Single Moms Share Survival Strategies |

Single Moms Share Survival Strategies

Single motherhood is becoming a norm. In 2021 the US Census Bureau reported that close to 80 percent of single parent households in the US are headed by single mothers. Statistics aside, single moms have a huge task ahead of them. From juggling multiple roles, to increased risk of financial insecurity, to navigating co-parenting, to community criticisms, single parenting can prove to be an uphill battle for many women.

When I think of my own mother, who for many years was a single mom during my parent’s long-time separation and post-eventual divorce, I am amazed at all that she managed to do and achieve largely on her own, and with very little thanks or appreciation along the way.

For Muslims, despite the many examples we have of single mothers in our Islamic traditions (Maryam mother of Eesa (Jesus), Amina Umm Muhammad, the mothers of Imam Shafi’i and Imam Ahmad to name just a few), prevailing cultural stigmas and social judgments can still prove to be a challenge for single moms today.

Though recent research conducted by the Institute of Social Policy and Understanding shows that young Muslims today can be more accepting of divorce when compared to other groups, overall our communities are split on social acceptance of divorce the majority of Muslims are still less likely than the general public to accept divorcees into their families through marriage.

Dalia Mogahed, Director of the ISPU wrote, “This points to the enduring reality that divorce is stigmatized and divorced people are not fully accepted by a significant swath of society, and Muslims are no exception.”

Lack of compassion coupled with unfair judgments can leave single moms and their children, feeling ostracized when what they really need is support. 

This article is a collection of tips and advice from single mothers for single mothers. I pray that they serve as a source of relief, comfort, and empowerment for any single mom who needs it.

Practical Suggestions

Single moms can struggle to do #allthethings that need to be done for the family. Running a household, working, raising the children, and managing all that life throws at you is challenging for even two-parent households, let alone single parent ones.

For these single moms, having a support system, being honest about your capacities and limitations, and making time for yourself can help.

1. Be present.

“Our children grow before us in the blink of an eye and you will miss the most important things if you are not present,” says Nahela Morales, single mother and Co-Founder of Embrace, a support organization by converts for converts. “And I don’t just mean being in the same room but you’re on your phone. Being present is giving them your undivided attention.”

2. Don’t try to be superwoman.

“There’s no need to be a superwoman,” says April Covington, single mother and architect. “The house is messy, the dishes are in the sink, but you're exhausted, just go to bed!”

3. Ask for help when you need it.

“Accepting help doesn't make you a lesser parent, it makes you human,” says Sister Amatullah (name changed to protect privacy).

“Allah will get you through it,” reassures Convginton. “Don't be afraid to take the steps that you need to take or to ask for help. Ask for help and you'll adapt. It's not easy but it does get better. Allah will make a way for you.”

4. Make time for you.

“Allow yourself to practice self-care, however that looks,” says Covington. “Focus on yourself and take that time out.”

“This advice I give to myself as well - don't feel guilty for doing things for yourself,” urges Amatullah. “You deserve your time and rest, to take care of yourself and enjoy yourself, just as much as you do that for your child. You'll be a better parent that way, and your child will appreciate and see it as well.”

“Single parents can’t pour from an empty cup; self care is a must,” says Sakeenah Muhammad, single mother and Supervising Family Services Worker II.

5. If you can, keep your child’s father in the loop

“Try to maintain a working relationship with your children's father,” advises Muhammad. “Don’t talk bad about him to or around your children. Children need to see two parents that can get along post-divorce in their best interest. If possible, let your children hear you make dua for their father. If communication is impossible, try using a source as Our Family Wizard or a family member as a third party. 

6. Communicate with your children,

“You have to communicate with your kids,” says Morales. “Apologize when you make mistakes, compromise where you need to, have all the difficult conversations so you can build trust and they will want to come back to you for all of the good, the bad, and the ugly. It’s not all about you; it’s about your journey together.”

Spiritual Suggestions

All of the single mothers I spoke with emphasized their spiritual connection as a vital part of them being able to handle whatever life brought them. Below are four spiritual advices they shared:

1. Practice gratitude.

“Always practice gratitude, even in the toughest of times,” urges Morales. “It benefits both you and your children. Gratitude will allow you to swim to shore.”

2. Talk to Allah.

“Make sure to talk to Allah everyday,” recommends Covington. “Find your time and stick with it. He's there for you. When you turn to Allah, He will get you out of any situation. Use your salah time to really slow down.”

“There are times you may think you are completely alone,” warns Amatullah. “These are the times you'll need to remember that you are never alone; Allah is always with you. Maintain the connection with Allah or start building it when you feel you've gone far away.” 

“Establish and maintain your relationship with Allah,” urges Muhammad. “Allah says in Surah Baqarah that he will not burden a soul more than they can bear. Although raising your child or children alone may not have been on your radar, it is now your new reality.”  

3. Forgive yourself.

“We tend to dwell with thoughts like ‘Is Allah going to forgive me?’  ‘Did I make the right decision?’ But forgiveness is needed for healing to happen,” advises Morales. “Forgive yourself and seek humility in front of Allah. No hardship lasts forever. Ask for patience along the way.”

4. Keep the Quran close.

“Have the Quran close to your bedside,” recommends Covington. “Let that be the last thing you do before bed, even if it’s only a page or an ayah, let that be the last thing.”

Suggestions for Facing Criticism

Criticism from others is inevitable. The single mothers I spoke with advised to face it with strength and confidence in the knowledge that you are doing the best you can do for you and your family, regardless of what others may think.

1. Walk away.

“I walk away from what doesn’t serve me; and that’s growth,” admits Morales. “Be aware of what you’re capable of and do what’s needed to protect yourself and your children.”

“EVERYONE has an opinion on how you should do things,” admits Amatullah. “You have to really stick to your guns, and try not to allow anyone room for that criticism. You know your child and what works for your family more than anyone else.”

2. Shut it down.

“People will sometimes try to blame the mistakes that your children make on the fact that you're a single parent,” cautions Covington. “Two things: First, shut it down. Second, don’t surround yourself with people who think and behave that way.” 

“Remember, nothing happens without Allah’s permission,” says Muhammad. “Being a single mom was written for you. When someone says anything negative about single parenthood, respond ‘man plans but Allah is the best of planners’.” 

3. Lean on those you trust.

“For the people you know are coming from a good place, be open to their critiques,” advises Covington. “You choose who you want to take from. You don't have to take it from everybody.”

“Single parenting can get lonely,” admits Amatullah. “Lean on friends and family. Lean also on single moms who also get it. It surprises me how many in our community are going through it or have gone through it. I've made so many new connections, and it really does help.”

Every family is unique and has unique needs. While not everyone will understand your struggles, life, or experience as a single parent, you are not alone and your home is not broken. Stick close to those who love and support you, and reach out for help when you need it. 

For resources that can help, try:

Melissa Barreto is a home-educating mother of five and Co-Founder of Wildflower Homeschool Collective, a homeschool organization based in Northern New Jersey.

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