Stereotyping in all forms can be ugly, but everyone is capable of sliding down that slippery slope. We all hear common stereotypical comments in regards to race, ethnicity, religion, gender or age, but have you ever stopped to notice the mind shift that can happen when you find out someone is a single mother, or that they’re divorced? Before I was a divorced single mother, I am positive I made assumptions or blanket statements about this “group of people.” In hindsight, I realize that I was guilty of this.
So I am not here to shame you, but rather to inform you. Self-awareness is a beautiful thing, so let’s call this a care-frontation. I may enlighten you or even change the way you view and treat single mothers. And, if you are guilty of any of the following misconceptions, I offer you my grace and forgiveness on behalf of all the single mommas out there. Disclaimer: I am sharing about single mom life from where I stand, so for the sake of not continuing the pattern of assumptions, please remember that these feelings or experiences are not necessarily true of all single moms.
“Wow, one of your daughters is a brunette and one is a blonde… do they have different fathers?”
Sigh. NOPE. I was married to their father. We conceived both of our children on purpose, within marriage, and divorce was the last thing we envisioned for the family we created together. I did not get “knocked up,” and especially not by two different men. But if I had, that would not make me any less of a mother or woman. Would you ask me this if I were married? Is it unheard of to have one blonde and one brunette? Please. think. before. you. speak. My babies were made in love, and divorce can’t take that away from us.
“Single moms have it good. They get child support and every other weekend off.”
Oh LAAAWD. Insert eye roll here. Not every single mom follows that typical schedule. I, for example, have my children 365 nights a year, and they only have one home. On the other side of the coin, I do receive a fair amount of child support as a result of being the majority timeshare parent. Contrary to the commonly portrayed single mother who works three jobs just to put food on the table, my situation allows me to work part-time. Then there are the widowed mothers or abandoned mothers who do not even have any physical or monetary help. There are also the mothers who have their children fifty percent of the time. Even though their kids are fortunate to have two involved parents, you better believe it kills that mom to not see her children half of the time. I am positive that there are many lonely nights or bittersweet holidays, so I beg you not to tell her she “has it good,” please. Even when she is “off,” her mommy worries never vanish. Single mommin’ ain’t easy no matter the reason or season. And y’all, child support is there to SUPPORT the CHILD(REN). If baby daddies were home supporting their babies and baby mommas, we would see far more of their income than we see on our child support checks.
“You should invite a bunch of your single mom friends.”
Wait, what? I was blindsided and abruptly became a single mom with an infant and a toddler. I wish a gang of single moms instantly showed up on my doorstep to be my friends, but that never happened. If only it were that easy to find friends who completely understand the rocky path I’ve endured these past few years. But, my husband left me. My friends did not go anywhere, thankfully. Most of my friends are married. Some are single. Some are moms. A *few* are single moms. Not many of my friends can fully empathize with me, but all of them can sympathize and show compassion, and that is what counts.
“I am sorry. I did not invite you because everyone who came is married. I did not think you would want to come.”
Dagger.to.the.heart. I appreciate you being thoughtful, but the truth is, I feel more like I belong amongst married people than single people at this point. I was with my ex-husband for eight years. I have more in common with married people, especially married people with kids, than I do with anyone else during this bizarre season of my life. The worst case scenario will be me declining your invite if I don’t feel comfortable coming, but not being invited to an event that I would have been included in if I were still married…that makes me feel so.very.isolated. Keep inviting me, friends. I may be unwillingly divorced, but I still LOVE marriage, and I love my married friends.
“My husband works nights and weekends/travels for work/is overseas. I am pretty much a single mom.”
I get it. It is HARD. But before I was a single mom, my husband worked nights and weekends, too. I can say that it eased me into this life of solo parenting, but the two are not even close to the same thing. I am not saying one is harder than the other. I am just saying don’t compare them. I promise you that whenever you say that, single moms everywhere are cringing, especially if co-parenting and/or child support is nonexistent. In general, mom life is HARD. We are all in the trenches of parenting, and it isn’t for the faint of heart. But when there is no light at the end of the tunnel, no relief, and no emotional support from a partner, it is a different and lonely kind of hard. Kudos to the friends who say this instead: “Girl. My husband was gone all week for work, and I kept thinking of you. I don’t know how you do this all of the time.” When you say that, we feel seen.
“You probably don’t have any marriage advice to share.”
We have all been to the bridal shower or wedding where the newlyweds eagerly request marriage advice. When I was married, I loved sharing the wisdom I had acquired as a wife. But when I got divorced, I wondered if my advice would still be valued. It turns out that there are still married women who ask for my advice, mothers who use me as an example of an unconditional wife when discussing marriage with their daughters, and friends who admire how gracious I was as a wife. The truth is, my marriage did not fail; my husband chose to fail me. I took our wedding vows seriously, and he did not. I was not a perfect wife, but I was committed. I chose to forgive the seemingly unforgivable. That devotion was not reciprocated, but I can move forward with no regrets because I fought harder for my marriage than anything in my entire life. I don’t have all of the answers, but I can teach you a thing or two about perseverance when marriage, as you know, has been ripped out from under your feet.
“I feel bad for the children.”
Yes, divorce has consequences for everyone involved. My divorce was completely out of my hands, yet I still have to experience the consequences of someone else’s destructive choices for the rest of my life, and so does he. Other people affected include grandparents, our siblings and their children, my future grandchildren, and most of all… our children. It is not fair. Honestly, it sucks in many ways, and it will still suck many years down the road when Plan B is thriving. Yet, I don’t pity my children. Before I walked this path, I remember feeling bad for my students with divorced parents, and I even thought it was selfish that their parents “chose” to get a divorce while raising children. I never processed the truth that divorce is not always a two-sided choice. I was coming from a genuine place in feeling bad for these special little people in my life, but it never occurred to me that their lives were possibly just as rich with love and joy as my life was growing up with married parents. My children are surrounded by overflowing love, examples of beautiful marriages, an abundance of incredible experiences, and everlasting memories. They do not have a perfect life, and there is pain that I wish I could protect their precious little hearts from, but they are rising above it. There are many neglected children who lack love, support and provision, and my heart breaks for them. Some of those children have married parents, and some of those children have divorced parents. Realistically, the fruit of your labor is what continues to harvest, whether you are married or not. I make plenty of mistakes as a parent. I accept that I was not created to play the roles of both mother and father, and I gave up perfection a long time ago. But at the end of the day, my girls have a mom who is making lemonade out of the lemons, and I am really proud of that.
Are you picking up what I’m throwing down? Assumptions are sticky, stereotypes are dangerous, and words are important. Yes, those were seven bold statements. But I kid you not, they were real words from real mouths. When it comes to
single mothers any mother who has been dealt a different set of cards, let’s be mindful. Choose your words carefully, and when you don’t, say sorry. Empathize when you can, and sympathize when you can’t. Be less judgmental and more vulnerable. Show compassion, and listen twice as much as you speak. Single moms often feel alone on this parenting journey without the emotional support or pat on the back from a partner, so I leave you with this: The two greatest things you can do for a single mother are validate her feelings when the struggle is real, and affirm her when you see her crushin’ it.