I’m single. So if I were to model myself on a woman of the Bible, it should be that “young woman [who] had a beautiful figure and was lovely to look at,” Esther, the future queen. Or that bride in the Song of Songs who could only make her groom exclaim, “Behold, you are beautiful, my love, behold, you are beautiful!”
I’ve never been married. So, at 41, I’m assumed by many to be on a training camp to become “a wife of noble character,” that perfect Proverbs 31 Woman.
To capture my aspiration for many years now, however, you will have to scroll down near the end of that chapter: “Her children arise and call her blessed.”
I have kids, you see. They are 3 independent, headstrong, and active boys who seem to be on a mission to test, by the hour, my ability to hold off a scream. Almost always, I choose to be seen and heard above the chaos that’s in their nature to create. Then you’d understand that I sometimes wonder if they will ever call me blessed instead of Thunder Mom.
This is not to make light of the daily struggle of keeping peace and sanity at home. The kids and I have weathered tough times that some families can perhaps only imagine. (To get an idea—pardon the shameless plug—get a copy of Happy Even After: A Solo Mom’s Journal, and read my essay.) We’ve had countless episodes of lecturing, arguing, and self-examination. There have been crying and embracing, or laughing and teasing and some more screaming.
Still, we’ve had it better than most others, and gratefulness is in order. But we didn’t realize this until we had crossed the desert (well, figuratively).
I had to be Hagar. She was another woman of the holy book. She, too, was a single mom.
Thousands of years ago, she was made to bear her master Abraham a son because the lady of the house found ridiculous God’s promise to give her a natural son at the age of 90. When Sarah, however, had given birth to her own Isaac, Hagar and her teenage Ishmael, who both had become contemptuous, were sent away.
In the wasteland, destitute and desperate, Hagar turned away from her dehydrated son, unable to bear the sight of him dying any minute. Just in time, God told her to be not afraid because He had heard the boy’s cry, and promised He would “make him into a great nation.” Just around the corner, there was a well of water.
The boy lived. He and mom found a home in what we now call Mecca. He prospered and became the ancestor of the Arab people.
Reading a commentary on their story, it dawned on me: I and my children, like Hagar and Ishmael before, are already taken care of. Perhaps it’s time to look around for other single mothers (even fathers) and their children. They might be needing a little more time to be heard, a little more encouragement to get going, a little more prayer to be sustained, a little more help to be empowered, a little more fun to see the brighter side of things.
I found a number of them, instantly. As I reported for Newsbreak a decade ago, there’s a single parent for every 25 persons, “in practically every medium-sized office, or in every 3 or 4 households in a village.” Everybody is sure to know one. Good Lord, we can even start with our own family trees and Facebook friends’ lists!
A relative whose son has never met, much less known the name of, his father. A childhood friend who folded up her businesses after discovering that her husband, after marrying her, started a family with another married woman. A college friend who braves the constant threat of unemployment and crippling mortgage in the States in the hope of giving her son a future. My cousin’s widow, as young as I am, left to raise 3 very young children. A friend who took and loved as her own her husband’s son by another woman, only to be left by her husband years later for yet another woman.
A classmate who refuses to be bogged down by health problems because she needs to work and send money to her nephews and nieces back here. The sickly mom whose only child, a friend of mine, is having difficulty taking care of her given the 6-hour drive to the province. The widows in our church. The women whose husbands are working abroad, leaving them to care for children as young as, if not younger, than mine. An acquaintance whose family ostracized her after she got pregnant barely out of college. My manicurist who has to feed and send her grandchildren to school, after the kids were abandoned by her daughter-in-law.
We can fill up a book with their stories.
When I was asked to contribute to the single mom’s journal last year, the publisher-editor and I agreed that we were doing this not to glamorize single motherhood. Neither, as Senator Tessie Oreta said in defending the solo parents’ welfare act (Republic Act 8972), are we encouraging single motherhood as a lifestyle.
We’re only recognizing a reality, a significant segment of society that’s already going through enough difficulty trying to give themselves and their children decent lives. It’s almost a crime not to give them a hand.
In a society where the self-righteous abound, single mothers and their children need to know that we can cry if we need to, and those who’ve cried before us will understand and hear us out. In the face of sufferings that we supposedly brought upon ourselves—social stigma, financial hardships, emotional pain, physical exhaustion—we need the reassurance that those who’ve been here are, by God’s grace, still standing.
Single moms and their kids, like Hagar and her Ishmael, have to hear the promise that life can still be great and abundant. If telling them that is glamorizing single motherhood, then so be it. Let’s just not have any reason to stay in Pittyville or be bogged down by little inconveniences of our own, and not reach out.
And so I’m prompted to write this on the eve of Mother’s Day. Never mind that the dining table is cluttered with Lego creations-in-progress, clay models that I’ve been warned not to move a nano-centimeter from their spot, and precisely lined up Hot Wheels that represent the many cups of designer coffee I have given up to buy. I’m not complaining.
Beside me is a mug of coffee that the 12-year-old re-heats, without grumbling, even if he’s interrupted from tinkering with GarageBand. The 9-year-old dutifully does his math exercises, as he has promised for the summer, although he can’t quite decide this evening whether to start it at the dining area, continue it in the bedroom, or finish it on the sofa. The 4-year-old sits on my lap, nags me to play U2 on iTunes, careens on his toy ATV across the living room, then runs to me again to request, “Mommy, hug?”
In a while, I’ll be plodding wearily upstairs, walking past DVDs carefully stacked after viewing, dinosaur toys strategically displayed to make the apartment look like a mini museum of natural history, sketches and paintings whose lines and strokes continue to acquire discipline, books on bedside tables “punished” with dog ears from several re-readings. All by my boys.
They are waiting for me, for our family prayer time, although I know they are so sleepy, the “Amen” will probably be uttered Sunday morning, May 13, already. On Mother’s Day. In the morning, like any other, when we are reminded once more that we’ve gone past the desert, and are now drinking from a stream.
Indeed, I’m blessed. This family is. And that is why we have so much to give. – Rappler.com
Click on the links below for more mother’s day stories.