I wrote a post the other day about accepting or asking for help as a single parent. I received a couple of messages after this from people saying they knew single parents and wanted to help them, but didn’t want to appear condescending or rude by offering their help. Or they didn’t even know if they could be of help.
The answer to that is: yes you can! There are lots of things you can do to help a single parent if you want to. Here are a few:
- Stay in touch. When you’re a single parent, you can often feel isolated as once your child is in bed, you’re left alone in the house – this is especially true in the summer months when the child’s bedtime remains the same, but the day seems to last twice as long. A simple text here and there, a chat about how things are going, even talking about the weather can provide that feeling of connection that can feel absent.
- Offer to babysit. You probably need to know someone (and their child/ren) quite well before you do this one, but babysitting can be an absolute golden ticket for a single parent – especially if they don’t already have someone to babysit for them.
- Host a play date. During the Easter holidays S and I were going away for a weekend, and I was panicking about finishing my work in time, as well as finding time to pack without interruptions. A friend had S over to play for a couple of hours the morning before we went, and I could have kissed her. Just those two hours of silence in the house allowed me to finish my work and pack everything we needed. Never underestimate how much help you can be by having someone’s child come to play for a while!
- Pop round for coffee. Being a single parent can be isolating at times. Popping round for a chat, or inviting your friend to your house, could easily be the highlight of their day. And you get to be sociable too!
- Bring some healthy food. This sounds really silly but honestly, when you’re a single parent eating healthily can be a challenge. S has her hot meals at school during the week, so when it comes to cooking dinner, it can seem like more effort than it’s worth to cook a proper meal just for me – especially after a busy day!
- Share your kids’ hand-me-downs. When I was young, getting a bag of hand-me-downs from my older cousin felt like Christmas. This wasn’t just because we couldn’t afford to get lots of new clothes; I idolised my cousin and thought she was the coolest person in the world. These days I love second hand or hand-me-down clothes for S because often this means she can wear clothes that are different from all of her friends. Plus it takes a big financial burden off, considering how quickly she is growing lately.
- Share the school run or other journeys. If you live near each other, offer to share the school run or other journeys. S goes to Rainbows once a week, and so does a friend who lives across the road. I walk the girls down to their meeting, and the other girl’s mum collects them. It’s a simple arrangement, but it means both of us gets more time on our Friday evening.
- Offer practical help with gardening or DIY. Even if a single parent is great at gardening and DIY (I am neither), there are always so many other things that need to be done. When you have a million things to do, weeding the garden can end up at the bottom of the list.
- Volunteer to be an emergency contact at school. When you’re a single parent whose child has no contact with the absent parent, that can cause a genuine issue when it comes to filling in emergency contact details. If the school can’t get hold of me, who else is there to call?
- Ask what they’re up to over school holidays. During term time there is a routine to life where both parents and children socialise daily with others. When the holidays roll around, it’s easy to go days or even weeks without spending time with others. Even if you just take a joint trip to the park for an hour, it can make a massive difference to breaking up that monotony and isolation.
- Take their child/ren shopping for their birthday. Being a single parent, things like birthdays, Christmas and Mother’s Day can be hard – especially once your child is old enough to know that giving a gift to their parent is the done thing, but they can’t go shopping by themselves. Last week a friend took S shopping for a birthday present for me (it’s my birthday this week) and I could have cried. Not so much because I really want a birthday present (though who doesn’t) but because it allows S to give me a gift. This is the first time she will ever have given me a gift that I didn’t pay for, and I honestly have no clue what it will be. She is so excited about it as well so this friend has done us both a massive favour.
- Don’t be paranoid that they’ll steal your spouse. That sort of thing usually only happens on soaps, and many single parents are single by choice any way. I know several people who feel that their friends keep their husbands away from them, just in case – but that’s ridiculous and hurtful. We’re all just people, and we can all just be friends, can’t we?
- Treat them as you would any other friend. That is, after all, who they are, right?
Being a single parent can sometimes be isolating, and it can be hard to get everything done. If you have a friend who is also a single parent, a little help every now and then can be a real lifesaver. It doesn’t have to be something that costs money; often time is what a single parent really needs!