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'It takes a village' — How 5 single moms built their support networks

Based out of Dallas, Texas, Mary McCoy is a writer and social worker for disenfranchised women and children. She's a single mom, lover of Texas barbecue, and a die-hard fan of yoga

The smartest thing any single mom can do for her kids (and herself)

Single motherhood is not easy. The hardest part for me is the sense of isolation that it can create.

Wise mamas know, however, that both mothers and children benefit from the support of a village of people, no matter how easy it is to isolate. Here's how five single mothers managed to build their villages while they adjusted to life on their own. They prove it's possible to both survive and thrive with a little commitment to the process of building a community.

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1. Co-op for childcare needs.

Dee raised her three children on her own when she split with their dad. She hadn't worked for many years when the divorce occurred, so she had a steep learning curve and had to save money however she could. "I started my own business so I could take the kids with me rather than hiring childcare," she says. She also created a babysitting co-op with three other neighbors so they could all take turns with childcare duties if work required that she be away from her kids.

2. Striking up conversations.

Melinda had a difficult time with the stark reality that she would have to initiate conversations with complete strangers in order to build her village. "I'm naturally shy, so it wasn't normal to me to just start chatting with random people at the park," she said. Pretty soon, though, she created a community of other mothers who could do play dates and step in for childcare simply by chatting with them while at the park or walking around the neighborhood.

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3. A faith community.

There's been a lot of talk lately about "third places," and faith communities often fit the bill. They're a social gathering outside of work and home life, and an excellent place to network with people who also want to build a village. Mom of two Amanda says, "The church and the church's Mother's Day Out programs were super important to me as I tried to build a community for me and my daughters."

4. Running groups.

With all the burdens faced by single moms, sometimes it is hard to make time to exercise. For Laney, though, running was an important stress reliever and a way to create a community that could help support her as a parent. "I signed up for a running group for moms, where the kids could play while we exercised," she said. To this day, some of her best friends are the women she met in her first running group.

5. Online threads.

Social media has been maligned as an insufficient stand-in for real community, but single mom Becky begs to differ. "On those nights when I was lonely during the divorce proceedings, social media was really important to me," she said. She was able to ask for help from friends, remain connected to the outside world and even vent all of her frustrations on anonymous social media platforms, which helped her not feel so alone.

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I certainly agree with all of these single moms' advice, but my biggest piece of advice to newly-single mothers is to make your neighborhood into the village you want. Before selecting a house to purchase, for instance, I drove around in search of a community where I saw neighbors outside walking, chatting and appearing friendly. It was important to me to have support just a few doors down, since my closest family member lives 200 miles away. Sure enough, one of my neighbors has made a name for herself as the neighborhood grandma. She provides as-needed babysitting, casseroles and special gifts to me and my daughter. I only met her, though, by knocking on neighbors' doors and daring to say hello.

How did you build your village?

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