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Depressed and Struggling as a Single Parent? Here's What to Do...

Updated on May 12, 2018
Polly C profile image

I became a single parent to my two children almost four years ago. Now, I write about lone parenting and relationship breakdown.

Raising children as a single parent can be a tough journey to undertake. Financial insecurity and a lack of support can make life hard and unpredictable, and that can lead to feelings of depression, loneliness and a loss of confidence.

Sometimes it can seem as though there is no way out, and that you have little control over your life. Even with the best will in the world, it can be hard to hold onto a positive mindset when this is your reality.

​It can feel that life is such a struggle that slowly, gradually, you start to feel like giving up.

You ask yourself, "What's the point?"

But there is always a point. Here are some tips on how to feel more positive with your life as a single parent:

Firstly, Never Give Up

If you want your life to be different, never give up believing that it will be.

Giving up is the point where you decide life is never going to be any different. It is the point where you let go of your hopes, your ambitions and your dreams. And when you give up, you stop going forwards. You stop believing, and you stop giving yourself a chance.

If you give up, you will never know when that life-changing moment is around the corner.

If you give up, where will you go instead?

If you want your life to change, you should always believe in something. Part of the magic of life itself is growing and evolving. But that can't happen if you give up and allow yourself to stagnate.

Never travel down the path of believing that life can't be good to you.


Do You Need to Earn More Money?

In order to change your life as a single parent, you have to decide what you actually need to make your life better. Then, go for it.

Do you need more money? If the answer is 'yes', it's time to look for a new job, or any job if you don't already have one. Don't just look once or twice, and decide there's nothing for you - look every day, multiple times per day, until you find something. It's really important to search on a frequent basis, because some employers only interview the first few suitable candidates that send in their applications. In the current market, you have to be fast!

Apply for everything suitable, even if it isn't 'perfect'. There might be some flexibility on behalf of the employer, especially if you get an interview and you impress them. You won't know unless you try - and 'nothing ventured, nothing gained', as the saying goes!

It's important, too, not to put off what you know would make your life better just because you are comfortable as you are. Maybe your work is low paid but you love your colleagues. That, however, is not a good enough reason to remain in a position if it doesn't sustain you. Be confident and move on. How do you know you won't settle into something new in just the same way? You might love it (and your new colleagues) even more!

Don't assume, either, that you don't have a chance of landing a better job.

Lots of people are afraid of change, but that doesn't help your new role as a successful single parent.

Searching Is Easy and Convenient

Searching for a job is easy with the use of online employment sites You can apply in minutes, if you already have your updated CV on file. If you don't have one, create one (there are many examples online of how to do this properly). Apply for everything you are interested in, even if you don't quite meet the requirements. Unless it's a crucial part of the job, it might not be absolutely essential. Perhaps no one else will have a full set of skills, either. You won't know unless you try.

Sometimes it really does seem as though there is nothing out there. That's the point at which some people give up. But sometimes there is a drought, and then everything comes flooding in at the same time. That's why it is so important to be alert to opportunities every single day, if you want to change your life.

Something will come along in the end. It always does, eventually - and often when you least expect it. Just believe that, and don't stop searching.

* Tip: Make sure your CV and covering letter, if required, are as good as possible. Don't just throw something together - this is your first impression; the only chance you might get to shine in front of a future employer. Remember, they can't see your enthusiasm and stunning personality unless you get an interview - you have to sell yourself in print, using words. You want to stand out, and if your prior experience isn't enough to put you a cut above the rest, make sure your personal statement shows how great and enthusiastic you are.

If you need a new job, keep searching
If you need a new job, keep searching | Source

Juggling Childcare

Juggling childcare with work can be a bit of a challenge, but it can be done if you are determined. The secret is to make full use of childcare facilities - most schools now have breakfast clubs and after school clubs. In the UK, if you earn below a certain amount, you can claim back a large percentage of childcare costs.

Childcare places can fill up very quickly in some areas, so plan ahead and try to book as early as possible. But there are other ways, too. Can you share childcare with another working mother, for example? Or even a group of mothers (you could start a Facebook group)? It's a great way to save money. How close do your family live?

If you think you can't work because of your children, try to reassess the situation. There is often a solution, but some people don't look for one because they have already decided that it's not an option. But working is good for you; it gives you a sense of purpose, higher self-esteem and a chance to get out of the house and socialise with other people in a child-free environment. (And, obviously, money is a factor - what could you do with the extra cash?) In short, working can give you a chance to rediscover that part of yourself that existed before you became a parent. And nurturing that side of yourself can definitely make you happier and bring with it a sense of purpose, separate from raising children.

Have an Idea

When posed with the question, most people have an idea of where they would like to be in five years time. Even if you think it's impossible, the dream is still buried somewhere in your mind.

But how are you going to get there?

Perhaps the answer is not searching for a new job, but creating your own way to earning a living, or a side income. In short, perhaps you have an idea - an idea that you feel really positive about - and that idea is starting your own business. ​

Yes, lots of new businesses fail. But many succeed. The important thing here is not to risk more than you can afford. And you do that by starting really small. The advantage of starting really, really small is that you are on the right path but you won't lose a lot if things don't go to plan. In short, it's low risk.

Remember - many people never attempt to realise their dreams because they don't believe success is possible. But why not? If it is possible for other people, why can't it be possible for you?

Or perhaps you're happy with your job and your income, but somehow a part of you still feels unfulfilled. Perhaps you need something more to get you off the wheel of drudgery that you feel you are stuck on. Even though you love your children, it can feel that way sometimes - all your time is given to working, doing chores and looking after the children. It can be a bit overwhelming when you are a single parent, and it can seem a long time since you used any time at all to do something just for yourself.

Sometimes we get stuck in such a monotonous routine that we don't even think about making ourselves happy or fulfilled. As a single parent, it can seem like it's always about someone else. But you can break from that.

Being a single parent can feel demoralising, especially if you have little support and you have suffered financial loss. But often, it's those extra passions and avenues that help us to feel fulfilled and enthusiastic about life again - even if nothing else has really changed.

If the kids are driving you crazy (it's part and parcel of being a parent!) and you feel as though something is missing, giving some of your time to something you really love, and that fulfils you, will make the difficult moments seem less of a big deal. Having other things to focus on can really help your self-esteem.

It's true. We can so feel worn down and exhausted by life that it seems as though the last thing we want is to add in even more stuff. But being proactive can be energising, uplifting and rewarding - even when time is in short supply.

So learn something. Do something. Be something. Even when you don't think you have time, and even when you're tired. Do something, even when you feel like giving up because it all feels too much. In fact, that's the point when you must do something, for your own well-being.

Remember - Having an idea and not doing anything about it is like sitting in the car and not turning the engine on.

Connect With Others

Today, there are a lot of single parents, navigating through life with the same issues as you.

If you don't believe that, then you're either new to single parent life, or you are not connected.

The truth is, there are more single parents than ever before - and, guess what? They support one another all the time.

Single parents do favours for each other. They help one another out with childcare when they can. They're not afraid to ask for favours, because they know they'll repay the favour when they can. It's not a sign of not being able to manage, it's a sign of good organisation that suits everyone.

Connecting makes life better. ​

Happy single parents often look outside the traditional box of what 'family' means. They extend it to include lots of friends who might or might not be in the same position as themselves. After all, everything looks better when you have others to share it with.

* Single parents team up for days out so that it is more fun for everyone.

* Single parents might even go on longer trips together, or get together for Sunday lunch. How great would it be if you only had to cook one fantastically yummy roast out of three?

* Single parents get together just to hang out and play board games or eat pizza. Being with another adult can brighten up an otherwise uneventful day.

* Single parents ask one another when they need a favour, and they are not ashamed to do so. In this world of single parentdom, everyone has something to offer and a way in which they can help.

But the most important thing is that single parents support each other emotionally, because they understand what one another feels like and has been through. Just being with others can be enough - it's now a well known fact that loneliness can lead to a decline in mental and physical health.

Connection with others can be like gold - even more so if you don't have close family nearby.

Connecting with others can definitely make life better
Connecting with others can definitely make life better | Source

When it Comes to Family, Think Outside the Box

On television, and throughout the media, there is still a great deal of emphasis placed on the traditional two-parent family. But that simply does not represent today's reality. Too often, images portraying the 'perfect' nuclear family can make lone parents feel inadequate; as though something is missing. It can make you feel alone.

That is, if you let it.

​In reality, these days families come in all shapes and sizes, and with that there is a growing culture of single parenting. No one wants to feel alone, but you do not have to be part of a two parent family in order to eradicate loneliness. That might be what the media sometimes leads us to believe, and it might even be what we think about ourselves when we are out and about, among two-parent families. As humans we are social creatures, and if you don't feel part of something it can be excruciatingly lonely, even to the point of depression.

That's why it is so important to be connected. It's nice for your children, too, because not only do they have someone else to hang around with, seeing you happy is really important to them. Rather than viewing life as compartmentalised, with everyone separately contained within their own traditionally defined families, allow those lines to overlap. Allow your lines to spill over thick, conservative boundaries and out into the beyond. Then, live life and have fun.

If no one in your surroundings has set the wheels of connectivity in motion, be the first to start it off. Invite other single parents and their children for a gathering. An informal lunch, perhaps. It can be as cheap as chips - the important thing is getting together to build a friendly support network. Just because no one else has done it already doesn't mean they won't all jump at the chance.

You could do it as a informal gesture of friendship, or as a more organised group, where everyone not only gets together once in a while, but is added to a private Facebook group where single parents can ask other single parents for help when they need it.

If You're Depressed Without a Partner

Some people place so much emphasis on having, or not having, a partner that they make it the be-all-and-end-all.

They magnify its importance to the point where they believe happiness and security will only come when they have found the 'perfect' partner.

The trouble is, placing your happiness in the hands of someone else is never a good thing. It means you are giving over control of your wellbeing to someone else - which only means you are more vulnerable to disappointment.

What's more, if you really feel that having a significant other would make you complete, you are likely to look too hard, which can mean you end up rushing into something that isn't going to work out.

Instead of searching for another partner, concentrate on friendships instead. Make an effort to get out and do things without worrying over whether or not you'll find a new relationship, and if you're meant to meet someone else, you will. Build your life, with your children, the way YOU want it to be.

Make your life great, just for you (and at the same time take a moment to remember all the niggling irritations that can come from being part of a relationship).

Remember, Life is a Journey

Life is a journey, ever moving, ever changing.

That means that where you are at any given moment is not where you will end up.

It's basic stuff, really.

And when you understand that life is like a flowing river, and that it never stays it one place, you can accept that the situation you are currently experiencing is only a phase. It's a bit like travelling through a particularly bad storm - it's difficult, but you'll get there in the end.

So, if you are a single parent feeling stuck and depressed, believe in something, do something - and keep on doing it.

You'll get there in the end. Remember, if you start walking, no matter how slowly, you will eventually reach your destination if you don't stop. You've just got to keep the faith, otherwise you might stop walking - and then, you'll never get anywhere.

Remember, life is a journey
Remember, life is a journey | Source

Be More 'Zen'

It's not always what happens to you, but how you deal with it, that makes the real difference between those who feel happy and those who don't.

Learning to exist in the moment, rather than fret about everything from past events to what will happen tomorrow or next week, can be the key. Too often, we allow our minds to conjure up feelings of anxiety, anger or bitterness, without realising that these emotions are held within us because we allow them to reside there. Nothing more. Think of your individual self as an entire universe. What you are thinking and feeling is happening only within that universe - everything outside it has its own experience. And since your feelings are only within you, you have the power to control them.

It's true, even if you don't believe it.

Of course, blocking out feelings entirely is not the key to happiness either - but by accepting a feeling and allowing it to ebb away, whilst you return to a state of calm, is the path to a more serene and positive life experience.

You might think that's ridiculous, and blame someone else for your situation and the way you feel. But by doing that you are holding onto past emotions, which is never healthy, and at the same time you are allowing someone else to control your future. That is not living in the present, which is actually the only place that can ever exist. And even if another person's negative actions or words is still prevalent in your life, the same message applies. Acknowledge your feelings towards the situation, and then let them pass through you and away into the universe.

Someone else's negativity, unkindness, and thoughtlessness is their problem, not yours.

Be more 'zen' - sometimes, changing your world from inside can make all the difference
Be more 'zen' - sometimes, changing your world from inside can make all the difference | Source

Love Yourself

When things go wrong, it's easy to sink into a negative spiral of blaming ourselves in some way. It's easy to think of your life, and indeed yourself, as inadequate in comparison to other people. You might look around you and think that everyone else has it easier.

But life is a gift, and there's no time for that sort of mindset.

Things happen to us for all sorts of reasons, and most people's lives are filled with ups and downs. If times are hard, it doesn't mean that you are any less competent or deserving than anyone else. Your current circumstances are not YOU. They do not define you. Instead, see it as a phase, a blip, and focus on the positives instead.

You might have hit a difficult period, but you are you, you are great, and you are just as good as the next person.

Believe in yourself, and throw away those doubts.

​Do it now!


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