Living as a single mum, or having a daughter who is a single mum, can be an incredibly stressful place for all parties.
A life of stress is not a life that anyone wants to lead.
Over time, the continued strain of stress can contribute to serious health problems, including heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and other illnesses such as depression or anxiety.
The impacts of stress are more widespread than just damaging health. A 2013 study by researchers found that stress makes it difficult to control emotions, with a lower capacity to regulate their anxiety or reactions.
Ongoing stress can age people early, affect their relationships and contribute to weight gain.
Single mums – juggling life balance
To say that single mums are busy would be an understatement. They have more balls in the air than a skilled street juggler, which is a constant strain.
Single mums live every day with their backs against the wall, balancing and defending the needs of their children, fighting hard to keep their heads above water with work, bills and navigating difficult decisions.
An Australian study by Good Shepherd (2018), found that out of 26 research subjects, only four said they would be confident of raising $2000 in an emergency, and generally this would be borrowed from their mothers or from selling items of worth.
Single mums want the best for their children, as any parent does, and often put the needs of their children ahead of themselves.
Key stress points to address
The combined stress points of single mums are too numerous to count, yet it can help to review the major stresses, to work out how to find some relief and balance.
# 1 – Work related-stress
Work is stressful, even without being a single mum. More than ever, employers expect employees to work longer and be more flexible, which can be difficult as a single mum with responsibilities to care for their children. Add in long commute times, high-pressure work situations and deadlines, and the stress can become immense.
Suggestions for single mums: Employers have obligations to support single working parents, and it is important that mothers are informed about their rights. More information can be found at fairwork.gov.au. Seek out family-friendly businesses. Mothers should be open with their manager about their circumstances. Merge work and home calendars to have a single point of view.
Suggestions for parents of single mums: Grandparents can offer to care for their grandchildren when they sense their daughter is overwhelmed at work. Suggest setting up a shared calendar (eg Google Calendar) to become more organised. Be a supportive sounding board for work stresses.
#2 – Money problems: Money comes in and money goes out – with very little, if any, leftover for minor luxuries, eating out or birthday presents. When new bills arrive for single mothers, so do anxious feelings.
Suggestions for single mums: Take action on common measures for saving money, including reviewing grocery and utility bills. Before grocery shopping, plan meals in advance, decide to purchase home brands, and make a big batch of soup and pasta sauces weekly and freeze several portions for later. Save for an emergency fund. For more tips on simple ways to save, visit moneysmart.gov.au
Suggestions for parents of single mums: Single mothers are often resilient and independent, yet pride can stop them from asking for help. Proactively offer monetary assistance, offer to pay for the occasional birthday or Christmas present or cover a bill payment from time to time.
#3 – Home & space problems
Single income families that rent often find themselves in homes that are smaller than they need, especially as their children grow and need more space.
Suggestions for single mums: In July 2021 the new Family Home Guarantee for single parents commenced, to help single mothers and fathers achieve the dream of home ownership, with a deposit as modest as 2 per cent. More information at nhfic.gov.au
Suggestions for parents of single mums: With the median price for a house in Australia of almost $1 million in the September quarter of 2021 (Domain 2021), saving for a 2% deposit of $20,000 is still a big ask for many single mothers.
In Australia, the Bank of Mum and Dad (BoMaD) is now the 10th largest lender, according to research by Digital Finance Analytics. Parents of single mothers that are inclined to assist their child with a home deposit, may be eligible for a Household Loan, which is a type of reverse mortgage.
#4 – General life balance
Finding balance as a single mother is often the last thing on their list of priorities. Life balance is finding time for fun, exercise, sleep and going out with friends.
Suggestions for single mums: Plan ahead to make time for yourself, including asking your parents to care for your children, or organising them to sleep at a friend’s house. Being in control of your calendar is key to finding time for yourself. Exercising and getting enough sleep are essential to improve life balance and wellness.
Suggestions for parents of single mums: Helping to care for your grandchildren is not an impost on your time, it is a gift to cherish and embrace. Offering to help, should your daughter be struggling, will enrich both of your lives.
The stress that single mothers live with is not isolated to them. It affects their children, and by extension it also impacts their parents who love them and want the best for them.
Being aware of how stress affects each family member and being open to doing a bit more to help, can lower the stress of single mums and help to bring their lives into better balance.