The Strength of Single Mothers

The single mothers I have come across in my lifetime are some of the strongest women I know. I ask myself, how is it that this woman has been through more than most, and came out on the other side empowered and able to conquer everyday obstacles with patience and grace? So I decided to ask them. For the sake of their privacy, their names have been changed, so we’ll call them Tamara and Kristina.

Kristina’s Story
     Kristina is a close family friend who married the love of her life, has three beautiful and resilient adult children, and continues to overcome residual struggles from the last 15 years of her life.
     In 2001, Kristina’s husband was laid off from his job, a huge blow to both his confidence and to the family’s finances. A once casual drinker, he began to drink daily, feeling inadequate both as a father and a husband. Despite short periods of sobriety, Kristina’s husband continued to drink and failed to find a job, slipping into a deep depression. After a year’s downward spiral, their children were 5, 7, and 10 years old, coming home to a drunk and sometimes angry shadow of the father they once adored, and a tired, overworked mother struggling to keep their family together.
     For the sake of her children, Kristina risked their financial situation further by making the difficult decision to enroll in college in hopes of being able to better provide for their family, and keep her children in a comfortable, middle class life where they could continue to attend the same school and live in the same neighborhood. This decision ruined her financial credit and set the family even further back financially, but earned Kristina a college degree and a better job in the medical field. By now her marriage had deteriorated even further and her children, becoming teenagers had begun to notice how truly dysfunctional their family life had become. Kristina watched as her oldest son turned to alcohol and drugs and her daughter withdrew socially for fear that their family secrets and their father’s alcoholism would be exposed.
     When asked, she stated that she felt powerless to change her husband’s alcohol addiction so she focused her attention on supporting her children emotionally and financially. After ten exhausting years of doing her best to be the glue holding her family together, Kristina divorced the only man she ever truly loved, ended up losing their house to foreclosure, and continued to work 60 hour weeks trying to keep her family afloat. Through it all, she maintained her composure for her children, hiding the devastation she felt, the inadequate mother she saw herself to be, despite giving all of her energy to finding stability for her family.
     Fast forward five years. Kristina’s oldest son was able to conquer his demons and became an officer in the navy. Her daughter found a support system through her religious beliefs and became a struggling, but competent cosmetologist. Kristina’s youngest son, the most deeply exposed child to the tumultuous relationship between his parents, despite all odds enrolled in college and plays football on his school team. When asked, they all attribute their success to their mother’s struggle to continue to support them emotionally. The entire family maintains a relationship with Kristina’s ex husband from afar. He continues to drink and struggles to find consistent work and a place to live. They all realize how deeply affected they all are by addiction; Kristina continues to struggle with her self esteem and financially. She says her sense of humor, her great group of friends, her children and her positive outlook on life have carried her through the roughest times. Kristina was a single mom during her marriage and after her marriage, her credit at this point is beyond repair so she still struggles to support her family as best she can while paying off ten years of debt, but has finally found her independence, owing everything she has to her own hard work. She recognizes the tremendous strength it took to overcome all of her struggles but still feels guilt about everything her family went through. Emotionally every day is an uphill battle, but Kristina expresses that she doesn’t regret anything and feels no resentment toward her ex husband because “that is energy (she) cannot afford to expend”. Strength is not something she gained easily. Kristina is strong despite feeling beaten down by life, as many single mothers are and continue to be.

Tamara’s Story
     Tamara met an older man who she says was “exactly her type”, in college and things moved quickly over the next few years. After only a year of being together, the couple signed a lease and moved in together. Within weeks, Tamara found herself pregnant, despite having been on birth control for several years, because of an antibiotic interfering with her contraception. She decided against termination and made the choice to take on motherhood, her college education, and working full time.
     Discovering the pregnancy brought out the worst in her boyfriend, who became controlling and emotionally abusive. Outwardly, he denied Tamara was pregnant, became unfaithful, and left her to pick up the pieces on her own. Tamara made the decision to be a single mother and gained the support of her friends and family, hoping that her baby’s father would come around eventually. She now has a beautiful baby boy who is almost two. She moved in with her family who support her dreams of finishing school and are able to help support her financially until she achieves her degree.
     Since her son’s birth, Tamara has faced numerous struggles with her ex, stating it may have been easier if he had walked away altogether. He blocked her ability to move in with her supportive family in another state for months, despite not wanting to provide for her or their child emotionally or financially. Rather than taking a legal route, she offered to pay for his ability to visit their child, though he has not shown interest in visiting his son since birth. Her ex consistently uses his parental rights to inhibit her ability to vaccinate their child, vacation with their child, enroll him in preschool and even went as far as to threaten filing for custody if she did not return to Florida for the child’s first birthday. He consistently keeps tabs on her social media, how she dresses their son, and everyday aspects of her life. His family accuses her of gold digging, entrapment and infidelity, yet she pursues a relationship despite their behavior so that her son can know his family.

Many people would run as far as they could away from co-parenting conflict to start new, leaving tension and controlling behavior behind.

     Tamara shown tremendous strength and patience in dealing with her son’s father. She places full value on her son having a relationship with her ex, continuing to communicate with him and compromise with him on parenting decisions. She hopes that one day, her son’s father will initiate a relationship with his son and become involved rather than choosing to walk away because of the constant stress and manipulation. Tamara’s ex seems only to show an interest in his son if it will hurt her in some way, but she hopes one day his anger will subside and he will mature into a present, loving father. She has put aside searching for a new relationship in fear that her son’s father might retaliate. She has slowed her schooling to focus more on being a single mom and states she is the happiest she’s ever been, “because of this beautiful little person in my life.”
     Many people would run as far as they could away from co-parenting conflict to start new, leaving tension and controlling behavior behind. Tamara has willingly put herself in a stressful dynamic for the benefit of her son’s future and continues to take her ex’s behavior in stride, reacting with patience and amicability. She leans on those close to her for emotional support and has created a beautiful life as a single mother, even if almost nothing has gone perfectly, or as planned.

Both of these women recognize that their number one priority is their children. Both of these women do and did everything in their power to provide stability in their family. Both of this women have found strength through adversity. Tamara and Kristina have channeled patience and positivity to keep moving forward. They are single moms but they identify as resilient, independent, hard working, driven women. They promote seeking counseling in their time of need and are proof that letting go of resentment and anger is the healthiest thing a single mother can do for themselves and for their children.