Mothering on my own: Navigating solo parenting together

Mothering on my own podcast
Rachel Maksimovic and Jess Dover share not only a special friendship but also a common journey through the challenges and triumphs of solo motherhood.

INTERVIEW BY: Liv Williams

Friends since the age of 14, these two incredible women found themselves navigating the often uncharted waters of single parenting. This shared experience ignited a spark that led them to create the ‘Mothering on My Own’ podcast, a supportive space where single mums come together to share their experiences, offer guidance, and provide insights. 

With humour, gratitude, honesty and positivity, Rachel and Jess are dedicated to empowering their listeners and fostering a strong sense of community. Join us as we explore their personal experiences, the network of shared learning they bring to their audience, and their vision for creating a safe space for solo parents to connect. 

Talk to us about the mothering on my own podcast and how it transpired.

Rachel: I was pregnant when I became a solo mum, because of this I spent a lot of time in isolation and often thought of the many ways in which I needed more support. Most of the time, I felt like no one could understand my struggles and that felt incredibly lonely. Doing life in isolation and feeling like you are carrying the heavy responsibility and emotional toll of two roles on your shoulders often left me feeling helpless. When I began to share and document some of these experiences through social media I realised that many also understood and felt connected to what I was sharing. 

This podcast was really inspired by the need to provide support, guidance and advice to those who are also navigating the unique challenges of raising children as a single parent. Jess and I have actually known each other since we were 14 and both found ourselves in different (yet similar) situations. We then connected again through one of our mutual friends and we both thought it was a sliding doors moment that we needed to run with. We both felt something special was there and very quickly, Mothering On My Own was born. 

Mothering on my own podcast
The ‘Mothering On My Own’ podcast aims to leave you feeling understood, validated and, inspired and motivated to overcome obstacles.

Could you elaborate on how ‘Mothering On My Own’ offers a platform to discuss the challenges of solo parenting while creating an empowering and supportive space?

Rachel: To be honest, it could be very easy for us to chat about all the challenges of single and solo parenting and leave it at that haha.

However, we wanted to create a platform where we could discuss the challenges of single and solo parenting by acknowledging the difficulties faced, while also offering new insights and solutions, resources and creating a pathway for hope and inspiration to move through these challenges.

We have seen over the years how much things have shifted in terms of having more conversations, sharing resources and information in the motherhood space and how impactful this has been on women as a whole. Unfortunately we believe that there are many topics and challenges that are unique to single mums that are missed in these conversations so we want to be able to provide that. Like, who on earth is talking about dating as a single mum and the complexities and challenges that come with it in the modern world of dating? So we plan to tackle the big stuff and the real stuff and everything in between!

We have already featured a number of incredible guests who have different stories and experiences but I think the magic of sharing so many is that women can relate to many of their experiences and get value in some way. For example you may have one single mum who is challenged by having to share care of their children and the emotional toll that comes with that- on the other hand a solo mum who never gets time away and struggles with doing anything for themselves. It is important for us to be able to cover a wide range of circumstances. We have a family lawyer and psychologist who will be coming onto the podcast soon as there are some topics that we know needs more than our level of knowledge.

The magic we want our audience to feel from our podcast is to leave every episode feeling understood, validated and more importantly inspired and motivated to overcome obstacles.

Jess, you mentioned that your brother lives with you to help with parenting. Can you share how this support system has influenced your journey as a solo parent?

Jess: Whenever I think about how my brother has supported me through my single parenthood journey I get so emotional, because there’s just no way I could have done it without him. We moved in together as soon as I became a single mum when Seb was 6 months old and 2 years on we are still living together and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ve learnt so much from my brother, and not just the way he’s shown up for his family whenever they’re in need but for the way he looks at life, which I’ve now adopted. I know I’m a better human and parent because of his influence.

Rachel, you’ve been single parenting since you were 20 weeks pregnant. Can you tell us about some of the challenges you’ve faced and how you’ve worked to overcome them?

Rachel: The biggest challenge I have had to navigate (and am still forever working through) is the loneliness and isolation that comes with solo parenting. I am incredibly grateful that I have worked for myself over the last 7 years and it has gifted me the opportunity to be at home with Lenny 24/7, however, it means everything that I do, including my work, is in isolation. Without a partner to share the responsibilities and emotional support, it can feel overwhelming and it also feels like it socially disconnects you from friends and the rest of the world. Oftentimes I could easily go a week without any adult interaction (except for my poor barista who would have copped me lingering around for a chat!) The lack of adult companionship over the years has been a huge strain, and the isolation I have felt has really impacted my mental health over the years. The demands of parenting in isolation has of course limited my ability to engage socially with friends which has again exacerbated the feelings of loneliness. I have had to get to work on building a supportive network around me, seeking out additional community resources where I can but also learning how to ask for help within my network. I think friends and family do want to help but often do not know how, so learning to be specific in what my needs are and asking for it when I need has been huge in shifting my circumstances.

Mothering on my own podcast
Jess and Seb

Could you share some of the specific topics and issues you plan to address to offer valuable insights and support to your listeners?

Jess: To be honest, the list is endless. Single mums often grapple with various topics and issues unique to their own circumstances. Some of the common challenges they may face include managing finances single-handedly, finding suitable childcare options/getting any time for themselves, balancing work and parenting responsibilities, addressing feelings of sadness and guilt, maintaining a healthy work-life balance, handling emotional stresses, navigating dating and new relationships and fostering a positive relationship with our children. Additionally, navigating co-parenting dynamics, dealing with possible social stigmas and coping with feelings of loneliness and isolation. We plan to address these topics by having others share their own stories so that our audience feel seen and heard in their own experiences and learn from the many different ways women have navigated these times. We also plan to have expert guests that can share real tangible resources, advice and solutions (for example family lawyer, financial advisors, DV support groups) and to use our social channels to establish strong support systems within our community.

Laughter seems to play a significant role in your podcast and is so important in good times and in hard times! Can you share some of the funny or light-hearted moments you’ve experienced as solo mums?

Rachel: Look, if you don’t laugh you’ll cry right? While life can have its challenging moments, it’s important for us to make lightness, laughter and play a huge part of our lives. I think for me Lenny has been such a beautiful/and constant reminder to stay playful and light. It’s the simple things for me that involve playfulness and silliness that I adore. We have daily “dance parties” at home and I love that children have the ability to create joy in the everyday moments. It’s been important for me to lean into those and not get lost in the monotony of our daily lives.

Jess: Seb knows I work in social media and so he was recently going around telling people that I take photos for money. Which I realise could be interpreted very differently! Haha. But, also I agree with Rach in that some of our greatest joys are in the simple moments—we love our regular coffee and chino dates!

How has adopting a “glass half full” mentality helped you navigate the ups and downs of single parenting?

Jess: We both have the same mindset which I believe is the key to how we have both found ourselves to where we are today, given our circumstances.

Given the challenges that come with single parenting it could be very easy to sit in the discomfort of the struggles and stay there.

Sometimes it can start with something very simple, like feeling grateful for our morning coffee or the sunshine outside. Feeling grateful for a bed to sleep in or a car to drive us to where we need to go. It sounds silly sometimes but when we can start small and find gratitude for the simple moments, we will start to go out in search of the good things in life—rather than staying stuck in all the things we “lack”. We cannot always control what happens to us but we can control how we respond. By practising daily gratitude we are both able to acknowledge tough times but move through them with gratitude and I truly believe this is what has made us the women we are today. 

What are some of the most valuable lessons you’ve learned about the importance of community during your journey as solo mothers?

One of my favourite quotes is by Rupi Kaur “on days i could not move it was women who came to water my feet until i was strong enough to stand, it was women who nourished me back to life”. We believe it is so important for single parents to have a strong sense of community, having a strong network for emotional but also practical assistance. In some of my toughest times it has been single mums who understand the level of my challenges that have been there for me.

Having a strong community can help in providing mutual help for each other (exchanging childcare help, being someone you can call on at any time) and fostering a sense of belonging and understanding. Single mums can also learn to leverage and share resources and services. Being part of a like-minded community can also help to provide more ease in social catch ups and connections, networking and shared experiences which can help alleviate those feelings of isolation and create a more inclusive and supportive environment for both parents and children being a part of a greater community.

What advice would you give to other single mums who may be feeling isolated or struggling with their roles as solo parents?

To actively seek out and connect with like-minded mums/ support groups. Whether that be online or in person. Engaging with others who understand your experience can provide a sense of solidarity and connection. For example, many single parents share in the discomfort of weekends (which tend to be “family time”) and this can feel more isolating doing things on your own while looking around at all the happy families. Having another single mum friend to spend time with during these periods has helped ease some feelings of loneliness and sadness.

Lastly, just knowing that these times won’t last forever. Be kind to yourself and remember to take one day and one step at a time. 

Mothering on my own podcast
Rachel and Lennox

Looking ahead, what are your hopes and plans for the future of the “Mothering on My Own” podcast and its community?

Jess: We would love to be a one-stop resource for all things single parenting support, resources, information and learning. While the podcast is tailored for single parents, we recognise the reality is that there may be many women listening who are currently in relationships but feeling already that they are mothering on their own and unsure how they could leave and start again. We want women who are already single parenting or maybe those who are starting out in the single parenting journey to be able to navigate an overwhelming and challenging time with more ease. While it’s important for us to create an online community, we aim to broaden into in person events and catch ups. We recently created a Facebook Group for our community and I saw on Friday night a number of women sharing where they lived in Adelaide as a means to catch up in person and that made us feel so happy knowing that we were able to facilitate that. 

Rachel: We have also spoken with a number of businesses that want to create support, discounts or make things more accessible for single parents- for example my son Lenny goes to a holiday childcare program who offers a 30% discount for single parents (this makes the support more accessible to me when normally I wouldn’t be able to afford it). When our friends and family and businesses are better able to understand the challenges for single parents we are able to help create better resources and systems for us to break those barriers that may be blocking single parents from access to help.

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