NICKY Booth had never planned to be a single parent. And when her relationship ended when her daughter, Isabelle, was a year old, she is the first to admit she struggled to cope.
“It was very, very difficult at first,” says the 27-year-old from Hampshire.
“It was scary and quite lonely. I felt very isolated and it knocked my confidence a lot.”
Nicky says that although there were, and still are, practical issues to be dealt with, such as how on earth to pay the bills and whether she would have enough money to feed her daughter, it was the emotional side that she found really tough.
“It felt that everyone had deserted me, because I don’t think people understand how hard it is,” says Nicky who lives in Hythe.
“There’s an attitude of ‘just get on with it’ but it’s not that easy. It’s very, very lonely.
“There’s stigma attached to single parents and it wasn’t the best end to a relationship which knocked me back a bit as well.
Nicky didn’t feel comfortable going along to parent and baby groups, but knew she had to do something to make contact with people so decided to start a Facebook group for single parents.
She set up Single Parent Support on the social networking site in October 2012 and was amazed by the response – it now has more than 800 members from all over the world who chat online, support each other and attend meet-ups.
“I was at home every evening with no one to talk to. I thought there had to be other parents in the same situation who needed support, advice and just to chat.”
Nicky also launched a website to complement the Facebook page and share information she had found about being a single parent. She threw herself into the endeavor, printing and distributing leaflets and business cards, funding it all herself.
She has also paid for group members to be able to access the Freedom Programme for victims of domestic abuse. And she is in talks with a group to offer members one-to-one counselling as well as negotiating discounts and restaurants and other venues to help manage the high costs of being a single parent.
“I feel better if I know I’ve helped someone,” she says, explaining why she gives up her time and limited money to the project.
“If I can help people feel a bit more confident and make some friends, those are good things.”
She adds that she has made some good friends herself through the group. She has around 20 friends she can call on and three who she says are friends for life.
“It’s nice to know you’re not alone – that’s the main thing,” she says.
“If you’re not a single parent I don’t think you understand how hard it is. It’s nice to have adult conversation!”
She says that it is important for single parents to have an understanding support base – people who get the difficulties of finding time for oneself, getting back to work and not being able to easily pop out of the house for an evening, without a partner to support you.
As well as organising meet-ups, Nicky runs ‘online discos’ in which members meet up in a virtual chat room and listen to the same music and also runs photo competitions and game nights to get the group together.
Ultimately, she would love to be able to turn the group into a charity and set up a dedicated helpline – after all, she knows how much it has helped her.
“I am so much happier now, knowing I’ve got all these people I can turn to,” she says.
“If I’m having a bad day, I know there’s someone there. Life is still really hard, but I’m in a much better place than I was 18 months ago. Before I felt that I had failed. Now I’m proud to be a single mum. I’m proud that I do it all on my own. My daughter is happy and healthy and I did that.”
For details, search for singleparentsinfo on Facebook, visit singleparentsinfo or email firstname.lastname@example.org