Photo: A mother is pictured in a file photo praying while holding her baby during Ash Wednesday Mass at Jesus the Divine Word Church in Huntingtown, Md., March 6, 2019. This is NOT the author of the article below. The author is a New Zealand mother – and a Catholic. (OSV News photo/CNS file, Bob Roller)
By A CONTRIBUTOR
I was in my 20s when I entered into marriage. Son number 1 arrived two years later, and son number 2 another two years later. Two years after that, my marriage broke up.
I have been a lifelong church musician, and have played the organ at Mass since I was 11 years old. Along with all the other pressures of becoming a solo mother at 28 years old, I visited my local parish priest to inform him of my new situation, and that I would no longer be able to play the organ at Mass. Father, may God bless him, then arranged for a lady to sit with my toddler sons while I played the organ at Mass. So I was able to continue my connection with my parish community.
I was to find that the Catholic Women’s League in my parish provided me with welcoming support. My aunt, a CWL member, arranged for my uncle to mind my boys while I attended CWL meetings. From this I progressed to becoming the local secretary, then spent time as a regional representative.
Throughout these years there were so many struggles, mainly financial, but also loneliness and anxiety. I have a fridge magnet on my fridge which says “Trust in the Lord”. This helped me through the years of struggle as a solo mother.
My family members and friends assisted me when they could, as I had legal bills to pay during these years, mainly about property and access issues with the boys’ father. These pressures continued until the boys were in their late teens.
I constantly felt that I was “doomed if I did, and doomed if I didn’t” with regard to working outside the home. I needed a benefit to survive, and could be considered to be a bludger, but working outside the home could have been considered as leaving my children to “run the streets”. I did manage to work part-time throughout these years, and eventually returned to full-time work. I am now retired and have tried to look after myself during my later working years, for example, contributing to Kiwisaver.
I think attitudes to solo mothers have improved greatly since I was first in that situation in the 1980s.
A general trait that I think is required of mothers is to be fair with their children, and make sure that the children know that they are loved as the most prominent quality. This means that children, even when mothers need to discipline them, realise that it is done lovingly.
My sons have always returned the love that I showered on them; consequently we became, and still are, a tightly-bonded unit. My sons both started part-time jobs while they were at secondary school, and both continue to do very well in their working lives. I am now a grandmother, with one of my sons marrying and, with his wife, producing a son and a daughter. May God bless them, they are all a joy!