I was a single mom when I first had my son at 17-years-old, and I mentor teenage mothers in a weekly support group, most of whom are single. And every month my husband travels out of town for 7-10 days (sometimes more!), making me single for a time. Yet I am thankful I am married to an amazing man who is a wonderful companion and huge support. When he is away I realize how hard it is for single moms all the time, and I find myself wanting to reach out as much as I can.
Our family invites single moms to dinner, and we babysit. I've been known to go shopping in my pantry for food to send home, and I try to offer a listening ear. Still, I wondered if I was doing enough—or doing it right. My friend Jeanette found herself single after many years of marriage, and she wrote a wonderful book. I asked Jeanette to write a guest post for my blog to share five things each of us can do to help single moms. I love her advice. And if you know a single mom I highly recommend Jeanette's book!
When I wrote Suddenly Single Mom, I wanted to use all that God had done during a painful time to offer hope to other overwhelmed, hurting women. It was my way of saying, "See, I survived. You can do this!" The more I wrote, the more I recognized that I also had something to say to friends and family members of single moms.
If you know a mom who has suddenly found herself single, here are a few suggestions:
1. Offer to help.
It can be hard for a newly-single mom to reach out. Sometimes she's too overwhelmed to know what she needs. Let her know you are available. Be specific. "I'm going to the store today. Do you need anything?" "Call me if you need a babysitter this weekend." Only offer what you can really do. Help your friend create a network of support, including other single moms who are further down the road than she is.
I treasure the friends who let me talk and be a wreck. Be willing to sit quietly and hear her, or just give her a hug. Let her feel what she feels even if it doesn't make sense to you. Only give advice if she asks for it. Trust me—she's getting it from all directions. Avoid platitudes like, "Everything is going to be okay." Our system is way too broken to predict that. Leave the legal advice to her attorney. If you want to give her a Bible verse, wait until after you've earned the privilege by listening, and stick to those you've had to apply yourself.
3. Prove yourself trustworthy.
Many newly-single moms are reeling from shattered trust. Be that friend who shows her there are still trustworthy people in her life. Keep her confidences. No matter how much you know of her story, let her be the one to share details with others. Stand up for her and her kids when you hear gossip or judgmental comments. My fallback is, "We don't know what's going on in someone else's life/home/day." If you offer to do something, follow through. If an emergency forces you to cancel, help her come up with a Plan B that she feels comfortable with. Be nice to her children.
4. Watch your words.
It took a long time for me to figure out why it hurt when friends said, "I don't know what you ever saw in him." Here's the thing: Every once in a while I remembered what I saw in him. Those comments translated as, "You chose wrong." Keep in mind that the man who made her a single mom is the man she once loved and the father of her kids—even if he was all wrong for her—even if he was all wrong for anybody. Depending on her situation, she still has to see him and is trying to figure out how to make their changed relationship work.
5. Encourage her.
Tell her what a good job she's doing. Point it out when her kids excel and thrive. Let her know when she looks pretty. Tell her she's a beautiful, amazing woman. Send her little pampering gifts (lotion, chocolate, a bracelet, a gift card). If you see God working in a particular area of her life, make her aware of it. Encourage her to serve so she feels like she's giving back. Support her efforts to heal. Help her discover benefits in singleness so she is less likely to date too soon. Invite her to your get-togethers. Include her kids in play dates. Sit with her at church.
Show her through your kindness that, though becoming a single mom is painful and difficult, she is going to survive, and will always have support.
Jeanette Hanscome is an author, writing teacher, speaker and busy mom. Her work has been featured by Focus on the Family, Standard Publishing, Walk Thru the Bible, and Lifeway. She enjoys cooking, knitting, reading, studying the Bible, and spending time with her two incredible sons. Jeanette was born with a rare vision disorder called Achromatopsia, which means she has no color vision, is extremely light sensitive, and has visual acuity in the legally blind range. Jeanette lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.