Being a single mom is hard.
I was a single mom for nine years. It was not easy. It was not cool. It was definitely not what I signed up for—or remotely anticipated—when I got married and had the child I had always desired. I was walking pretty smoothly through life when it went sideways. I became a single mom in a single instant when my husband died suddenly and tragically.
I was in utter anguish over his death.
Angry, oh so very angry, about being a widow.
But I did not ever experience anguish over being a single mom. Heartbreak about my daughter losing her dad? Big time! Fear that I couldn’t raise her as well as two parents? Absolutely. Lots of it! Anxiety about how I would keep her balanced, help her through her own bumps and bruises, pay for her car, her college, her wedding? All the time! But being a mom was a source of great joy for me, and being on my own did not change that.
Hard. And beautiful.
All moms, single and married, have lots of mommy-hood trials. I loved being a mom before I was a single one, and I loved it after; I just had to work harder at not attaching my own turmoil to my child (and, honestly, I did not always succeed).
Here are some tips that can help:
1. Be honest.
Help your children know every day how much you love them, and that handling everyday business is hard but being a mom—even a single one—is a joy and privilege.
2. Be an example.
Handle your emotions properly—with counseling or friends. Don’t heap them on your children.
3. Ask for Help!
Seriously moms, do it! Do not be afraid to enlist friends and family for carpooling, errands, and weekends when you have two kids (or more) going two different directions. Find same-sex youth leaders who will invest their hearts and time in your children. Do the same with the teachers at their schools.
4. Meet your own needs.
If you have a child old enough to watch his or her siblings, use that in-house babysitter to provide you with freedom for a weekly coffee date, pedicure, or corner at the library to read a magazine or book in peace. Be creative—find what generates calm in your spirit and carve time for it on a regular basis. That inner peace will carry you miles inside the walls of your chaotic home.
Learn about inspirational people who were raised by single moms … and inspirational single moms. Find lessons those kids learned from their moms and ideas those moms taught their kids that you can adopt as your own.
I have a friend who lost her husband a year before I did. He left her with six kids, ages two to 20. Six! She loved her kids as much after his death as before, and she kept raising them with the same grace, affection, discipline and guidance she had before. It was hard in a practical way—like on Saturdays when she had four of them on four different soccer fields, and they started entering college one after the other. She put one foot in front of the other, dealt with one challenge at a time.
But being a mom was a source of great joy for me, and being on my own did not change that.
She and I could not let our anguish, anger, heartbreak, fear or anxiety be attached to our children. They didn’t cause it; it was our response to the loss of our husbands. We also couldn’t let those negative emotions control us, or we couldn’t be the best moms possible in the upside-down circumstances of our lives.
Remember, every day, the joy you felt at being a mom before you became a single one. Don’t allow your external circumstances to change your heart toward your children.