Things It’s OK to Say to a Single Mother
A while ago, I wrote a post entitled Things NEVER to Say to a Single Mother. It’s been really popular; in fact, at the time of writing it’s the third most popular post on this blog.
The thing is, one lady left a comment on the post, asking what I felt was a very pertinent question: “what should we say to you then?” (She didn’t just say that; she actually left a fairly long and thought provoking comment).
I agree that a lot of the time, people don’t say the things I hate to hear so much, because they mean to be deliberately mean or insulting; they’re just saying it from a lack of anything else to say. So I thought it might be useful to tell you some things I love to hear, so as to even out the energy of that previous post.
- How are you today? – not “how are you coping with being a single parent” or “how is single parent life” but just, how are you? Single parents are people too, and we love it when you treat us like real humans, outside of any labels we may have.
- Do you need anything from the shops while I’m in town? Never underestimate how useful you can be to a single parent, after their designated curfew time, or when they or their child(ren) are ill. Nobody wants charity, and many of us will be too proud to say yes, but if you’re going to the shops any way, just ask the question.
- You look good! – it’s important not to qualify this statement by adding “today” at the end, as if she normally looks like crap but perhaps she brushed her hair today. When you’re a single parent, you don’t have time to stand in front of the mirror checking your trousers for snotty smears or putting your hair into a beautifully coiffured style. Just getting out of the house is often an achievement in itself. You could make someone’s day, if not their week, by telling them they look good.
- You’re doing ok – all parents love to hear this, but single parents often have nobody to say it to them. Say it. Point out that their child is still in one piece, that they seem happy, that the snot isn’t covering their entire face. They’re doing a good job and they love for you to notice.
- Let’s meet for coffee… I’ll stop by Costa and bring coffee to your place – Going out for a coffee date when you’ve nobody to care for your child for an hour or so is a luxury many of us don’t get. Coffee shops are not places young children usually enjoy, especially if Mummy spends the time talking to someone else! And rocking up to someone’s house for coffee is a gamble on whether the milk in the fridge is still in date. Do a favour for both of you: turn up with the coffee, sit in the living room and make conversation with her while she sorts the washing or puts Numberjacks on to keep her child occupied.
- Barack Obama was raised by a single mother, and so was Bill Clinton. – as single parents, we often worry that we’re not enough, that our children will grow up somehow lacking, that the statistics are against us and our children will be forever blighted by not having a father. But seriously people, the leader of the free world. Sometimes we need reminding, though.
- I’m proud to be your friend – as a single mother, it’s easy to feel like the outcast – especially on the weekends, when families spend their days together and fathers who’ve been at work all week are home. Often it can feel like some women are trying to keep their husbands or partners away from us, lest we steal them. And it can often feel like people are looking down at us because we don’t have a husband or partner of our own. Sometimes when you’re a single parent, your confidence can take a bit of a knock for no real reason. And who wouldn’t want to be told their friend is proud to know them?
- Look how awesome your kid is, and you can take all the credit! – every time anyone mentions anything at all positive about S, I feel a massive jolt of confidence – because I know I’m her only caregiver. I’m the only person responsible for her upbringing, and it is a massive confidence boost when someone else notices how awesome your child is.
- Oh, look, he blew a raspberry! How cute! – for me one of the hardest things to cope with as a single parent is the knowledge that there is nobody on this planet who cares as much as I do about S. When she was a tiny baby and pulling funny faces or giggling, there was nobody to call into the room and show. Nobody with whom to marvel about her sheer awesomeness. When someone shares in that with you, even if only temporarily, it can make a massive difference. Something like that makes me feel less alone and more connected.
If you’re a single mother, do you have any to add, that don’t make you cringe when you hear them?
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nice positive post for the morning :) I think you've covered it. It always makes me feel good when someone compliments my child and the joint sharing of their acomplishments. Thismummylark recently posted...Early wake up
One of my best friends lives on the other side of the country from me, and one of the most amazing ways she supports me is that she is always excited to hear the random proud mama things I want to share with someone! Please don't ever underestimate the power of caring about the most important people in my life. The added bonus is that when things aren't going well, and when I am not coping motherhood I don't think twice about mentioning that either because she's heard all the good stuff so I don't feel like I need to justify how much I love them when I need to be upset about the hard things. You are doing a great job! Thank you for sharing your life with us. Cath G recently posted...Lemonade
Lovely post. Made complete sense to me. I'm lucky to have a couple of people in my life to reinforce some of these positive comments but more people shy away from me, fearful of saying the wrong thing, or don't quite understand some of the daily ordinary challenges I encounter. (although that is in part down to my own barriers). I don't expect people to understand my life but just because I'm good at faking being ok it would be nice to allow more people the chance to support!
I love to hear all these things also. I do find it difficult being on my own but am so lucky to have some fantastic friends who help me so I can work, all be it very reduced hours in my business over thr holiday's. There is another way a good friend or close relative can help a single mother and that is to take her child/children out for a day. It gives them an often much needed break. Not taking anything away from how hard it is to just check you look ok before you leave the house but a lot of married mums find this a daily struggle also in the early years. Of cause as children grow older they become more independent and you start to get a little more time in the mornings. Hope you and S are both well and enjoying the summer.
A very insightful post! I have a gf who's also a single mum. She enjoys travelling with her child and I noticed one of the recurring thing she brought up, when asked why, was that on the roads, the new people they meet are always kind to her child, offering extra goodies, asking questions, engaging him. That's pretty much your last point ain't it? Thanks :) #weekendbloghop Ling recently posted...Shark Cage Diving with Kids in Gansbaai, South Africa
I love this post. I'm not a single mom, but I think all parents love encouragement. Sometimes it feels people have nothing but judgement, even when your child is behaving nicely. Alexis recently posted...My First Non-Fiction Article in a Magazine
What great things to say to a single parent! For me, any adult just speaking to me is a bonus. Like you say, it is good to have a connection with someone. I like that you have mentioned how successful children are, even if they are raised by only one parent. It is astounding how many people comment about how much my children are missing out by only having me. They give my children sweets to make up for it! The mind boggles ;-) Bek Dillydrops recently posted...Wordless Wednesday – Fun with Shadows