It was in a group of mothers that I first felt like the odd man (or in my case, woman) out. There were young moms, older moms, the homeschool moms, the career moms, the moms of one or two and the moms of seven or more. I was the only single mom in that group. I overheard the common exasperations all mothers inevitably express but, try as I might, I felt like I couldn’t quite wiggle my way into the right mom group.
And that got me thinking.
Single motherhood is hard for everyone to understand, including the single mom herself. Doing the work of two is no easy task and many people don’t know how to help. Quite honestly, sometimes we don’t know how you can help either. But from what I am learning from fellow single mama’s as well as what I’m learning in my own life, there are some things the world – and more particularly, the Church – desperately needs to know.
1. We are exhausted.
This isn’t “end of the work day” exhaustion, it’s an exhaustion that seems to suspend us over an abyss of depression. It can drive a sane woman to the brink of insanity. Don’t be offended when we give you a blank, confused look when you talk about how tired you are. We don’t think you aren’t tired, we just wish we were your kind of tired. You can help by giving us an encouraging word of “You’re doing well” or some other kind of assurance.
2. We bottle up way more than we let on.
A single mother has to be strong for her kids. She has to. There is no shoulder to cry on at the end of the day or strong arms to hold her as she falls apart. If we allow ourselves to break, we fear we may never get up off the floor. So we hold it in. You can help by understanding that while we may look like strong, capable women, we feel anything but. Give us time to feel safe enough for the dam burst.
3. We are always on our guard.
A good percentage of single mothers are single moms due to betrayal or abandonment. Many of us have went through massive trauma. Try not to be hurt if we are stand-offish or if we look at you with caution. Sure, you may have been a long-time faithful friend but we just went through an involuntary amputation of sorts by the person we trusted the most. In our mind, everyone is a possible threat and the world will just have to deal with it. We are trying. We are.
4. We are scared a lot.
We carry near-chronic worry all the time. When we are at home alone and a car slowly drives by or when another, unexpected bill shows up, the fear is sometimes so real we can physically feel it. It’s unavoidable. We’ve entered an entirely different world we were never prepped for. You can help by comforting us with reminders that we are not alone.
5. We are prone to neglecting our emotional needs.
Each day, our aim is to meet the emotional and physical needs of our children, often at the expense of our own. We often dismiss the need to take care of ourselves because our limited supply of care is better spent on our kids. Lovingly nudge the single mom to take care of themselves and minister to them in practical ways.
6. We need a gentle Jesus.
We need Christ and we need truth. Desperately. But take caution how you present the truth. Single mothers may come off as tough and maybe even calloused, but most of the time it’s a facade so we can protect our heart and manage all the things we need to manage. Be gentle with us and point us to the tender love of God, reminding us that we are secure in His hand.
Link arms with the single mothers. May all of us build up one another, inspire one another and love each other as we walk the beautiful (albeit difficult) motherhood journey before us.
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