Adult Conversations

Single Mom Shame

Little White Lies of Shame

When Little’s dad and I split up, I immediately put on a facade. I was enrolled in a PhD program at the time, and studied family relationships (go figure!). Due to the type of work I was doing, I could not admit to my professors and colleagues that my relationship had failed. I became one of the statistics we studied so much about: a single parent.

Most of my peers were in their mid- to late twenties, and were either already married with kids (and highly religious) or on the way there. I was neither. No one had a child out of wedlock, or suffered the dissolution of a relationship, particularly one that resulted in a child. So instead of being honest with those around me, I decided to tell little white lies. If someone would ask about my ex, I would say he was fine. If the ladies at Little’s daycare asked who was picking her up, I assured them I would, as if there were another option. Technically, I was not lying, but consciously deciding to not tell the whole truth. Not one person at that university knew that I was newly single and raising my daughter alone. I was so afraid of the stigma that I decided to shame myself every single day.

Wearing My Scarlett S in Secret

Unfortunately, it is a practice I continue to this day. Very few people in our circle are aware of my situation, or at least not explicitly. No one asks questions, and I am oh-so-thankful for that. Though I love my daughter to the moon and back, I am still very much ashamed of my situation. Maybe it is because I am partly to blame, and the guilt that I feel has manifested into the shame that I carry around every day.

One of the places we spend a great deal of time during the week is our church. I know this is in conflict with my previous statements (churches are thought to be more judgmental than Jesus ever was). But Little absolutely loves our Church. I do as well, but I constantly wonder whether or not I fit in to the one place whose rules I always seem to break. At my church there is very little talk of being a single parent, and the little that is said leaves me feeling like a victim who needs to be rescued. The message I get is that unless you are widowed, divorced, or voluntarily choose to be a single parent (through adoption or fostering), you are on your own because premarital sex is wrong and now you must pay the consequences.

Jesus Still Loves Me and My Child

So why do I continue to submit myself to something that clearly irks me? For starters, I am a follower of Jesus, not the parishioners of my church. He loves me, no matter what I have done. He loves me, imperfections and all. Secondly, Little has grown so much in her values and beliefs. More importantly, her love for Jesus has grown so much. I can genuinely see the positive impact the church can have. Though it doesn’t stop me from beating myself up internally, I won’t deny my child because of my shortcomings.

Have you ever felt shamed by your status as a single parent? How can we change our self-defeating attitudes?

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