No, you’re not a single mom for a weekend.
I’ve heard it said at social gatherings, in passing at church, and on social media.
Perhaps the words are being uttered in a state of awe as if comparing themselves to valiant warrior princesses, knights in shining armor, heroes.
Usually though, it’s an under-the-breath complaint about being left by their otherwise attentive and loving spouse for the week or weekend.
“I’m a single mom this weekend; my husband is on a golfing trip with his brothers.”
“My husband is away for work, so I feel like a single mom this week.”
And then the day comes . . . her man walks through the doors, and suddenly she feels how tense her shoulders have been, relaxing into his hug. The kids go wild, “Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!” He tousles their hair and kneels down for their excited embrace. Everything is set right.
But for 8.75 million U.S. families led by single mothers, that is never the case. Daddy never comes home.
Her tense shoulders, encumbered with the demands of an entire family, never relax. She adapts to the stress, barely. The proverbial tunnel she leads her small children through is dark and long. If only there were a glimmer of light, she would have hope. Instead, judgment pours down.
“How many baby daddies does she have?”
“Well maybe if she (fill in the blank) she wouldn’t be single.”
“She chose this life.”
I clearly remember the days both my babies’ daddies left. My children in fact do have two different fathers.
I didn’t know it would be the last time I would see my daughter’s father. We said goodbye at the gas station. I probably paid for his gas, and then he drove to his home out of state, and I went to work, toothless baby in tow. My employer, knowing I couldn’t afford the long hours of daycare, allowed her to come for an hour or so before we opened or during an afternoon lull. It was the only way I could make it.
I was breastfeeding and using every possible resource to make our life sustainable but still sinking. Clinging desperately to a holistic family concept, I tolerated his greedy laziness while pining for his presence. Thus my justification for financing his gasoline. In the end, my daughter and I got neither his support nor his attention. That final day together, relief settled in my chest, and promises for a near future visit were red herrings.
That was nearly 16 years ago.
I got the call about my son’s father while I was working out of town for the day. An investigator from the police department was trying to reach his next of kin after being found dead in his apartment. I didn’t like this man. Not even a little bit. I wished he would move to the other side of town or out of the country or even to Mars, but I didn’t want him to die.
Since I was the only contact the police had, they were reaching out to me although legally my adoptive son was no longer his next of kin. The tears on this day were not quiet, simple tears of sadness. These were gut-wrenching sobs. I cried for the dad who tried but stumbled on his own trauma and drug abuse. I cried for the little boy who dearly loved his dad and had already suffered so many losses. Intuitively, I knew this would crush my son, and it did.
Many paths bring people down the road of single parenthood.
Rarely does anyone choose the path for themselves and their child. It’s forced, or at the very least, reluctant. It’s just not supposed to be this way. Children are biologically designed to have two parents, so when they don’t, it’s because something broke. The breaking of a family is a trauma to the deepest core of one’s being.
Single mothers carry both their and their child’s trauma—alone. She bears the retribution and loneliness while holding in her heart the wreckage of lost dreams, the nightmares of abuse and neglect, and the bandages wrapping scarred innocent lives.
Drudging through tasks and fatigued by decisions, she longs for carefree days of whimsical fairy tales and playtime with her kids. To enjoy the moments. But the wounds they’ve faced hover hauntingly in the form of mental health and behavioral disorders, debt piled high, and car repairs.
Creativity to problem solve requires capacity, and she just doesn’t have it.
Things that most people would rely on their spouse for, cost her, whether that is fixing a broken appliance or caring for children.
One of my favorite stories in the Bible is in John 4. Jesus seemingly went out of his way to a Samaritan village in the heat of the day to meet with a promiscuous woman. We don’t know if she had children, but Jesus doesn’t need her little testimonies hanging on her apron strings to know her life story. She’s had five husbands and now she’s living with her boyfriend.
The story is precious because Jesus loved her even still. He didn’t shy away from her or avoid her like the other men did as was culturally appropriate during the time. He offered her the hope she really needed. She undoubtedly came from a long line of rejection and heartache. The disrepair of her intimate relationships led to a complete disruption in community belonging for her.
He redeems and repairs what has been broken. This woman was so radically transformed by the encounter that she immediately ran to the very people who despised her and invited them to know Him too.
The only real and lasting way to heal relational damage single-parent families have experienced is through healthy relationships. Community. They need two-parent and other single-parent families, single people, and opposite-gendered adults surrounding them, soaking them in grace. They need to be invited to do things, things where kids are okay to attend, and sometimes not.
They need you to show up and mentor, fix, hug, listen, share and love. They need to belong, which means that you see them for them too. You see them as the warriors and friends they are with gifts and abilities to give.
Single moms are some of the most tenacious people you will ever meet.
They are the people who can work two or three jobs, volunteer, and get an education while caring for their kids. They are the people who show up to help you when you need it, guaranteed. They know how to make brokenness strong. They are mavericks.
Their heartaches have likely developed trust issues, but their independence is lonely. The single moms in your life need you to show up for them as reliably as your husband comes home after a golf trip. Show up for drinks. Show up to help with the lawn. Show up to love their kids. Show up to listen. And please, show up with your own messy relatable life because the last thing they want to be is a project.
Just don’t show up and say you’re a single mom for the weekend.