Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Helping the single mom

What is it to be the parent of a teenager? It is to do what you think best – when really you have no idea what is best. It is to ride out the storms and be back again the next day. It is to give love to a child who does not seem to want it, to a child who five minutes ago seemed to deserve a punch more than anything else. – Anthony E. Wolf, Ph.D, “Get Out of My Life...but first could you drive me and Cheryl to the mall?”

I remember when the kids were younger and friends and relatives told me to enjoy the early years…because it was going to get harder. It does get harder, but in a weird sort of way. It isn’t so much the physical exhaustion as it is the mental exhaustion.

I tend to second guess myself a lot, and it doesn’t help that I don’t have a spouse to help focus me and make decisions. Outside of taking the garbage out and dealing with the car maintenance, help making decisions is the biggest thing I miss about not having a loving spouse. When the kids were younger, I liked the autonomy, the decisions were easier. I felt a bit more in control, or should I say it seemed easier to gain control. Now…I am constantly asking myself if I am saying the right things, doing the right things, or making the right decisions. I need help.

I think decision making is one of the hardest parts of being a parent, let alone a single parent. When I talk to other single moms, decision making is always a big concern. “How do I make a good decision when I don’t have a partner to bounce my thoughts off of?” Ultimately, the responsibility is mine and mine alone. There is no one to pass the buck to…it is up to me. When they were younger it was easier, they weren’t as saavy and I could more easily justify my position…”Because I am the mother and I said so”. That same argument doesn’t work with a 14-year old or 17-year old.

Now that my son has turned 17 (it seems so much older than 16), I wonder if I did an okay job. Did I instill the right values? Did I focus enough on God? Did I love him enough? Did I discipline him enough? Being a single parent is a lonely job. In the workplace I know how to get feedback to determine whether or not I am successful. As a parent, I thought I would get it from my husband. Without a husband, where do I get the feedback? Family?... friends?...sometimes. But they have busy lives and are trying to answer the same questions for their own children.

Being there for other single moms as they wrestle with decision making is one of the big reasons that I think Eve’s Daughters is so important. Single moms need reinforcement, they need support, and they need to be heard. Karen and I struggle with the idea of “just being there”. Is it enough? Of course, we want to offer other services as well…spa days, parenting classes, career skills, resources when needed, connections to other single moms, and hopefully a deeper understanding of how walking a life of faith can make the entire journey better…not perfect, just better.

Single moms are parenting kids of all ages, with all kinds of challenges, and with varying levels of support. The dilemmas change depending on the day. The only given is that the journey will be bumpy. What do you need to help you along the way? We need to hear from you…let us know your thoughts. How can we support you? If you aren’t a single mom, but you walk alongside a single mom, what is her greatest challenge? How do you think we can help moms take care of themselves so they can take care of their kids? We look forward to hearing from you.

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