parenting alone
FEELINGS

Parenting alone

Becoming a new mum is an amazing experience, but there’s no denying that it can be tough at times. Facing parenthood as a single woman, however, presents its own set of trials and tribulations writes Jennifer Riddall.

Whether through choice or circumstance, embarking on the road to motherhood without a partner can be daunting, but you are not alone. In Ireland, one in four families with children is now a one-parent family, with 86.5% of those headed by a mother.

Statistics aside, nowadays there is lots of support to help single mums prepare practically and emotionally for the road ahead. It’s also important to know that feeling lonely isn’t exclusive to single motherhood, becoming a parent is life changing, but armed with the right resources and people, it’s an event that can be embraced rather than feared.

During pregnancy

  • Perhaps the most important thing to do at first is find a close friend or family member who can support you throughout your pregnancy. Someone to call in your hour of need (whatever the hour) and remind you that you’re not alone.
  • Make a list of people you can turn to when you need a helping hand – during hospital appointments, or at home in the later stages of pregnancy and beyond.
  • Start thinking about the person you want as a birth partner – a friend, family member and put a plan in place.
  • Get involved with other single parents by joining groups online or in your local area.
  • Make contact with organisations specifically for one-parent families and find out about your entitlements as a single parent.

After the baby’s arrival

  • Expand your support network and make friends with other new parents by finding postnatal classes and parent and baby groups in your area.
  • Don’t hesitate to ask friends and family for help with housework and cooking so you can recover from the birth and see to the demands of your newborn.
  • Try and get out of the house every day, even if it’s just for a short walk with the baby in a pram or sling.
  • Be aware of the signs of postnatal depression, especially if you don’t have someone close around you.
  • Be kind to yourself.

Services and support available to single parents:

  • Ireland’s national organisation for one-parent families, One Family provides services and support to people parenting alone.
  • Cuidiú operates an Experience and Resource Sharing, which is a list of parents, who have or had a particular experience(s) and are willing to talk and share with others about them.
  • Citizens Information provides details on a number of entitlements including Maternity Benefit, Medical Cards, One-Parent Family Payment and The Single Person Child Carer Credit.

A feeling of camaraderie

Yoga teacher, Esther Nagle raised her son alone from the time he was three months old. Although Esther says she knew she would be much happier on her own, it wasn’t an easy decision to make. She says, “I didn’t want to be a single mum, but I knew I could be a better mum to my son. “Once the relationship was over, I got on with working out what I was going to do to provide for this wonderful, tiny human being I was responsible for.”

At the beginning, Esther relied heavily on her family and friends, who, she says, were of tremendous support to her – financially, emotionally and practically. She adds, “While I sometimes long to be part of a partnership, when it comes to my children I think I am definitely best suited to being a single mum. I love the feeling of camaraderie I have with my son; it has always been him and me against the world, even when men and his brothers have come into our life. Those early years forged a bond that is as strong now as it was when he was younger and I was ‘the best mum in the world.”

Looking back to those early years, Esther says, “I never thought of myself as strong, but you find the inner resources you need to be able to take care of that child.” Now 19 years old, Liam is studying Physics at university, an achievement, Esther says, that should inspire other single mums to believe that they can help their kids achieve anything they want.

But if she could give just one piece of advice to other women who are facing motherhood alone, it would be to take care during the baby’s first year. “Make sure you eat well and get plenty of rest. Call in as many friends and family as you can to take care of the baby, even if it’s just for 20 minutes for you to have a bath. Try and get some exercise and fresh air every day; do whatever it is that keeps you well. You might think you need to give your all to the baby, but you are no good to the baby when you have nothing left to give.”

Contacts for support organisations:

One Family: http://www.onefamily.ie
Helpline LoCall 1890 662 212

Treoir: http://www.treoir.ie
Helpline LoCall 1890 252 084

One Parent: http://www.oneparent.ie

Doras Buí: http://www.dorasbui.ie
Tel: 01 848 4811

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Ask Sarah

Q I’ve heard a lot about the Paleo diet and as I am very interested in reducing the amount of processed foods and grain based meals my family eats, we are considering following this diet. From what I read it seems to be a back-to-basics type of eating. Is a Paleo diet safe for children? My kids are aged seven and nine.

A The Paleo diet is one of the most fashionable diets around at the moment. It is also known as the ‘caveman diet’ and is based on cutting out processed foods, starchy foods like bread and potatoes and eating more meat, vegetables and fruit.
As fad diets go, it is not the worst but there are some good and bad sides to it. Reducing the amount of processed foods we eat is always a good idea and by doing that you will usually reduce the amount of fat, salt and sugar you eat, which is a good thing! The problem with the Paleo diet is that it also cuts out dairy (on the basis that cavemen didn’t drink milk) and this means that the diet is very low in calcium. For this reason it is really not suitable for children who do need a lot of calcium for growing bones. How did cavemen manage without dairy? They ate a lot more food than we do (up to 10,000 calories per day compared to the 2,000 most of us eat). By eating that amount of food they were able to pick up just enough calcium from green vegetables and seeds. To put it in perspective, you would need to eat 16 servings of broccoli a day to get all the calcium you need. This is easier to do if you eat 10,000 calories per day rather than 2,000.
The other problem with the paleo diet is that it is not entirely based in science. Many of the Paleo diets out there say you should not eat wheat, even though we know that cavemen did in fact eat wheat and other grains. These diets also don’t recommend that you eat blubber and the big lumps of fat that were also a large part of the caveman diet!
A final problem is that many Paleo diets encourage people to cut out beans and lentils and to get their protein from meat and fish instead. Many studies over the last few years are clear that eating too much animal protein is linked with more cancer and heart disease. Eating some vegetarian meals based on beans and lentils is a great way to get your protein without always going for meat.
Is this a diet we should follow? I think there is a lot we can learn from the Paleo diets. We could all do with eating less salt, sugar and processed foods and adding in more nuts and seeds as well as more vegetables. However, I think following a strict Paleo diet could lead to low levels of calcium and vitamin D and so it is not suitable for children or teens and adults would need to think about a calcium supplement.

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Ask Sarah

Q I’ve heard a lot about the Paleo diet and as I am very interested in reducing the amount of processed foods and grain based meals my family eats, we are considering following this diet. From what I read it seems to be a back-to-basics type of eating. Is a Paleo diet safe for children? My kids are aged seven and nine.

A The Paleo diet is one of the most fashionable diets around at the moment. It is also known as the ‘caveman diet’ and is based on cutting out processed foods, starchy foods like bread and potatoes and eating more meat, vegetables and fruit.
As fad diets go, it is not the worst but there are some good and bad sides to it. Reducing the amount of processed foods we eat is always a good idea and by doing that you will usually reduce the amount of fat, salt and sugar you eat, which is a good thing! The problem with the Paleo diet is that it also cuts out dairy (on the basis that cavemen didn’t drink milk) and this means that the diet is very low in calcium. For this reason it is really not suitable for children who do need a lot of calcium for growing bones. How did cavemen manage without dairy? They ate a lot more food than we do (up to 10,000 calories per day compared to the 2,000 most of us eat). By eating that amount of food they were able to pick up just enough calcium from green vegetables and seeds. To put it in perspective, you would need to eat 16 servings of broccoli a day to get all the calcium you need. This is easier to do if you eat 10,000 calories per day rather than 2,000.
The other problem with the paleo diet is that it is not entirely based in science. Many of the Paleo diets out there say you should not eat wheat, even though we know that cavemen did in fact eat wheat and other grains. These diets also don’t recommend that you eat blubber and the big lumps of fat that were also a large part of the caveman diet!
A final problem is that many Paleo diets encourage people to cut out beans and lentils and to get their protein from meat and fish instead. Many studies over the last few years are clear that eating too much animal protein is linked with more cancer and heart disease. Eating some vegetarian meals based on beans and lentils is a great way to get your protein without always going for meat.
Is this a diet we should follow? I think there is a lot we can learn from the Paleo diets. We could all do with eating less salt, sugar and processed foods and adding in more nuts and seeds as well as more vegetables. However, I think following a strict Paleo diet could lead to low levels of calcium and vitamin D and so it is not suitable for children or teens and adults would need to think about a calcium supplement.