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How to Cope as a Single Mother

Psychology Blog Dubai

Motherhood is tough when we have a supportive partner and a strong support network. Mothering alone is not for the faint-hearted. Some women choose to be solo mothers. Many women never wanted to be a single mother but find themselves having to parent alone.

Q: I’m a single mom struggling with depression. I am afraid I’m not a good mom. How do I overcome depression? How can I be a good mom with depression?

Ava: You are a good mom. Depression is merely a cluster of symptoms, a manifestation of an exhausted nervous system that has gone into a collapsed state. It’s a sign of an imbalance. But this does not mean you are broken, or not good enough!! 

Depression is just part of your journey. It is a signal that something needs to change both within you and possibly also in your external world to help you out of the darkness. 

The good news is depression doesn’t last forever. Depression is not something to “battle, fight or overcome.” This belief makes it seem as though those that are not depressed are somehow “stronger” or more resilient, which couldn’t be further from the truth. They just have a different human experience.

Depression is something to understand not something to battle. Even though we have this whole name for a “disorder” called depression, it can actually look very different in different people. We need to understand what happened and what led you here. Then we can slowly help you find your way back to more balance, joy, contentment, movement, and energy. 

You are a good mom just as you are, depressed or not, doesn’t define you. It’s just part of your motherhood journey and part of your journey as a human. Please remember you are not alone in your experience. It’s a human experience many of us go through at some point in our lives. Get help, talk to a professional and slowly find your way back to yourself. 

Look after yourself. You can read our suggestions of how you can nurture yourself when you have young children and how to re-set.

Q: I’m a single mom with a newborn. I have to handle everything alone. I can’t keep up with housework. What can I do?

Ava: First of all, you are incredible and amazing!!! You are a gift to society and you are what makes every woman feel that she can do anything and anything is possible. Thank you for what you are doing, for raising your children, for being brave and for being here, reading this!

Yes, you are handling a lot on your own, and even though we know you can, please get whatever help you can get. It takes a village to raise a child. It’s not a cliche. It’s true! If you have the resources to hire an extra set of caring hands please do it, even if you are a stay home mom, you need to get a break to look after yourself.

A single mom with a newborn is like being a mom who is on maternity leave with a newborn forever alone. Yes, you may not have a partner who can co-parent and do their part to help raise your child as a team.

Make a list of your top five people in your life and ask them for a regular commitment to help with something. Can someone look after the baby while you get a nap, or go for a hair appointment, or to the gym? Can you drop off your child at a friend’s house for a playdate and you spend some time alone at home reading without being interrupted? Ask for help with physical labor such as laundry, cooking and cleaning.

Gather a tribe of people who care about, so you are always nourished and resourced with love and kindness.

Matleena: Right now there are only two real priorities in your life: your well-being and your baby’s well-being. Everything else is secondary. Prioritize like never before. Be ruthless. Let go of everything that is unnecessary. Your baby can wear a sleepsuit all day. Until your baby starts eating solids, you don’t need to bathe them every night. You can wear the same leggings three days in a row. Your kitchen floor does not have to shine. Now is not the time to take up composting.

Sit down and write down 20 things that are a priority for you right now. Then, select the five most important things from that list of 20. That’s going to be your priority list. Only those five things. Focus on them. Make sure you and your baby are on that list! Let the others go for now. You are doing enough. You are parenting solo and that is both the biggest challenge you will ever take on in your life as well as the most rewarding thing you will ever do. It will get better and easier. For now, enjoy your baby and forget about the little stuff.

3) I am a single mom with no support. How do I raise my child alone? How can I make friends?

Matleena: If you are asking yourself these questions, it shows that you want the best for your child and, at the same time, you are not ignoring your own needs for social support. You are on the right track.

Approximately 18 to 21 million children lived with a single mother or father in the United States in 2020. Millions of parents around the world parent alone. You may feel like you are the only single parent but you are far from alone. You can do this.

Find women who are in a similar position as you. For example, you could join Solo Mums UAE Facebook group. Talk to mothers who are further in the single parenting journey and learn from them. Talk to mothers who are at the same stage of your parenting journey and laugh, cry and support each other. Later on, when you are more confident in yourself as a mother, share your wisdom with new solo mothers you meet.

Don’t forget that you are still you. There is a new side to who you are, a mother, but the other aspects of you still exist. When looking for new friendships you don’t have to enter the social situation only as a mother to a newborn or a single mother. You can walk in as an exuberant dancer, deep thinker, politically energized, enthusiastic, or wanna-be perpetual traveller. Motherhood changes us and can easily dominate our identity, especially in the early days. The more you can cultivate all parts of you, the less likely you are to burn out. When you allow space and time for other important parts in you, you will return home to your baby rejuvenated.

I suggest you treat making friends as a single mother as a solvable problem. There are many obstacles but there is also a solution. You probably have less time than before. Finances may limit your options. It’s time to get creative. You may have the solution just yet but it will come to you. You can and will figure this one out.

Motherhood is not easy for anyone. If you are struggling, it’s not a sign of failure. It’s a sign that you are a human being. Never forget that. You are enough.

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Dr. Ava Ghasemi (Holdich) is a licensed Psychologist with 11 years experience in the U.S., Canada and the Middle East. She has a practice of individual and couples therapy at the MapleTree Center in Dubai.

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Matleena Vanhanen is a licensed Counselling Psychologist with over 20 years of experience working in Europe and the Middle East. She has a practice of couples and individual therapy at the MapleTree Center in Dubai.

This article features the advice of a licensed expert, but it is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment from a trained professional. In an emergency, please seek help from your local medical or law enforcement services.

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