How to help a single mom Part 1

by adustyframe ~ December 14th, 2006

I have been thinking of compiling a list to give you ideas to help any single moms you may know. I posted Little Things? a few days ago with my thoughts on this.

**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!
SEND AN e-CARD

*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.

Niceties

*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!

Lizzie

25 Thoughts Shared to How to help a single mom Part 1

  1. EEEEMommy

    What a great post! Thank you for ALL of your fantastic ideas! I wish that I could do one of these for you!
    As I read them, I remembered my childhood days when (even in a two parent home) money was so tight that there was not much to eat, no money for presents for Christmas, or a tree….there were some very kind people who reached out to us and that grew my faith in God so much! It’s one thing for God to provide clothes and shoes, but to provide money to go to camp twice! annonymously! The God I serve is a God who loves His kids enough to send them to camp. He doesn’t just supply our needs!
    I’m going to be praying and keeping my eyes open for single moms or desperate families. Thanks again!
    Angel

  2. Susanna

    MAN! I wish I was right there right now! I would not cope on my own. I spent yesterday in tears as I was so tired and today my m-i l has taken Daniel for a few hours so I can have some PEACE and REST. I am sending you virtual everythings on you list…..well, maybe not the plumbing bit! I really should print this out as I am sure I will need it in the future. It may sound dumb, but people often do not realise what will help….they think it needs to be some grand gesture. AMybe sometimes it does,but from reading your blog it seems to be the smaller but more frequent things that help you get through.
    Love and hugs xxxxxxxxxxxxx

  3. adustyframe

    Thanks ladies. YES! just the little things make a huge difference.
    Just knowing that people think of us and care what we need makes an amazing difference in our week.

  4. Heather in WI

    Thanks for all of the ideas for practical ways to help the single moms in our lives. I’m printing this out for reference!

  5. Jennifer

    “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.”

    The shouldn’t be judged period whether they are living for the Lord or not. We all make mistakes, we’re all sinners. It is not for anyone to judge but God.

    I have been a single parent for a long time. My son is now 16. I felt more judged when I was active in church than when I wasn’t. That was one of the reasons I stopped going for many years. I’ve finally found my church home again and am thankful for it. I can say that the judgment probably hurt more than anything else as a single parent.

    I think you put together a great list. The number one thing for me is having a handy person help out once in a while. As a single parent, we simply can’t afford to call a plumber or mechanic when something breaks down.

  6. jodi

    Great post! One of the best I’ve ever seen!

    I wanted to add a ‘perspective’ to the list of ideas. It would be easy to look at all the great ideas and get overwhelmed wanting to do all of them for someone!

    1. Plan ahead quantity. Using babysitting for an example: Try not to call at 10:00 Saturday morning and offer to babysit from noon – 2:00. This doesn’t give mom enough time to plan to do anything, and she may feel pressured to rearrange their schedule to accept the much-needed help. Try giving her a few days, or find out when she needs a babysitter. Or, try to bring food by towards the end of her payperiod, when food is low, to balance out the “feast and famine” syndrome of payday.

    2. If you can, be consistant. Offer every third Thursday to watch her kids for the afternoon. This allows her to have an answer asked that dreaded question “When is a good time for you to schedule that appointment?” This is especially important if there are factors in her life, (i.e. a child with a disability or medical problems, children in public school where she needs to have teacher meetings, court action such as child support hearings, etc).

    3. Scripture says if a man loudly blesses his neighbor early in the morning, it will be taken as a curse. Apply that principal when offering help…is what you’re offering really the most helpful?

    If her fridge is empty and feeding her family is a struggle she’s trying to overcome until payday, PLEASE do not hand her Starbucks gift certificates.

    If her car isn’t running properly and needs minor repair work, offer to get the car fixed, instead of offering a “wash and wax”.

    3. If you are involved in a church, schedule a day for “Single mom car workshop”. Ask men in the church to volunteer a few hours one Saturday afternoon, and let mom’s bring their cars in for routine maintenance (i.e. oil changes, fluid level checks, tire checks, etc). This type of thing helps moms who may be reluctant to share a need let others help without feeling pressure.

    4. If the children’s father isn’t around, and you have older teenage boys or a husband with some extra time, offer “guy help”. If someone has offered her a new couch, she may need to borrow some muscle to pick it up. Her kids may need someone to take them out fishing or wrestle in the back yard.

    5. Offer to help her cook. Spend a Saturday at her home, pick three recipes, and prepare and freeze five of each recipe.

    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!

    So, those are some of my thoughts. This was a great post, I loved it! Thanks for inviting others to share ideas too!

  7. Molly

    Thank you- for being open and transparent.
    It’s so easy in Christian communities to let pride reign and not want to appear to need anything. I have a friend who is a new single mom and you shed light in many areas I hadn’t considered. Your family will be in our prayers. 🙂
    Thank you for sharing!

  8. Deborah Li

    Hi. I found your blog through Everyday Mommy’s blog and it has been an enlightening and thought-provoking read. thanks for reminding us that simple things we do can make a difference and I know i’ll be more observant and active in looking for needs in the people around me. thanks so much for sharing your life and hurts and also God’s grace. I’ll add you and your family to my prayers and will pray that God will give you all the strength, courage and energy to journey through whatever He has planned for you.

  9. adustyframe

    Thanks all!

    Jodi, thanks for your ideas too.

    AMEN to the calling ahead and asking when you can watch their child. I ALWAYS ALWAYS am blessed when people take my son, but often they swing by my business and take him while I’m still at work! I feel like if only someone could take him when I could run errands or just sit in peace for a few minutes.

    **I “think” my sister put the Starbucks cards in there because she knows I like Starbucks and of course I do not go there due to budget constraints.
    Yes, of course! if they are drowning in other bills, maybe Starbucks isn’t the best choice. And yet, maybe her being able to sit down and drink a good cup of coffee is a treat that will bless her too–sort of right up there with pretty lotion. Not necessary but awfully nice still.

    Jennifer, no no judging and I didn’t mean it to come across that anyone should be judged. I guess I was trying to point out to not judge. I later mentioned that single moms that don’t know the Lord truly need to be helped because they need to know about Jesus.

    Thanks again for all your wonderful comments!

  10. adustyframe

    EEEEMommy how awesome! I have seen many times how God cares about our wants as well not just our needs.

    Susanna Thanks. Hopefully you got all rested up.

  11. Janean

    “Bone numbing hard” is definately it!
    I really appreciate your writing. Hope you don’t mind if I put you on my fav bloggers list!
    God bless!!

  12. captianwow

    These are great for stay at home moms too….. I long for one hour of free babysitting just so I can run to the store and not do it during a precious family evening.

    But single moms…. can’t even imagine. Great list. Thanks so much for putting this out there.

    I remember being single… I was until 35. I didnt’ mind it so much but people honestly did not know what to do with a single person. I went to a church for 5 years before anyone invited me into their home. Then they were like. HOW DO YOU DO IT!? what in the world do you do with yourself being single? I felt like a weird kind of pariah. (sp?)

    anyway. GOOD STUFF!

  13. KiwiNomad06

    When I was a child, my father died so we were a single parent family. Someone used to leave money in the letterbox on Christmas morning. We never ever found out who it was. And Dad was a ‘returned soldier’ so each Christmas the Returned Servicemen’s Association would arrive with a HUGE box of groceries and goodies.
    One lady from Church offered to babysit for an evening each week for a while so Mum could get out of the house and go to some nightclasses.

  14. PrayerSister

    perspective – if I am willing to indulge in an “extravagance” for myself or a friend, why not indulge someone else? pamper them? love them?
    love looks for ways to love, not just fulfilling the needs that have been mentioned.
    If all I ever do is fulfill the needs that have been mentioned & don’t love completely, loving as I would love myself, I am sounding my own cymbals (sorry for the paraphrase).

    When we were pretty poor, my mom was willing to buy food to help others, giving them what she could also afford to feed us. It doesn’t have to be overwhelming, just loving.
    So, I think to myself while I am shopping, if I’m willing to shell out some cash for this, who else can I serve while I’m at it? Who else needs the encouragement? Can I encourage with only the practical daily necessities of life? sure. But can I love & encourage at the same time, by sharing the abundant blessing God has shared with me? Absolutely! Not to sound my own cymbals, but we have some sr. citizens in our church who get a kick out of our bringing them ice cream, when they can’t afford it on their social security. Is that wrong? No, it’s an encouragment. Do we ignore their other needs & only serve through ice cream? of course not, but we try to find ways to spoil them, to remind them that we love them & still think of them as humans & friends, not just as projects.

  15. Carol

    Very good post. I found it through EEEEMommy’s link.

    I was a child of a single mom most of my childhood. Here are some ways the community reached out to us:

    A friend’s dad used to take my sister and I to “Father-daughter” banquets and events. I saved the box he made for one of the dinners for us for the longest time.

    My uncle used to leave turkeys or hams on our porch early on Christmas morning and leave them anonymously. This went on for years. My aunt gave us money to spend a couple nights at a hotel with a swimming pool and was near a mall one year. She couldn’t afford to pay for an entire vacation, but this was a blessing to Mom to be able to get away from home – and it was a wonderful vacation for us kids, who rarely got a family vacation, and almost never went to a hotel in those days.

    My aunt always bought us Christmas presents – even if the cousins drew names for Christmas. This was above and beyond.

    Neighbors often invited us kids to church. Mom didn’t go to church in those days, and I probably wouldn’t be a Christian today if it hadn’t been for those kind neighbors who remembered to invite me to church with them.

    I loved hand-me-down clothes. New clothes were nice too, but I loved getting a sack of a BUNCH of clothes to wear.

    As a missionary now, I know how important financial gifts are when money is short…

    I didn’t get many professional haircuts back in the days of mom’s singlehood. Perhaps taking someone’s child out for a haircut would be an idea. Remember to make them feel special – build their self-esteem every chance you get.

    Carol

  16. MaggieRaye

    Hi There!
    Thanks for giving me the link to this post. Can I PLEASE repost it in it’s entirety on my site – linking back to you, giving you credit, etc…?????

    This is soooo perfect and I know so many who read my blog that need to hear it from others….

    Thank you so much for sharing!!!!

    May the Lord bless & keep you!
    MaggieRaye

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  18. westcoastsister

    Great list…..you two did a fantastic job with this…….I have been blessed with a very caring church family…..I have a friend who gives us clothes all the time, another friend who emails several times a week and is a huge encouragement…and also doesn’t accept money for babysitting….I am blessed to have lots of support and people who don’t remind me all the time that I am a single mom….the best thing we can do as single moms is support each other with encouragement and prayers….love and hugs!

  19. Jacque

    This is fantastic Lizzie! Perfect for GTH.
    🙂 You are a doll. May the LORD bless you and your sister!
    ~J

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  21. Jody

    Wow, so much of that is contained in a post I wrote but never posted. So true, and so important this time of year … at least in this house.

  22. Lydia Parks

    This made tears well up in my eyes! I have been a single Mom for six years now, and I had four, young boys (ages 1-6), when my husband left. God has been SO GOOD to touch the hears of His people to reach out to us, and what a difference it has made. You are so right; you have no idea how much better a child’s life will be, when you care about the plight of a singe Mom. It is hard, hard, hard, but WITH GOD, ALL things are possible!

  23. cindy watson

    And remember that it takes longer to get over the divorce or death than you think. And any tragedy like that. One or two months after, she is not on solid ground yet, two years..she’s still just starting to feel like she can go forward.

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