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Friend Becoming Single Mom: How to Support/Help?

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 
My good friend is going through the beginning parts of splitting up with her bf. He has 2 children. She has one child and they have another 2 kids together. I am trying to be as supportive as possible for her. Are there any btdt things I could keep in mind to be as supportive as possible? She is facing a custody battle and financial woes. Thanks for any wisdom you can share.
post #2 of 11
You are an AWESOME friend. How wonderful of you not only to offer help, but to come looking for concrete suggestions. I am sure you're not looking for it, but I'm also sure you'll be repaid someday.

How you can help: Childcare. Childcare and provision of crisis line numbers, voices she can call when you can't really hear any more about her breakup today. If you hear of flexible offers of work, those will be welcome, though don't be offended if she can't take them. She will have to get out and look for work at the same time she has to prove herself a model mother, so housecleaning & grocery-shopping/cooking services may be helpful too. And also just being there for company. Telling her she and the kids will get through. Her kids will doubtless remember any kindness now, too.

Please don't expect yourself to do all the work, here -- it's tons and you won't have her adrenaline. (I'm sure most of us here have no idea how we did what we did the first few months after filing. But it'd be helpful if you could line up some other replacements. Maybe talk to clergy on her behalf, if you're at all religious or spiritual; seek out community services, including women's services.

Lawyer recommendations can be helpful. Most of the time when women and kids get beat up in custody battles it's because the man had the money for a great lawyer and the woman went to Legal Aid. I don't know how you feel about this sort of thing, but if you and friends are well-off, and you want to either find a way to make generous-term loans available or take up a collection for a retainer, I'm sure that'd be vastly welcome. That one's touchy, and of course the "loan" thing would be to save her dignity; everyone else would have to consider it, privately, a gift.
post #3 of 11
you are a wonderful friend.

when ian was way young people would offer to babysit then never do it when i called (hence him never having a babysitter.)

so i would say offer to take her kids to something fun she may not have the time, energy or money to do. (like the local swimpark or something.) so she can have a break.

i dont have any suggestion about the lawyer thing. i never went through that.
post #4 of 11
Help her plan and get organized.
Sit down with her and draw up a list complete with telephone numbers and what she can contact the people for so that when she's stuck she can not draw a blank Ask her what types of jobs people she know has...we often know people who can give us answers free about things.

Encourage her to reconnnect with people she may not have had much time for lately she will probably need a wider support system as in seperations some friends just drop away.

Also I found that answers were key, have her write down her concerns and find the resources for her to get answers. Not knowing her $ there are still free legal clinics to ask simple questions about, offer to call around and find out about general questions for her or go through your rolodex of people you know who might help. Women's shelters/women in crisis are great resources for information.

Help her organizer her finances, her life, I spent hours on the phone tracking down things, finding values, getting things switched into my name. Having a friend who could have come over and just been there for me to watch the kids so I could actually talk to people would have been wonderful. Or see if there's somewhere she could do things like that easily like if she has a community centre/gym that has daycare there.

LISTEN TO HER
this is key most people want to solve problems or say how something reminded them of something that happened so them/someone they knew..
just listen if she's upset. Also ask her what she's having the hardest time with it may not be what you are thinking for me it was
-changing every poopy diaper knowing every poop had my name on it someone changing one diaper would have felt like a weight had been lifted off me, the garbage... my husband did that and I resented it.

Money wise I would not go there if possible.

My family offered much $ but it was better they supported my efforts to secure support, change my tax status, go with her to the bank to get a line of credit or get some grace period on mortgage/bills, if they help me throw a garage sale (find money at home), show her how she can save more in some way. They are his kids to support and sometimes a loan can hurt if its seen as a gift/income/loan in a seperation situation or if she needs to apply for an income based free legal help, daycare.

You can help in ways that aren't giving money, what about offereing to have her over for a meal once a week, or bringing her a frozen dinner she can heat up when she's too tired?

Like I said my family offered me money and I could have taken it and tried to pay my bills instead I hit my ex heavily with all the legal documents detailing how much support he had to give me and got guidline support agreed to in the interim in the first two weeks. I also got subsidized daycare for the kids lined up incase i need it, changed my taxes over to qualify for tax credits I could as a single mother recieve. I joined a women's suport group that had great resources - transitional housing counsellor who helps newly seperated women find and secure decent housing (not government but they probably do that too as often without income its hard)

You will be a good friend if you show her how strong she is and that she can do this not step in and take over or give her money.
post #5 of 11
Take the kids for an hour or two! When you are about to lose your mind there is nothing like even a short break to have an unbelievably beneficial effect. It can be so, so very hard to get your thoughts straight even about everyday things with ONE child tugging at you all the time--I can't imagine how it would be with three.

Don't wait for her to ask, because she may not feel comfortable doing so, or she might just not even be able to get her brain together enough to plan even that. Say that you would like the kids to come with you to the park or to your house for lunch or something--anything--that will give her some breathing room for a couple of hours.

If you do this even a couple of times a month it would be such a gift. More often would be even better ....especially when she has so much to think about. One thing you have to know about single moms--almost all their thinking and organizing their personal lives (and often stuff like laundry and cleaning) is done after the kids go to bed--when she is already exhausted and sleep-deprived. (Some people have time to do it at work too, but not all.) So giving her a break during the day would just be a beautiful thing for you to do. (Mornings are often the best time.)

Another gift: cleaning person. Paying someone to come over and clean her house would also be a glorious thing for you to do.

You are a great friend for wanting to help.
post #6 of 11
she is so lucky to have you! the ideas mentioned are great - when you are going through something like this often times you have really no energy so if you could come over and help her cook and freeze meals for a month or help her bake and freeze stuff. getting her out of the house and going for a walk with her and the kids ... just to listen to her and pop in every now and again to support her and listen will really help. helping her find a good good lawyer would be huge.
post #7 of 11
I absolutely needed and appreciate deeply the retainer money lent to me to get an attorney. My ex controlled all the finances and I had no access. It allowed me to get to court and get a liveable arrangement worked out. If I hadn't had an attorney, I would be screwed right now.

Other than that, offer to help if you want, just be ready to follow through, but don't feel obligated to offer any more than you are comfortable with.

Some things that would have been helpful to me would have been back-up childcare offers, offers to go do something fun together, and a few hugs and listening ears, and help catching up with a variety of things when my life got crazy.
post #8 of 11

Great Question.

1) I would have loved a coupon for the movies so that I could have taken my dd: a theater OR rentals! I couldn't afford either for a few years.

2) I would have loved, even more, an invitation to come to lunch or dinner at your home... the society, the "you're still part of the crowd," and I might really need the free meal, too!

3) Going somewhere WITH me and the baby/child would have been great!

4) I would have LOVED for someone to come over and take some photos of me with my child, as I was only able to take photos of my child alone for most of her babyhood and toddlerhood, and well, still. She's 8. You have to plan that in advance though, so she can be ready with clothes, hair and attitude--even casual, "candid" shots need good hair and stuff. But the photos would be a TREASURE!

And finances... well, I don't know if you've got them to help her with, but let me put this out there: If you can help a single mother who needs it with MONEY, by all means, DO. It takes a village to raise a child. And it takes MONEY. And why a LOAN? How about a straight GIFT? I mean, if you're making, say, $130/hour, avg., is helping out a sister woman worth a couple of hours of your time? Well, then, give her a little cash and if she says, No, I don't need it, then say, "well set it aside and if you find you do, it's there; if you find you don't after a while, well, pass it on to someone you know who might need it.

Whatever you decide to do, the biggest gift you can give her is what you are giving her already: caring about her and her family. You're aces!

VF
post #9 of 11
Giving money can be hard, but if she is really in deep financial trouble there are things you can do to help (if possible!) Invites for dinner, gift cards to the grocery store maybe. I know that when my good friend split with her ex a mutual friend of ours gave her a $50 gift card to Safeway and it really helped her alot.

Take her kids. End of story. Its so hard at the beginning of single motherhood to manage time and energy. If she is working full time and caring for children she needs some "me time". For a bath or appointment or housecleaning or whatever.

Encourage her to exersise and eat healthy. Depression IS a worry and these things might help her ward it off or deal with it.

HTH!
post #10 of 11
The two biggest helps to me would be keeping me company a bit...talking on the phone, going out somewhere, whatever...the days get long when you're used to having another adult in the house in the evenings.

And helping with whatever I'm behind on. Here it's cooking and a little cleaning, but for someone else it might be something else. I would love to be asked "what do you need a hand with today? Let's spend the afternoon catching up on it."...people in my life want to help but tend to have ideas that wouldn't really do me much good (and I'm not ungrateful for the thoughts and offers, it just doesn't actually *help* much.)
post #11 of 11
What a great friend you are! I agree with everyone who said offers of childcare. And even if you have to offer repeatedly, keep offering, and offering, and offering...

Also just keep calling her to check in. One of the hardest parts of my divorce is that I didn't have time to call my friends and socialize, all my time evaporated, and people eventually stopped calling me. So, many of my friendships were lost along with my marriage. If you have mutual friends, help them remember to just call her and check in and to offer help as well.

Another suggestion: If she has to move out, help her fill out all those change of address cards. Not just with the post office, but help her come up with a list of all those places she needs to contact, then help her get to them.

Provide her with a case of water bottles from Costco, or wherever. Remind her to drink water, eat well, and most importantly (and most difficult) get enough sleep.

Don't be surprised if she rarely knows what day of the week it is. Help her stay focused and remind her how strong she is.

She is so lucky to have a friend like you!
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