Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Dear Single Mom


Dear Single Mothers,

I'll start first with my mother. You see, I was raised by a single mother. I could call her many things: strong, persistent, kind, loving and honorable. I can see her in my minds eye as she traversed the many roles of life, from mother to teacher to friend. But most of all I remember her love. Her love that filled my life with light, her love that gave me a happy childhood. It's because of my mother's sacrificial love that I am half the woman I am today.

me and my mom

I am sure I know less than half of the sacrifices she has made. I was a child, and children take things for granted. But with adult eyes I can look back and see how she pinched and saved so we could go on vacation and have fun at the beach. I see how she never bought new clothes for herself, but made sure we had what we needed for school. I see her cooking, cleaning, reading books to me and my sister and gently putting us to bed. She fiercely defended me when I needed it most. She never judged me when I made mistakes as a teen (and there were many) but instead offered advice without ire.

I am probably making her sound like the perfect mother. Of course she had her faults, as all mothers do. But in all of my 31 years I have never doubted her love for me or her devotion to our family. I thank her for her sacrifices, those made and those yet to come—because she still is an ever present light within my life.

But she was a single mother.

I have learned the hard way that single mothers carry a heavy stigma. Growing up in church and throughout school I was ostracized for it, made fun of. And God only knows what my mother suffered. She does not speak of it much, but I know she was repeatedly shamed. In church. By friends. In her workplace.

By Christians. I have learned in my few years that Christians are the most judgmental when it comes to
the plight of a single mother. They should be the most loving, the most kind, the most understanding, the most helpful—yet they are not.

Why is that? Jesus died for the single mother just as much as any other mother. God loves and blesses the single mother just like any other mother. Children also are a blessing from the lord.

But no one has to walk around in shame and in “sin” like we Christians perceive the single mother does.

Let me explain it this way. My husband and I recently had a fight. I bought a toddler mattress without consulting him, and we are supposed to agree on large purchases. It was sinful of me to go behind his back like this and buy the mattress without a solid yes on his part (we had talked about it a few times but had not come to a decision). The mattress came while he was at home, and he was understandably upset about it. We argued; apologized. We both spent time in prayer, and tried to communicate amiably.

He apologized for being always busy and never having time to talk about buying the mattress. He said he was sorry for not understanding that I really needed it so we could begin transitioning our three year old out of our bed and into his own. I was so fed up with sleeping with both my daughter and my son—one of them had to go, and the toddler was the best bet as my daughter was still breastfeeding at eight months. I had asked him three or four times to consider buying a mattress for our toddler bed, but each time he had been too busy to consider it.

I apologized for buying it without consulting him one last time and asking for a verdict. I should have communicated better how desperately I needed some space at night. And I should not have purchased something that expensive without a definite yes from him.

We both made up and the issue was never mentioned again. No one outside of our marriage (well, until now) knows about this fight. I can go to church and to the supermarket and a stranger who looks at me can not tell that there is anything amiss in my marriage. No one from the outside can see that my husband and I fought or see that we sin. 

It is not so with single mothers. They walk around with their perceived “sin” for all to see, on display at all times. And people judge.

God payed the price for my sin. He payed the price for the way I treated my husband that day I bought that mattress. He paid the price for my sin of having sex outside of marriage, for I dated many men before I met Christ and my husband. Christ paid the price for all my sins, I am clean before God because he looks at me and sees only his son's sacrifice.

So why don't we look at single mothers as being without sin, pure before God? Why don't we treat them that way?

Many single mothers became single mothers through no fault and no sin of their own. But even when there is sin: let us be over and done with it! There is no sin that needs to be revisited in guilt over and over again, no sin that the barer needs to be consistently barraged with, and no sin that is not covered by the loving sacrifice of Jesus on the cross; so why do we torment single mothers with daily reminders of their perceived “wrong”?

What if I had to wear a shirt that said “sinner” in red letters, and written on the back of my shirt was a list of my sins? Fornicator. Lier. Thief. Slanderer. All my sins for everyone to see and stare at.

That's kind of what it is like to be a single mother. The children of a single mother are without a father, for all to see, and all to judge the mother for it.

I once invited a single mother to my church. She had been looking for a good church, and I was sure mine would be a wonderful fit.

I was wrong.

She came to a woman's bible study. A place full of married, stay at home mothers with husbands, two car garages and gluten free pantries.

The first question she was asked what what her husband did for work. I was standing next to her, and blushed a little. For some reason this awkward line of questioning had not occurred to me.

“I'm a single mom.” She said. I relaxed. Surely things would pick up. Surely these women who had been so open and loving with me would accept my friend, single mom or no.

“Oh.” The other lady said. And I don't know what thoughts were going through her head; but the next question she asked was: “How do you make money?”

Shock ran though my body. In all my years of attending this church I had never been asked how I made money. And I knew these women intimately, and yet they had never asked me. This friend of mine—this was her first time attending. Who asks someone how they make money upon meeting them for the first time?

“My mother supports me right now.” My friend answered.

“That must be hard.” Church Lady responded.

No one (but me) talked to my single mother friend for the rest of the morning. She never came back to my church.

After the woman's meeting was over I apologized to my friend. I told her I was sorry people were rude, and that she had been asked rude questions.

“I'm used to it” She said. “At the last church I attended the Sunday School teacher asked me 'where is your kids father, do they even have one?' (in that tone of voice too) right as I was dropping my son off for Sunday school. Right in front of my kids.”

I had no comment. 

“I had only met Sunday School Teacher one other time. I wasn't even on a first name basis with her yet.” My single mom friend continued while I gaped.

“Wow.” I finally said.

“The church before that—I attended with my husband before he left.” She continued, like she was telling a story about a lost puppy or a misplaced wallet, and not the most tragic tale of her life. “I asked the pastor for some help when my husband just abandoned us. He told me to get a job.”

“Wait. What?” I said. “He said the church couldn't help you financially? He told you to get a job?”

“Yes.” She said. “And of course I want to get a job. But it happened so fast, we were still reeling from Ned's* departure. I hadn't had time to look for work. And you know we struggled a lot even when Ned was contributing. But it was always my dream to stay home with my children.” *name changed

“So your pastor didn't try to talk to Ned, or tell him he needed to support you as your husband? He couldn't supply any funds to help out, even for a month while you searched for a job?”

“No.” My friend said. “We had to go on food stamps and move into government housing the very next week.”

Ned, by the way, used to beat my friend. The night he left he had beat her so much so that she was afraid for her life. So she called the police who, I might add, acted like they were bothered by her call and were nasty to her. Her husband left that night and never returned. Two years passed, and that was the year I invited her to my church. It's been another three since that date and Ned has never contacted her again, never given her or her kids money, and never seen his son or daughter since the day he left. He abandoned his family. And yet she bares the burden, the stigma, the “shame” of being a single mother. The questions. The unsolicited advice. The animosity.

I am angry for my friend. I am angry for the way people treat single mothers. I am angry that we judge single moms for being on food stamps but refuse to help them ourselves. I am angry for every story every single mom has told me: from lost friends to lost churches, to having to explain themselves to strangers while they struggle to make ends meet. It is wrong, it is evil, and it must end.

Being a single mother is not a sin. Jesus loves single moms just as much as any other woman or man! He died for them and for their children! Do you hear that, single mother? God loves you. Jesus loves you. You are valued among women, you have worth and a purpose and a reason to hold your head up just like any other person.

I'll go further. The fact that I have a husband, that my kids have a loving father does not make me a better person than any other mom. It does not place me on a pedestal, it does not give me the right to judge or admonish or reprimand any mom, single or no! There is no mom hierarchy and there should not be. I am not any less, or any more of a sinner.

You, dear single mom, are washed free from your sins if you have accepted Christ as your savior. We are all sinners. And as I said above, being a single mom might have nothing to do with sin! It could be a product of circumstance. Rape. Widowhood. Abuse. Abandonment. The stories of single mothers are as varied as the stories of life itself.

Even if it does have to do with sin, yours or another person's sin: God does not want you to live under the yoke of that sin. You do not need to be reminded of it daily. You don't have to wear it like a shroud. It is over and done with and paid for with the blood of Jesus Christ and you are set free. Free to have a unburdened and joyful heart, free to raise your family without stigma or shame, free to worship Christ with your soul prostrated before the alter of our one true God as any other humble follower does.

God is good and has enough grace and mercy for all. Go forth and love your children and do the work of God our Father, who is in heaven. Yes, you, even you, single mom—God has a plan for you. Go and find it, and don't let anyone get in your way.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Cloth Diaper Pants

I don't know what it is about pants for little girls, but most of them don't fit over cloth diapers. I buy pants at thrift stores or online or receive them for free, but I can't get them to fit over my daughter's fluff butt. I don't get it.


After months of frustration, I dug out my sewing machine from the depths of the storage closet and decided to try to make them fit. By sewing panels into the bottom. This was my first attempt, and while it does work, it's not the best. I didn't measure and just winged it, causing it to be a little lopsided. As you can see, I took a purple onesie, cut out a portion of it, and sewed a half circle into the top of the pants to accommodate her cloth diaper.


I love that she can wear these flower leggings now with her cloth! These cute leggings I got at a baby thrift store called Once Upon a Child for only 1.99. I love them!

This is what the front of Becky was doing while I was surreptitiously taking pictures of her derrière. 


Monday, November 5, 2018

Disappointments

This morning I wanted to take a shower. A hot shower. Alone. Blissfully alone, for 10 or so minutes. Just me and the water and the warmth.

Alas, it was not to be. The moment I climbed in the three-year-old suddenly realized I was gone. I'd expect Becky to whine for me, but Reuben? Really?

He made his way into the bathroom. “Mommy. I want Mommy.” He said, and demanded to get into the shower with me. I told him I'd be right out and to please go wait downstairs with daddy. I tried to tell him daddy needed a hug, daddy needed help making his breakfast, Becky missed him, his toys needed him, mommy wanted to be alone, please just wait a few minutes...

He started to whine and after a few seconds his whine turned into a full blown crying tantrum for mommy.

My relaxing shower was not only accosted by a toddler—it was a sobbing, wretched toddler who demanded he needed mommy that interrupted my hair washing and toe cleaning.

I finally got him to go downstairs where he was apparently so upset to be without mommy for two more minutes he threw up. When I dressed 3 minutes later, Becky was crying in the play house where she had been put to keep away from Reuben's mess, and Reuben was still sobbing for me.


Needless to say, I started the day heavy with disappointment. I tried to do what I knew was right. I scooped up Becky, attached her to my boob and let Reuben sit next to me and tried to calm him by reading books. Eventually he was calm, Becky was calm, Husband had cleaned Reuben's breakfast off the floor and left for work, but I was still grumpy.

I want to be alone for just a minute. I am tired of everyone needing me. This is exhausting.

All true statements. All valid feelings. But I didn't want our emotionally charged morning to ruin the rest of my day.

I did yoga.

Becky cried halfway; so I was jangling toys in her face while forward-folding and singing jingles to her from downward dog. She made it through my 20 minutes of morning exercise, and I made it too. Reuben, I might add, was right next to me either trying to play with his sister or imitate my poses. Sometime I should film him during my yoga, but honestly I just want to do yoga and not think about anything else, so I doubt that will ever happen. It would be funny, tho.

Afterwards I felt a semblance of peace. God loves me in spite of my whining ways and cranky heart, so I can love my toddler through his tantrums. I'm learning more and more that while I can't control my kids or have lonely-shower expectations or plan (more or less) how the day will go in the emotional sense, I can control myself. I don't have to yell at him. I don't have to let moody children control my day. My duty as parent lies in helping my children navigate their own emotions—and that starts first with my example. How often I fail at this only they will know, but I will say I fail often. It is a fault I am sure many parents contend with in themselves.

To all of you parents wrestling with the daily tasks of raising young humans, I salute you. It is no easy feat, especially when you aren't even sleeping through the night.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Refrigerators and the Return of God

My heart leaped with joy.

This all has to do with a refrigerator, but we will get to that part later.

Last week, all in a row, I had a horrible few days. Becky wasn't sleeping. She, for some reason, was cutting four teeth at once. All on the top. All next to ear other. My husband's anxiety was sky high, he was working late again, and I was exhausted. My toddler also seemed cranky and was waking more at night, making my days a blur and my nights one long bleary-eyed baby and toddler rocking adventure.

We are also desperately attempting potty training. Reuben is 4 months and 3 years old. Old enough to do his business on the white throne, I think. But he thinks different. We started potty training at 2 and he took to it quickly. He was pooping and peeing on the potty without me reminding him and requesting to go as his body prompted him. I was thrilled. Finally, something with him was going easy!

But then the train wreck that is pregnancy nausea hit me and I couldn't get off the recliner. I couldn't help him sit on the potty. I couldn't wipe him. Him asking to use the potty was an impossible, unattainable dream. So he asked for a few days but quit when I would blink nauseated at him from my curled up position on the furniture. I'll do it later, I thought. After this baby comes. It's not like he'll forget. It'll be okay.

So. We started potty training again when Becky was born and Reuben was almost 3. He wanted nothing to do with it. We backed off. I decided to wait until he was three—the golden age for potty training a boy at least according to the stories I hear first hand from local friends.

Well, 3 has come and gone and he does not want to use the potty. I have failed as a mother and he will be in diapers until he's 16, I am sure.

Anyway, this last week was bad. We had potty training woes, tantrums from everyone, anxiety with the husband, no sleep and lonely nights.


But one morning I heard these bells. It is strange, I didn't really know what to think. I heard them and my heart leaped within me. Jesus is coming back! I thought, and yes I really thought that, and I remember trembling in excitement for a full 10 seconds. The tinkling sound was light, ethereal, and unlike anything I'd ever heard before. I looked up and out, drawn to the noise.

It was at that point I realized the “ringing bell” sound I was hearing was just a glass plate vibrating against a bowl on top of my refrigerator. They were ever so lightly rubbing together creating the trilling bell sound that had captured my attention. My refrigerator had somehow become slightly off kilter causing it to shake slightly as it ran, vibrating the things I'd placed on top of it.

Jesus was not coming back. My refrigerator was playing tricks on me. I would have laughed at myself if I could have, but at the time I was too mortified to laugh. How awkward.

However, my bad day turned from worse to best. There is nothing like mistaking the return of Jesus to put ones own woes in perspective.

Now if only I could get my son to use the toilet, my life would be just perfect. At this point I think Becky will be potty trained before Reuben.
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