Would love more experienced single parents to give advice :)

(24 Posts)
ArcaneAsylum Mon 08-Apr-13 22:19:34

Evening all,

I am new to the parenting game and am very much looking forward to the birth of my baby later this year. I will be a single parent and could definitely use a spot of advice from more experienced parents.

The father of the baby isn't interested (lucky for me I'm not too interested in him either), but I do want to make sure that the baby has a secure upbringing and so I'll be contacting the CSA as soon he/she arrives. I've thought about this quite a bit after posting in Relationships and got some good advice. From what the father has said, I'm assuming that he wants no contact, will contest the baby's paternity (of which there is no question) and will be very unwilling to part with any maintenance payments.

What I suppose I want to know is, what's the toughest aspect of being a single parent and how do you cope? I am expecting it to be hard going it alone as I'll be constantly needed by the newborn, not to mention that I plan to return to work after six months (cannot afford any more time off).

Also, if you know how the CSA works I really could use a brief overview of how it all works. I phoned them but they said not to do anything until the baby was actually here.

Thanks in advance! smile

Kiriwawa Mon 08-Apr-13 22:22:54

Hardest thing with a newborn is lack of sleep. If you can get a mum/sister/friend to come and stay or visit and provide cups of tea/food/baby jiggling while you shower/shopping/etc so you can rest, that makes a huge difference. You need support if you can get it, especially in those first six weeks.

MumfordandDaughter Mon 08-Apr-13 22:31:39

hi there.

Csa - definitely get onto them as soon as your baby's born. Your ex will have to do a DNA test if he denies being the father. Once proven that he is, he will then be issued with a payment schedule from CSA.

If he fails to comply, or his payments are inconsistent, you can then get something called an attachment of earnings order, which means his employer will automatically take the money from his wage before it goes into your ex's account. It will be out of his control completely.

As for being a single parent. I have been a lone parent since my dd was 2 weeks old. She's had no contact with her father since.

The hardest parts for me were the nights and lack of sleep at first. After that it was the overwhelming lonliness. I craved adult company, but had no energy to go out and meet friends.

Then came the boredom. Being stuck indoors all day on your own with a newborn wasn't fun. at all. I then developed post natal depression. I returned to work early, which helped a lot. However, this then brought on the guilt.

As my daughter got older, it became apparent she had problems. So then i had to go through almost two years of doctor visits all on my own, which was heart wrenching and scary. I wished i had someone there to support me. I still do now, when i go to such appointments.

But the bond i have with my daughter now (she's 5) is like nothing else. I look at her and i feel so much pride and love.

She's asked a few awkward questions about her dad but i've tried to be as honest as i feel is suitable for her. I've told her he just didn't want to be a dad and i don't know where he lives. She goes on a lot about how it's not fair everyone else has a mummy and a daddy, but i've just taught her about different family set ups. Such as some children have two daddies, or just a daddy and no mummy etc.

Sorry if this post is full of negativity! Just trying to be as honest as i can.

Congratulations on the pregnancy. Enjoy your freedom while it lasts. grin

beansmum Mon 08-Apr-13 22:38:23

I've been single since before I had ds (nearly 9) - the father has seen ds once, when he was 6 wks old. We live on opposite sides of the world now, so there's no contact at all. It's not that tough - I don't have all the crap that comes from trying to parent together with someone you don't really like, no conflict about contact, and since the father doesn't contribute financially, no conflict about money.

The newborn stage was easy - at least no more difficult than it is for any new mum. I did have a ridiculously easy baby though...

Now ds is a bit older the hardest thing is not really having a social life. You need some good friends who will babysit, still invite you out even after you've turned them down the last 15 times, understand that you need more notice to arrange babysitters/your finances. I don't have that, and it sucks. The last time I was out in the evening without ds was over a year ago for my sister's wedding.

Also, you can't get ill. Ever. You'll still have to carry on as usual if you do.

Other than that, I love being a single parent - but, again, ridiculously easy child. If he was less awesome it might be less fun.

No idea about the CSA - is it really worth the hassle if the father isn't going to have contact? Having a secure upbringing doesn't necessarily mean having lots of money. Although I guess it might help.

ThePskettiIncident Mon 08-Apr-13 22:38:54

I loved the first year entirely and kept while my baby slept. We did everything at our own pace and answered to no one. That's the brilliant part of being a lone parent - no compromise.

After the first year things got harder in some ways. Ds is exuberant and quite wilful. Toddler battles can be very wearing, but sometimes I just step outside myself and end up laughing my socks off at it all.

Looking after a poorly baby on your own or when you are poorly is probably the lowest I've felt. Sometimes you just want someone to look after you.

Financially it's hard (but I'm frugal anyway) and I managed to stay off work til SMP ran out.

Go to children's centres, sign up for baby and parenting courses there and meet as many people as you can. Having good friends really lightens the load.

Good luck and keep posting here. It's been a lifeline for me.

ThePskettiIncident Mon 08-Apr-13 22:40:46

Oh and if any of you are in the south west, I'm always up for tea and cake.

Meglet Mon 08-Apr-13 22:44:10

The first few weeks can be very hard, especially if you have a tough birth or bf / sleep doesn't go smoothly. But while you're on maternity leave you don't have to do anything apart from hunker down and recover, don't worry if you're still in pj's at 3pm. I was a single parent by the time DS was 2.2 and DD was 4 months old, to be honest once XP was out the house it was much easier.

Yes, call the CSA as soon as you can after the birth. TBH I've never had a problem with them, but I think my XP has always worked so they haven't had a problem getting their hands on the money. And speaking from bitter experience please give your baby your surname. I'm honest about their dad when they ask, they know his name and what his job was and that he was a bit angry (understatement!).

I went back to work after a years maternity leave and without wanting to make your heart sink it really is hard going now they're 6 & 4, it was easier when they were small. It's been 6 years without a break (XP wouldn't really help when he was here and no one has them at weekends) and now they're older they have opinions!

In other ways it's not so bad. DS is doing brilliantly at school and DD is more than ready to start in september. They're not bottom of the class or problem children despite what some sections of society would like to think about single parent families.

It really isn't as bad as you might think. It'll be hard but you'll find your feet, yes you'll be shattered and probably scoff lots of chocolate biscuits but just take it day by day smile.

BlackeyedSusan Tue 09-Apr-13 01:23:37

nights were hard with 2 parents when only one could feed! try and get family to help with shopping/food/ if you can make enough dinners for yourself to bung in the microwave do so before baby comes. buy in lots of snacky thingsthata keep and are nutritious and can be eaten with one hand. get yourself a couple of boxes of uht milk for emergencies. get some cheap paer plates. they can go on top of an ordinary one to save on washing up for the first 2 weeks or so. stock up on maternity pads/night sanitary towels (more comfortable) pain killers (ibupofen nd paracetamol, but don't take ibuprofen til after baby is born. )

buy a childs swim ring. get some of those changing pads so you can sit on them and air your bits.

buy a couple of bottles and stuff even if you are planning on breast feeding.

drinks in sports bottles you can have one handed.

you will need a microwave.

I think getting prepared and buying some esentials in before baby comes will help as there is no-one to pop out fo you.

acceptableinthe80s Tue 09-Apr-13 09:45:10

Hi Arcane, I read your post yesterday, it was myself that suggested you post over here. I fell pregnant under scarily similar circumstances to yourself, the only difference being my ex wanted the baby initially then changed his mind when i was 5 months pregnant and i haven't seen him since. DS is now almost 5.

For me the hardest part without a doubt was the first few months, DS had severe reflux and rarely slept for more than 40 minutes at a time, regularly projectile vomited, cried a LOT and thought the day started at 4.30am for the first year of his life!
The lack of sleep is definitely the toughest part but you do get used to it eventually. DS didn't sleep through until he was almost 3yrs! You might be lucky and get a sleeper.

So my survival tips are:

Sleep when baby sleeps
Co-sleeping (saved my sanity, and it's lovely)
Take any help you can get ( i used to go to my mums, feed the baby then go and nap for an hour)
Get out and about as much as you can
Batch cook and freeze lots of meals for after baby is born (you won't have time to cook!)
Develop a taste for coffee if you haven't already!!

Don't forget to enjoy your baby, they're only little for a short time.
Mumsnet is a great place for support, i only wish i knew about it when DS was a baby and i was slowly losing my mind!

Come back and post whenever you need to. Feel free to PM me if you have any questions. Good Luck.

ArcaneAsylum Tue 09-Apr-13 16:44:08

Thank you so much everyone for posting your experiences. I sense that lack of sleep is a common theme! I will have good family support around me and they've already offered to help out as much as they can. I'm very keen on getting things organised as much as I can before the baby is here and have a lot of equipment ready already. But it truly is useful to know about things like stocking up on food for me, maternity pads and paper plates (would never have thought of that one myself!).

I do have a tendency towards depression so I'll be keeping a close eye on myself in case of PND. I'm planning to get out as much as I can, even if just for a half hour walk.

I'm going to print this thread out so that I have it quickly to hand. Not because I think that raising a child on my own is just a matter of reading the 'guidelines', but because it helps to know that I won't be the only single parent going through this. smile

bunchamunchycrunchycarrots Tue 09-Apr-13 20:29:38

Hello arcane, I think you have the makings of a fab mum. There have been some helpful tips so far but I'll wade in with some practical stuff that might help.

1st of all, it's never too early to check out childcare costs in your area to get an idea of how much it will cost and what is out there for you to consider. If you get an idea of how much it will cost, the hours you can cover, then the work pattern you think would be feasible for the end of your maternity leave will be a bit easier to work out. Whether it's full time or part time, it's useful to get an idea as to how much the cost of a nursery is compared to a child minder in your area just to see how it all fits in. I've not used this website so can't say how useful it is but it's one source for you to search childminders.

Check out this website to get an idea on tax credits etc. If you have an idea of childcare costs in your area, you can input those details and get an idea as to how much you might be entitled to once you go back to work. I find this website pretty accurate for me, it's usually within a few £ per week in it's calculations.

I agree getting well stocked up for the impending arrival food/supplies wise is a good thing. I'd recommend not making any arrangements for any socialising for the 1st few weeks - just 'baby-moon' if you can as that's the best way to get to know your baby, and what they need. Getting to know what the cries mean, what makes them happy and content, when they need a bum change etc. So not having to worry about shopping for or planning meals while you are 'baby-mooning' knackered is sound advice!

Sounds like you will have some good support. That is half the battle, but make sure you know more about exactly what people mean by support. There is nothing worse than thinking you have support, when the person/people you are relying on have a completely different and frankly useless idea of what 'support is and how much they are willing to give. I have found that knowing where I stand, even if it means I don't have support, is much better than hoping for support that never materialises IYSWIM.

CSA - this is always going to be a bit hit or miss. If you know details such as DOB, NI, address, work address, salary, it makes the whole process easier/quicker. If you are missing this sort of info, it's best to try and budget on the basis that you will get nothing, and anything that the CSA do manage to extracate as a bonus. Leave it up to them to deal with the father, and don't expect a quick resolution if he is v reluctant to co-operate with them. They'll get him eventually so give them all you know when the baby is born, and leave them to it if possible. Easier said than done, but it's preferential to giving yourself more stress and hassle hoping for a quick turn around.

And enjoy your baby as much as you can. For all the hard work it is doing it all on your own, it's still awesome to be that little person's whole world and seeing that in their eyes whenever they see you. You'll see the world in a whole new way, and it's lovely seeing them experience it all for the first time. Good luck!

Be prepared for possible isolation, not going out, getting lonely etc. I found it always came in waves though & you get times where it doesn't bother you, especially as they grow up smile

It's nice being able to do it all on your own terms though!

IntheFrame Tue 09-Apr-13 21:39:57

It truly doesn't have to be all doom and gloom though. My ex left as soon as he knew I was pregnant. My top tip would be to imagine how hard it will be and then you might find yourself pleasantly surprised.They sleep for 17 hours a day in the first few months. Mine would wake up twice in the night, have a BF and I'd plonk him back 15 minutes later.

I went back to work after 2 weeks doing pre and afternoon childcare. That worked brilliantly as we were up at 6am anyway for work at 7.30am. Back at 11.00 for nap and shopping/housework. Back to work at 3 till 6pm with a nicely tired out baby. Made and met friends with other mums and got me out of the house.

As everyone says you can please yourself though.

Also agree with those that find toddlers harder as single parent. It's hard balancing " firm rule maker" and then "lovely mummy" all day everyday.

Also don't have too much stuff. If it's just you seriously stick to having a couple of plates, glasses and a pan or two just for you to use and to wash up. Don't buy loads of baby stuff either. That way there's less to organise and it's never a tip when people drop in and the worse time!

xTillyx Wed 10-Apr-13 11:54:10

For me the hardest part of being a single parent has been being lonely. I've been alone since day one and can't help feeling jealous deep down when I see friends sharing being a parent with their partners. I'm sure I'll meet someone great in the future,and my little one is showered with love from family and friends.

All any of us can do single or not is our best for our children, you will be fine. Didn't realize how tough I was until being a single parent x

bluebeardsbabe Thu 11-Apr-13 19:59:32

The above posts have pretty much said it all. I am alone with six month dd. Hardest parts are probably loneliness and wishing I could share it with someone. Dd goes to bed at 7 and I pretty much just hunker down on the sofa and watch crap tvsmile sometimes it would be nice to have an adult to chat with. I lived with my mum for the first few months which was a god send when it came to being fed but still did all the donkey work myself. If you are able to stay with a family member for the first few weeks I strongly reccomend it. I think I was in shock the first few nights and my mum actually sat up with me the first two nights. I had no idea what I was doing and was terrified of dd who seemed so tiny at the time.

It is easy to say sleep when they sleep and don't worry about the housework etc but I find I get more stressed when my house is messy so do push myself resulting in me getting very tired and emotional.

I am not going to sell you a fairly tale. Many days feel completely shit. I go out every day to groups etc but you will constantly be reminded that most other people are doing it in couples. Some people handle it better than others but I don't as am still hurt about exp fucking off and it's only recently I haven't cried after a day out with other mums talking about what they do when their husbands come home.

Now on the bright side!! She is my pride and joy, I love her to bits, we are a team, she is my mini me, I take her everywhere and we do lots more than most other mums I meet as I can't leave her she just comes along. I am so proud of myself for looking after a baby on my own - yay me - and that is a hell of a good feeling.

It will be hard but it's all worth it. Find your own rhythm and don't listen to what others do. I coslept, had dd hanging off my tit most times, and didn't really have any routines to start with...whatever made life easier. I now put her to bed at seven so I get some me timesmile

You will be fine, keep posting here, it's a real support.

gettingeasiernow Thu 11-Apr-13 21:37:10

Don't be afraid! I haven't regretted it for a single second, so have confidence that you'll manage, because you definitely will. The best advice I can give is to get the best childcare you can afford - your stress levels later, when you go back to work, will be in direct proportion to the quality of childcare you can provide. More expensive is not always better - my DS went to state nursery which was way better than the private ones around here and half the price. I had to arrange this when I was five months pregnant though or I'd never have got a place. So think about that early, like now really.
Hardest thing is not EVER having even a five minute break, and not having anyone to whom you can say "isn't our child just SOOOO wonderful/clever/beautiful". You can't say that to anyone other than the father really.

Laura03 Thu 11-Apr-13 21:47:35

I'm a single mum to 4 year old twins. Don't be too worried, it definitely can be done.
I have been a single parent since September 2011 and if I'm honest it was the best thing I could of done in terms of my feelings and showing FOB's true colours.

He hasn't seen the girls since November 2012 and has no interest in arranging to see them although I still allow his family to see them.

He pays for the girls and that's done via CSA, they haven't been too much of a problem for me. Only once when I waited 17 days for a payment so I asked FOB (he was having contact at the time) to change it to maintenance direct so he pays me directly.

As a previous poster said, if his payments aren't regular or he messes about they can go direct to his employer so make sure you get the claim set up ASAP after baby is born because then you will get money quicker.

As for being a single mum I rely hugely on my family and friends, if I need anything my mum is always there and I have a huge family support network, aunties & uncles and so on so if you have people to help you take them up on it. Every mum needs a break once is a while

smile

FourFish Thu 11-Apr-13 21:57:45

Pretty much what every one has said! What I did when pregnant was figure out where the nearest breastfeeding support groups and baby groups were and practiced the bus route so that when I had a newborn and needed help/support I knew where to go without the hassle of having to find where things were. Look into Sure Start as they often (while they still exist :-( ) have bumps and babies groups that you can join while pregnant and start meeting other mums. Gingerbread too - the lone parent charity - have groups about and are a good place for lone parent support.
Oh and tell visitors they are only allowed through the door to hug baby if they bring a freezer meal! I did this with DD2 and didn't have to cook for the first 6 weeks :-)

jacks365 Sat 13-Apr-13 02:39:11

I'm a lone parent and have been since 97 when my marriage broke down. Its been hard but good family support helps. I found holiday care/clubs when they were 11/12 ish the hardest, due to my commute i'd be away 12 hours and that's too long. Loneliness is also hard, when not in the office i can go days without speaking to another adult.

I did after a long time start another relationship but that didn't work and left me in a position similar to you so i now also have a 17 month old. Dad doesn't want anything to do with her, his loss.

I do have to go through the CSA for maintenance. I put in the claim start of November they then contacted him, i had dob address and full name. He denied paternity but never arranged a DNA test so come the January, they told him it was too late and gave him 2 weeks to provide income details, he ignored so they went straight to his employer got the figures and put an attachment of earnings in place. Payments started in the March.

Best advice i can give is be selfish, think of you and your child first and foremost. Take each day as it comes and don't be scared to ask for help even with stupid small stuff. Also allow yourself not to be perfect it helps the stress levels a lot.

equinox Wed 17-Apr-13 14:18:11

I would say a lot hinges upon whether you have access and/or family support for babysitting so you can work enough hours to be financially secure. Plus for any nights/trips out you wish to take to keep up with friendships/a social life etc.

I live in the east midlands and 95 per cent of them rely on their mum/siblings etc to assist whereas my ex is 100 miles away and only sees our 8 year old son on minimal access visits in school hols or half terms. Plus my parents are dead and I have no siblings so I am up shit creek socially most of the time as I have no spare funds left for childcare to get a night out.

It is feeling cut off socially that is the hardest to cope with. Plus that way it also takes years and years to find a decent bloke who can put up with all of that let alone meet one!

Some people are so lucky and move on so fast they go out all the time their mum is down the road and they have an amenable ex plus siblings don't know why the hand of fate can be so impossibly hard at times for some of us!

SacreBlue Wed 17-Apr-13 20:07:47

Hi Arc, ditto the above! like most things, if you do it by yourself entirely or largely, you get both the work and the rewards smile

I have been on my own since the words 'I'm pg' left my mouth grin no csa either (at that stage it was fear he would be more difficult) but I think those posters with v young DCs are better able to remind you of all the bits you need to remember. Getting into a regular sleep pattern being one of the fundamentals.

My DS is 15 this yr and while we did have many, many discussions about his F it was only for a while and I always was honest, he doesn't appear to hate me (even as a teen!), he has 2 p/t jobs, works hard in school and has a healthy disregard for anyone telling him can't do sthg.

One of the most impt things, long term, is to get your DC used to you working or studying or both even from bambino age. My DS would be at one end of the sofa with his Wibbly Pig and I would be at the other with my surrealist poetry and it made a huge difference in his interest in farming education and his future.

Wish you all the best and do see if there is a lone parent org in your parts that can give advice on specifics re benefits, back to work and education. I got help with childcare for uni and it made a huge difference wink

sillymillyb Wed 17-Apr-13 20:48:35

Hi there OP,

Just wanted to add to the voice of many above, I have been on my own since being PG too (Ds is 1 now)

For me the hardest part was having no one to admire DS, I wanted to be able to share him with someone - to say oooh look at this, and know they actually cared as much as I did.

I was also really jealous of DS dad still having a life while I couldn't even shower alone. I had to sort of sit myself down and force myself to let it go - he is the one missing out, and yes he may have holidays and expensive meals... and get to piss alone.... but he also has to look DS in the eye when he is older and justify why he wasn't there.

Practical tips, I found if I mentally discarded day and night in the first few weeks then it really helps. So what if we are up at 3am? You can sleep during the day instead - there isn't anyone there to stop you!

Ask someone to take photos of you and your baby too - I have a gazillion photos of my ds but hardly any of me and him, as there just wasn't anyone to point the camera at us. I had to just get over appearing vain and ask people.

Good luck, my ds is my world and is such a happy confident little boy, I look at him and feel such pride - because I did that. It is hard, but ever so wonderful too.

SingleMama Fri 26-Apr-13 00:10:30

Hi
Haven't read all the posts here but I just wanted to mention that if the Daddy's name ends up getting put on the birth certificate, you could be landing yourself in a lot of trouble. Worth thinking about if you haven't already.
Good luck!

PollyIndia Tue 30-Apr-13 21:02:39

I broke up with my ex before I found out I was pregnant, and he has never met my baby who is now 6 months. I did what someone else advised, and made and froze batches of food so I would be able to eat well. I always got up and showered and I went out every day, even if only for a walk around the block as it made me feel in control (well as much as you can be with a baby!). My mum stayed for the first 3 weeks and I wouldn't have coped without her. We also co slept for the first 6 weeks then I got him into his own cot and started putting him to bed at 7 which meant I could make dinner properly and have an evening. Also means people can come over for dinner and I can maybe get a babysitter and go out... Though that hasn't really happened yet!
Support networks are crucial I think... Luckily I have quite a few friends with babies but I have also met new mums though baby classes etc. it is easy to meet people when you have babies. I also went back to work for 2 days a week when he was 3 months old, which was hard, but has kept the wolves from the door financially and gives me a bit of time for myself. I know that isn't always possible though. I also borrowed loads of stuff from friends - don't be shy to ask. People want to help out I have found.

It can be hard and I worry I am not doing a very good job and that he deserves better than just me, but I love him dearly and I can't imagine life without him. And while it would be better to be doing this with someone I loved, I think this is better right now than having to factor in an ex who might be difficult and who will obviously want to see the baby on his own etc.

Oh, I would also advise getting a sling. I don't use it much now, but in the early days, it saved me. He wasn't very good at napping, but would fall asleep immediately in the sling leaving me with hands free to cook or tidy up etc.

Good luck. It sounds like you will be a brilliant mum.

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