It takes a village and more to help a single mom
If you’re anything like me, asking for help is usually the last thing on your mind. As single moms, we learn to do anything and everything ourselves, especially when it comes to our kids. But no matter how hard we try, there will be times when we need help, and teaching ourselves how to ask for and accept help graciously is a must.
The first and most obvious step is admitting you can’t do it all on your own. Whatever it is you’re struggling with, know that there are plenty of other Solo Moms who are going through exactly the same thing. Give your friends and family a chance to help you before you keep struggling on your own.
One of the hardest parts of asking for help can be knowing whom to ask. When you’re married or partnered, it’s obvious whom to call when you need backup. When you’re on your own, asking for help can make you feel much more vulnerable. Give your friends and family a chance—odds are they’ll be happy to help.
Not everyone has a built-in support network. Some of us have to work harder to find and build a community. When you’re on your own, the idea of creating a village can seem like an impossible task—but it doesn’t have to be. The steps described below can help you build your own village, no matter what your circumstances.
Find your people. Until there’s a friendship Tinder for Solo Moms (and let’s face it, we’d be too busy to use it even if it existed!), we’re on our own when it comes to finding our tribe. There’s no such thing as a perfect way to meet the people who will become your people, but the one thing that’s guaranteed not to work is giving up.
Make time for the people around you, nurture the friendships you already have, and keep looking for new opportunities to make friends if you don’t feel supported. Although parenting groups can be helpful, don’t expect to bond just because you’re all mothers. As your kids get older, look for friends who enjoy doing the same things you do or who simply share your unique perspectives and sense of humor.
Choose your village wisely. It’s easy to pay lip service to the importance of community, but finding your tribe can be challenging—especially for busy Solo Moms. It’s tempting to rely on old friendships that may not be very supportive anymore, but true community is all about quality over quantity.
Ditch the dead weight. We all have those friends—you know, the ones you haven’t seen in a decade but who just love to criticize every single thing you post on social media (out of concern, of course). Your village may not be your friends from high school or even your family of origin, and that’s OK.
There’s no room for dead weight in your village! “Unfriend” these people online and in real life, and free yourself up to build a community that reflects who you are and where you want to go.
Maintain strong boundaries. When it comes to identifying your village, boundaries are critical. Your aunt Claire might be family, but if all she does is offer judgment about your parenting decisions, she shouldn’t be privy to your life’s intimate details. Figure out whom you can trust and with how much information, and make sure that you’re investing your time in the right people.
Friendships thrive on strong boundaries and open communication. Be honest and direct with your friends and family, and expect the same from them.
Learn how to ask for help without guilt. Asking for help can feel like an admission that we’re floundering or overwhelmed, and it’s hard to admit that we don’t have everything as together as it might appear. The reality is that all of us need help sometimes, and being honest with our friends about our needs can build more intimacy and strengthen our friendships and sense of community.
Accept help, not handouts. As helpful as it might feel to be bailed out financially or otherwise, the best kind of help is help given without strings attached or conditions to be met and that encourages you to find a long-term solution to your problems. A friend who fills in on an occasional child-care pickup is a lifesaver; a friend who ends up shouldering the bulk of your child-care pickups is creating an unhealthy dynamic that will fester over time.
No relationship will ever be perfectly equal, but make a real effort to ensure that both of you are giving and receiving help, and ask yourself whether the help you’re receiving is encouraging you to be reliant on others or supporting you to achieve your goals.
Repay the favor. Relationships are a two-way street. Although it might feel impossible to make room in your schedule to help someone else, all of us can find small ways to help our friends and family feel loved—whether they ask for it or not. It feels good to help someone else, and it helps us feel like we have a safety net.
What do you think? How did you find your village and learn to ask for help? Share your secrets with other Solo Moms in the comments section below.
Jody Allard is a writer and mother living in Seattle. Her work has been featured in the Washington Post, Time, and Good Housekeeping, and on Vice, among others. When she isn’t writing, she can be found binge-watching HGTV and embarrassing her teenagers.
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