How to support the single-parent family you know

One in seven families are single parent homes according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics in their June 2020 report. We all probably know someone from within our own family or community. They are our siblings, friends, colleagues, or even our own parent!  So it shouldn’t be any surprise that single parenthood can be overwhelming and exhausting, especially when over 60% of single parents are employed and the majority are single mothers.

A report from 2019 revealed the hardship single mothers in particular are facing:

  • 70% struggled to meet their costs of living;
  • 65% are in paid employment, but more are still struggling
  • 90% are concerned about their long-term financial wellbeing.

“Although single mothers are overwhelmingly strong, resilient and doing everything they can to provide opportunities for their children, they are operating within a system that works against them,” says Jenny Davidson, CEO at Council of Single Mothers and their Children.

Holding down a steady job or furthering your education, while also juggling the demands of parenting and running a household is challenging for any family!  But for single parents in particular, this balancing act can see resources, mental health and physical health, stretched to capacity.

Rachael, a working mother of two, says “there is no longer a cookie-cutter definition of a family. Family is what you make it. It can include friends, colleagues and neighbours who are there to help you when the going gets tough. Embracing that idea is the first step to embracing the family you have, and being able to reach out to them when you need it.”

We recently spoke to a number of single-parent families to share their secrets on how to make things work better for them, but now we want to explore how the people around a single-parent family can offer genuine support.

Let’s explore some practical ways we can lighten the workload for our loved ones!

1. Double the Ingredients

Making a lasagne? Cook a bigger one!  If you are already cooking something simple and healthy, it isn’t much of a stretch to cook a couple of servings more and take it to your friend or family’s house. Pop it in their freezer for a day when they simply don’t have time to cook, or let them know ahead of time so they know they can relax about dinner that night.

2. Offer to do the grocery shop

If you’re heading out to do your groceries, ask if you can pick up anything for your friend or family member too. Or add a few extra staples to your shopping, such as longlife milk, bread or eggs. Rachael says “Just having a few extra staples for the kids’ toast or cereal gives me one less thing to worry about during the morning rush out the door.”

grocery shopping

3. Do the pickup or drop off

Offer to do a regular pick up or drop off for their children to kinder or school.  While offering this as a once-off kind gesture is appreciated, having a regular routine where your friend or family member knows that you have them covered is a weight off their shoulders.  It gives them the freedom to make that doctor’s appointment, go to the gym, or have an extra hour of study.  Just make sure your loved one puts you down as a contact person for their child’s school or kinder.

4. Give practical gifts

Instead of the usual gifts that most women tend to receive, like candles or moisturiser, think of practical things that would genuinely help your loved one.  Prepaid debit cards or vouchers allow them to choose what they need most. Find out what it is they have trouble with in their daily life and help them improve the situation.  For example, if they complain that they never get enough time to clean the house, you could hire a cleaner for them, offer to do it yourself, or if budget allows, a robot vacuum is the gift that keeps on giving!

5. Provide flexible working

If you are an employer, studies have shown that offering flexible working hours not only makes a huge difference for single parents, but it can also have a positive impact on your business! You can help out by creating ‘school-hour’ shifts or allowing work to be done at home and outside of business hours.

Smiling mother using laptop while holding baby in living room

6. Be their self-care genie

“Before I had children, I used to make my own fresh juice every Sunday morning as a little treat for myself,” said Rachael. “It was something I looked forward to, but after having children I stopped having the time to do it.”

This may sound like something so minor, but a lot of us have these small self-care rituals. So find out: What is one simple self-care thing that your loved one has had to sacrifice?  Then make it happen for them!

7. Do it without asking

If you’ve ever thought that someone close to you may need a pair of extra hands, then chances are they probably do. You can show that you care in little ways without asking, for example, bringing them a takeout coffee, doing the dishes while you chat, or leaving some goodies at their front door.  This gives people the feeling of support and a sense of community.  And sometimes that’s all that is needed to get through a particularly hard day.

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Still unsure?

Rachael says, “I understand how hard it can be for single parents to ask for help, but for a lot of us, there are people and services that you can turn to.”

If you feel your friend or family member can benefit from some external support, bestchance has a range of services to assist. So if you are still not sure how to help, click here to visit the website or contact us on 1300 224 644

Other helpful resources:

The Council of Single Mothers and their Children: The CMSC offers essential assistance and support for single mothers, including advocacy, information and referrals. Phone (03) 9654 0622 or 1300 552 511 outside metro Melbourne.

Parentline Victoria: phone 13 22 89 – 8am to midnight 7 days a week

Parents Beyond Breakup: or call 1300 853 437

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