I have been a divorced single mom now for 18 years. My three daughters are adults now. My former husband and father to my children lives out of state. Basically, we have been on our own since my twins were 2, oldest 6. So when people acknowledge my reality and ask, “How did you raise 3 children as a single mom?” I had to process that question with much deliberation. I’m not really sure sometimes. Was it a miracle? Was there some special training? When my amnesia subsides, the honest answer is that I’ve simply been winging it mostly, but not without my wing moms.
Overwhelming Single Mom Mountain
Don’t get me wrong there were years, one, in particular, I try to forget, I was afraid I would be homeless. Not a joke. My dad told me years later that he was preparing to have me and the kids move in with him. Most people don’t realize how difficult it is to raise a family of 4 on one income. You almost automatically in most hourly rate positions fall into poverty income levels. There were months where I didn’t know whether or not I should pay my utility bill or get groceries. I remember the trauma of overwhelm and panic attacks from the insurmountable uncertainties.
Even without debt or car payments and a two-bedroom townhome, I struggled financially. Working my ass off full time with the weighing cost of housing and child care alone can make it almost seem not worth the struggle. At one point I remember feeling hopeless and even having suicidal thoughts. I thought my kids deserved a better mom and that I wasn’t capable of providing them what they needed. Lots of unnecessary mom guilt!
Hopelessly in Need of Help
Desperation helped me come to terms with my own pride. It wasn’t a reflection of my character or hard work ethic to accept resources and government assistance. I pay taxes into the same system. Social workers are angels disguised as wing moms. They empathize with single moms and their children for their basic needs. CCAP and SNAP, CHP, Medicaid linked programs are designed to help struggling single parents (like us) survive. The small resources make huge impacts for families like ours.
It’s humiliating for most single moms receiving human services resources, as our society looks down on those who are “have nots” in society. Labels about welfare mothers range from: they are lazy, get pregnant to get more assistance, on drugs, uneducated (and the list goes on and on). None of this described me or anyone else I knew who received such services. The truth is, even with combined human services programs, nobody is getting rich off the system. Most are barely getting by and still working double duty when compared to dual-parent households.
That very difficult year in my life forced me to swallow my pride, simplify and lean into a new tribe of wing moms. They embraced, accepted me, loved me, and supported me without judgment while bringing along anyone who fit the criteria. We can’t do it alone.
Finding New Mentors
Divorce Care was a space where I met some key single moms and one who mentored me for years. To this day she is a cherished friend and gives me peace and hope that I’m not missing the mark. It’s important to have a safe place to land when you feel mom guilt setting in. These wing mom mentors help us feel not so helpless. They have cleared the paths and show us the way through.
Affordable Housing Communities
Low-income housing communities and other single moms were the next milestones in getting my shit together. While reducing my cost of living, in my adorable affordable apartment complex, with loads of other income-qualified single moms, we formed a tribe. We networked and helped supervise our kids. Our common elements like tight expense budgets made us all creative geniuses. Making and sharing dinners together, taking turns babysitting each other’s kids, instant village family structure. To this day we have retained lifelong bonds. We have shared similar stories of men who were (or were not) in our kids’ lives to striving for giving our kids the best opportunities and education. All of us had the common element of winging it solo. We could lift each other up with a supportive sisterhood unlike any I’ve ever experienced.
Wing Moms in the Workplace
Work tribe wing moms were a source made up of mostly married women and a few singles like me. Many contributions to my parenting success came from this experienced group. Everything from parenting, to relationships, tips and tricks for meals and home remedies, special extra gift cards, and things to gift my kids so they had some extras were bonuses. I had two beautiful married wing moms who literally gave me hand me downs for years! Some for me so I had professional-looking work attire, and the other gave me all of her three kids, including twins, hand me down clothes. It felt like Christmas every time I brought a bag home for my girls!
Charitable Wing Moms
Wing moms make holidays more bearable. Rarely have I ever received gifts or flowers from men in my life, but from my tribe of women and clients, I did. These gifts of love to a single mom made Valentine’s Day, birthdays, Mother’s day and holidays just a little less sucky being single.
Receiving charity from people who love you and want the family to succeed is humbling when you can’t give them anything in return. In a pay it forward system, wing moms just want the best for the kids. We give where we can when we reach back to help others. That’s what it’s truly about.
School Wing Moms
Teachers were great contributors to gift creating with school projects. I never realized it, but those teachers help give kids a way to give their mothers special things for holidays when they aren’t in a position to buy. Teachers are wing moms too! Teachers, school counselors, administrators and secretaries are necessary wing moms. They provided clarity that my kids were thriving and that I was doing well in this mom role. I also felt they could give me guidance if my children had any struggles. The male educators and coaches become male role models for kids who don’t have dads in their lives too.
Some of my very best wing moms were the moms of my children’s school friends. Back to School Night granted me one of my very best wing mom buddies. In addition, school volunteer moms, basketball moms, camp moms, carpooling moms and band moms helped me form some really wonderful friendships. These women were partners in parenting. We helped serve each other and our kids.
Mental Health Professionals
Mental health wing moms are very vital to success. For me, that was the child therapist I took my kids to see during my divorce. She actually let me come cry on her couch when things got hard for me too. She was so invested in my family’s success and always gave me nuggets of pure gold strategies to keep us going. There was always encouragement to trust myself, forgive myself, and she helped me parent with love, patience and boundaries, while giving me permission to say no to anything that hindered our family growth. She was the fairy godmother of wing moms whom I will always be indebted to.
When Emergencies Arise
Emergency wing moms are the ones we can call on when you just lost your shit on your toddler who just dumped the orange paint she stole from daycare all over the light carpet in your rental home! Yep, that happened! When summoned, she showed up with a carpet shampoo machine in tow. Wise Mom! The two preschool criminals were set up in time outs and, together, we teamed up on the carpet disaster.
They are also the ones who will come over and stay with your sleeping children when your sick one is in need of a trip to the ER. Yep, that also happened. These women are the ones who listen to your broken heart, sob story over the selfish men who have left you in ruins. They are angels on earth and they let us know when we feel so alone, that we are absolutely not alone.
All Together Wing Moms
Wing moms don’t spend energy judging, comparing or competing to be better moms. Instead, they just show up knowing how hard it is (sometimes without help struggling to keep afloat). They are life preservers to mothers who sometimes are drowning when the waters are rough. They see us, they empathize, they care about our children, and share what they can bring with kindness. Never ever leave your wing moms! So when people ask “How did you do it?”, I can say without a doubt, that I was surrounded by angels on earth, they are my wing moms.