July 13th, 2019
By Rachel O. S. Edmund
Over the years I have heard so many things relative to my status as a single mother. I think when it comes to the things that people say to and about single mothers there is so much that shouldn’t really be said. I understand people wanting to speak from a place of truth however in the majority of cases, I’ve realized that people simply like to hear themselves talk. They like to think that they know what is best for you and that they are only trying to help by giving “sound advice”. The straight face emoji is the only one that seems appropriate here!
Here is a list of things that I have found that single mothers don’t really care to hear and writing this article I hope that some of you will become conscious of your words and even actions towards single mothers.
- “I understand your situation”
Do you really? How and what do you understand? Experience is the greatest teacher and unless you have walked in the shoes of a single mother there is very little that you will understand or empathize with. Sure you may have knowledge that there is little money to go around in the home of a single mother but understanding this means that you will do something to help. I am not saying that we want you to pay our bills every month, all I am saying is that it takes very little out of you as a neighbor or co-worker to be kind to a single mother and offer her some assistance in the form of a ride home from work (help ease her transportation costs) or offer to buy some snacks or fruits one day for her kids. Trust me she may burst out in tears but you may have been the angel that she had been waiting on to give her kids something to eat that day!
- “Pray about it”
I am all for praying about every situation, in fact I am a praying woman. I believe that God answers prayer, all the time, every time! Prayer is the thing that keeps most single mothers alive! If you are fortunate to have a single mother open up to you about her situation, she doesn’t want or need to hear “pray about it” because chances are she has already done so a million times! What she needs is a listening ear and a possible solution. You could be the solution for we know God himself doesn’t come down to earth and solve our problems rather He sends ordinary people like you and me to be a solution to someone’s problems! See yourself as THE solution or the person with the answer to her problem.
- “Why didn’t you ask for help? You could/should have come to me sooner.”
Many times a single mother’s cries for help are ignored because she appears to be normal and not particularly destitute. She may ask someone, even you for help and you would have stated that you were unable to provide the type of assistance that she required at the time so if she encounters a similar situation at some time in the future she would not seek you out because you already proved yourself to be unreliable or incapable. It’s not her fault she didn’t turn to you for help. In some cases the situation may have popped up so that it was unforeseen so if she did in fact have a crystal ball which gave her the ability to see into the future she probably in all likelihood would have come to you (if you in fact can help or offer a solution). Sometimes we just need to listen to what is unsaid and leave the rest (our judgmental thoughts) in the backs of our minds.
- “It’s better if you do it this way.”
Nothing is wrong with an individual presenting a better way to do things. I always encourage those who are close to me to present their ideas as to how I can do things more efficiently or effectively because this helps me to grow. The thing with single mothers though is that not everyone is cut from the same cloth and a thing that may work for you may not necessarily work for her because of her unique situation. For example, if she has a child on the autism spectrum one cannot expect the same disciplinary tactics that work on relatively normal children to work on such a child as they have completely different skillsets as well as process things in a unique way, therefore what works for you and your child in this instance will not work for her and her child. The ability to comprehend this and things like it will save you a lot of time and effort.
- “You should be spending more time with your children.”
I think that most people who say things like this are people who don’t understand the unique challenges that single motherhood presents. I believe that they think that they are simply pointing out a fact when the reality is that they are guilt-tripping the single mother for reasons only they understand. Parenting on the whole is a constant game of time management because your time is divided amongst each of your children and significant other as well as work and extra-curricular activities, friends and family. For the single mother her time is divided along the same lines the difference being that the both parents in the first instance can ease the burden of the other if need be. A single mother does not have the same luxury. If she could have been paid to stay at home to tend to the needs of her children she would gladly take it but this is life and it doesn’t work that way.
- “You are spoiling your children.”
I understand why people say this to parents or grandparents but I don’t understand why they say it to single mothers. Single mothers would gladly spoil their children because of the simple fact that many times her children go without most luxuries. Basic necessities are often times difficult to maintain without the support of the other parent or government assistance. When hand-me-downs or thrift shop clothing are the order of the day it should come as no surprise that a single mother would want to spoil her children at some point when she gets a salary increase or a bonus or something that helps her to afford same. Sometimes people simply need to mind their own business!
- “So you can’t afford a simple thing like that?”
I really want to use the B-word here but I’m too classy for that! Listen, are you the employer of a single mother? If not then shut up when it comes to the things that she can or cannot afford! She knows her pocket and what she must spend her money on; it is not any of your business! If you are so concerned or horrified by the fact that she cannot afford something then spot her the money without expecting it to be returned for the thing that she cannot afford! I’m 100% sure she will be grateful for your kind gesture! Sometimes some of us are so insensitive it is just shameful!
- “So much chirren she have? Why she eh go on birth control?”
Yuh farse and bleddy outta place! This is local parlance to say that “YOU Sir/Ma’am are in fact out of order! I have heard so many stories of rape and incest that I think I’ve become quite sensitive to statements such as this. My own mother related such a story to me, and this is how she became a single mom. Rape coupled with a strict Catholic background led her to become a single mother at 19. She had other children, myself included but my father was abusive. Should she have remained in that circumstance? Should she have stuck it out for the children? You don’t know a person’s circumstances which led them into this life. What you should do rather than judging them is attempt to determine whether or not they could use a little help! They would much rather hear those caring and kind words over your stupidly and possibly unfounded insensitive statements.
- “Choose the man you have children with wisely”.
Why would this statement incense someone like me? It is actually a statement with which I agree however sometimes you think that you have made a wise choice and only learn of the individual’s true nature toward their children in the aftermath. Just the other day I was having this very conversation that sometimes it is impossible to predict what a man will do once a relationship ends especially if he has never indicated that he would abandon his child/children before either by his action/inaction relative to children he may have beside yours or by his words. Sometimes he is a first time father like both of my exes were so you simply have no clue that they are deadbeats! It is important to choose the man you procreate with so that you can save yourself and your children pain and heartache in the long run but I don’t think that a woman should be crucified for loving someone, bearing their children and generally being a good person who didn’t understand who she was having children with because sometimes like I said you just don’t know!
Sidebar: My ex husband was the son of a pastor with no children, mine was his first. How could I have ever predicted that he would never care for my daughter. I thought having that Christian upbringing he would have been a better father. At least he would have been there to financially support her. That was not our portion with him sadly!
- “You should spend your money on your kids and not on items for yourself.”
This last one is the one that irritates me to my core! Single mothers who are consistently taking care of the children especially when the father is not providing for the children as he should be have a right to spend their money the way that they choose. Most single mothers that I know of always put their children’s needs above their own so much so that a new dress or shoes takes even up to a year to purchase. They would rather walk the streets naked than have their child go hungry or cold or without the basic necessities. So if and when the father does send money if her rent needs to be paid then she should use the money to pay it. If she needed a new hairstyle she should go get it. I say this because most times it’s her money that has been spending all along on the kids, money that she could have used to do those things but she deemed the child’s class trip to the zoo or the new uniform and supplies for the child’s basketball tournament so much more important.
These are a few of the things that I get really upset about when I hear them uttered and I am hoping that you will understand and show a bit more compassion to single mothers because Lord knows we deal with and endure so much. Let me know in the comments what are some of the things you hate to hear as a single mother.
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