Widowed mum says joining single-parent support group in North West was the 'best thing I ever did'

A mum of four widowed almost three years ago says joining a support group for single parents is the 'best thing I ever did'.

Joanna Arran has been a single mum to her four kids since her husband passed away in January 2020.

After struggling for two years, she saw an article about a support group in her local newspaper and decided to give it a go.

The group - Solo Parents United - was set up by dad of two, Stephen Walker, who has been a single parent for eight years.

  • Founder Stephen Walker says the group is all about being 'stronger together'

He says: "There's nobody better to bounce off of than a single parent.

"I can speak to my mum or my dad but they don't give you the same empathy that you get from a single parent."

On her first visit to the group, Joanna says she felt a lot of anxiety but once she met Stephen, felt much better.

  • Single mum Joanna Arran says the group is a 'massive help'

After suffering with her own health issues around the same time as her husband's death, Joanna says Christmas can bring up some bad memories for her family.

She said: "It can be tough. There really are days where I just wanna hide.

"But the kids have to get to school, you've got house work to do, you've got shopping to do, you've got responsibilities.

"There's no choice, if I could hide some days I probably would."

Christmas can be a difficult and lonely time for single parents, and in Stephen's experience, the hardest part is not spending Christmas Day with the children.

He said: "It's a really emotional time.

"It's not a journey you want to do but the good part is that after you do it, you can pick up the phone or put a post on Facebook and say, 'I've just dropped the kids off for Christmas' and someone will say 'Oh don't worry, so have I, it's not good is it.

"'Do you want to go grab a drink? Or have a catch up?'"

With the cost-of-living making Christmas even more expensive, Stephen joined forces with Joanna and Emma Kirkwood to organise affordable social events for the group.

Emma, mum to an 18-year-old son, said: "What I earn pays the bills, we get by and make the most of what we can.

"Walks are free, experiences and memories are free. This group gives me something to do and stops me from overthinking."

Emma says TV advertisements around Christmas puts on pressure to have a big extended family.

She said: "Sometimes it can just be you and the children, and that's quite hard.

"You feel like you've left them down in a way, even though you haven't.

"Even if it's just you and the children - that is the family community - and that's all we need."

Looking ahead to 2023, Stephen hopes to help members launch more regional Solo Parents United groups across the UK.

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