Sometimes the thought of being a single mom, especially an unexpected single mom, is enough to shut down emotionally. I know because I have been there. I am a single mom of twins and I was left during pregnancy, so I understand the deep emotional strain of becoming a surprise single mom. However, it is important to not just avoid shutting down but also not to establish bad emotional and financial habits that will impact your children. The first thing to do is to recognize that even if you feel alone, you are not. According to the Census, 10 million families (or 25% of families in the US) are headed by single moms. Additionally, according to Pew Research, 40% of all babies born are born to single mothers.
Although the statistics show that you are not alone, the journey can still feel lonely. It still feels very raw to be on a path working towards your goals and then, SURPRISE! You then have to detour and make some changes. I was on the path of full-time entrepreneurship when I found out that I was pregnant with twins. More specifically, I had just quit my job, planned out how long I could live off of savings until I became fully profitable (FYI – I quit the way that I did because I was dealing with workplace bullying. I would not recommend following my method). How could I pay for two babies when I’m on a shoestring, entrepreneur budget? I was totally unprepared emotionally and financially to care for myself and two children.
Additionally, it wasn’t just the financial shock that rocked my world, it was also the feelings of dread, fear, and inadequacy. I constantly engaged in destructive self-criticism. I felt shame and guilt because I come from a 2-parent household, but yet here I was having twins out of wedlock. I thought that God made a mistake choosing me. Could someone who had never changed a diaper or babysat in her entire life be qualified to be a mom? All of the feelings of doubt, fear, worry, and anxiety captured my mind, and they almost consumed me. However, I had to realize that God is the Giver of life and that he chose me for a reason, just like he chose you. He chose you not only as a mom but also a single mom, because He knew that you could handle it. Therefore, just like I had to change my mindset from a feeling of hurt, betrayal, fear, and worry to a mindset of strength, triumph, faith, confidence, and action, you will need to make that same shift. Let me tell you, that God is so good. When you honor Him with your trust, faith, and obedience He will not disappoint. He has constantly surpassed anything that I could have ever imagined. He provided for me during my pregnancy and every day thereafter.
It is important to make this shift because our behavior and emotional state will impact our children. Therefore, if we want healthy, happy children then we need to be the best person and mom that we can be. The first step is to acknowledge if we have single mom guilt, recognize its destructive force, and then start to take the steps needed to eliminate this guilt. Here are 4 ways that single mom guilt can manifest itself in your life.
According to the Mayo Clinic, unchecked stress can lead to a variety of health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, headaches, fatigue, anxiety anger, sadness/depression, and high blood pressure. This is important because all of these physical and emotional ailments impact our ability to be fully present for our children and impact our finances through missed time at work and healthcare costs. Also, stress can kill which will have a detrimental impact on your family.
Although stress will always be present in some form throughout life, it doesn’t have to be consuming. Set yourself up for success by learning positive coping and prevention methods such as:
- Building a solid support network
- Maintaining healthy finances
- Engaging in self-care
- Maintaining a positive outlook on life
OVERSPENDING ON YOUR CHILDREN
One of the ways that stress and guilt can manifest itself in your life is through overspending by trying to make up for the other party’s absence. This is a destructive form of overcompensation that will not only leave you broke but broken and depleted. It also sends a bad signal to your children that you can buy love when you can’t. Love is shown by:
- Being physically and emotionally present
- Showing concern
- Spending time
- Creating new, positive memories
- Being a good role model
Think about the overtime or extra work hours that can be saved by shifting your focus from purchasing things to trying to figure out how to spend more time with your children. Depending on the age of your children, this may present the opportunity to talk to your children about money and values. You may need to say no to that new, shiny object, new must-have toy, and your children may have less than their friends. However, that is okay.
When I was a child I used to be jealous of my friends who had more stuff and Christmas gifts than me. I thought that I was missing out of something, but as I got older I realized that my parents didn’t value material goods. They valued stability, experiences, and education so they chose to spend on making sure that my sisters and I were best positioned to thrive academically and as people. Although I didn’t understand it at the time, today I am so grateful for the decision my parents made.
You can help raise children who understand when you have to say no by getting your family together to create guiding principles and a vision for the entire family. It is important to get your children’s buy-in on this because this will be the document that you can refer back to when you need to say no. Also, take the opportunity to talk to your children about budgets, money, overspending, and giving. This will help educate them and show them that you want to behave in a fiscally responsible manner.
Being a good steward of your money is also important to showing your children Christian values. Here are some Bible verses:
- “One person pretends to be rich, yet has nothing; another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth. A person’s riches may ransom their life, but the poor cannot respond to threatening rebukes.” – Proverbs 13: 7-8
- “Dishonest money dwindles away, but whoever gathers money little by little makes it grow.” – Proverbs 13: 11
- “A good person leaves an inheritance for their children’s children, but a sinner’s wealth is stored up for the righteous.” – Proverbs 13:22
- Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law – Romans 13:8
- Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” – Hebrews 13:5
- “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. – Matthew 6:24
I’m not saying that you can’t spend money. However, I want you to spend on your financial goals, in a way that is aligned with the Bible, that is of a giving spirit, and that provides a great example of fiscal responsibility to your children.
OVERSPENDING ON YOURSELF
Retail therapy is also a negative coping mechanism of guilt and stress. I spoke to one woman who used to binge shop to assuage the hurt and sadness of a divorce. However, after a few hours, she felt worse because she realized that she spent money that would have otherwise went towards her financial goals or bills. The temporary feeling of relief and peace is just temporary. These actions also have destructive consequences when they impact your financial health.
Additionally, our children see everything and learn how to behave from us. I encountered one individual who, as an adult, had difficulty managing his money. Whenever this individual received a check, he spent everything and was often behind on bills and had multiple shut off notices. This was totally normal because this was the behavior that was witnessed growing up. As parents, we need to ask ourselves if this is how we want our children to live? Do we want them to fear answering the phone because a bill collector is on the other end? Do we want them to engage in healthy ways to reduce stress? Do we want them to have good money habits and a positive relationship with money? If we want them to have good habits, then we must work on ourselves.
Positive ways to reduce stress include:
- Get more sleep
- Positive self-talk
- Practice self-care
- Take deep breaths
- Enjoy the fresh air
- Eat healthy food
Positive ways to manage money
- Manage money according to a budget
- Minimize impulse spending
- Planned purchases
- Tithe 10% of your income
- Save 10% of your income
Guilt From Of Spending Time Away From Children
One of the difficulties that single moms may face is the guilt resulting from spending time away from children to earn money. You may have to spend time away from your children because you have to work because you are maintaining the household on one income. This may result in working overtime, working multiple jobs, or even long hours to earn the income needed to maintain the household. This may even be magnified if you have no support from the other party. However, when you feel this guilt, it is important to think about the benefits for your children. Your children will see a strong mother who refuses to give up and is committed to providing the best opportunities for her children. You are also working to improve their lives so that you can say “yes” more later.
The guilt from spending time away from your children is related to the financial guilt and the feeling that you may not be able to provide enough for your children. If you operate according to a budget, watch your spending, and reprioritize how you spend, then you may be able to work less. Think about it this way. If you pay bills late and end up with $100 in late fees per month, how many hours will you have to work to pay the late fees? If you make $20/hour then that is 5 extra hours per month! Think about the small changes that you can make in your life to cut out some of the unnecessary costs to reclaim some of your time.
If you do need to make additional income then instead of overtime or taking a second job, think about how you can earn extra income from home so you don’t have to spend as much time away from your children.
Guilt From Being A Single Parent
This one is important. You do not need to be married to be a great mom and to be able to provide for your children. Let me say this another way. You do not need a Mrs. in front of your name to be a phenomenal mom and provider for your family. I wanted to spend some time on this one because I have seen and heard of stories where moms look for a relationship because they think that they need to provide their kids with two parents. The Bible says that God is the “Father to the fatherless” (Psalm 68:5). You don’t need a boyfriend, a man, or a husband to provide your child with a healthy, positive male figure. In fact, chasing a man to complete your family can place you and your child in a dangerous situation. Looking for love in the wrong places can have a catastrophic impact on your child’s life. Therefore, beware of who you date and beware of who you allow around your children. Your child’s safety is paramount.
Also, don’t let the hurt and pain from a past relationship impact the trust that you have in God. Just because a person walked out, it doesn’t mean that God did. Trust that:
- God will provide
- You will find reliable child care so that you can work, practice self-care, and have an occasional girl’s night out
- God will meet your needs
- God will give you the energy to make it through when you feel you are too tired
When you start to heal from this guilt you will be able to forgive yourself for the decisions that you made that could have contributed to the situation. You can’t change others, but the good news is that you can change yourself.
If you have single mom guilt, you don’t have to stay in this space. You can shift from a place of guilt and hurt to a place of triumph. Here are a few ways that you can do that:
- Remind yourself what makes a great mom.
- Don’t buy into the myth that more stuff equals better parenting
- Know that you are doing the best that you can, and that you are not a failure
- Replace the word “can’t” from your vocabulary. Focus on what you can do vs. what you can’t do
- Practice good money management
- Be a great role model of healthy habits
Remember, that your children need love above all else so release yourself from the guilt of not being able to give them everything that they want. It’s not good for their development anyway. As long as you are striving to be the best person that you can be, you are trusting and honoring God, and that you love your children, then you are already a phenomenal mom.
Leave a comment in the Phenomenal Moms Facebook Group to let me know how this helps you!
Aisha Taylor is a single mom of twins, personal financial coach, work from home entrepreneur, and #1 Amazon Best Selling Author of the book “5+5 FNPhenomenal Ways to Save $100 This Week Without Killing Your Lifestyle.” Aisha has been featured in ESSENCE, Jet Magazine, and Black Enterprise. She is also the Founder of FNPhenomenal (Frugal –n- Phenomenal), a movement designed to help single moms create a vision for their lives, craft a financial strategy to support that vision, and show them that phenomenal living is possible. It’s time for you to be Financially Phenomenal!