By Nancy Karpenske
What are they like, the single moms who participate in Surviving & Thriving as a Single Mom, LifeBridge Christian Church’s ministry to single moms? Here is a composite sample:
J.C. is the typical single mom. She is nearing 40. Her husband found someone else and left. He is supposed to pay child support but rarely does.
J.C. was a stay-at-home mom. Her job skills are limited. She works at a preschool so her younger child can be with her. She works 9 am to 3 pm so she can pick up her older son from elementary school.
She tries to work weekends at a restaurant during the evening shift. Her mom can sometimes watch the kids. But the grandma often doesn’t feel well, so J.C. sometimes must call in sick.
INCOME VS. OUTGO
Her income is limited and doesn’t include any benefits. Her children have medical insurance through the state, but she has none for herself. She hasn’t had a doctor’s checkup in three years.
Her car has more than 200,000 miles on it. It’s getting harder and harder to start. The check engine light has been on for awhile. She doesn’t even think about what could make it run better.
When the husband left, he also stopped paying the mortgage and the credit card bills. The house went into foreclosure. J.C.’s mom lives in town, but in senior housing, so there is no possibility of living with her.
J.C. and her kids stayed with a friend for a month, and then found a two-bedroom apartment. She wanted to keep her son in the same school, but couldn’t afford anything in that part of town, and it didn’t make sense to waste gas driving all that way every day.
There’s no yard, and no pets, so they had to get rid of their dog. For the kids, that was almost as bad as the dad leaving.
The finances are a disaster. The family is eligible for food stamps. J.C. visits the food bank and receives canned goods. She gets milk and cheese from WIC (the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children). Toiletries and fresh fruit are high-priced necessities.
Every month J.C. ignores at least one of her bills to pay whichever one she didn’t pay the previous month. She has two credit cards, tries to use them only for emergencies, and makes only minimum payments on them. She doesn’t know what she will do when they are maxed out. J.C.’s apartment manager is patient, but can’t waive late charges.
There is no money for extras like movies or school activities. There is no money to get her hair done. There is no money for the dentist. There is no such thing as a vacation.
J.C. doesn’t know what she will do when summer comes. Her older son is too old to be at the day care where she works. He can’t really spend the whole summer with grandma.
The family computer is more than five years old. J.C. can’t afford Internet service. Occasionally while she has her kids at the library, she uses a computer there to look for job listings. Every potential employer wants more schooling or more advanced computer skills than she has. She can’t imagine how she could pay for more schooling for herself, or find the time.
DREAMS VS. REALITY
J.C. is tired. She yells a lot at the kids. She yells at her mother. She is constantly asking for forgiveness.
Her older son is starting to yell back. He is angry a lot. He has gotten in trouble at school for fighting. She asked for him to see a school counselor. That really didn’t help.
J.C. worries about how her kids will turn out. They need a positive male influence in their lives. She doesn’t have the time or energy to date. She doesn’t know where to go to meet someone nice.
She hopes she isn’t single forever, but she can’t really worry about that now.
Nancy Karpenske, a contributing editor with CHRISTIAN STANDARD, is director of women’s ministry at LifeBridge Christian Church, Longmont, Colorado.