When my marriage first ended, I hated referring to myself as a “single mom.” I hated the connotation of it, like a giant “F” for Failure had been stamped on my forehead.
Like I had been handed a membership card to a club I never wanted to be in.
But over time, I realized that I did not need to let the term “single mother” define me, but rather describe my situation. And the fact is that being in this situation has some unique needs and challenges that are summed up pretty well with the words “single mom.”
(Because “lonely-woman-raising-three-kids-while-being-solely-responsible-for-managing-a-household” is too long.)
As I’ve walked this journey, I’ve come to understand just how much the Lord has ministered to me through the people around me (in ways I didn’t even know I needed). But I’ve also realized just how much I neglected the needs of the single moms around me in my “pre-single mom” days. And not because I didn’t care, but because I didn’t understand.
If you’re a single mom struggling to help those in your life understand, or if you have a single mom in your life that you want to reach out to, check out this list of Seven Ways to Support a Single Mom.
Seven Ways to Support a Single Mom
Invite her. A single mom loses so much more than a relationship with a man when she becomes single; her social life takes a huge hit as well. Friends seem to back away for a number of reasons, whether it’s not taking sides in a breakup or just this weird shift in group dynamics that now make “couples’ nights” obsolete . But she still needs people in her life, probably now more than ever, who can bring a little lightness (READ: fun) into a tough situation. Invite her to dinner or to a game night, just the grown ups. It will help to re-establish some normalcy in a very un-normal situation.
Encourage her. Single moms often fail to reach out for help because they don’t think anyone will understand. And during a time when a significant relationship has ended, she is likely struggling to understand her own thoughts and feelings– to the point where she doesn’t even know who she is anymore. But she doesn’t need the people around her to be world-class therapists; what she needs to know is that she is seen. Send her a hand-written card, or buy her some flowers or her favorite treat (because you have to remember, no one else probably is). Listen to her and seek to understand what she’s going through, even if you don’t know what to say. To a single mom, small gestures of kindness go a long way.
Challenge her. Losing a life partner is a traumatic event that requires healing– the RIGHT way. Lovingly address her when she’s seeking comfort in things other than God (especially if it’s a new relationship). Question her when she says or does things that show she is devaluing herself and her inherent worth in Christ. And if she has a habit of complaining, help her to remember the good God has done in her life and encourage her to focus on what He still wants to do for her, in her, and with her.
Back her up. Single moms struggle with enormous gaps in parenting, regardless of how involved the father is. She may feel like she always has to be the “bad cop” or doesn’t have time to adequately handle issues before they balloon into something much bigger. While any healthy parental support is helpful, single moms especially need godly men to act as spiritual uncles and grandfathers to their children and mentor them in practicing obedience and respect. Consider involving her children in tackling a project in the home or in preparing a special meal for their mother. These activities not only emphasize serving, they give rise to conversations that are excellent opportunities for discipling.
Accompany her. Single moms feel dreadfully exposed in certain situations; for example, there’s nothing like showing up solo to an event to remind her of just how single she is. What’s worse, she’s likely to experience the trauma of triggered emotions that can arise at the most inconvenient times (think PTSD- it’s real). If you know a single mom, check in with her to see if you can accompany her to an event where she may need support. Think church services, birthday parties, court dates, even Christmas shopping, as all of these are possible avenues for retraumatization.
Provide for her. The physical needs of a single mom are many, and can be extremely overwhelming. Take her a meal. Help her with yard work. Watch her kids for an afternoon (even if only for the purpose of letting her take a nap). And don’t let her tell you she doesn’t need anything- she’s very likely just being polite! Anything that saves time and money is a HUGE blessing to a woman who is juggling the responsibilities of running a household alone.
Disciple her. A single mom definitely struggles to reclaim her identity after the emotional trauma of losing a relationship. She needs to know that she’s more than a mom, and certainly that she’s more than so-and-so’s former wife. Even the most “churched” woman is likely to doubt who she is at a time like this (trust me, I know from experience). But when a woman knows she is a treasured daughter of the Most High God, it not only shapes her life but also the spiritual well-being of her children (because otherwise, she can’t teach them what she doesn’t know herself). One-on-one weekly mentoring with an emphasis on studying Scripture is a great way to help a woman understand who God says she is, and how His promises apply to her life today.
Above all, remember the Scripture that says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15, ESV). Compassion, in any form, that comes from the heart will undoubtedly minister to a single mother in her distress.
What other things do you think would bless a single mom’s heart? Or as a single mom, do you have a special story of how someone has blessed you?