Tuesday, February 27, 2007

How to help a single mom Part 1

*As the moderator, I'm jumping in here at the top. This post, and the comments Lizzie links you to, are GOLD. I highly recommend you print out this AND the comments linked to from her original posting on her blog. Ame*

I posted this on A Dusty Frame in December.

**They are just my thoughts. Nothing set in stone, but maybe it's a way for you to think and see the needs of single moms in a new way. If it helps you brainstorm and you think of other ideas that's super too!

**I asked my sister to read this first and make any comments. She has been a tremendous support to me through all this. She doesn’t live near me, but she’s been the one to listen to all the sobbing phone calls. Her comments are under mine in bold.

Before I was a single mom, I thought it must be hard. Now I know that hard isn’t really the word. It’s bone numbing hard. Even in the midst of the joy of rearing a child, having joy in the Lord, joy in living there is an inexplicable hardness. (Is that a word?)

I want to write these down to help you. It is also to help me. I know that even though now I’m doing it alone and have been for a long while, my single mom days will come to an end at some point in our future. My husband at some point WILL come home and these doing it alone days will be over.

I don’t want to get wrapped up in my “happily ever after” and forget to see the needs of single moms around me. I don’t want to overlook something that I can do when they need so much. I know how it feels to be overlooked or not thought about and I don’t want to do that to anyone else.

(I am NOT complaining or pointing fingers at anyone. It is just a simple fact that people forget that I am still going through this.)

If money one of her biggest needs, you can:

*Give a gift certificate to a resale store

*Deliver dinner

Do you know how fun it is to doorbell ditch? A package with spaghetti, salad & desert in dishes that don’t have to be returned — that simple. Then, sneak up to the front porch, ring the bell & run like crazy! A Gift Card for a special restaurant - don’t forget holiday’s & b-days

*Ask if there is a bill you can pay for her

*Give her money to buy a child’s birthday gift.

*Give her kiddo a gift

*Offer hand me downs if your children are larger than hers

Be super kind about this, don’t talk down to her, don’t make over her situation & embarrass her, & no matter what you do - don’t give clothes your child has worn out
*Offer toilet paper, or shampoo (basic necessities that are unable to be purchased with food stamps. Yes, I know not every single mom is on assistance.)

Don’t forget the pampering lotions. Buy an extra roll of trash bags or lunch bags or

*Put money in an envelope and mail it to her. If $5 is all you can spare, send $5. You can’t even imagine how much that can help. It buys some gas. Don’t always say “this is for xyz” She KNOWS where it needs to be spent.

Give the kids $ to buy a gift for mommy, or take them shopping to buy a gift for mommy - munchkins want to buy gifts for mom out of their overflowing love for her, but where are they to get the $, who will take them shopping for the secret gift? You do it, you’ll be more blessed by this than by any gift you put on your own list.

*Ask what they need for winter (boots? mittens? socks?)

*Gift certificates to gas stations, grocery stores no matter the amount

Let me just say one word, STARBUCKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

*Share coupons with her that you don’t need

*Anything you have around the house you don’t need. Ask her if she can use it.

(examples notebooks, pencils, stickers, a measuring cup, cake pans, towels) You honestly have no clue if what you want to get rid of is exactly what she is praying for.

*Postage stamps

Any single mom can use help in these areas (even if her money situation isn’t desperate)

*Pray ask her what you can pray for.

Tell her you’re praying for her. Ask if you can stop with her right now & pray
together (then, don’t dump your complaints on her, just pray with her). Pick up the phone & give a call, don’t wait until you are rushing past each other
at church. Take time!

*Watch her children for an hour.
Can’t we find something fun to make a memory with a munchkin? Root beer floats, make cookies, go to the park, etc. etc. etc.
(I asked this question of my divorced friend. She has a nice job and her money is tight but not desperate. She said “Just an hour to watch my kids.” When I’ve given the example, I usually say an hour. We aren’t asking for a lot! Just an hour!!

When you are the only parent there is no one else. No one to stay home so you can go to Bible study, or mail the packages, or run for milk. An hour out of your day can be priceless to her.)

*Go the 2nd mile and offer for 2 hours.

*Ask what home repairs she needs. Many single moms don’t know how to change the oil, or drill things into the side of the house. They are too short to reach high light-bulbs. Plumbing? (makes me nauseous thinking about it.)

When I heard my sister was having toilet trouble, I was pretty pushy about getting someone there to take care of it. (I never told her this). She’d been told someone from church would come, but they hadn’t arrived yet. Good grief, how long do you live in a house with inoperable plumbing? What kind of grief would you dish out until it was taken care of. I had gone so far as to line things up for a new toilet to be delivered to her door, with balloons on it, if the promised help didn’t arrive, asap. I called someone who could do something about it & told them I had plans for a new toilet, did they have someone at church who could go install it the next day? Last I heard, someone arrived to take care of the toilet.
*Tell her she’s doing a good job (If she is) Recently a couple people have told me how good my son is in Sunday School or how well behaved he was. Any mom loves to hear that. A single mom needs to hear that. There is so much wondering if I’m doing it “right” or wondering if he’s being ruined by this circumstance. Hearing someone else say he’s a good boy means the world to me.

And if you’re going to complain about a misbehaviour, think before you speak. How would you want someone to talk to you about your child misbehaving? Remember your child acts up, too & sometimes you think everyone else is over-exaggerating. Drown your words in prayer, mercy, love and grace. Explain the situation, but don’t tell her what to do or how to do it, unless she asks.
*Invite them over for dinner, or snacks. I used to be part of a couple. For now I am not. I have seen an obvious difference in the number of times people think to include us in things. It hurts. I don’t know the answer. It’s awkward sometimes.

I could say “Well, I should have people over more often.” and maybe that would solve it. But here’s the deal. I AM TIRED. I just can’t invite people over very often.

The times that we have been included in gatherings have made me feel like I’m not a leper. I almost forget what that feels like. So please, think to invite them to join you sometimes.

You do things with other people who have kids, why not a single mom with kids? When we were growing up, I remember at least 3 single-parent families that we did stuff with. If you think, for some strange reason, it would be awkward, then invite 2 or 3 families from church, including a single-parent family. When the kids go off to play & the men wander into the rec room, the ladies will have time to chat.
That’s kind of normal, you don’t have to zoom in on the idea that there will be one less male in the rec room than females in the dining room.

*Drop off cookie dough and icing so she and her kids can bake together.

*Send a note. I’m thinking of you. I’m praying for you. Anything.

*Offer to clean for her. If someone would dust for me and mop my floor once a month, I’d be in housekeeping heaven!

*Run an errand single moms have to run errands with the dumplings in tow. Is that easy for you? Maybe if you run errands on a certain day, you could call her and say “I’m going to the post office on Monday, do you need anything there or can I drop of packages for you?” Easy! You’re already going right?

If she homeschools:

*Offer to buy books she needs. Or give a gift certificate to Amazon or Barne’s & Noble.

*Ask her how it’s going.

Pick up the phone & give a call, don’t wait until you are rushing past each other at church. Take time!
*Offer her paper, craft supplies, pens, pencils, binders, page protectors, art supplies, stickers. Anything you’re cleaning out could probably be put to use.

*Don’t tell her she’s doing it wrong. Not in words or facial expressions. Just try to think how you would feel if it were you doing it alone. Would you want people to critique your chosen methods?

*Email her any neat websites or books you’ve found. She may like to check them out too.

*Offer to teach her or her children something you know. Does your husband do woodworking? Do you make pie especially well? Do your teens have a special talent they can teach?

Invite her homeschoolers on your homeschool field trips.


*Pampering items lotions, tea, nice coffee,

Think Spa in a basket!

*Something for her hobby. Does she write? Scrapbook? Knit?

*Something she collects. Clowns? Salt and pepper shakers? You can find cool things at thrift stores that people collect. Don’t spend very much. But just a little “I thought of you” is special.

*Something for her children. A pack of gum. A hot wheel. As parents you know that when you’re children receive something, it’s just as good as getting it yourself.

*Subscribe to a magazine for her.

*Think of ways to help the children make special days nice for mom.

Again, become a cohort in this crime - help the munchkin buy a secret present.

I will share something very special that my sister has done. She is the only person to think of this in my situation and it means very much.

At my birthday last year, she sent money for my son to go shopping for me. It was so that he could buy a present for me. She sent him a birthday card to sign for me and cash to spend.

This year she did the same thing and sent a gift card to a restaurant so he could take me out to eat.

This was a special blessing for me and for my son. Children want to make days special for their moms too. Single moms usually don’t have anyone to remember these days.

I can’t begin to tell you how fun this was!!!!!!!!!!! Talking to him on the phone to plan, he was so funny. I asked if he wanted to take mom out for dinner for her birthday. He said, “She’s right here, so….” I told him he could just say yes or no, so I went through some restaurants & he’d say no, no, no. Until we got to the right one! Then I explained that I’d send a gift card & that it would be enough to buy dinner. I heard that it was enough to buy dinner for both of them, then he used the extra to help pay for dinner for the uncle who had gone to celebrate with them.

*Don’t judge. Easier said than done I know. Some single moms are single moms because they are living the consequence of their sin. Some chose to leave their husbands for whatever reason. Some are because their husbands abused them. Some are because their husband is in prison.
Whether they are single moms because of choices they made or choice someone else made, if they are living for the Lord NOW they don’t need to be judged.

They are women who are tired and hurting and in desperate need of help. If they don’t know the Lord, they are in even more desperate need of help.

Your reaching out in small ways or large ways makes a very big difference. It is much appreciated and much needed. Your help can help a child have a different life.

Pray about the single moms you know. Ask God what he’d have you to do. Do it.

For just a minute imagine it’s you. Imagine your husband isn’t home. He isn’t providing a penny of income. No getting a break from the kids even for a minute. He isn’t there to do anything ever.

Think of any time you speak to him in a day. Anytime you run a question by him. Anytime he disciplines the children. Takes out the trash. Rubs your shoulders. Tells you you’re pretty. Hollers at the children for being disrespectful to you. Warms up the car so you don’t have to be cold.

Take that away. None of it ever.

Then think what would you like someone to do for you? What would you like your church to do?

I completely understand that many homes where dad is home he doesn’t do much. Many homes with daddy home don’t make much money. Many married moms are exhausted too.

What I’m saying is just imagine never having one thing that your husband does for you, or your children or your home. Imagine doing it alone 24/7 for months on end.

I’m pretty sure you can think of a thing or two you’d be longing for someone to do for you.

When you’re stressed & want to get away, you find some way to do that. I’m not saying that getting away for a while negates the necessity of talking to the Lord, but you & I both know that you do what you have to do to get a moment to breathe.
What about a single-mom? Can you get together with some of her friends & family & find a way to help her get some down time? You can get a spa certificate for any amount of $, so she can go get a facial or massage or a manicure.
Don’t forget to laugh together!!!!
Don’t get weirded out if she starts crying, you would too, if someone suddenly began to notice you and offer help.

Ask how she is & mean it, listen & let her say what she needs to say without
telling her what to do — that’s what friends are for.

So, what’s stopping you? Go help a single mom!

If you have any ideas I missed, please leave a comment. If you’ve done something for a single mom let us know too!

The comments on my blog had some great discussion to. You can read here.
**Part 2 coming soon.


Ame said...

Lizzie - this is amazing. Truly. I made a similar list in the midst of, well, a really bad day, and it did not come across as kind as yours :) I'm going to take moderator privaleges and put a little note at the top of this post - I think this is a resource which is GOLD!

My fav's:

"*Offer to clean for her. If someone would dust for me and mop my floor once a month, I’d be in housekeeping heaven!"

and from your comment from Jodi, "6. If you know her well, “break in” to her house and clean; don’t offer. Single mom’s usually dont have time to keep their home as organized as they would like, and I’ve found that for myself and other single mom’s I’ve met (realizing everyone is different) but the times you come home and find a note from a friend “Stopped by to see how you were doing, will call soon Love friend”, and then find the dishwasher emptied, and two loads of laundry done, well!! For me, this removed any feeling of condemnation, and apparently it’s really fun to break in and clean other people’s houses!"

Ame said...

Something else to consider are allergies ... to foods ... and/or lotions and spa products. I'm allergic to scented anything. I love the idea, but I cannot ever use anything scented. The products I'm not allergic to aren't the "fun" ones to buy :)

I have a daughter with tummy things and has a limited diet which must be rotated. I have friends whose kids have life-threatening food allergies.

If you would like to drop a meal and run (which is an AWESOME idea ;) you might want to include a recipe or list of ingredients in the event there are any food allergies in the house.

Barbie said...

Lizzie I love this! Thank you for posting it on here.