Nina Farr – Sharing The Load
Speaking to Nina Farr as she is isolated at home with three children under ten, all battling COVID-19, I realised the task at hand for single parents. Making the change to both working and schooling from home is tough enough on families with several adults. For single parents, there are no breaks and little support. Self-isolation is a relentless responsibility for parents with sole or majority care.
Leadership Coach for lone parents, Nina Farr, has been lone parenting for over eight years. Author of I am the Parent Who Stayed and the founder of the Family Vision Programme for women parenting alone, she is no stranger to the challenges faced by single-parent families. Even at the best of times, parents can find the mental and emotional load overwhelming. Add to this load the pressures of social isolation, confusing advice about whether children can travel or spend time with relatives safely and the fear of financial difficulties and it could be a recipe for disaster.
Never More Resourceful Than Now
At this unique time, many single parents are finding their phone or computer is their only window into the world. For some, it could be the first time that they must manage their children without physically seeing anyone for a long time. In a very literal sense, parents who are separated may find themselves on either side of a chasm – either with no respite from the caring responsibilities they have, or little to no contact with children they usually regularly see. The emotional distress this causes for separated families can be intense.
“We have been isolating with symptoms inside our home for fifteen days now, I don’t think I ever had to be this resourceful before. They say it takes a village to raise a child, meaning that an entire community of people would ideally interact with children as they grow. Since our personal ‘village’ inhabitants are all self-isolating, this support system must be reimagined”.
Nina is working hard to reimagine that system, setting up a lively online membership community called ‘The Cluster Mothers’ on Facebook.
“Single parents need a few specific things. In The Cluster Mothers, my team and I hold the space for these needs to be met. We provide legal information, co-parenting support, behaviour management and child development information and vital support to women parenting alone. Our team includes a former lawyer turned Divorce Coach, a qualified therapist, a Buti Yoga instructor and motherhood coach, and the expert support of myself. In creating this safe, interconnected global community of mothers, parenting through tremendous global changes, as well as personal trauma, conflict and challenge, the community we have built is a rising tide that lifts us all.”
Nina Takes Every Step With You
The growth of this online community was born out of Nina’s personal experience. Becoming a single parent during pregnancy with her second child in 2012, then again after the birth of her third child in 2018, Nina quickly realised that the support available to single parents could be patchy at best, and depressing at worst. After benefitting from life coaching herself, Nina qualified as a Coach in 2014 and went on to develop her unique programme helping lone parents transition. Nina strongly advocates against the term ‘broken families’, believing it communicates the idea that a separated family is somehow flawed, damaged or incomplete. She spoke passionately about this at the TEDxTotnes in 2017 and published her book in the same year.
Nina founded her CIC Family Vision Coaching in 2019 to reach even more families. She has delivered funded sessions through local children’s centres, with a particular focus on helping parents who have lived through domestic abuse or a high-conflict separation.
“Single parents are often in grief at the start of their journey parenting alone, they can feel overwhelmed and stuck. There are so many questions to answer: how do I stay in touch with my ex without getting caught up in the drama? What should I do next legally, professionally or financially? What am I allowed to do if I want to move, or make changes in my life? Sharing the mental load with a community of peers who understand and a team of experts who can guide you is really helpful.”
Whether you read Nina’s book, work with her for one-on-one coaching, decide to embark upon the Family Vision programme or become a member of The Cluster Mothers community, it is clear that Nina is walking with you each step of the way. Her vision, to bring families together so they can support each other through these tough times, is paying off, with over 500 women participating in the online community today. After all, a problem shared is a problem halved.
Speaking to Nina on WhatsApp has made me realise that this parent who stayed has been through far worse than the challenges of lockdown, and she will be fine.
Written by Karin Venema
Photography by Portia Crossley