When people enter into discussions about single mothers, it unfortunately often carries negative connotations. The single mother is often looked upon by society as a weathered woman who has volunteered to undertake the extremely difficult task of raising children on her own. Though each case is different, it is often a false portrayal of a woman who, despite her circumstances, is doing an amazing job raising a child, or children, single handedly with little to no help.
What most single mothers would tell you is that they are indeed not the dregs of society that most, including the media, may make them out to be, but they are simply women doing the best they can with what they have. They wish to be respected and understood, but are misinterpreted or looked down upon.
So in order to bridge the gap of understanding, here’s a list of the things you may not know about single moms. Perhaps you’ve wondered, too scared to ask in case you offend, or perhaps you are a single mom who wishes to share with others what you wish they knew. Either way, we’re laying it all out for single mothers, everywhere.
1. She is afraid of failing
Like all parents, single mothers work hard to ensure the safety and well-being of their children and themselves. They want to provide a happy home. However, unlike coupled parents, single mothers have the arduous task of shouldering that burden on their own. There’s no one to share the responsibility with if anything goes wrong. So, in order to lessen the stress, she must practice the art of letting go. This means she has to come to terms with not worrying about the things she can’t change, and simply concentrating on the things she can; using her energy wisely so as not to burn out.
2. She really hates having to juggle
It’s not fun, it’s exhausting, and it means she’s reminded of all the things she must see to. Watching a single mother juggling pick ups, meetings, parent-teacher conferences, bus schedules, and drop-offs makes you realize just how freakishly superhuman she can be. But, as impressive as it may look, she finds no joy in keeping busy just for the sake of looking busy, and would prefer to remove herself from anything that causes any unnecessary stress or drama. This makes her an impressive strategic manager who handles her time and tasks wisely and approaches everything with a little savoir-faire.
3. She feels guilty… constantly
Not being able to see friends or family as often as she wishes, or having to rush off from work the moment the clock strikes 5pm to make it in time for pick-up, fills her with inexplicable guilt. She’s probably aware that people know and understand her situation, but that does nothing to lessen the guilt. She’s used to being on top of things, so when things just don’t go according to plan, or she has to let someone down, she feels the brunt of that more than anything. Yet still, she gives it her all and offers to be there next time. Whether or not she is able to is another matter, but she won’t give up trying!
4. She needs to be private
She would love to share what her oldest told her the other day, or what she found in her daughter’s room, with someone, anyone, but she can’t. As a single parent, she is the only one her kids can confide in and trust regarding certain private matters, or things of a sensitive nature that they wish never to leave the home. She values that trust more than anything. So instead she holds it close to her, even promising to take it with her to her grave.
5. She would appreciate more help
A firm offer of help when she truly needs it is always welcome, but she is aware that many view a single parent’s request for help as a sign that something may be wrong. She doesn’t like to feel incompetent, but unfortunately, the world depicts single moms this way. She would rather do it on her own than be made to feel as though she isn’t doing a good job. Sadly, because of this, she is less likely to ask for help. But letting her know you are there, if ever she needs you, allows her to make the decision. By giving her the opportunity to come to you, it feels like friendly assistance rather than a rescue mission.
6. She is aware of the stigma
Sadly, she is more than aware of how society views and treats single moms. She is also aware of how the world views children of single parent mothers. However, this does not stop the single mother from being a wonderful parent who is more than capable of raising equally wonderful, happy, and intelligent children. In fact, she works doubly hard to fight the stereotypes and refuses to be pulled down by them.
7. She never really sleeps
Whether it’s that loud bang in the night or the phone ringing at 2am, the single mom is already on it! She is eerily alert, even while sleeping. Being awoken abruptly from sleep, she’s like a meerkat-ninja, with her head held high watching, listening and at the ready for any signs of danger. She’ll jump from her bed and go investigate, seemingly unafraid and at the ready. Once all is well, she will check on her young before heading back to bed. Even daytime naps may be shallow, as she’s keeping one ear poised just in case the school calls. But she’s become a master at short power naps and awakes firing on all cylinders.
8. She is constantly thinking about the future
We’re often reminded to be in the present and to be here, now, if you are truly to enjoy life. And although the single mom is fully aware of how to do this and the benefits it brings, she’s always thinking ahead. Surprises are not the single mother’s best-friend, so a little forethought will help to keep her prepared, just in case. Yes, this can be rather draining, but she feels comfortable thinking and wondering about tomorrow; planning and making decisions about the future safe in the knowledge that if things don’t work out, at least she has some sort of a backup plan, or at the least, an idea of what to do next.
9. She wishes she could go away… alone
After all that planning, juggling, and managing, it’s no wonder she needs a break! A few hours here and there whilst the kids are at school or visiting friends are great, but they only last so long. What she really wants is a 2 week kid-free break away, alone, someone nice and sunny, with plenty of sea and sand; massages, yoga, and sleep! Yes, going away with someone is fun, but in truth, all she wants to do is sleep on the beach without having to worry about someone else. A vacation away on her own means she is able to get back to her, for a bit. Then she will return, ready to go and missing her little angels.
10. She worries about money
Yes, this is true! However, this means she has had to become an expert at managing her finances. Whether she has it or she doesn’t, money is on constant play and rewind in her mind. She is the breadwinner, the sole provider and accountant for the household, and so she needs to be on top of every penny. The pressure is on. She is able to compartmentalize the household’s finances and has money management down to a fine art. Whether that means getting the best bargains or coming up with creative ways to save money, she does more than her best.
11. She needs friends who are single, too
Yes, it’s great to have the love and support of other single mothers, but sometimes she would like a break from single mommy land. She needs that separation that only loving single friends can offer. After all, she is a single woman, too. Delving too much into single-mommy stuff can get rather depressing over time. The single friend gives her a chance to step out of that place once in a while, and just be a single gal, rather than a single-girl-mom. No mommy talk, no money talk, no childcare suggestions, just pure fun, and welcomed unattached chatter. Plus, talking about dating disasters is always fun!
12. She dreads punishment
There’s no denying that strong bond that single mothers have with their child; when it’s real, it’s a thing of beauty. Unfortunately, that bond has it’s fair share of up and downs! When it’s time to discipline their child, the responsibility falls solely on the single mom, and it’s rough. She hates having to do it, but knows it must be done. There’s no good cop, bad cop routine going on here, the single mom has to be both; she has to know when to lay down the law, but also how to give the comforting and reassuring hugs after. It may be confusing to onlookers, but it’s the most impressive, and rather scary, double act ever. She manages to discipline and nurture her kids at the same time, as she knows the benefits of both together are endless.
13. She is cautious about dating
Yes, she would love companionship, but she is more than aware that dating comes with its not-so-great moments. And yes, she is familiar with the assumption that she is desperate and lonely, or looking for a father for her children; this is not the case! The confident single mother is not looking for a savior or a knight in shining armour. She is not down and out, and would appreciate it if you didn’t swan in to “save her.” She is more than capable of handling her business. What she would appreciate, however, is someone on her level who is considerate of her situation. Respect her, love her, and treat her like the smart, beautiful, and intelligent woman she is; she doesn’t need to be rescued and doesn’t have time for dodgy dealings. What she needs is a genuine someone, a mature relationship, and a solid friendship based on loyalty, respect, and affection.
14. She has to be intuitive
Having intuition is great; being able to notice those things often unsaid is an essential part of good parenting. But as a single parent, this skill can often be quite overwhelming, as she cannot afford to be complacent or disconnected. The emotional and mental well-being of her kids rests solely on her shoulders, and this thought is always at the forefront of her mind. Therefore, it’s especially important that she is conscious of those things her children aren’t telling her and is able to follow her hunches, especially where subtle changes in their behavior are concerned. From here, she is able to assess whether or not she needs to step in to help or simply to offer an encouraging hug. Always in tune, and always one step ahead.
15. She doesn’t want you to feel sorry for her
In no way should the single mom’s situation be viewed as a sorrowful case. Things happen in life, as they do to everyone, but she has dusted herself off and has amassed a superhuman strength to make life pretty awesome for her family. There’s no denying she has a lot on her plate, but there’s also no denying she’s strong and capable, and is a loving mother. So if you happen to know a first-class single mom, praise her, hug her, and let her know she’s doing a phenomenal job. And if you happen to be one, smile… you’re doing an awesome job!
Featured photo credit: Mother & Daughter/Rolands Lakis via flickr.com