Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Your Average Single Mom...

If normal is just a setting on the dryer, then perhaps average should be relegated to baseball stats. Cathy forwarded some November 2009 US Census Bureau statistics from a study* that were pretty eye-opening about the “average” single parent. Approximately 13.7 million single parents in the US today are raising some 21.8 million children (approximately 26% of children under 21). While there are many custodial dads out there, here’s what the “average” single mom entails:

  • Approximately 84% of custodial parents are mothers
  • She is divorced or separated (45%), never married (34.2%), widowed (1.7%) or now remarried (19%)
  • She is employed: 79.5% of custodial single mothers are gainfully employed, with 49.8% working full time, year-round, and 29.7% working part-time or part-year

  • She and her children don’t live in poverty (73%). A minority receive assistance (22% receive Medicaid, 23.5% receive food stamps, 12% receive some form of public housing or rent subsidy, 5% receive TANF)
  • She is 40+ years old (39.1% of custodial single mothers)

  • She’s raising one child (54% of custodial mothers) with 46% raising two or more children

As fascinating as some of these stats are, what we’re finding at Eve’s Daughters is there is no “average.” Certainly, there are commonalities, but each woman has a story as unique as her fingerprint.

I confess, years ago, that I struggled with my prior “picture” of a single mom. It wasn’t pretty, partly based on where and how I was raised. That picture worked for me…until I became one of them. Then it became personal, and it forced me, humbled, to edit that image. And that’s developed a far greater humility in me to not be so quick to judge, across the board—that I don’t know, can’t know, every person’s back story.

Now, with our organization, maybe that’s why we feel so strongly about developing relationships first and foremost, versus assuming a cookie-cutter approach. Because when we take the time, what we’re hearing goes far beyond average…often into the extraordinary.

Is there a single mom in your life that deserves a second look?

*United States. Census Department. Custodial Mothers and Fathers and Their Child Support: 2007. By Timothy S. Grall. Census, 2009. 26 Feb. 2010

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Tiny Life

"The spiritual life is not a life of success; it is a life of faithfulness, and it’s not easy. God knew we would naturally be dazzled by big; that’s why Jesus told the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, the lost son…Jesus was trying to tell us something: The spiritual life is a tiny life, filled with little decisions, tiny steps toward God, tiny glimpses of His presence, little changes and small movings, tiny successes and imperceptible stirrings.”—Michael Yaconelli, Messy Spirituality

Happy birthday…to us. Eve’s Daughters received its official non-profit status a year ago, the day before Mother’s Day, setting a new land speed record in terms of 1023 approvals. And since that momentous occasion…there’ve been fits and starts, and sometimes just fits, usually thrown by me. There’s been lots of planning, and talking, and listening. There’ve been seemingly 1.7 million emails, and distress calls, complete with head-in-hands. And still, all told, it’s been kinda tiny work. We are still “wobblers”, not even toddlers yet, in a world that’s not always supportive of non-profits, regardless of need.

I smiled when I read Michael Yaconelli’s description above, that God knew we would be dazzled by big. Like the bumper sticker, “Distracted by shiny things,” I find myself thinking there must be something bigger to be had, bigger to be done, bigger just in general, and it makes me lose my focus sometimes.

But then I think of all the tiny decisions: For Cathy to have been listening to hear the name “Eve’s Daughters”, for me to know it was time to join her, for all the planning, for choosing the board members, for writing the background material, for starting the fundraising, for developing the monthly dinners, for every cup of coffee over listening to a woman’s story. Each was a tiny decision to move toward to the vision, closer to the hope, even when everything swirled around us that maybe the whole thing was a mirage, a mistake.

We see changes in the women we serve, seemingly imperceptible at first, and then gaining steam. I've come to learn that tiny steps eventually do add up. So when I’m tempted to think we’re not making a difference (or a difference that anyone could notice), I’ve got to remember to narrow my focus. For someone of my wiring, this doesn’t come naturally or gracefully. But I keep hoping there will come a time when I get the perspective I crave—that it was all supposed to be this way, a little breadcrumb trail to sustain us, living the tiny life in a big, big way.
Birthing a non-profit is not unlike our other births--joyful, messy, scary, overwhelming. But that something tiny that we helped usher into the world--who knows what it will grow into?