Parenting is hard. Single parenting is even harder. Two years ago Zoe Desmond’s relationship broke down, a difficult situation in itself but as a mum to three-year-old Billy it was unbearable. Zoe found herself at the beginning of her new life as a single parent. “Break-ups are hard,” she admits. “Especially when there's a child involved, after the break up I felt lonely. So isolated and like an utter failure," says the mum-of-one.
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Originally from Dublin, Zoe never thought this was where life would lead her. “When I was little, I dreamed of having my own little family unit, so I was crushed when it didn’t work out.” Zoe, who was living in London at the time remembered feeling lost; “I just felt like an alien. I’d find myself just pushing the buggy around and seeing happy families everywhere. It made me feel like 'God, is this it now? Is this what my weekends will be like, walking around by myself?'" It was this feeling that inspired Zoe to launch a new app for single parents, calling it Frolo - a clever merge of ‘friend’ and ‘solo’.
Zoe playing with her son, Billy
Zoe recalls how that even though she had friends, they were happily married, not in the same situation as her and she didn’t want to impose; “I didn't want to feel like I was a burden on anyone. And sometimes it was physically painful seeing another family together. It made me sad for me; sad for Billy. And then I started to wish that I knew other people in this situation."
Because of this, Zoe saw a gap in the market for a mutual support group, but unable to find that she created one herself. "I thought, 'there have to be other single parents around'. Then I started to look into it, and realised one in four families in the UK is a single parent," she says.
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Following that, in a happy twist of fate, Zoe then bumped into a neighbour, a woman with a son the same age as Billy, they always stopped to chat but this time, the conversation went a bit further, and they realised they were both single parents, “It was a real Eureka moment!” Zoe laughs. "It had been three years that we'd been saying hi, and neither of us knew that the other was a single parent." Zoe took this as a sign. "It proved that there is still a stigma attached to [being a single parent], there ARE lonely parents out there who need support.”
So, the 38-year-old created Frolo; a way to connect with other like-minded single parents in your area. The app is now live and is location-based for single parents. As a community creator, it will match each person according to where they live, shared interests, and their children's ages. "So it's not just whoever is a single parent is automatically going to get on," Zoe explains. “It's about making friends with other parents, and feeling that sense of community." Now members refer to themselves as Frolos "It just has a much nicer ring to it than a single parent."
Zoe and her three-year-old son, Billy
The app has messaging and chat functions, a newsfeed, advice, and recommendations. There is also a Frolo Instagram account, @frolo_app. It's just like a large friendly WhatsApp group where advice is exchanged, everything from how to deal with bored kids, unfaithful partners, to legal issues and suggestions around employment, as well as a bit of cheerleading each other on! Zoe has created a community for single parents where before there was none.
"Launching Frolo has completely transformed my personal experience," she says, reflecting on the Frolo community she has created. "I'm a Frolo too!” Zoe admits that while society has come a long way from a time when being a single parent meant being socially outcast, there is still a stigma around it. “Typically anyone leaving a relationship with children involved has given that decision more thought than any other move they have made in life. It's such a heartbreaking thing to go through. It's not done lightly," Zoe says.
"We've grown up in a time where it was a case of you stay together, and that's what you do, no matter what. That's what's best for the kids. But actually, a lot of the time, it's not what's best for the kids." Zoe hopes that Frolo will also help children of single parents to see that a loving home is a loving home regardless of how many parents there are.
“Having access to other people in the same boat, has been a game-changer for me. It does get so much better and so much easier. And life becomes good again." Zoe concluded. @frolo_app The Frolo Podcast Frolo.co.uk
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