Tracy Dougherty, senior in nursing, started a petition for single moms as part of her Introduction to Women’s Studies course.
“…This was in a list of choices, and it just stood out to me,” Dougherty said. “Partly because I’ve lived it, and also because it is sadly becoming a reality, almost the new ‘norm’ with families.”
The goal of the petition is to reach out to single mothers and help them in any way they can whether it be emotional or mental support.
“It is to raise awareness for single mothers to know where help is available, especially if they need it,” Dougherty said. “Oftentimes, single women are very strong women, this is great, however, because of that, they often won’t ask for help, let alone reach out for it. I’m hoping to achieve the fact that women who need help, whether it be financial and/or for the necessities for life, can still be strong and independent, even if they ask for help and receive it. I want them to not feel alone, at a time when it is the… (loneliest). I just want them to know emotional and mental support is available, as well.”
There are resources available for single mothers such as health departments and other community resource centers.
“The health department is a great place to start,” Dougherty said. “That is where they often can fill out the paperwork for WIC, and also they have cheaper “well-check” visits and immunizations. Iola has a Pregnancy Resource Center. They have tons of resources available there. They offer classes, such as, parenting classes: Love and Logic, Active Parenting and breastfeeding classes. They also have donated baby food, formula, baby and toddler clothes and toys available. However, the cool thing is, the parents have to attend these classes before they receive any items. They have to ‘Earn While You Learn.’ They also are a great resource in providing support with special needs children, rebellious teens and even help teen moms grow up through life’s changes.”
Dougherty has been a single mother. During those times, she struggled financially and mentally.
“I have sadly been a single mother two times in my life,” Dougherty said. “Both times, it was extremely tough emotionally and financially. The first time… I was working a full-time job, yet, barely made minimum wage, and I certainly couldn’t afford health insurance… I often struggled to be able to pay rent, my car payment, pay for daycare and even buy groceries. Birthdays and Christmas were the hardest. I would save and save and buy what I could afford for my kids. Praying they were just so happy with what they got. On top of it, my oldest daughter, at the time was frequently ill with urinary tract infections, so, there were medical bills on top of everything else. It was rough. I was so prideful that I couldn’t even ask my parents for help… Then, while single and struggling, I was fired from that job, so that threw in a whole new wrench into my already struggling world. I had to fight for unemployment and made the decision to go to school to better myself. I wanted my kids to see I was a survivor, not a quitter. The mental part is so hard, because I was honestly a “single” parent in all realms of the word… The second time, it was almost harder emotionally. I was a nurse, so financially I was personally a bit more financially stable… I still had to save for everything… Now, my kids are graduating, getting married and having children, so enjoying that alone is hard. The celebrations and the holidays are now split and that wasn’t my dream for my children. I try very hard to stay positive…”
At the time, Dougherty didn’t know there were resources available to help her, so she wants to be able to show other single mothers that they don’t know to do it alone and that it’s okay to ask for help.
“Had I known financial resources were available, I would have sought those out,” Dougherty said. “Had I known that there were resources available for mental/emotional support, I would have definitely sought those out, as well…”
There are many ways that people can help single mothers.
“Let them know they are there,” Dougherty said. “Sadly, friendships that were present and accounted for while couples are together, usually side with one side or the other. That shouldn’t be the case. Stay friends with both. It’s 100% alright to be friends with both sides of the argument. Let them know that if they need a night out, (you can) watch their kids. Or invite them over for fun ‘family’ stuff (like a) bonfire, roasting marshmallows, or even game nights. Also helping guide them to places for assistance is awesome. If one of my friends had told me resources that were available, I would have so appreciated their help. And loving them, even if they receive help, is awesome, too. If they know of job opportunities that their single mom friends might be perfect for, share that, and put in a good word for them, if that’s an option. If they ever cook more than they need, or just feel like cooking extra, take it over to them. Or if you have an extra gallon of milk, share that with them, too. I went without food and went to bed hungry, so many times, just so my kids would have and not go without. You know, I don’t even think my kids know that. I pretended food was good so many times, without a bite in my mouth. Or I ate what they didn’t.”
Being a parent is no easy task but being a single parent is even harder.
“…Being a single mother is hard,” Dougherty said. “Women are just expected to be so strong and take care of everyone else. It is hard to have strong shoulders all the time, and easy to forget themselves and get lost in the shuffle. Asking for financial help is the worst. Being a teen mom, then failing at marriage, and becoming a single mother, I already felt like a failure, basically I continued to add insult to injury. No one wants to fail, especially fail their children. I was just doing that right and left. It was so hard. And felt so alone while going through all of it. I hope my children and grandchildren someday see what I went through and overcome, so they could have a better life.”
Dougherty’s petition can be found here https://www.change.org/p/wic-single-mothers?utm_content=cl_sharecopy_25341172_en-US%3A4&recruiter=1157690555&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=copylink&utm_campaign=share_petition&utm_term=share_petition.
“If anyone is struggling, especially a single mom, I want them to know that there are resources available,” Dougherty said. “Even if they ask for help, whatever kind of help they need, they can still be strong, confident and independent women. They’re never alone and the mountain is never too steep or high.”