By Marika Lindholm
As the founder of ESME (Empowering Solo Moms Everywhere), I’ve spent the last three years interviewing, collaborating, and talking to single moms. My biggest take-away from these interactions is that single moms are a remarkable diverse group of mothers who can’t be easily pigeonholed. There are, however, certain realities shared by single moms that they would like you to know:
- Single mothers work in and outside the home. In addition to caring for their children, most single moms have paid jobs. In fact, 75% of single moms work more than 30 hours a week. Single moms are important to the labor market and the economy. Every day, mothers who are the primary breadwinners in their families must face the challenge of combining work and motherhood. They deserve our applause and admiration. More importantly, employers and policymakers should consider the nine-million-plus single moms who work hard to keep their children fed, clothed, and sheltered when making decisions that affect them.
- It hurts to be labeled and stereotyped. The term single mom has been used to put down hardworking and dedicated mothers. Women who parent alone are hurt by stereotypes that label them as morally lax, lazy, and promiscuous—descriptions that are inaccurate and mean-spirited. In fact, the majority of single mothers work incredibly hard, both at home and in the labor market. Single mothers rarely sleep, date, or lounge around. The labels put on single mothers are undeserved and untrue. As a society, we can do better.
- They are more than just single mothers. Being a single mom requires incredible dedication to one’s children, but that’s not a single mother’s only identity. Single moms also deserve to be acknowledged for their passions, skills, and talents, which aren’t always linked to parenting. Single mothers make enormous contributions: as writers (JK. Rowling), inventors (Joy Mangano), photographers (Annie Leibowitz), change agents (Erin Brockovich), dancers (Isadora Duncan), singers (Aretha Franklin), athletes (Glory Johnson), journalists (Katie Couric), presidential advisors (Valerie Jarrett), and technology executives (Sheryl Sandberg). The societal tendency to make sweeping statements about single moms undercuts the individual and varied accomplishments of women who parent on their own.
- Solo moms raise children who thrive in their care. Despite the fact that the current U.S. president, Barack Obama, and prior presidents George Washington and Bill Clinton were raised by single moms, there is a misconception that children of single moms have more problems than kids raised in two-parent households. In fact, many of the challenges that children of single moms face are associated with poverty rather than with being raised by one parent. All children in poverty face greater social and educational challenges than those who are more fortunate. It’s time to stop blaming single moms and instead put these struggles in context. With proper resources and support, single moms raise children who become successful contributors to every arena of society. The vast majority of these 23 million children make their mothers proud every day.
- Single moms will do anything and everything for their children. Across this nation, single mothers advocate, sacrifice, scrimp, struggle, nurture, juggle, persevere, and fight on behalf of their children. As single moms selflessly put their own needs aside, sleep, self-care, and leisure are rare commodities in their lives. Taking full responsibility for their families, single mothers achieve amazing parenting feats by being present for their children regardless of the many challenges they face. Whether that means working extra shifts to afford music lessons, sacrificing vacation days to stay home with a sick child, or passing on a promotion because it requires travel, single moms make decisions throughout the day based on their love for and commitment to their children.
About Marika Lindholm
Marika Lindholm is the founder of ESME (Empowering Solo Moms Everywhere), a website that aims to redefine single motherhood by providing resources, inspiration, and a point of connection for the underserved community of Solo Moms.
Born in Stockholm, Sweden, Marika moved to New York City when she was a young child. Later Marika spent 13 years at Northwestern University teaching classes focused on issues of inequality, diversity, and gender.
During her time at Northwestern, Marika became a Solo Mom. Newly divorced with two young children, she was fortunate to have a stable job as a college professor, but realized many other Solo Moms were working for minimum wage while desperately trying to make a good life for their families.
Marika is now remarried and living in New York’s Hudson Valley.