In 1977 I became a pregnant teen. In 1978 I became a married/breast feeding teen mom. In 1980 I became a single mom receiving state help.
Throughout the years I’ve also been a college mom, a working mom, a stepmom, a carpool mom, an overprotective mom... but NEVER a perfect mom. Just ask my daughter — she’ll tell you!
Many women feel inadequate as a mom. Perhaps you can relate, too.
Recent statistics have shown there are 24 million “single-mom homes” in the United States. Pretty staggering considering the reported total number of moms is 85.4 million.
In those single-mom homes, “mom” isn’t only the mom. She’s the dad, the breadwinner, the disciplinarian, the chef, the taxi driver, and the list goes on. She’s plagued with stress. She’s tired all the time. And every now and then, she resents the whole situation and contemplates just giving up.
Then there’s the stigma from other moms. The ones who on the outside seem to “have it all.” They look down on those whose kids may not have the new designer jeans, shoes, and bags. However, they’ve never had to worry about where their child’s next meal is going to come from. They’ve never searched under the couch cushions for loose change for gas to get their kids to school.
I’m here to say BRAVO to all you single moms!
Your sheer tenacity keeps your family unit afloat. It’s that instinctual need to provide for your babies. It’s putting aside your own feelings of exhaustion and proving just how strong you are.
There’s an old saying: “Necessity is the mother of invention.” Single moms are solid inventors. They are masters at survival.
Here are five challenges — and solutions — that single moms face:
1. Food and shelter
Notice that the “food” in “food and shelter” always comes first? A mother’s first concern is always feeding her kids, followed by providing a safe place to call home.
Feedingamerica.org offers recipes and cooking classes through their food banks. They also provide an online healthy recipe base. More programs include after school meals, summer food service program (SFSP), weekend bags, and in some areas they even have mobile bus meals.
Foodsafety.gov is another helpful resource that alerts you to food recalls and useful information on food safety. A lot of times when we or our kids get sick, it can simply be from a foodborne illness.
A great documentary to watch is A Place At The Table. It addresses the struggle of hunger and showcases a group of single moms who go to Washington to petition for change.
A great book to read is Leanne Brown’s Good And Cheap: Eat Well on $4/Day. Brown addresses healthy recipes that fit a food stamp budget and gives helpful tips on shopping.
For shelter inquiries — if family or friends are not an option — check out Kid Savers Network. You’ll find great information listed with helpful contacts.
It’s so hard to know if you’re doing a good job as a single parent. When you’re a couple, you have someone who agrees (or disagrees) with your methods, who can help you see the merit in your positive parenting moments and also help you improve when you fall short. But, as a single parent, self-critiquing can be very difficult without getting down on yourself.
This is why it’s so important to surround yourself with other mothers. You can see where they fall short, learn from their mistakes, and also be inspired by their successes. With different personalities and situations, comparing and sharing outcomes can be great therapy!
Also consider asking your mom or another family member for advice. They may have experience with a similar “personality” to your son’s or daughter’s, and may be able to give you valuable insight.
3. Stress and anxiety about money
Even when child support or governmental help is being received, the last week of the month can prove to be a sure source of anxiety.
Unexpected events occur. Emergencies happen. Keep your chin up! You often can’t choose your circumstances, but you can choose your attitude. Remember not to focus on the set backs — focus on getting set up for better things to come!
Also, give yourself permission to ask for help. Maybe there’s another mom in your circle who will swap child care. Or you may possibly know of someone you could barter with by providing a home cooked meal for minor house or car repairs. There are hardship situations some of your creditors may honor and work with you to find a more reasonable repayment plan. Often there’s a solution, so stay positive!
“I’m so busy working, I barely see my kids. But I’m so tired when I get home I just want to lie down!” When we’re tired and grumpy, we feel guilty about being tired and grumpy!
Here’s the thing: we need to be honest with our kids and let them know we get tired. There’s nothing wrong with needing rest. And that quiet time may take some pre-planning, but it’s worth it. Set up a day when a friend or family member can pick up the kids from school or take them to basketball practice. Even just a couple of hours doing something you like to do will refresh you and recharge you for the next go-round.
5. Connecting with my children
When we are in survival mode, it’s hard sometimes to “just be mom.”
One fun, connecting thing you can do is to play reporter. Interview your children and let them interview you. It’ll help you understand their needs, wants, and personal goals.
At dinner, practice active listening. Look in their eyes when they’re talking to you. Your child will open up when you try to understand their world. Validate your children’s feelings. In a child’s world, big things may be small, and small things big. By understanding their feelings and their take on situations, you can better guide them to solutions.
Ask questions. Genuinely be interested and show them that their point of views matter. Family discussions and open conversations are pertinent to a child’s development and stability. They’ll believe more in something they had a hand in deciding.
Above all else, as we muddle through the challenges, remember our kids love us no matter what. And my guess is if we’d ask them, they’d probably say we are perfect moms… on a good day!
This article was written by: Eileen SmithPhoto Credit: Colin Maynard