Single mom. It conjures up a certain image, doesn’t it? Whether single by choice or by circumstance, single mothers are frequently the subject of negative press and unfortunate stereotypes.
Single moms, like their married counterparts, have many responsibilities, not the least of which is nurturing their children and helping them to become well-adjusted adults. That’s an accomplishment for any parent, but many also find the time to lend a hand at school or other engage in other volunteer activities.
In 2012, 24 percent of children lived with only their mothers, according to ChildStats.gov. Behind the statistics are some very real people who make up a large part of the fabric of our society, although their accomplishments often go unnoticed. They’re women who strive to provide for their children and make the world a better place at the same time.
“The single moms I coach and mentor are amazing,” said Athena Moberg, CPC, Certified Professional Success Coach to Single Moms. “Their everyday courage astounds me.”
Parenting, under any circumstances, takes a tremendous amount time, patience, and energy. Sleep deprivation comes with the territory. Still, Ms. Moberg says the single moms in her circle “typically place children’s needs, wants, desires, big dreams, and lofty wishes before even their most basic needs (showering comes to mind).”
“They Are Out There. We Are Out There”
“I remember struggling when my son was growing up,” said Moberg. “As a single mom for the better part of 17 years, I struggled with the big ticket items like everyone else – rent, bills, health, family, life.” None of that could overshadow the mother-child bond, though. Moberg uses the word “joy” to describe her role as mom, reflecting on the simple pleasure of their morning routine, and the knowledge that the scene is played out every day all over the world.
“I’m not the only single mom who wakes up before dawn to make sure their children are cared for and given every opportunity at a bright future. They are out there. We are out there,” she said.
Role Models and Volunteers
They’re squeezed for time, but many single mothers manage to donate time toward charitable endeavors. Whether it’s a few minutes or an ongoing thing, their contributions set an example for their children while improving communities and society as a whole.
Jennifer Maggio, Chief Executive Officer of The Life of a Single Mom Ministries, says single moms are a valuable part of schools, communities, and churches all around the nation. “They are not always looking for a handout, as some would suggest. They serve in soup kitchens, foster homes, and mentor other single moms; just to name a few. This is a timeless treasure taught to our children.”
They also help each other out. As an example of single moms reaching out to other single moms, Ms. Maggio shares the story of one single mother of two who holds a PhD, is a university professor, and regularly mentors other single moms. “Through hard work, determination, and her faith, she is a successful single mom who mentors other single moms. Her children are thriving in a local school and also volunteer regularly. She now serves as a board member for The Life of a Single Mom Ministries.”
Moberg agrees. “We are actively volunteering in Sunday school, swim team, car washes, door-to-door prayer outreach, and even monthly grocery ministry for those who are in need of regular food assistance. When my son was growing up, I enjoyed volunteering in Cub Scouts, youth group, food drives, breast cancer walks, and Thanksgiving community outreaches. The children, through witnessing their mom’s ‘leadership by example,’ are now taking the lead in their classrooms and extracurricular activities. I see it happening every day, and I could not be more proud of the women I am mentoring.”
Out of the Mouths of Babes (well, former babes)
“Far too often, something valuable is missing from relationships, especially between parents and children,” said Corporal Jordan J. Petersen, United States Marine Corps, and Moberg’s son. “I know my mom loves me because her support is unwavering and her acceptance is unconditional…I know deep down she would accept me for who I am and still love me, even in extreme circumstances. For instance, I know if I wanted to be a rodeo clown she would encourage me to be the best dang rodeo clown I could be, and she would probably still be unbelievably braggadocious and proud of me, hahaha!”
Moberg doesn’t hesitate to say she’d do it all over again. “Being a ‘fully-engaged’ single mom is not easy, but it is so worth it. All you have to do is CHOOSE to be an amazing role model and you will be!”
Parenthood certainly has its challenges. One of the best examples we can set for our children is not in what we say, but in what we do – not a single act or two, but what we do day in and day out, even when we think they’re not paying attention. Mothers need not climb mountains, attain material possessions, or achieve stardom to make a difference.
For the children who witness their single moms juggling the daily tasks of family life, it’s a valuable lesson about family, integrity, and work ethic. These are the lessons they take with them, and the lessons they bestow will upon the next generation.
Ann Pietrangelo is the author of "No More Secs!" and “Catch That Look,” a freelance writer, and a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors.