Resilient. Strong. Influential. Why Single Mothers Are a Force
Those who condone stereotypes often defend their words with the phrase, "Stereotypes are rooted in truth." While this might be true to a small extent, the stigma surrounding single motherhood goes far beyond stereotypes. It damages single mothers who buy into the idea that they are weak, broken, and their voice does not matter. Quite the opposite is true. In fact, we are here to remind you that single mothers are resilient, strong, and influential.
Resilience Is a Hallmark of Single Motherhood
Some people are more resilient than others. But if you are a single mother, your resilience training began from the moment you began parenting alone. The struggle is real. Running a household, working, taking care of children, and solving problems are as exhausting as they are rewarding. The days come when you feel that you have nothing left to give. A crabby baby, difficult teen, piles of laundry, and lack of sleep are only a few of the things that make you want to crawl in a hole and never come out. Yet, you don't do it. Why? Your resilience comes from loving your kids and realizing that you have no other choice but to push through. No matter how hard your day, week, month, or year, you can get back up and keep going.
Strength Comes in Many Form for Single Mothers
Have you been asked where the father is at a school function? Have you felt the stares of pity from teachers and other parents as you go it alone at sports events, school concerts, and parents' night? If you doubt your strength, stop and think about how much resolve it takes to act with grace when obnoxious people judge you, discount you, and make faulty assumptions about your situation when all you want to do is jam a gluten-free cookie up their nose. Even when well-meaning folks make comments about how hard your life must be as a single mother or that you have the most difficult job in the world, they reinforce negative messages about single motherhood that limit your potential.
Sure, being a single mother has its challenges. But strength comes organically as you take charge of your life and your children's lives. As the primary caregiver, you don't have the luxury of passing the buck to dad or taking a break when things are rough. You have to be the strong one when your kids fall, figuratively and literally, which means being their disciplinarian and cheerleader.
Guess what? You also get to experience their successes fully and give positive rewards for a job well done. You are the one they come to when they are excited about something. You are the one that knows when they get a good test score, excel at sports, or simply show kindness and empathy to others. The central role single mothers play in their children's lives feeds their overall strength.
Single Mothers Don't Need to Be Celebrities to Influence Others
Society sticks single mothers into different boxes based on their income, race, and how they became single mothers. When media outlets try to inspire others, they often fall into the trappings of these boxes. They showcase wealthy or celebrity single mothers that are typically white. While the intention might come from a good place, these stories reinforce the idea that unless you are a white, wealthy celebrity single mother, you cannot be an influential power in anyone else's life.
The influence you have over your children and how you interact with them radiates to others around you. Sometimes you know who is watching you, and other times your admirers might be invisible. Single mothers, by necessity, are resourceful. You get into a routine that works for your family, and you find creative ways to stretch time and money. Even when it's impossible to be in three places at once, you find a way to make it work. Regardless of your income, you know how to feed your kids a healthy meal without breaking the bank.
Others around you watch and learn, and some may even ask. Your influence is a direct byproduct of your resilience and strength. When you can pass your good vibes to others, especially other single mothers, you help them gain confidence so they grow and learn.
However, you know how the saying goes: you cannot take care of others if you don't take care of yourself.
Self-Care Is the Key to Resilience, Strength, and Influence
The struggle is real. No matter how hard you try to do everything right and keep all your balls in the air, it seems like you always drop a ball or two. This is normal and expected for all parents, but especially for single mothers. However, some single mothers take these tiny failures to heart, creating a never-ending cycle of guilt and depression. You feel guilty and depressed, so you can't sleep or concentrate. You make more mistakes as you try harder. You feel guilty and depressed again, and so on.
Self-care pulls you out of that limiting and damaging mom-guilt cycle that promotes feelings of self-loathing. It's okay if you missed a baseball game because you're taking classes to get your degree. It's okay if your car broke down and you missed a parent/teacher conference. It's okay that you ordered a pizza because you were too exhausted to make dinner. The first step to self-care is forgiving yourself for mistakes. Your kids forgive you because they know you love them and are doing the best you can with the resources you have.
Beyond forgiveness, you also need to give yourself a rest when needed — not only physically but also mentally. Maintaining strong mental health will allow you to continue being a rock star. That might mean relying on a support system, like friends, family, people from your church, or a single mothers' support group. Ultimately, when you maintain your mental health, engage in personal development, and ask for help when you need it, you can raise amazing children, contribute to your community, and feel happy about the person looking back at you in the mirror.