We're everywhere, you know. You probably don't even know it when you see us--that we're raising our kids alone, tasked with one of the most difficult and rewarding jobs.
Now, let me be clear: I can't speak for truly single moms--I can't even speak to the difficulty of holding a job outside the home while being a mother. As a stay-at-home mom whose husband is currently deployed, all I have experience with is being the temporary sole caretaker of our little boy and having semi-regular contact with my husband.
Just as children hold a special place in God's heart, so do the widows and fatherless. We are commanded to take care of the less fortunate in our society who do not have family surrounding them (Deuteronomy 24:19, Psalm 82:3, 1 Timothy 5:5,26, James 1:27).
But there are some things that hold true for all moms raising kids on their own, as well as those who may be struggling in other ways. As Deuteronomy 15 : 11 says, "There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land."
1) Pray for us. This is absolutely, positively the most important thing of all. Pray that we may have the patience and energy to raise our children how God intends us to and live godly examples in this world.
2) Ask how you can help. We will probably say we don't need anything; but for the one who is dealing with sick children, disabilities, any sort of problem, there just may be something that you can do to ease that burden a little bit. And we do keep track of who offers to babysit!
3) Watch us and step in when a third hand is needed. Hold a baby, stop a falling bag, stop a little hand from grabbing a full cup. Something so small is an enormous help when our attention is elsewhere.
4) Make us food. Especially if there are multiple little ones running around, not having to worry about a meal for one night can be a very helpful respite for those of us who are particularly harried. This is hugely helpful if there is a newborn--when William was born, it was a godsend when someone brought over a meal!
5) Don't give too much advice or try to be too much of an authority. We will be polite, but when you tell us we should be putting the baby down a certain way when he has a cold or that our little girl is upset because of reason X, we will simply smile, nod, and forget it. If we ask you for help, go for it. Otherwise, keep it minimal and don't phrase things as commands or certainties.
7) Don't expect too much from us. If we work, we will be out of there as soon as we're able and probably won't volunteer for any overtime. At church, we may not be as active as we were before. We may bring something store-bought rather than the usual homemade goody. If you have kids of your own already, you know how it is--life become rather full in ways you didn't know it could be filled!
8) Don't pity us. Yes, we did not sign up for this. No, we are not filled with resent or regret. With the help of God, we are doing the best we are able with what we have been given.
9) Be a role model for our children. Since it is usually the father who is absent, men should try to be a positive figure in a little boy's life if he is not currently living with one. This is especially important when a mother is truly single. It doesn't necessarily mean taking him on a fishing trip or having a hand in raising him, but just saying hello at church and spending a minute talking to him will go a long way in placing a positive male figure in his life. Ladies, if there are any single dads with daughters, see how you can be a positive female figure.
10) Don't keep us waiting. This goes for any mom alone with her kids somewhere! If you see us in the grocery store, the mall, anywhere, it's ok if you stop to talk to us. But don't keep the conversation going and going, especially if it looks like the kids are fidgety.
11) Don't say things like, "Oh, I could never do what you do!" We didn't willingly sign up to be sole caretakers; sometimes it comes with the territory. And we would be willing to bet that you, too, would be able to handle it if you had to.
As Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 1 : 8-9,
"We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead."
We love our job. We really do, and we wouldn't trade it for the world. It is a truly wonderful God-given work, these little ones being trusted to us!