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It still takes a village
For most single moms, raising a child alone is a delicate balance of equal parts love, commitment and creativity, with a little chaos thrown into the mix. “You really have to understand what’s involved,” Moskowitz says. “It’s the hardest job you can ever imagine but also the most worthwhile.”
A single mother’s juggling act never ends. As a result, having a support system is vital, whether that connection is with family, friends, a single-parents networking group or an online community. If a support network doesn’t exist, these women say, reach out and create one. When Mary wanted to start a baby-sitting co-op, she approached couples at her son’s day-care center. “As a single mother,” she says, “you could talk yourself out of doing this by saying, ‘They’re a couple; they’ve got each other, they won’t want to do this.’ But everyone liked the idea, and it’s worked out great.”
Because single mothers are truly doing it all, it’s essential that they take care of themselves. Scheduling a play date or sleepover for their children can provide some much-needed downtime to recharge. “You have to make sure your needs are met, too,” says Moskowitz. “If you’re not whole and happy, you’re not going to be a good mother — and your child deserves nothing less.”
Despite challenges, these women say that in some ways it can be easier doing it alone; in their families, there’s no disputing that mom’s the boss. “The only person I argue about childrearing with is myself, so I ultimately win,” says Moskowitz.
The daddy issue
One major concern single mothers have is the impact that growing up without a father will have on their children. And rightly so, says Mattes, who emphasizes that both boys and girls benefit from male involvement at an early age. She notes that a male role model need not be the child’s father but simply a caring, reliable man who is — or would like to be — part of the family’s life.
As a child gets older, Mattes notes, mothers can encourage involvement in organizations such as Boy Scouts of America or Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. They also should emphasize the positive male figures in a child’s everyday life — from uncles, cousins and grandfathers to family friends, teachers and coaches.
We are family
In the end, what matters most, these moms say, is not what their families may be lacking but what they have in abundance: a loving, committed parent who is engaged in her child’s life.
“There are grandparents raising kids, single-dad families, adoptive families where the kids are racially or culturally diverse,” says Moskowitz. “They all came into this world the same way — a sperm fertilized an egg. And family is really where the heart is, no matter how it came to be.”