Josh has been home for a mere 24 hours, and I’m already readjusting to our normal way of life (which still includes a lot of his absences, but is WAY better than NO Josh for 6 weeks!). As the three of us happily drove around running errands together today, those days of single mommyhood were starting to look like those of a bygone era, so I know I have to blog before I forget. First, I believe we are more likely to reach out those we notice and sympathize with, so my experience has put single mommies on my radar, and I certainly don’t want to miss an opportunity to reach out to them in the future.
Second, please understand that this is not meant to be a “woe-was-me” post, nor a “look-how-awesome-I-was-at-getting-through-that” post. It is a glimpse into the life a single mom, which will give simple suggestions (to my future self) on how to brighten a single mom’s day.
- Tell her she’s doing a good job. I flew alone with Caleb to NC, and, as I was getting off my connecting flight, I had about three women (men probably don’t understand-ha!) compliment me for being a great parent to my 1-year-old during our flight. Maybe my face said it, but I was completely worn out, feeling rather nauseated, had lost my hearing in one ear, and was so very ready to just curl up in a corner and forget it all. But, their comments pushed me forward, giving me the extra ounce of energy I needed to push on and keep putting Caleb first.
- Don’t ask her how she is doing unless you genuinely care and are willing to help out. This issue transcends to more demographics than just single moms. It’s quite frustrating to know you desperately need some help and are just about willing to have anyone watch your child so you can catch up at work, and then have someone provide empty offers for the sake of niceties. It’s probably better to simply say nothing.
- Don’t assume that because she (or anyone, for that matter) is independent and seemingly self-assured that she is doing okay. I give my parents kudos: they raised me to be rather independent. I love to travel, try new things, and take on new challenges; but this doesn’t mean I’m Superwoman. This also means I do a good job of keeping up appearances (which I think is the case for many single moms), but there is often a great need on the inside.
- Take her a meal or give her a gift card. I had a girl from church bring me a meal one evening, and it was a huge blessing because I really struggled to find time to make meals, and I sadly had to settle for fast food (which I hate) on work nights. How wonderful it would be to relieve a single mom of dinner duties, giving her a healthy meal for her family one night a week–and leaving enough for her family to have leftovers!
- Offer to help her out at the store. There are so many ways to help out a mom in the store. Often I can’t reach an item because I’m holding my sick child, or sometimes I just need a stranger to entertain my child in the shopping cart as he’s fussing in the long line. Even taking a mom’s shopping cart back to the rack for her is huge…especially in the dead of Indiana winter.
- Offer to help her take in the groceries. I think it’s a different era. On several occasions, I would pull up to my apartment, Caleb would be screaming in the back seat (he really is usually a pretty happy kid, but it’s been a season of sickness for him), and I absolutely dreaded having to set him down (where he would continue to scream), haul groceries up my 16 steps (thank you, dad, for counting), put them away, etc. Why? Because I would rather be with my baby that needs me at that moment. I know I had neighbors who saw this transpire, and it never occurred to them to help me out. Do I mind a stranger coming into my house? At this point? Not at all.
- Realize that she’s lonely. I consider myself an extrovert, and I am so blessed to (1) have many acquaintances, and (2) interact with students and colleagues a couple of days a week, and (3) have some amazing friends in NC; but I still crave deep face-to-face relationships that go beyond a professional level. These are hard to come by, especially when I often lack the time or energy to pursue them. So, next time you see a single mom that seems too busy, pursue her.
- Help her get out of the house, or simply hold her child. I consider myself a pretty sane person. I have Jesus guiding me every day, and I know the Creator of the universe has not forgotten me. I am logical, and I try to keep a check on my unwieldy emotions. But, there were many moments that I felt like I was losing it. Caleb had two ear infections, strep throat, Pink Eye, and several bouts of diarrhea during Josh’s absence. After so many hours of holding a crying child, it is time to get out and let a new face come and show him some love while mom clears her head. How does a mom without Jesus make it? I can’t even imagine…
- Realize that she feels like she’s never being a good parent. In spite of what the world tries to tell us, in the heart of man, we know that a child thrives with a unified family unit that consists of mommy AND daddy. Knowing that half is gone makes a single mom feel like she’s short-changing that child by 50%. Jump in, get involved, remind her to be strong, and encourage her that she can and is 100% to that child.
- Sympathize with her. Sometimes you just need to know that someone understands and realizes that what you are doing is hard. I know there are far greater problems in the world than my singleness, but sometimes a single mom’s world becomes very small because it has to be that way.
When all is said and done, though, I look back and realize that this small chapter of life was a good one for our family. I learned to (1) be incredibly thankful for my spouse, (2) maintain a positive attitude and look for the good in all things, and (3) rely fully on Jesus. I’m not saying it was easy, but it was good. And, oh, the things that Josh learned and experienced! I know I’ll be hearing his amazing stories for the rest of our lives, and, most of all, I know he grew richly from his experience. It was totally worth it.