We asked our Single Mothers by Choice (SMC) members on our private online discussion Forum how their friends and family can best help and support them. Below is a sampling of some the answers:
During the trying to conceive phase (TTC), be willing to listen. To the minutia, to the details, to the emotions, to the pendulum of certainty/uncertainty, to the fears, to the arrogance. When I was TTC’ing, I didn’t have a good community of SMC friends yet, and my “regular” friends didn’t really want to hear all about it. They were supportive, but weren’t that interested. Trying to conceive is a very self-centered time, and I would have loved to have a very patient, kind, attentive ear. Because we don’t have a partner who is as invested in this road as we are, it helps to have a good friend. That said, be willing to be shut out without having your feelings hurt. Sometimes the TTC disappointments get hard to talk about, and your friend might not want to talk about it at times.
Ask what kind of support the friend is looking for. Some people want unconditional support and others are looking for someone to talk things through with (in a non-confrontational manner). Some want someone right there for every step of research, adoption, or TTC, and others want to just talk about it when they want to talk about it and not be asked about it.
And these things may change over time, so it’s a good idea to check in periodically and not just keep doing what was working before.
If you’re in a partnered relationship and would like to get out of the house, walk over to the single mom’s house and spell her for half an hour so she go walk around the block.
Take the SMC’s child to buy Mom a birthday/Mother’s Day/Christmas gift. You will get something unexpected, the child will get to feel like a “big kid”, and a tradition may be born.
Offer to take photos of the mom and baby – a lot of photos!
Be a little pushy about offering babysitting. Say I’m going to come over and take the baby/child for 2 hours/4 hours/whatever – next week – you pick the day. That will give us a chance to sleep/shower/go for a walk/have lunch or whatever.
Visit us at home – we may not be able to go out, but you can come over. We MISS people, and paying for a sitter to go watch a movie cuts into the budget a lot. For the same price, I can offer you a nice bottle of wine, dinner ordered in, appetizers, AND a movie. Plus you can wear your sweats if you want!
Offer to go to doctor’s appointments with her and hold her hand for the first ultrasound when she sees the heartbeat for the very first time. She may need someone to share the joy in the moment. Offer a ride to the appointments when she is not able to drive. During pregnancy offer to be a listening ear, especially at 2 am when general discomforts keep her awake and anxious thoughts creep in. Once she has the baby say to her, “being a mom is not easy, and you’re doing a really great job.”
Make the effort to set up time to socialize together. We are often so swamped with surviving a full time job and raising our kids that time flies by.
During the toddler/preschool years, when days are broken up by naps, it’s sometimes hard to balance the things we must do – grocery shopping, etc. – with the things we want to do – a trip to the playground, children’s museum, gym class, etc. Having someone who comes over occasionally on a Sunday night, after the kids are in bed, allows us to do the grocery shopping and Target run then so we can do more of the fun things during the weekend. And at this point, grocery shopping alone truly can feel like a mini vacation.
Contributed by members of the SMC organization.