I technically spent about a year of my life as a “single mother.” The night before we left, I knew it was our last night. I knew that in the morning, if God provided an opportunity, I had to get us out. There was no other option at that point, and so the girl who was a virgin when she got married and the woman who didn’t believe in divorce, packed spent four terrified hours the next morning packing cereal, clothes, and diapers into laundry baskets. I then buckled my 6-month-old son and barely 2-year-old daughter into their car seats, locked the door, and we left.
For the next year, I dealt with aftermath of leaving a domestic abuse situation. Of leaving a spouse. Of walking through Walmart with two kids and no ring on my finger. Of trying to find full time work, take care of my kids, figure out what I was doing with my marriage, how to survive, how to not go back, to not become depressed, to not make bad choices (I did, unfortunately!). Eventually, we moved off of my sister’s futon (all three of us) and we were able to move back into the house that I owned. I was working as a paramedic full time while nursing, cloth diapering, and now had the title of “divorcee.” I was, officially, a Single Mom.
I heard a lot of things, like that I was sinning to not go back, and that it doesn’t matter what the other person does–I need to just keep forgiving. I heard that no one would ever want me because I was a mother. I heard that if I did allow a man into my life at some point, I was a bad mother and that my children wouldn’t be safe. I also heard people tell me that they were sorry they never realized what had been going on for almost 5 years, or that they knew what had been going on and were sorry that they never said anything. I heard people tell me that they were really proud of me, because they grew up watching domestic violence in their home and that it was a horrifying experience to grow up in.
There are a lot of curious people when someone becomes a single parent. A lot of people that want to know what’s going on, to judge either in support or attack, to make commentaries and speculations…but there aren’t a lot of people who want to help. All of the sudden, when you are a single parent (whether married or not–I was a single mom long before I left), simple tasks like grocery shopping and mowing your lawn become a really big deal. You can’t leave the kids home or unattended while you do these things. Errands like mailing a package become much more difficult when you have to hold two children. Even if you are lucky enough to have childcare so you can work, when you come back home, your work doesn’t end because you are still mom and the only adult responsible for the upkeep of the home, bills, and family.
The worst part is when 9pm hits. All of the sudden, everything stops. Everything is quiet, and you are alone. This is when it’s easiest to fall into depression, to make bad choices out of your loneliness, to not take care of yourself and get the rest you need because you don’t want to go to bed alone.
So to everyone who knows a single parent, lend a hand. Bring a meal. Watch the kids so she can buy groceries. Help mow the lawn. Call her at 9pm, or better yet, show up with a movie and chocolate. And more than anything, tell that mom that you love her, and give her a hug. She may not have heard it for a long time, and she may not have been touched by anyone over the height of 3 feet all week. You can make a huge difference in the life of a mother or father, just by simply being there.