments.
- Talk to yourself and acknowledge what you can do something about (take action, kindly, gently, thoughtfully), whilst also acknowledging and accepting what you cannot do anything about or change.
- Learn to let go of situations outside of your control. If you have no power in these situations then stressing, worrying and upsetting yourself will only make you feel bad but won’t help. Visualise letting these go, letting them drift away.
- Find your power through practical things you can do day-to-day that will help you feel more in control of your life and living the life you want.
- Take time to try different and new things (habits, routines, traditions) to find out what works for you and your children in this new life of single motherhood. This is about re-discovering who you are and what works for your new family set up.
- It can be very empowering to get your finances into order. Create spreadsheets of all incomings and outgoings for every month, to make sure you have enough money to pay the bills each month and feel in control.
- Build up the confidence to say yes to new social situations. By doing this you could end up doing lots of new things you might not have done before – such as going to a gigs, day trips out, meeting new people, and even random dates (when you are ready).
- Prioritise looking after yourself. Whether it is taking the time for a new skin care regime, hair appointment, exercising, eating well, choosing some new clothes or blasting your favourite music, looking after yourself sends the message to yourself that you matter, that you deserve care, that you are in control of looking after yourself and your life.
- Begin to create a home environment that is just for you – paint, move furniture around, buy new house items, learn new DIY skills, make your own choices for how you want your home to be.
- Create a ‘Find your Power’ music playlist full of empowering uplifting, energising songs – Destiny’s Child ‘Survivor’ anyone?
- Practise developing your assertiveness skills. Being able to say no (you can do this gently, kindly), being able to say what you need and setting boundaries.
- Focus on feeling like you can hold your own power, in your relationship with your ex. This does not mean exerting your power against them, as this is not advised or healthy, but it is about being able to have a voice, being able to say how you feel, being able to communicate clearly and calmly and being able to listen and respect their thoughts, feelings and need to parent.
- Learn new skills to manage your own and to support your children’s emotions. Teaching yourself how to notice, name and make sense of what you are feeling, will also help you help your children notice name and make sense of what they are feeling. This can help you feel a sense of power to know you can do this for yourself and help your children too.
- Practise self-talk to help find your power. Try:
“I can acknowledge I cannot magically fix everything or take away my child’s, or my own, pain, and this is hard; but I can focus on finding ways to support them, and myself, through challenging situations.”
“I have power over how I look after myself and practise self-care.”
“I can seek therapy to help myself through difficult times when I feel powerless.”
“I can give my children the space to talk and process their emotions when they need to.”
“I can choose to focus on what I can control rather than the things that leave me feeling powerless.”
Stand or sit in front of a mirror, and try saying to yourself:
“I can find my way as a single mother.”
“It may not be my choice to be here, but I can be courageous and find meaning and joy in this journey nonetheless.”
“This is my journey, and I get to choose how it will be now.”
“There will be situations I cannot control, and I can learn to live with this, as there will always be something in my power that I can focus on.”
And, finally, remind yourself, “I have power in my life in many small (and big) ways. I may not have power in every way, but where I do is where I can find my power as a single mum.” You’ve got this.
In their book Surviving Solo Motherhood, journalist Amy Rose and clinical psychologist Dr Emma Cotterill offer a lifeline to single mothers, helping them cope with the array of emotions they may experience, and acknowledging the impact it can have on their mental health.
You can buy it here: