Zoë Desmond separated from her partner when her son was just a year old. Here she tells IMAGE.ie how being a single mum led her to find her dream job (not to mention a new circle of friends)
"It really hit me like a tonne of bricks how lonely and isolating I found it," says Zoë Desmond, reflecting on the struggle of becoming a single parent. "My son Billy had just turned one, and even though I've got lots of friends, I didn't know any other single parents and that made me feel very alone in my situation. I think there was an automatic shame that I felt about the whole thing; I don't know where it came from, just all of these negative feelings of guilt for my son... It was a really tough time," she says.
Zoë used to dread the weekends because she didn’t know how to fill them. It was hard being around other families, as she didn't want to be a burden on anyone. "I craved feeling more empowered in the situation, having this single parent experience on my own terms and connecting with other people in the same boat," she says.
"I had this vision of having Sunday lunch with other people just like me, in the same situation, where the kids could play together, where we could enjoy the day and not feel like anyone was feeling sorry for us, or that we were kind of imposing on anyone else's family time... just somebody to talk to that understood the trials and tribulations of my personal experience in terms of co-parenting dynamics and things like that."
A turning point
While that vision swirled in Zoë's head, everyday life carried on. That is until one day, while out with Billy, she bumped into a woman – another mother – she vaguely knew from the local area. "We'd often stop and chat when we'd see each other," Zoë says, "She's got a son who's a similar age to mine.
"We started to chat for a bit longer this day, and I noticed she had a lovely tan. She told me she'd been away but it was her first holiday in four years, that it was just her and her son. And I said, 'Oh, was your husband not there?' and she said, 'Oh, we broke up when my son was four months old'.
"And I just couldn't believe that all of this time – for two years – all this time that we'd seen each other, that we were both single parents. It was crazy to me. We spoke about everything else," Zoë says. Suddenly the pair were bonding over their shared experiences and offering to help each other out with childcare.
The fact that a single mother, just like her, was living right around the corner struck Zoe as a sign from the universe. "I put the blinkers on and said I'm just going to do this," she says, and with that, Frolo was born.
'What I'm absolutely supposed to be doing'
A combination of the words 'friend' and 'solo', Frolo is an app which allows single parents (from the same geographical area) to chat, meet up and support one another.
Unlike some parenting Facebook groups, which she found to be quite negative online spaces, Zoe created the Frolo app to be a safe space; a place to make friendships with like-minded people from your area. As it’s strictly for single parents (both mums and dads), it’s an inclusive place to seek advice and share stories – all without fear of judgment or negativity.
"It's been a surreal 18 months," Zoë says. "I see the positive impact it's having on people's lives, including my own and the kids'. It's so rewarding. I could not be more passionate about it and more aligned with what I'm doing. I honestly feel like this is what I am absolutely supposed to be doing right now at this point in my life."
Photo: Zoë Desmond, via @frolo_app
Read more: The reality of being a single mother by choice: 'I conceived my son with a sperm donor’
Read more: Conversations about single parenting need to involve actual single parents
Read more: Why being a single parent means you don't need to worry about finding balance