I have never been the “popular” girl. Oh, sure, I had friends growing up; however, being social was anything but natural to my awkward teenage self. While my ability to blend in has become somewhat more manageable with age, I still experience anxiety when thrust into uncomfortable social situations. Self-described as an introverted extrovert—if I am not invited or included, I will stand idly by on the sidelines, looking to the happy faces of “normal” society in the game of life, and wonder why I am so “different.”
Always concerned with others’ view of me (regardless of the well-known saying, “You care less what other people think of you when you realize they seldom do”), there is that perpetually gnawing feeling of looking weird and an awareness of others’ judgment based on my less-than-traditional life. Not to mention, simply not knowing how to engage with others in the normal, easy-flowing way that seems to come so naturally to everyone . . . but me.
Divorced. Single mom. Those three words felt like a bright red, scarlet A on my forehead several years ago. At times, they still do.
The perceived judgment I feel when others realize I have two children but am no longer married to their father is quite palpable.
Despite how or why I came to be a single parent, I have adopted the less-than-helpful adage, “It is what it is.” No one desires to be in this situation. We all have dreams of finding that one special soul mate and living with them in marital bliss for countless years until we both die, hand in hand, lying in our freshly made king-sized bed with a floral comforter like the two starstruck lovers in the epic romance The Notebook (sorry for the spoiler).
However, untelevised reality tells us that while it takes two to tango, it only takes one to pack it up and call it quits. To the one left standing in the doorway of what used to be her home full of hopes and dreams, that woman is no stranger to the layers of responsibility that faithfully arise with each new day.
To the single mom who is doing her absolute best to raise her children, work a full-time job, attend innumerable school and sports activities, and still have somewhat of a social life in the lack of free moments that remain . . .
You are important. You are worthy. You are necessary and loved.
It may not feel that way by the culture surrounding you, but from a fellow single mom, please know, it is the absolute truth. But don’t take my word for it, just looking into those large, bright, childlike eyes that meet you at bedtime each night is also a reflection of the super-heroine you are to the children whose little lives rely solely on you for comfort, protection, security, and love.
The fact is you have little to no assistance with your children, which means something has to give. At times, it is work. At other times, it is invaluable quality time with your children. Most of the time, it is your social life, but you really do not consider that a loss because you are far too weary to even think about social plans after the second, third and fourth shift that inevitably greets you at the end of every day ending in Y.
Rather than see the single mom’s daily struggle and pinpoint how often she runs a few minutes late, takes off work to attend her children’s sports or school activities, or has to take yet another day of sick leave to care for her ailing offspring, perhaps approach this woman with a portion of grace.
If you could see behind the weary eyes in which she greets the world, you would see she is trying her very best. Like a circus performer, she is no doubt juggling far more balls than she ever planned.
More than your judgment, she needs your encouragement and support.
Tell her she is doing a good job. Tell her you love the way she fills so many roles with her children, work, and social life. Being a single parent is not for the faint of heart. Yet, many men and women find themselves in this very role, regardless of having chosen it or having it chosen for them.
I know from personal experience, single parents do not need the world’s judicious stares. They likely already feel the plight of overwhelmed, unappreciated, and never good enough far more than you could imagine. Some single parents are doing the work of two, perhaps three, adults.
I have been blessed to have an active co-parent as my children’s father. Career travel does not always allow him to assist with our sons’ ever-increasing social, sports, medical, and school activities. Yet, I am doubly blessed to have my parents living nearby, happy to pick up the slack when Mom and Dad are maxed to the limit.
They say it takes a village to raise a child. Unfortunately, not everyone is graced with a village. We often have very little understanding concerning the plight of others until we walk a mile in their shoes. A mother will always put her children first.
Yet, a single mother does not always have the luxury to make that choice.
In today’s world, there are struggles at every turn. You do not have to be a famous televangelist or a world-renowned missionary to ignite a spark of Christ’s love. You could simply be kind and perhaps a bit more understanding to those around you who may be struggling to make ends meet.
When I was fresh in the throes of single parenthood, those who reached out, showing compassion and kindness, were my saving grace. That was nearly seven years ago. A lot has changed since then, and while I may have grown more adept at mastering that which was difficult in the beginning, I have many earthly angels to thank for stepping in and offering a helping hand when I simply could not do it on my own.
This is my war cry for all single moms, whether your babies are still in diapers or graduating college. Whether you’ve found love again and remarried or remained single out of choice or necessity. Whether you were divorced, widowed, or recently-separated.
You are seen, you are heard, you are appreciated, and you are special.
Not everyone will realize the many roles you play—not everyone matters. Those who do see your enduring energy, consistent passion, and incredible juggling act are indeed your people.
Reach out to that support system and allow them to carry you when you haven’t the strength to go another step. You will both be blessed by the experience. And it could be that one day, that hard-working single mom you rescued, will serve as your very own life raft, should the inevitable storms of life threaten to submerge your own vessel.