Celebrating single mums on Mother's Day
At the Mental Health Foundation we recognise the brilliant job single mums (and dads) do, and the amazing impact they have on their children’s lives, so we also want to recognise their contribution on Mother's Day.
The story of the New Beginnings choir in Cardiff illustrates one special way that a group of single mums have come together to support each other, improve their mental health and share a love of singing.
Looking after our physical and mental health is vital if we are to stay resilient for our families and our own futures.
'If you compare unexpectedly becoming a single parent with being in an airplane disaster (the emotions and sensations can often be comparable), then the life-saving instructions are always the same: "put your own oxygen mask on, before attending to those of your children." Why? Because if you are not in a good strong, resourceful position where your own essential needs are taken care of, you will not have the strength, energy or capacity to be there for your children in the way that they need you.'
It's hard advice for single parents to accept as we are so used to putting our children first in everything, but it was the recognition that 'we needed to do something for ourselves' that started the idea of the choir.
New Beginnings choir is about coming together in an accepting, non-judgemental community to sing and celebrate the voices we are born with.
The choir's first public performance was in May 2015 at the Creating Connections launch at the Pierhead in Cardiff Bay. This was after just three rehearsals working with Natural Voice coaches. The choir didn’t even have a name then, but everyone that took part loved the experience and were keen to continue, so we signed a Natural Voice coach and a group of 6 to 12 single mums have met regularly since then to sing together.
Singing together is good for you
There is growing research to indicate that singing together is beneficial for our physical and mental wellbeing. The Sidney de Haan Centre for Research has been researching the health benefits of singing for over a decade and tells us that the physical benefits include improved breathing, circulation and posture as well as lower blood pressure. The benefits the single mums have noticed, though, are more related to mental wellbeing.
For a start it is good fun coming together with people who share your experience as a single parent and who also enjoy the same things you do. It creates a feeling of connectedness and helps combat loneliness. As our work on Mental Health Awareness Week last year told us, having good, positive relationships is critical to good mental health.
Focusing on learning the songs and harmonies means having to really concentrate and this allows the parents to put aside daily stresses and worries for a time. Working towards a performance and then actually performing together is great for confidence and self-esteem.
Here is what a couple of the choir members say about New Beginnings:
'I love how the choir brings people together and it’s a great stress buster singing your lungs out.' - Justine
'The choir is my mindful place. It takes me away from all my worrying and anxious thoughts temporarily. Singing is my escape from reality. It’s the place I let go and I get to share it with such lovely like-minded, non-judgemental, supportive and beautiful people.' - Debbie
As well as singing for pleasure, New Beginnings wants to perform for the enjoyment of others too. Last year the choir organised a Christmas concert for a local day centre for older people finishing with a Christmas Carol sing-a-long and distributing gifts to the older people in the audience. They hope to apply for funding to continue meeting and performing for others.
Help us continue our work
We are working to bring communities together to equip them with the tools they need to thrive with good mental health, like this one in Cardiff. We need your help to keep doing this. Please consider a donation today.