So, I am a mom to a teenager. Let me rephrase- I am a single mom to a teenager.
A dubious distinction which perhaps twenty years ago was synonymous with a flawed, egotistical divorced woman who failed at the most important life’s task of enabling a happy marriage. I had heard of ‘those types of women’, but it wasn’t until I lived like one, did I realize that women like us are not social pharaohs but social disruptors. On most days, Indian single moms are trying to put one foot forward, stumbling often to manage both the yin and yang of parenting, just as any other parent, except that we are doing it single handedly.
So, if you know a single mom, you may have had those awkward moments of not knowing what the politically correct action or words are. And in case you wish to help them, read on the 5 things that will help you get some perspective before you jump on offering inappropriate advice.
Don’t help us by setting us up with wrong partners
As counterintuitive as it reads, ‘help’ has many forms and being a single mom, we are sensitive to help which comes wrapped in packages of ‘maybe you should start dating, how will you manage when you are older /alone? You are being too choosy, so what if the guy is bald, he is doing well in life. You really have put on weight, how will you be able to date? Do you want to be that old women with cats in 40 years?’ These are some of the anecdotes from my life which overlap experientially with my other single mom friends. While we pretend to laugh about the crappy suggestions, we are cringing from inside because we don’t need you to constantly scare us with the end of the world scenario. Its not like we want to be single but we are looking for a different level of sensitivity from our partners, and trust me when I tell you, if we do find that sensitivity and maturity in someone we wouldn’t care if the person is bald or earns a little less than us. Neither are we afraid of dying alone, but of dying of loneliness which comes from being in a loveless relationship. Instead, tell us how we can make smart choices in our financial, emotional, physical lives so that we can live a life of abundance.
Don’t throw pity by sharing sob stories of your marriage
When a single mom tells you how much she is struggling at work or her kids in a casual chat, do not start lamenting about how equally bad your life is. You probably think in all good intention that telling us sad stories of your married life, will bring us both back onto the same page. Flash news woman! We are not even part of the same book, even if we are on the same chapter of our lives because, well, a long time ago, we checked out books of different genres at the library of life. We don’t need you to pity us or for you to feel that if you only shared happy things about your married life we would begrudge you, because we won’t. In fact, happy stories of marriages make us hopeful, and we would rather hear about your silly anecdotes of a marriage than believing on sad ones. Not every man is a villain and we know your husband isn’t one, so relax tell us the real story. And the next time your single mom friend goes through a heartbreak, just hold her heart in yours and listen to her without comparisons, please!
Don’t tell us that we are better off single as deciding single-handedly for a child is hard
Like I said before, our married friends in an effort to soothe our ache, will tell us how single moms are better off single, because they are also like single moms, without any support from their husband. While there is some truth in that but there are decisions which require the perspective of two parents. It is during these times when you know that you are solely responsible for the effect of your decision concerning pivotal moments in your child’s life that can turn angsty. Being a single parent, you don’t have to hang on to a toxic workplace because you are the only one paying bills, or be the only one losing your mind when your child is unwell. At least with two parents, you have someone to share the milestones in your child’s life with.
Do not treat us like breakable bone-china
We can handle critics as well as an honest feedback, just like anyone else. Once one of my single friends told me that she would prefer meeting me alone sans my kid. Did I get upset? Yes, for a while I did, but soon realized that in doing so, she had treated me as an equal. Let’s accept that children, especially younger ones can be a conversation stopper. That meeting also gave me some ‘Me’ time. In hindsight, its often better to be upfront and talk to your single mom friend. Communication is always the key. Friendship is and will always be a two-way road and like I said, single moms aren’t as hollowed as they are made out to be. They are all flesh and blood. You are not obliged to hold on, because obligation and an unwanted sense of duty isn’t friendship and doesn’t help anyone.
Don’t treat us an Outlier
Invite us to your parties where the rest of the folks are couples. We may choose not to attend but we want to be treated as normal adults. Just because we are single, we are not desperate to mingle with every other guy we bump into. Neither are we a threat to anyone’s marriage. Just don’t brand every other single mom as a potential home breaker or a social outcast. We are single moms by choice. Having broken away from a marriage because we love ourselves and our sanity, we are completely comfortable in our skin. We don’t need to be extolled as martyrs, in order to make us feel special. We are as weak, as flawed, as strong, as imperfectly perfect as any another woman; and we are okay with that!
So, if you are wondering how to support single moms then the answer is quite simple- just be the way you were when we first met, when you liked my company for who I was and not because of what had happened to me. We still like to giggle on silly things, have fun, and we reach out to you because of our shared memories of fun, laughter, solace and camaraderie. Don’t pretend, be yourself when we meet for some chai and conversations. Yes, I am a single mom, but I am also just like any other woman, your friend, now and forever.