(An interview with single mother Lise)
I’m so excited. Today is our first Let’s Talk, a series of interviews dealing with singleness, purpose, life, dating, or marriage. Our first interview is with Lise, a mature mother who raised her one daughter alone since birth.
For all of you single parents, you will want to read this interview and get some important lessons from this nearly 50-something-year-old woman.
Keshia (interviewer): How was your overall experience as a single parent?
Lise (interviewee): Wow! It was a rich experience yet at many times very challenging. It shaped my character, strengthened me, and thought me how to deal with adversity. My experience as a single parent was not a common one. I had help and support from family since the very beginning. Also a lot of emotional support.
Keshia: Did you choose to become a single parent or was it due to circumstances?
Lise: Definitely by choice. I had promised myself that I’d become a mother by the age of 30 even if I were not married. So at 28, I made the decision to become a single parent.
Keshia: What are 3 challenges that you faced as a single parent?
Lise: Oh, so many to choose from (laughs). My first challenge was figuring out how to involve my child’s father in her life. I wanted him to participate in raising her but it did not work out that way. Financial challenges were big in my journey as a single parent. I was forced to temporarily leave my daughter with family in the Caribbean while I worked in Canada and the US to earn us a living. As a result of my financial challenges, I also could not live in my own home for many years. This too was quite difficult. Oh and let’s not forget loneliness. Being a single parent can sometimes feel very lonely as it did for me on many occasions.
Keshia: Yes I imagine it was not an experience lacking in challenges. Can you identify something that was positive in your experience?
Lise: Oh definitely. Having a daughter was definitely a blessing. I must say that raising a child of the same sex as mine made certain things easier or at least not as challenging as they could have been. It seems to always be easier to raise a child of the same sex. Also, becoming a mother helped me understand the choices and decisions that my mother had made in the past. There were many things that I had resented her for or misunderstood about her until I became a mother and single parent myself. My mother was a single parent too after the death of my father, leaving her with five children to raise on her own.
Keshia: Wow this is amazing. So as you became a mother, your perceptions about your own mother also changed. Isn’t it just a great eye opener experience?
Lise: Absolutely, you can say that again.
Keshia: Did God play a role in how you chose to raise your child?
Lise: Honestly, not really. I wanted my daughter to know about God and made sure she went to church and I taught her to pray, but I did not really involve him in my process. By the time I understood how important it was to do so, my daughter was practically a grown woman already and had built a strong relationship with God. So I’m glad that she found God even though I did not always do my best in that department.
Keshia: Praise God! He really knows how to work all things together for good. And what would you say to other single parents who wonder how to find balance in their lives? Do you have any advice for those who may feel overwhelmed between work, a child, obligations, etc.?
Lise: Yes. Don’t be afraid to take care of yourself. If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to give your best to your child. So find help whether it is a nanny or family but make sure you have help so you can take time for yourself. Also, find activities that are good for your child but that you also like. This will allow you to share something with your child, have something in common and you won’t feel as if your time with your child is taking time away from something else. Instead, it will be a blessing to you. For me, I found that the key to having a balanced life was organization. If you organize your weekly schedule, things will run somewhat smoothly but if you wait the day of to figure things out, you will find that you are constantly trying to play catch up and running a race. As much as possible, avoid procrastination. I was never much of a procrastinator but when I became a mother and a single parent at that, I realized that if I had an opportunity to do something right now, now was the time to do it. Not later.
Keshia: Hmm that is so good. So for those who aren’t parents yet and maybe single, would you suggest they learn to be more proactive in life and not procrastinate if that is their habit?
Lise: Absolutely! There’s very little room for that. At times, it can be hard but whenever possible, do what needs to be done. Do not postpone or delay. So if this is a problem for you right now in your singleness, I recommend you start taking action now. It will make your life a lot easier if you figure this out before you’re married and have kids. I was not married and only had one child, so in some ways, it was easier for me since I didn’t have a husband to take care of. But if you plan on getting married, remember that your responsibilities will only grow so you need to master management skills.
Keshia: Did you have to play both roles of mother and father? If so, in what way?
Lise: To some extinct, I did play both roles, especially in terms of providing for my daughter. Although, I was blessed to have role models (uncles and cousins) for my daughter who played, in part, the role of a father in her life. She grew up with strong father figures and even developed a particular attachment to one that she still calls Daddy even though she knows very well that he’s not her father.
Keshia: Oh very interesting! So having these role models, did her father’s absence have any effect on her?
Lise: Certainly. Despite the role models in her life, my daughter wanted to know her father. For a period of time, she was very sad, sorrowful and even depressed. It also affected her relationship with her half-siblings in that she was unable to form a deep relationship with them. I also know that if her father had been in her life, some things could have been much easier for her even financially. We struggled a lot in that department as she grew up but if he would have been there to support her, even just a little, she knows that it would have made a difference for her.
Keshia: Wow. So in spite of the support and the “fathers” in her life, the absence of the biological father did have its consequences and perhaps even left some deep wounds for her to deal with?
Lise: Unfortunately yes. But when she got to an age when she could choose, she chose not to have her father in her life. She tried many times to connect with him but it did not work out, and in some ways, it did more harm than good. I guess that’s why she did not want to pursue the relationship.
Keshia: Oh my, so that was her choice. How old was she then?
Lise: It’s been so long, my memory is not what it used to be, but probably around the age of 12 or 13.
Keshia: So even that young she recognized that the father’s presence was actually not the best for her?
Lise: Oh yes. Even at a young age, she was always a mature person. So when she did not want to pursue her relationship with her father, I did not insist. I respected her decision and encouraged her to forgive him.
Keshia: Your story with your daughter is so amazing and unique! So to wrap up, what advice would you give to single parents who may be new to parenthood or simply new to parenting alone?
Lise: Well first, I would encourage to never say anything negative about the other parent regardless of what happened between you and them. Your relationship and your past with that person should not come into conflict with your child’s relationship with them or paint a bad picture of them. They may have been a bad spouse or partner but it doesn’t mean that they were a bad parent or that they do not love your child as much as you do. It’s not about you. It’s about your child. This is when you need to be selfless and remove your pride from the equation.
If you can co-parent together, then try your best to do it and do it well. In some cases, I am perfectly aware that it may not be possible such as in cases of abuse, rape, and alcoholic parent or addict for example. However, when it is possible, try for the sake of the child. Your child will have fewer chances of struggling with identity issues and other issues directly related to the absence of a parent.
Also, you want to surround your child with extended family members and other role models, whether mother or father figures depending on your case. In my case, I don’t consider that I had to truly raise my daughter alone. My family surrounded me and we even lived with them for many years, which was great for my daughter because it reduced a gap that could have been much wider in her life. So get closer to your own family. And if possible, try to get closer or make sure your child can get close to his or her other side of the family. Maybe the absentee parent won’t want to be involved but sometimes other family members like uncles, aunts, and grandparents still love the opportunity to build a relationship with your child. So if it’s possible, make it happen.
And what I think is most important is to spend quality time with your child. It’s just you and your child (or children if you have more than one) so try to create a close bond with him or her. How you interact with your child will affect the other relationships they develop so be sure to set the right tone by making time for your child, having fun together, and teaching him or her some solid principles.
Keshia: yes, that’s excellent! I like the first point you brought up about not speaking ill of the other parent in front of or to the child. That is so important. Too often, I find that people want to hurt their former partner or spouse so they try to pollute the relationship between that child and the former partner. Unfortunately, they don’t realize that they are actually hurting their own child in the long term. And thank you for mentioning the importance of solid principles. After all, the Bible tells us to train up a child in the way they should go and when they grow they won’t depart from it. Lise, I am so happy that you took the time to open up about your experience as a single parent and give others some things to think on. Thank you so much.
Lise: It was my pleasure. Honestly, being a parent is the most wonderful experience and can be the most rewarding “job” you can ever have in your life. I don’t regret my journey at all. If I had to do it all over again, there are definitely some things I’d change but I still don’t regret it. So I hope that other single parents will also find beauty in their journey in spite of the myriad of challenges that they may face.