The term “single mom” was developed to describe a woman who is a parent, but who is no longer in a relationship with her children’s father (through divorce, break-up, or even death), so she bears the weight of parenting responsibility alone. Questions have been raised in recent times about who should really be able to classify themselves as a single mom; so, here’s your chance to meet four moms with very different stories who all regularly refer to themselves as “single moms.” Do you agree that some, even all, qualify to be labeled as such? Two of these moms are even married, but you may be surprised by your answer after hearing about their situations!
Lydia. Lydia is a 34-year-old mother of a teenage boy with severe Autism. She and her son live in their own apartment where she helps him with every daily task because his skills of independence are similar to a toddler. She struggles to make ends meet because she rarely receives child support from her ex-husband, who hasn’t seen his son in over six years.
Lydia gives every ounce of her being to meet all of her son’s needs and keep a roof over her head with only minimal back-up from her parents, on occasion. Lydia is single, she’s a mom, and she’s doing it all, all by herself. In my mind there’s no question that she is a single mom!
Jessa. Jessa has been married for 23 years and has three children, ranging from 8 to sixteen with the man she has known since she was fourteen. She regularly comments about how she feels “just like a single mom” because her husband works third shift and is either always asleep or at work. Jessa explained that he is awake and with the family at dinner, but is otherwise unavailable to help out with homework, taking kids to activities, cooking and cleaning tasks, shopping, and everything else the children need each day.
Yes, Jessa can count on the income from his job to help pay the household bills; but, she also works full time and expects to become the primary breadwinner when his plant closes its doors in January, until he can find another job. Jessa finds herself regularly stressed, feeling lonely, and resentful toward her husband because he is seemingly “off the hook” for the majority of family responsibilities. Their marriage has suffered from the strain of her burning the candle from both ends.
Jessa is certainly a mom. What she is not is single by the definition of not having a partner; yet, although she technically has a partner, he is not available to her emotionally, physically, or to help raise their children. Apart from the income Jessa has at her disposal to help run her household, she benefits from no other tangible effect of having her children’s father under the same roof.
What do you think? Is Jessa a single mom?
Toni. Toni’s parenting situation also blurs the lines in a somewhat similar fashion to Jessa’s. Toni is also married to the father of her three kids who range in age from 10 to twenty-years-old. Toni finds herself similarly drained and frustrated by managing all aspects of her home and child-rearing because her husband suffers from a chronic and debilitating illness.
Her husband spends most of each day in bed, sometimes delirious from the medications he is on, and not able to care for himself or others. She often quips that she actually has four children because of the care she must provide to him, but mostly she feels like she has already lost her husband.
Two of Toni’s children have been to counseling because they are grieving the loss of their dad in their lives. He can’t play with them, help them, or participate in most things that they do. Meanwhile, their mom has to work full time and beg for help from grandparents to help keep the flow of their lives moving each day. Toni is able to use her husband’s funds from disability to help take care of the family; but, his medical bills usually consume most of what they have.
What’s the verdict? Toni is not single, but her husband is not capable of functioning as either a husband or a father. She refers to what she does as being a single mom and she certainly does it all alone…is she a single mom?
April. April is a 40-year-old mother of four (ages 10 to eighteen) who has been divorced from the father of her children for over five years. She and her ex have shared custody, which is supposed to consist of a schedule of alternating weeks between her home and his, and a split of 50% of the time; however, she actually has them between 6-8 days of each month. When the kids are in her home, she takes care of their needs for those days. Because her ex has the children more than she does, she pays child support to him. The kids never know when, for sure, she is going to take them for visitation, and they know that if they need help with something they better ask their dad.
April labels herself a single mom. Is she? She is definitely single, and she is a mom. April represents what many divorced dads have come to resent: the divorced mom who uses a title that implies that the dad is not involved with his children and that she has to do it all herself. It’s certainly fair for her to refer to herself as a mom, even a divorced mom; but, this is not as clear cut of a situation as the other three moms referenced here because unlike the others, she does have an active father more than helping to carry the load of parenting.
Perhaps all of these mothers should be allowed to continue to call themselves whatever they wish, and it is just the rest of us who need to realize that one term cannot fit all because no two situations are alike. A single mom may not mean that the woman in question is truly single, her life circumstances may just leave her feeling that way, just as a woman who is single may not necessarily have no help from her children’s father.
What do you think? How many of these women do you think understand the plight of being a truly single parent, and what supports should be available to all moms who need an extra hand to do all that they do?