From the dust of the ground, a rib, and the breath of life, came the perfect helper – woman. Oh, how to describe this beautifully radiant being. Lovely and loved, treasured, creative, innovative, intuitive, affectionate, devoted, captivating, confident, and so much more. We as women play many roles; friend, sister, daughter, mother, wife, coworker, boss, and each role requires a different set of traits to rise to the surface for that time and space. Our minds, rather than being compartmentalized like men’s, constantly are weaving simultaneously, crossing paths and joining together at the same time throughout our day. We truly are delightfully complex creatures that always make life interesting.
In the old days, we were held in lower status in society, but behind the scenes, women were always busy at work, silently impacting the world, building up lives, families, businesses, and reputations. Women would often be the plan behind innovations, penning their minds in their societally accepted “male” alter ego so their voice would be heard, and as said in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, “the man may be the head, but the woman is the neck,” directing and in charge of those within the sphere of her influence. Today, life for a woman is much more fluid and easier to move about in society. Our freedoms, access, and recognized achievements have grown substantially. Though we still have more room to grow, I honor women and continue to cheer all of us on to greater heights.
We all have trials, struggles, goals, and dreams we’re working towards, but at this moment, my mind drifts to one particular section of women that really, in a way, goes beyond what it means to be a woman. This specific woman deserves some extra celebration and applause today. That is the single mom. Back in the day, this was rarely heard of and was very shunned, hidden away, and held in disapproval. Today, this picture looks quite different. It’s wonderful that society has been more accepting of single parents, however, the repercussions of the prevalence of this increasing trend have been excruciatingly painful and detrimental.
Being a mom is extremely difficult on its own. There’s no parent’s manual. Sure, we read parenting books or baby books when we’re pregnant, but they can only go so far because you’re dealing with an independent, individual human being who has a mind of their own and who can never be summed up in a category. We are a collection of so many unique and beautiful facets. But being a single mom adds a whole other realm of intensity, stress, pressure, and burdens that one person alone was never meant to carry, and one that can only be understood if the woman happens to be one. As I pen this now, I fit right into that category and am therefore all too familiar with the ups and downs, the joys and survival points of it. I have to say that I don’t even know how to explain what it’s like to be a single mom in all its intricacies and spokes of complexity in a short number of words. All I can do now is just barely scratch the surface and show a sliver of the life of a single mom. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart. And yet we’re all thrust into it, through our own decisions or those of others, or from decisions we have to make because of other people’s actions, and quickly begin our massive juggling while barely keeping-our-head-above-water survival act.
We lead this solitary journey, day in and day out, being a master juggler. Being so incremental with our time; planning out routes to squeeze out every moment of every day; being a mom and dad; being the head of the house; the financial provider and planner; chauffer, cook, and maid; equipper and teacher; discipliner and nurse of hearts, minds, and bodies; cheerleader and coach; night reader, bath giver, diaper changer, and a plethora of other hats we have to wear simultaneously. Moms really should be given eight arms when they have kids, but single moms should be given fifteen. One parent was never supposed to perform the role of two parents in a child’s life. While the bond between a single mom and her child gets incredibly close, a child, unfortunately, will always live with the consequences of the single parent and biological father or mother, or divorced parent. There is always the ripple effect; you have to see your child live with the effects of the poor choices and consequences of us adults every day. And that is one of the biggest gut-wrenching heartaches of all.
Now, I have the most amazing daughter ever, who’s brilliant, kind, and thoughtful, and she impresses me more every day; I’m so proud of her, and my life is so much better with her in it. I had no idea what I was missing before her. We certainly do have our challenges though. Like these moments. I didn’t truly know what sleep deprivation was until I was a single mom. A new parent’s reality is this half-awake, half-asleep, barely functioning, moving, walking, and active comatose. As the child grows, they sleep longer and longer stents at a time, and if a parent is lucky, the child will sleep 8-9 hours when they’re three months old. Every kid has their things that are challenging; it could be food, not wanting to wear clothes, fits of anger, inability to socialize, difficulty speaking, or autism and other sensory issues. When I think about the parents of autistic kids or kids with cancer, my heart goes out to them. The patience that they have and the heaviness that they experience is truly awe-inspiring. I have nothing to complain about. But in this window of my life, one of my most challenging points was sleep. My daughter has always been very active, full of life, not wanting to miss a moment, jitter bug who’s moving all the time. She never wanted to take naps, but she needed to, and I desperately needed a moment of solitude and rest. I would have to lay there for nearly two hours most days until she fell asleep. And I couldn’t move a muscle, or she would be roused again and wouldn’t sleep.
The nights were really the kicker. Until my daughter was seven, she would only sleep three hours at a time at night, and I would only get five disturbed hours of sleep every night. This was sleep deprivation to a whole new level. Every single day. I was losing my mind, between that and trying to work three jobs at the same time while single parenting; I was seriously breaking down and having vertigo from the stress. I had pushed myself so far trying to handle all this and keep those balls in the air. Or those moments when your kid is screaming, and you can’t get them to stop. It just beats you down, and you have nothing left. As a single mom, you can’t just take a break and have your counterpart do it for a night. There’s nobody else there. Some single parents have shared time with the other parent, but many do not. It’s just the mom. And that’s been my situation. Those lonely, heart-wrenching, unbearable days and nights where you’re at your wits end and just so desperately wish there was someone there to take care of the child for a moment so you could get some sleep or function like a normal person.
Besides juggling and utter exhaustion, the weight of burdens that single moms carry around is debilitating – between all the sports, practices and games, afterschool activities, grocery shopping, school, backpacks, projects, managing the household, handling the finances, working all day or multiples jobs. Always carrying everything and flying at lightning speed, under constant pressure trying to take care of it all (remember all those balls that have to stay up in the air), with no cushion of another parent to help drive, watch, work, attend, cook and just be there for the children so you can take a break and not lose it. Your mind and body are constantly in overload.
Every parent experiences the terrible 2s and 3s, but with an absent parent, the emotional turmoil is expounded for both single mom and kid. Single moms have additional emotional struggles because of the enormous stress, lack of personal time, distrust in people, trying to maintain everything and provide, the effects of total exhaustion on their body and mind, or from court and custody battles. Single moms do not have the luxury of having time for themselves and taking care of themselves – going out, getting their hair or nails done, going to the doctor or dentist, or even having secure food or healthy food. The child also has so much brokenness to work through and, unfortunately can feel unloved, unwanted, rejected, or abandoned; have huge anger issues where they lash out; can be vulnerable to trafficking; or look for love in the wrong places.
This truly has become a pandemic. The U.S. has the highest rate of single parents in the world. According to the U.S. Census Bureau in 2022, out of 11 million single-parent families with children under the age of 18, nearly 80% are headed by single mothers. Out of these single moms, 51% have never been married, 29% are divorced, and 20% are either separated or widowed. About 40% of children are born to unwed mothers (Statista). This is a stark difference from 18% in 1980, which has been steadily increasing (Statista). Nearly a third live in poverty, and 1 in 4 children, or 13 million are being raised without a father (U.S. Census Bureau). This is only a small portion of the statistics. I haven’t even included those about poverty level, food access, welfare and food stamps, housing, ethnicity, child care, health care, or education.
These are absolutely staggering statistics. After seeing these numbers, one must ask, how did we get here? I believe that there’s a variety of problems that are creating this pandemic – destruction and attack on family; people choosing to get married later or not at all; the switching, breakdown, and refusal of roles where men don’t want to provide for women and children and instead want the woman to provide for herself and sometimes him, while on the other side, you also have women who just want to raise a child on their own; increasingly unsafe and unhealthy environments; high divorce rates; the extreme overstimulation of sex and its messages everywhere; the loss of abstinence and loss of courtship. Also, the fact that the U.S. is the number one country in the world that produces the most amount of pornography and hosts the highest number of pornographic websites. Single parenting is one area where the decay, depravity, and demoralization of our society is manifested.
So, for all those other single moms out there, here are just a couple of ideas that have helped me along the way. Run all your errands at one time, along your route when you’re out, and avoid making a separate trip or taking your kids, so you don’t come home with mysterious things. Curbside groceries are the best; you stick to your budget and save time. Bring everything you will need for the day with you right from the start; don’t make another trip back home unless absolutely mandatory. Do what your top priorities are. Say no to the things that are not those priorities. There will be things that fall by the wayside, and your house will be messy, but it’s ok. Focus on what really matters. Simplify and eliminate what isn’t helping and everything that is toxic. Find every possible kid’s night out you can. Buy at kids’ swap sales, and repurpose and reuse everything. Connect with a church single moms ministry. They can help with groceries, teach you finances and budgeting, fix things around your house, and even offer haircuts or oil changes. Find a mentor and a group of women who will encourage you, who you can be transparent with, and who believe in you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. After all, it takes a village to raise a child.
Remember, what really matters is creating memories; giving them wisdom, and equipping them for the trials and pressure they will encounter so they know ahead of time what they will do when those situations come up; encouraging and speaking life into your child; believing in them; and loving them unconditionally. Keep open communication with your child so that they’ll feel comfortable enough to come to you and ask you anything. We’re after their heart. What you leave with them, how you help them succeed and be equipped to live their own life, and you thriving is more important than not doing the dishes one night. And you NEED to take time for yourself. I’m going to say that again. GO TAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF. When you get that precious, solitude moment, do something for yourself that you enjoy. Read a book, gaze at the stars, watch a grown-up movie. And go to the doctor. This is non-negotiable. If you’re not around, your child cannot take care of themself. You are just as important of a piece of this puzzle as they are. You must both be receiving care.
To all my single moms, you’re doing an amazing job. You’re making an impact. Your courage and strength are inspiring. Keep holding on. Don’t give up. You’re so valuable, and you are loved. You are seen, and you are heard. I recognize you today, your sacrifice, your resolute and persevering love, and I honor you in it. Breathe it in, melt like butter, and let peace and love wash over you and be refreshed.
Now, for those who are not in this position, how do we fix it? Imagine the compounding effect if each person did one small thing. We could create more scholarships, increase pay, have a single mom’s day in your business, and give them a free service. Offer to watch their child for the night or be a safe adult in the child’s life. Create single-parent insurance plans with discounted rates. Cook a meal for them and drop it off, send restaurant delivery, or ship groceries to them. Donate kids’ clothes and arts and crafts. Gift them a subscription streaming service. Do the laundry or dishes when you’re there. Check-in regularly, encourage the mom, and speak kind words to her. Have the courage to swim against the stream and not follow the ways of the world or society. Do something radical and teach abstinence. Practice abstinence until marriage. Teach kids to honor and respect the opposite sex and to fight for marriage. Hold to your commitment, your marriage covenant that you’ve made. You have a brilliant mind. So, what is your sphere, your world? What is one thing you can do?