Every mother at one point – and perhaps even daily – wrestles with a few challenges that keep her from being her best. During my time these past seven years as a single mother, I have noticed that one of the challenges she battles against comes from society itself.
People within society who shame single mothers rather than encourage them are prevalent. Whether it is the news media that casts single mothers as victims with no hope for a decent future or gossipmongers within neighborhoods who judge the choices she has made, a single mother needs love, too, like her kids need oxygen. She does not need finger pointing, tongue-wagging assaults that demean her or her children. Her heart pumps blood just like everyone else’s heart, one thump at a time.
The book I am writing and look forward to having published later this year, Parenting with Grace, Gratitude … and Guts!, features my journey through the wilderness of single motherhood as I raise my son, Liam, on my own. His father left us when Liam was 16 months old and terminated his rights a few years later. It is not a book about resentment – not at all. It’s an unfolding story about love, grace, forgiveness and redemption. Yet, as I met other single moms along this path, I have noticed a common denominator that made its way into our lives: shame.
And it’s sad. We were not designed to accept that way of thinking. No human being was destined to believe in that message of negativity.
Rather than debate the hot-button issues of how a woman became a single mother or drag her circumstances through the media, family grapevine or community gathering, why not look at life through her children’s eyes and recognize an opportunity to help build a new legacy for the next generation? A good mother is a good mother.
Shame is an unnatural and undeserved emotion whether you are a woman or a man. Flung at a vulnerable person and adopted as gospel, shame can multiply into a strong toxic way of thinking. Messages of I am a mistake or I am not good enough become a belief system that was never intended to be there. It creates a deep well of pain.
And unless a single mother receives external encouragement to motivate her internal environment, she and her children might remain in that pit of hell.
I am not talking about rescuing her – No. I am talking about motivating her so the tears that fall from her eyes stop.
When a single mother is on the receiving end of love, support and encouragement to become the best she can be, those gestures breed a multitude of blessings for her children. Everyone’s tank is getting filled. You want to fill those kids’ tanks and pour wholesome values into them. If you are one of those people complaining about how awful society is but not doing anything about it, think about this for a moment.
Tentacles of shame given by others can rip a single mom family apart. But it does not have to be with this way.
One of the ways that has helped me in my solo walk as a single mom is to ground my and my son’s life into our faith. As we dig deeper into our relationship with God and keep Him front and center, we can trust Him at His word: Never shall I leave you or forsake you (Deuteronomy 31:6).
Whether a single mother chose to leave, was left, or became one on her own, there is an absence or a sense of abandonment felt by all on some level. Someone isn’t there, plain and simple. For us, God remains, so we do not get pushed around by society’s messages and keep ourselves intact as best as possible.
How might you reach out to a single mother today to offer an opportunity to get grounded?
Setting Limits and Boundaries
Setting limits and boundaries around children so they remain safe is probably the one of the top three things to keep in mind when raising children. Setting limits and boundaries of who to let in and out of the family’s life is crucial – and that includes messages from the media.
In November of 2012, I was lead to give up cable television and sell old books and movies that were very worldly. It was so hard for me to do. Since then, I relented two or three times and allowed cable TV back in the house until a few months ago. Now, we live without. Our home life is far from perfect, but our relationship as mother and son has never been better.
Are there spots in a single mother’s life that you can gently encourage her to refocus? Note: Do not kick her if she is down.
What You Can Tell Her
Plain and simple is the intention of the message to offer a single mother whom you see struggling. For many, she is like the rest of the world who wants her tears caught, to be occasionally picked up when down, and given the encouragement to keep going on life’s journey.
How about this?
You are a wonderful mother and I see you working hard. It is because of your strength and tenacity your children will succeed. And you know what? You will, too!
I can only imagine how her face will light up when she hears these words. Or care for herself in a healthy way, and give more to her children, and give back to society.