This is a story about a friend of mine who happens to be a single mother, a supermom. In truth, it’s not only about her: it’s about many women who bravely take on their daily challenges and raise their kids alone, just like her.
I won’t reveal her real name. The fact is that we, single mothers, often feel embarrassed about taking care of our children without a husband or a partner. Most of us have to deal with social isolation, and the lack of understanding or support from our family, institutions or other people… In short, there are lots of reasons why many single mothers prefer to keep to themselves and avoid discussing openly their family situation or difficulties they face.
Let’s call her Mary.
Mary got married young, “at the right age” as they say, and soon got a daughter, and then a son. Like many other married women in my country, she was employed, took care of the children, did the housework, etc.
Her marriage fell apart when her kids were 14 and 8, respectively.
Luckily for her, her family lived in a house she had inherited from her parents. Her husband moved out and she remained, with two adolescent children.
I guess many of you have a good idea what it’s like. The boy missed a father figure. The girl used to cry all night.
And what about the father? Well, he blamed her for more or less everything that had gone wrong in their marriage and badmouthed her in front of the kids and their friends whenever he got the chance.
During the ten years since the divorce, Mary has been true to herself: she has never criticized her ex-husband in the presence of their children.
It’s been hard, occasionally even humiliating. Friends take sides. Some have stopped calling her and pretend they don’t know her when they see her in the street.
She had to go to the court to get the miserable alimony from her ex.
Ten years have passed. Meanwhile, Mary has worked hard, lost her job a couple of times, then found another and started over. Her daughter has completed her university studies, and her son is still at school.
Single mothers surely know how difficult it is to raise two children and put them through school with one modest source of income.
We met a few days ago, which was one of the rare opportunities for me to get out without my daughter.
My daughter is six and she has never lived with her dad, so my story is somewhat different from hers. However, I value greatly her advice and any experience she chooses to share with me.
Who could even imagine that Mary, with her neat hairdo and makeup, struggles to pay off her loans and rarely has any cash in her wallet?
Only her swollen, tearful eyes would occasionally reveal her emotional struggles. But whenever I asked her about what was going on, she would only say: “Oh, it doesn’t really matter. It will pass. I just need some space.”
That’s what supermoms are like: from the moment they come to terms with the reality, they simply decide to stand firmly on their feet and never to give in. Whether it is pride or spite that gives them strength is irrelevant. When you have no alternative and can only rely on your own inner resources, you are infused with new energy and willpower.
If your income is comparatively low, splitting a single salary between three adults can’t be easy. Besides, alimonies are usually so small and the institutional assistance so negligible that a single mother can’t normally rely on either. Some help may come from parents, relatives and good friends, in case they fully understand your situation and are prepared to offer more than just empathy.
Despite all the challenges, Mary somehow manages to make ends meet and face all the problems with a smile on her face. I admire her, just like I admire any other single mother who refuses to complain and tries to present to the world a relaxed and strong version of herself.
I also deeply admire all the supermoms whose children have been raised to become educated, hard-working and modest individuals, having overcome all the temptations and dangers lurking by in the 21st century’s urban environment, including the social networks which may offer plenty of opportunities for manipulation and abuse.