Inside: I was entirely unprepared for the shame I’d feel as a single mom. Especially in the church. But I’ve learned my identity isn’t in my marital status, my identity rests with God.
For years I wouldn’t tell people I was a single mom. I wouldn’t tell anyone I was divorced.
I didn’t wear my wedding ring, but I let acquaintances assume I was still married.
If they asked about my (ex) husband, I’d answer their questions without indicating we weren’t together and move the conversation along.
Because of the shame.
I was entirely unprepared for the shame I’d feel as a single mom.
I didn’t consider myself a stranger to the realities of being a single mom.
I grew up in a home of divorced parents. My mom didn’t appear bothered by being a single mom. Her mom also was a single mother by way of widowhood.
But after my marriage fell apart after ten years, I realized I didn’t fully consider the hardships I’d encounter or the societal backlash that awaited me as a single parent.
Over the years, I’ve found no one understands (or even acknowledges) the social stigma that exists for single moms unless you are, in fact, a single mom.
The stigma of single moms in the church is loud. As much as the church preaches acceptance of all and may even have a single mom’s ministry, the nuclear family has always been the church’s ideal. A single mom in the church often feels less than.
Related: Dear Single Mom, God Sees You
And so, early on, I chose not to reveal my marital status to anyone who didn’t need to know.
I’d already experienced some reactions from family and friends, and overall it wasn’t supportive.
When the news broke out about my marriage ending at my workplace, no one spoke to me about it, but rumors circulated. I heard whispers of “It’s just so sad, they have young children.” Yet, no one talked to me or asked me how I was doing.
When I told some close friends, their response was a flat, ‘Oh.”
Did they disagree? Were they unprepared and not sure how to respond?
I never found out. The friends behind those responses never reached out to talk to me beyond that response, and those relationships eventually fizzled out.
A divorce, especially when children are involved, is a massive upheaval in multiple people’s lives. It requires friends to walk a delicate balance of speaking God’s truth into their loved one’s life and listening.
I was left to experience the end of my marriage and dreams by myself. At the same time, I put on a happy demeanor for my two young children I received little help with.
The reactions I receive even today when I meet someone for the first time and discover I have children, but I’m not married, can be awkward.
Recently at church, an older gentleman replied: “well, you can’t have everything.” As if being married with kids is the ultimate goal in life.
I often also hear, “Oh, I’m so sorry.” I didn’t lose anyone, I’m no longer grieving, and I have a full life that no one needs to feel sorry for or pity.
I usually respond,” It’s okay,” and have no idea how to revive the conversation.
In the beginning, I tried to fight against the stereotype of being a single mom. I worked long hours to earn more money as a single income than I had previously with a double income.
I never referred to myself as a “single mom.” Instead, I would talk of my kids and steer conversations away from husbands.
I avoided married moms, mostly stay at home moms, whom I was sure I had nothing in common with, and more so, because I was afraid of being judged.
Where was my worth?
What I couldn’t see at the time was that I’d never find peace trying to prove my worth to others.
My fear of judgment led to an isolating lifestyle that prevented other believers from speaking truth into me.
And so, I led a lonely life on the defensive for years.
As I watched my children grow up and slowly spend more time with friends than with me, I realized I’d lost many friends over the years, and without a significant other, I was virtually alone.
When I peel back my marital status (or lack thereof), job accomplishments, and earnings, I find first and foremost; I’m a child of God.
Whenever I feel tempted to prove something to someone or hide something about myself, I ask God to remind me who I am to Him, the only opinion that matters.
When others don’t define my identity, it allows my defenses to come crumbling down.
The shame I was sure others had against me, I was projecting onto others all along.
I’ve since discovered beautiful friendships with married moms who hold no judgment against me.
I see now the awkward responses to my divorce are well-meaning people who don’t know what to say.
My identity isn’t in my marital status, successes, or other people’s opinions. My identity rests with God.
We can be married, single, divorced, widowed, childless, adoptive moms, working mothers, or stay at home moms.
God loves us with open arms.
Because above all, we are children of God. Before we are anything to anyone else, we are His.
Yes, I’m divorced, and I’m a mom to two amazing kids, but that’s not what defines me. I’m a child of God, and that’s what matters.