Above: Josie Parata (L) founder of SMS Lighthouse, and support group member Nicole.
When Josie Parata found herself pregnant, homeless, and living in a refuge with her three kids, she never thought she’d one day help other women in the same situation.
Her husband’s verbal abuse had caused her eight-year-old son to attempt suicide—forcing Josie to pack up and leave. At that point in time, she was struggling to just think straight, fill out basic forms, survive.
Years down the track, Josie’s life is not only back on track, but she’s also now running a support group for other single mums and women escaping domestic violence. It’s called Single Mums Support (SMS) Lighthouse.
“She Helped In My Darkest Time”
One of the many women Josie has supported is Nicole. She said that Josie went “above and beyond” to help her through the breakdown of her abusive marriage.
“Josie’s been such a great example of how you can be a single parent and do it really well”
“Josie helped me through two rounds of the family court, including driving all the way to Newcastle to serve paperwork to my ex-husband,” Nicole said. “And when my daughter was kidnapped from me by her father, she walked me through the court process again. I went into the legal aid office and I had what I call ‘stress amnesia’, and Josie actually filled in all the paperwork for me. I couldn’t even look at the form and see where my name needed to be written.
“Josie’s a JP so she was able to photocopy and sign all the paperwork for me. She’s fed me, she’s clothed me, she’s become a God-parent to one of my children. I was such a ‘babe in the wilderness’, I didn’t really know what I was doing. But when Josie came alongside me, I suddenly felt like I had some hope, like I wasn’t on my own.”
Nicole said that while she never planned on becoming a single parent, she now tackles the role with courage and strength, thanks to the help of SMS Lighthouse.
“Josie’s been such a great example to many of us girls, of how you can be a single parent and actually do it really well,” she said.
Encouragement For New Single Mums
For women who have recently become a single mother, Nicole offered encouragement.
“Just know that it’s a season in life,” she said. “Don’t wish your children’s lives away. It’d be very handy to have them ‘24 and out the door’, but just understand that it is a very hard season, like a very tough winter. Like winter, it will one day be over.”
“You just have to show up every day, put your feet on the floor, get up and just face what’s going to happen in the next 24 hours.“
How To Help A Friend Who Is A Single Mother
As someone who helps single mums every day, Josie Parata encourages others to offer help for the single parents in their world.
“A lot of mums probably won’t ask for help. They’ll just try and do it themselves,” she said. “A lot of people don’t reach out for support because they just think ‘This is my lot, I’ll work it out myself’.
“If you know of someone that’s going through this, get them connected with some support.”
“I think there’s a lot of mums out there that may be struggling just to work out, ‘how do I do the school run now?’, ‘How do I do the sports run?’, ‘How do I get to work?’, and trying to shuffle it and work it all out.”
“For someone to say, ‘Can I help you drop one of the kids off’, or ‘Can I pick the kids up from sports’—that is a massive support. If you know of someone that’s going through it, get them connected with some support. I think that’s really important.”