Single parents perform incredible feats of balancing, flexibility and time management every day — all with the goal of giving their children the best possible start in life.
All parents face challenges, but life as a single parent brings struggles and triumphs that are often far different than those of a two-parent household.
Michelle Evans is mom to N’diyah, age 10. She is a private counselor and does counseling for members of the military. She said being a single parent has changed her life dramatically.
“It has taught me a lot about myself and it has helped with my growth and development as a person,” she said. “It has taught me patience, love, understanding and what it’s like to live a life of sacrifice sometimes.”
Finding support is critical, Evans said.
“I live in Spartanburg, but I’m from Fairfield County,” she said. “I didn’t have family here and that was one of the biggest challenges. Day care was a huge issue. I would have rather stayed home with her longer. I worried, but not only that, I felt guilty.”
N’diyah was born early, but fortunately was not sick very often, though that was always a concern.
“There was no Plan B,” Evans said. “If she was out sick, I had to be out.”
Asking for help was necessary.
“You can’t do it alone,” Evans said. “Luckily, I had worked with people who were near and dear. I had no family in Spartanburg, so my friends had to come to our aid. That’s very important — building community relationships.”
Now, many of Evans’ friends are those she met through her daughter. They trade time for sleepovers and provide other support for each other.
“It has worked well to have a network of people who will help,” she said.
April Lengel has faced similar challenges as mom to Kaitlyn, 12, and Spencer, 8.
“There is nobody to say, ‘Tag. You’re it,’” she said. “We moved here from North Carolina two years ago. I had already been a single mom for about 2½ years. As a single parent, you have to make a new village — that’s what I tell newly single parents.”
Moving to Simpsonville put Lengel and her children closer to family. She tells other single parents to find family or friends to help.
“Don’t try to do this on your own,” she said. “You will make yourself crazy. You may not have your partner, but you have your church, your family and other single parents to bounce ideas off. You have to build a whole new sense of normal.”
Lengel spends time journaling to ease some of the stress.
“I’ve tried to carry it all myself and it doesn’t work,” she said. “Think about who you can use as a resource.”
Lengel said discipline has been a learning process. Part of that is learning to differentiate between behaviors that are expected for any child and those that might be related to her status as a single parent.
“Are you angry about this or are you just throwing a temper tantrum because you didn’t get what you wanted?” she said. “You have to look at those situations and learn to trust your instincts.”
Lengel said self-care is essential.
“You have to learn to be tough,” she said. “You have to reach out and ask for help, and that doesn’t say anything bad about you. Just because you ask for help, it doesn’t mean you can’t take care of your kids. This is a job that is typically done by two people. If I don’t take care of me, how can I take care of anybody else? It doesn’t mean you are any less of a person.”
Teresa Garrick leads a support group for single mothers at Brushy Creek Baptist Church. She also has prior experience working with single mothers in poverty.
“What I’ve noticed, especially with moms who are not in poverty but still struggling financially is that they have the same struggles with discipline as two-parent homes do, but they blame that on themselves,” she said. “You are doing a great job as a single parent. The fact that your kid is acting out is not reflective of you being a single parent. That’s just normal behavior. The guilt they were expressing – I said, ‘No, no, no. All parents experience that.”
Garrick said sometimes relatively simple things, like home repairs and maintenance or car care, can place big burdens on single parents, even though they are resourceful and strong. She said the community and churches can ease that burden when single parents lack the time, money or skill to tackle those projects.
Like Evans, Garrick stressed that child care is an enormous challenge for single parents, especially when a child is sick.
“We don’t have the family structure that we had in the past, so grandma isn’t around the corner,” she said. “The biggest (challenge) I saw was sick-child care. I literally had to choose. Do I keep my job or do I stay home with my children? There is no big solution for that. One of the things we did was a mentoring ministry to help that single mom have her own network, but that’s a one-on-one solution, not a county-wide solution.”
Miranda Asson, single mother of Amara, 4, attends the group led by Garrick. She is in the process of starting her own nonprofit organization to mentor high school girls. Asson said meeting other single parents has helped her face her own challenges.
“There are not a lot of resources out there for single moms,” she said. “You just want to hear someone who is on the same page with you. For me, the hardest thing is juggling both sides. You still have to discipline, but you have to nurture as well.”
Tabatha Crawford is the voice of experience. Her children are adults and she is a grandmother, but she has walked the path of single parenting. She has incorporated her experiences in SPIN — Single Parents in Need — a nonprofit organization that serves single parent households in need of everything from food to winter coats for their children.
“I was a single parent and we started doing things for other single parents,” she said. “We would trade baby-sitting. We made sure that if there was a resource, we had our own little connection. Without our friends, our neighborhood and our family, I would not have made it. You strengthen your family by being able to reach out and knowing what resources are there. It does take a village to raise a child.”
Crawford said single parents need a network of people they can call if their child is sick, if they lose a job or if times are tough.
“We focus on lower-income families because they don’t have the basic necessities all the time,” she said.
Crawford serves families who are living in local hotels, without permanent housing. Many lack necessary food, clothing and school supplies. She recounts the story of a single parent who lost a job and became homeless. The children spent a year in foster care.
“We decided that would not happen again — not on our watch, not in our area,” she said.
Crawford has built her own network of contacts with local hotels that are used for temporary housing. She identifies those families in need and gives them the opportunity to sign up for Easter baskets, holiday break events, lunches to feed 150 – 200 children daily during the long winter break and more.
“Nobody chooses to be at a hotel,” she said. “They are just going through a hard time. We try to fill the gaps.”
As she tries to give single parents a helping hand, Crawford hasn’t lost sight of what it felt like to be judged when her children were young.
“As long as I was the best mom in my children’s eyes, I was doing the best I could do,” she said. “My children didn’t even realize we were poor.” i
Find out more
- SPIN offers support and encouragement for single parents in need. Donors and volunteers are needed to provide and prepare lunches during local schools’ winter break. Personal care items (soap, shampoo, toothpaste, etc.) and school supplies are also needed. Visit http://bit.ly/2eSORRE or http://bit.ly/2elodBS.
- For more information about Brushy Creek Baptist Church’s support group for single mothers, visit http://bit.ly/2dfazuH.
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