As a single mom, I’m exposed to a whole different section of society.
An entire world of people who are living behind the scenes, trying to sell items for multi-level marketing companies, trying to babysit other people’s children to get by, trying to go back to school and take classes online (which if they defeat all odds and succeed, also often end up with a mountain of student loan debt).
The majority are women, but I will admit that I have run across a few single fathers and that their situations can sometimes be just as frustrating and desperate.
Common Pitfalls Single Moms Face
Single parents are hurting. Their stories were all very similar. I wasn’t alone. There are millions of us out here in the same boat.
Trying to make it through the day with our kids and carry all of that responsibility on our shoulders 24/7, reaching out for help from family members, the government, and each other. Using comfort food, our cell phones, tea, coffee, yoga, friends, music, prayer, or anything else we can find to get through the day.
- Trying to make peace with our bodies,
- trying to find time to do everything that needs to be done,
- trying to cook healthy meals,
- trying to earn a living,
- trying to have a social life,
- trying to raise happy and well-rounded kids, trying to maintain our sanity and composure, trying to savor the good moments of cuddles and laughter,
- trying to create a better life and a future for ourselves and our children,
- trying to figure out how to handle sleep training, feeding, teething, potty training, baby proofing, car seat safety, and the amount of effort and preparation it takes just to leave the house or run errands.
I would hear the same stories over and over again.
They wanted to work. They needed to find a way to earn income for themselves and their children. They needed a break. The stress and chaos were too much for one person.
This also led to a vicious cycle of loneliness and stress that put women in an even more vulnerable position. The “needing” and pursuing of a partner in life to come in and provide some much-needed relief or companionship created all kinds of trouble within the single mothers’ lives. Red flags are overlooked, standards are lowered, and healthy boundaries are often nonexistent.
There is a crisis of identity and insecurity among single women that keeps them going around the same mountains over and over again. It’s one thing to say “I’m going to focus on myself and my kids” but to actually follow through with that is easier said than done under the weight that they carry alone.
A very common scenario plays out something like this:
Single mom meets a new man that she believes is the knight in shining armor she has been waiting for. Everything seems wonderful for a short period of time, things move quickly, but the magic fades away and the relationship is dissolved within a few months or a year, leaving her heartbroken or pregnant again or in debt or allowing herself to be used/abused/cheated on/lied to/emotionally toyed with/ or worse.
Their string of partners had let them down egregiously. Story after story of women abandoned and alone in the delivery room, walking in on the father of their child having intercourse with another woman while he was babysitting their child, cheating repeatedly or bouncing in and out of their lives, and there were also women trying to leave abusive situations.
Trauma and exhaustion, frustration, burnout, desperation.
Those are the major themes that tie all of these thousands of single moms together.
One woman advertised her way of making a living publicly on social media and was training others how to do it. How she was able to pay off student loans and support herself and her child was through an erotic phone business. It broke my heart and it made me angry at the same time.
I was jealous and bitter about the fact that she had made so much money, and was able to pay off her student loans with this income as well as support herself. I began judging this woman, and then I took a look at her Facebook and I noticed a video of her child. He had braces on his legs.
And there was a video of her with him, encouraging him and motivating him to climb higher despite his disability. I began crying, seeing the love she had for her child and how proud she was of him climbing at the playground. This is what she had found to support herself and her son.
Do you think she goes to bed at night proud of herself, feeling good about herself, being reduced to feeling like nothing more than an object for men’s pleasure? This world has convinced her that she had nothing else to offer and no other options.
Taking classes equals debt. There is little-to-no legitimate work from home options. And this was her way of surviving. I later found many more women who had found webcam modeling from their phones or computers as their only source of income, other than child support if they received any at all.
We’ve got to do better than this as a society.
We need better options for single parents. We need help for single mothers far beyond just women’s shelters and WIC/Food stamps/Medicaid/ Child Care Assistance programs -although thank God for those things as they are a lifeline for so many. I’m not saying we need more government programs for single parents.
I’m saying we need more legitimate and positive ways for single parents to work, to be empowered, to earn money, to better themselves, to lift themselves out of poverty and desperate situations.
If more employers realized the untapped potential of the single parent or stay at home parent workforce, they could leverage that as a source of eager and dedicated productivity.
If an employer could find a way for these parents to work remotely and earn even the most humble wages, they would find the most appreciative, cooperative, loyal, and willing source of labor. Single parents are resourceful and have a mindset that is determined to make progress.
They are sick of trying to post ads, sell candles, makeup, and weight loss products. They are sick of trying to fill out hundreds of surveys for a few dollars or transcribe difficult and tedious audio files for hours only to make less than half of minimum wage.
People say that the best way to run a business is to find a need and meet that need. Well, meet the needs of single parents, and you’ve just created a very lucrative business.
How Society Can Help With Common Pitfalls Single Moms Face
Create a positive way for single parents to cope.
Create a legitimate way for single parents to earn income where they don’t have to try and post ads or sell things to people.
Create a program that teaches people how to be excellent co-parents, even if they aren’t together with their child’s mother or father.
Create something that empowers single parents, gives them hope or helps them make it through their day.
I’m also saying that we need emotional, psychological, and spiritual support for single parents. Single parents are hurting, trying to pour themselves out every single day from an empty cup, and they are feeling broken. This can lead to a vicious cycle of trying to find a new partner who can help, to feel like they aren’t alone, to tackle all of this mess as part of a team.
If these blended family ties then don’t end up working out (statistically they don’t more often than they do), the single parent continues on even more broken and hopeless than they were.
This is where extended family can play a major role in picking up the pieces and providing support- both emotionally and financially. The single parents who are lucky enough to have mothers, fathers, grandparents, and/or siblings who can provide some babysitting or even just a little encouragement and a roof over their head- make all the difference in the world.
Another thing we need is men who are willing to step up.
We need men who show up, men who protect, men who work hard, men with a sense of decency, honor, and a moral code.
Men (and women) who are willing to be decent human beings, to treat the parent of their child with common courtesy and respect, to be there for their child in even the most basic way.
A large number of men are failing women and children, and I’m not just talking about a 90s movie where Dad is working a lot and misses a little league game. I mean that there are large percentages of men who are abusing, neglecting, or abandoning women and their children. The infidelity rates, abortion rates, and divorce rates are astounding (and the separation of cohabiting or unmarried couples with children as well).
So, if you are one of the good ones out there, I would say thank you and you have no idea how much of a difference you are making. Thank you for stepping up and being a man. You are needed more than ever, because our country is in a crisis.
To women who are writhing from one painful and destructive relationship after another, and to the single mothers who are desperately trying to make a way in this world, I’d like to propose a movement. Let’s create a movement of happily single parents. That almost sounds like an oxymoron doesn’t it? Single parent and “happy” doesn’t usually appear in the same sentence. That is partly because of the misguided belief that romance is the all-consuming goal. That finding “the one” to complete you is the key to your happiness.
How to Avoid Common Pitfalls that Single Moms Face
Do not feel like you have to pursue and wait to find “the one” for your life to begin.
Do not feel like you are damaged goods, and that you need to settle in a relationship that isn’t serving you or that is hurting you, because of your fear of being alone– or the nasty thought that you are not good enough for anything better.
I’m not going to feed you those lines that say that the right one will come along, that someday if you wait long enough a great and wonderful person is going to show up. The honest truth is that may or may not ever happen, but if you choose to make peace with that, and to purposefully and willfully accept that you are enough on your own- then you have control over your own happiness. No one can take it away from you or make you wait for it, hoping and wishing it will show up on your doorstep one day and then working frantically to keep it.
Sure, would it be nice to have someone else to help bring home the bacon (the pressure of a two-parent working income is almost considered a requirement just to get by)? Someone to pick up the kids, help with homework, fix supper, do the laundry, and then have some romantic candle-lit dinner where you both talk about your day and snuggle on the couch or watch a movie? Yes. It’s okay to want that. It’s understandable to want that.
Let me encourage you though, if that somehow isn’t the script that has played out in your life, you know what else is great?
Being happily single.
Being free of the weight and burden of trying to find romance or keep the relationship intact. It is exhausting. Choosing to be happily single can take a 500-pound weight off of your shoulders, and empower you in ways you may have never considered.
I’ve said it before, and it’s worth repeating:
You are enough. When the obsession with needing and pleasing a man fades to the back burner, the rest of what life has to offer has a chance to shine through.
Some women prefer to sleep at night knowing they’re not being cheated on or lied to or used. They enjoy the freedom to go anywhere they want (even with a car seat in the back), wear anything they want, eat anything they want, decorate their living space any way they want, and spend their time how they please.
The progress in their life belongs to them so that when they are finally able to climb the ladder to success, everything will be in their name only for themselves and their children. It won’t belong to anyone else or be in another person’s hands to take away. We’ve been sold a message for a very long time that says women need men in order to succeed. I get it. The idea of having a partner in life to shoulder the weight of bills and all that life throws at you is an enticing dream come true for some people.
This becomes a problem, though, when we focus on that so much that it becomes the only way we think that we can succeed in life or be happy.
In fact, we can often see a pattern of women being held back and tripped up by the snare of sacrificing for a relationship, or putting their own potential to the side in order to hold everything together and make it work. All of the complications of relationships can sometimes be a burden that drains the energy from our progress.
Being single can actually be viewed in an entirely different light once someone realizes what all they have gained instead of what society says they’re missing out on.
Independence is success, but the way that things are set up, getting there can be harder for single parents. It can be done with the right mindset, persistence, good habits, and possibly a leg-up from friends, family, government programs, and other resources.
Hopefully, one day it won’t be as difficult as it is now, and there will be more opportunities developed and available to help single parents to succeed. I know that this will be my life’s passion and goal, to help find better answers for single-parent families.
Until then, keep on keeping on out there, know that you aren’t alone and that this is a season in your life that you can make it through. Take notice of the little golden moments of peace or happiness, and know that you will get through this and succeed. And when you do, make it your priority to remember where you came from and find ways to help other single parents along the way.
Kristi Johnson is a recent summa cum laude graduate of Texas A&M University-Central Texas and proud mother of three daughters. Her educational background is focused primarily in teaching, liberal studies, and sociology. As a divorced single mother who has experienced the trials of marriage, separation, infidelity, and blended families she is passionate about helping others.