By Sami K. Starnes
Over the years, we’ve all seen it. The mom who does pick up and drop off. The mom who is always at the parent-teacher conferences alone and at each Halloween parade at the school alone. You see a huge or small ring on her finger, but you never see her better half.
Nine times out of ten, she is a married single mom.
We have acronyms for stay-at-home moms like SAHM and working-from-home moms (WFHM), yet nothing for single moms. We even have differing opinions on what an actual single mom is. Some say she’s a mother with no financial help from the father, while others say she is a mother who has her children 90% of the time but gets child support. Some current single moms were also raised in a single-parent home. And as a result, they know exactly what to do as single mothers and feel somewhat prepared for it. However, no one can prepare a woman to be a Single Married Mom (SMM).
After talking to over 100 moms, about 50% are okay being a SMM because they want to take the day-to-day burden off their spouse so he can focus on work. Interestingly, those tend to be from households of more affluent marriages. Whereas the other 50% don’t feel their spouse is competent enough to help with the day-to-day duties of parenting and want them to steer clear but keep the checks rolling in so that they won’t have to live like a mom without adequate income to support their children.
The onus lies on the shoulders of the men. We have a lot of excellent male-father movements such as The Dad Gang, Black Father’s Foundation, and Dope Black Dads. These organizations focus heavily on being there for the children, whether in the home or not, to dispel the myth that Black fathers are not present. However, I have yet to see one for husbands of Black families talking about how they can best help their wives in the day-to-day with the children. Or one that places emphasis on assisting fathers in understanding the importance of their presence from the lens of their spouse.
Women need to feel protected by their husbands. Money can do a lot, but only so much. Wives need to know that their husbands care about the fact that there are missing assignments in their son’s grade book and that their daughter wants to go get waxed because other children her age are doing it. They want a partner, not a financier or overseer of her work.
The children also notice when the father is in the home, but the mother is a SMM. They say, “My daddy won’t be here because he has to work.” Or, “Can you call my mom instead of my dad? He won’t pick up.”
While both statements could very well mean that the family has an understanding that daddy is indeed working as perhaps a fireman, police officer, social worker, or Target employee and cannot come or do what is needed at the drop of a dime the way an entrepreneur may be flexible enough to do. Nevertheless, it is still disheartening as an educator to see the children of the SMM’s children say this.
Many men don’t know how to support their wives, especially if she is efficient and appears to love what she is doing without them and may show the father there is no room for him in their day-to-day lives. Let me assure you, there is room for you in the family. There is room in your children’s lives, and there is empty space in your wife’s heart that needs to be filled by you and you alone, whether she audibly expresses it or not.
The way you penetrate the heart of a SMM is to plan something for just you and her to do, independent of the children first.
Get to know her again if you feel you are married to a SMM.
Get acquainted with the children and what is going on in their lives through her eyes. Find out how she feels and thinks about various situations in her life, and then ask her how you can support her – and do it. It may be as easy as picking the kids up on Fridays so she can go to the grocery store alone or get her hair done. It may be that she wants YOU to send an email to your daughter’s English teacher because she is at her wit’s end. Or, she may want you to give her a break from going to your son’s basketball games as a family unit so that she can just be alone in the house. She may even want you to acknowledge that you all have not been on a family vacation and want one soon.
Whatever it is, do it. You belong and must do everything you can to take the single away from the married mom in front of one of her titles of who she is in the world.
Being a SMM is no fun. Whether your wife wants to be or not. It is an overwhelming feeling of being unprotected but financially supported. We understand that there is a need for fathers to be in the home. But fathers, please be present mentally, physically, and emotionally in all possible ways for your wife before you focus on the children. Remember, they will be gone off to college or well on into their careers in the blink of an eye. After that time, you want to stand eye-to-eye with the woman you married and know not only who she is but that she still chooses you because you protected and cared about her and supported the family. Not just that, you financially supported the family. Because she can hit the lottery or do that herself if she really wants to. She needs you!
Sami Kay Starnes is an educator, philanthropist, children’s book novelist, podcast host, screenwriter, and script doctor. She enjoys the ocean, reading autobiographies, and writing in her spare time. Visit her at https://www.facebook.com/sam.starnes.35