Why Being A Single Mother is Not Always Enough

by Drew-Shane Daniels

Nobody wants to grow up without a father. No matter what Oprah Winfrey suggests.

After viewers turned off their televisions from Oprah’s Lifeclass last Friday, the cameras kept rolling and captured a scene where Oprah comforts an audience member who was balling in tears over feeling inadequate as a single mom.

“You’ve got to know that you are enough for your children,” said the media mogul, entrepreneur and philanthropist. “You are doing what so many women have done. You are living in the expectation and the dream that you had,” Oprah continued referring to the woman’s wish to raise her children in a dual-parent home.

Taken back by her kind words of encouragement, I started to think about Winfrey’s family history (or what we know). Oprah is a product of a single parent household and experienced much hardship during her childhood. She has built an entire business around her trials and tribulations. She is also not a mother. Not that this negates her ability to offer parenting advice, but her support does not go far when it comes to dictating what someone so far removed could suggest. Frankly other than business, Oprah is the last person I would take childcare or relationship advice from.

Parenting is always tough because there are no instruction manuals or how-to guides on how to be a successful parent. Trying to sustain an entire household alone can be even tougher. Growing up, I noticed my single mother face the internal struggle of if was she always doing enough for her children. Anyone who has grown up in this type of household will answer these questions the same. Was my single mother trying to raise three children enough? Sure. Could we have used more? Most definitely.

As a child I would never confess to anyone that I did not have a father. Although this is not logically correct, in theory it worked. Only my close friends knew about my situation at home and the struggles my mother faced daily. To me, the word father never existed, and still does not. Not having a father around can really mess with your emotions. Looking to see everyone else engage with his or her father puts life quickly into perspective. At an early age I soon figured out, I never wanted anything to do with my father. Not because my father wanted to be there, but because my father wasn’t there enough.

Between the many court appearances, paternity tests and countless missed holidays, I learned to accept the absence of my father. Once I reached a certain age, I lost hope of chasing that daydream. As the product of a single parent household, I noticed my mother do everything on her own. She was the only one providing financial stability for the household, making sure her children where emotionally and physically healthy, and balancing a full-time job. So living this life, I tip my hat to any hard working single parent trying to raise children.

It is no secret that in recent years the decline of households headed by married couples and the increase in households headed by single parents has been disproportionate. With the increasing trend of people having children outside of marriage— among other circumstances– more and more guilt surrounds women and their womb. I have experienced the struggles a single mother faces first hand. This observable fact challenges women to ask… are they enough for their children? Empowerment is one thing, Winfrey is great at, but it can be misleading at times. When it comes to placing the blame, I would advise to Oprah and others that we have to recognize the truth hurts. After listening to her sanguine advice, I can only give Oprah kudos for motivating the distraught mother. However, pending the circumstance, it can be very difficult and frustrating, being a single mother is not enough.

  • African Mami


  • Mimi

    There are so many instances where I thank God that my parents got married, bought a house and then had children. There are so many people (both men and women) with daddy issues that haunt them for their entire lives. I dated a guy once who’s father left when he was a baby. He’s now a successful engineer and when he graduated from college, after a 20+ year absence, dad tried to come to his graduation and tried to be all “fatherly”. He asked my friend if he could help him tie his tie and my friend went OFF! UH, NO YOU CAN’T HELP ME WITH MY TIE. WHEN I NEEDED HELP LEARNING HOW TO TIE A TIE YOU WERE NOWHERE TO BE FOUND SO I GOT THIS NOW.

    It’s like Chris Rock said, you can drive with your feet, but that doesn’t mean it’s meant to be done. Yeah, women can raise children by themselves, and in some circumstances they have to, but that doesn’t mean its meant to be done that way.

  • TheBestAnonEver, Part 2

    What did you want her to say to the woman? I am not sure I understand your objection.

    Sometimes people are single parents because one spouse passed away, what then? Or there is a divorce? Do we know how this woman became a single parent? Why are we assuming she had kids out of wedlock?

  • SAA

    Drew this was wonderfully written. I didn’t see this but hearing that Oprah responded that way also took me aback and I agree with you on this- “Frankly other than business, Oprah is the last person I would take childcare or relationship advice from.” I saw my parents, who have been married for 27 years, struggle but what I’ve always admired is how they never let what they were going through break them and their love prevailed through some of the worst circumstances.

    I don’t understand how someone can create a life, know that life depends solely on them, that they should be responsible for that life and just walk away and not care. How do these fathers live with themselves?

  • Natalie

    I truly believe in the “intact” family, however, I also believe that once you make the decision to enter motherhood as a single parent–and yes, it is a conscious, deliberate decision- you’ve got to be enough, for your kids. No crying, no whining, no fatigue. Your sole purpose has to be being all things to the little person you brought into this world and preparing them to become whole, functioning, productive adults. This is what I am trying to ingrain to the little girls I mentor in my neighborhood, and who are products of single-parent homes. I have time to spend with you, because I’m not a mother–I’m not married and I’m not financially ready to be one, so I haven’t had kids yet. I think it was foreign to them at first, but now they realize what a huge sacrifice and struggle it is to parent without a partner and before you are ready. Often their mothers are tired, or not available due to circumstances that are rooted in having children before they were ready, and they are hurt by that absence. We always talk through it, but I try my best to re-enforce that the best way to be a good mother when they are ready, is to be in a committed relationship after they have finished school, and working.

  • secret ninja

    no need to get that upset. it’s assumed the mother had children out of wedlock because 9 times of 10 that is the case.

    as far as children whose father’s have died, they may still have memories of their father having been around, there are pictures of him and their mother in the house and their mother probably has all kinds of wonderful memories about him that she tells to her children. “your father passed away/was killed” has a very different psychological effect than “i don’t know who your father is” or a father that pops in every leap year for 5 minutes.

    for divorced children, hopefully they know the divorce wasn’t because of anything they did, but because for whatever reason their parents can no longer be together as a married couple but are committed to raising them. while it is ideal for the father to actually be IN the home and it can be a upsetting to have to live at his home part time, at least they don’t have to wonder “will he call me”/”will i see him”.

    i just can’t with Oprah when it comes to relationship or parenting advice or a few other things.

  • JJ

    If I’m not mistaken this woman was not an unmarried single mom. Her husband left her. Oprah told her she was enough because she was feeling guilty about having to raise her kids on her own now. There was nothing wrong with what Oprah told her. Her life has changed now so she has to be enough for her children. Plain and simple. I’m watched enough Oprah episodes to know where she was going with this. There so many women who feel embarassed or guilty about being single moms that they marry almost anyone and sometimes these men end up harming their children. Let’s just take a guess at who we blame when this happens. I’m not a single mom nor do I plan to be but these articles against single moms are getting tired. I would take relationship advice from Oprah. I don’t know what Stedman is like in private but he seems like he cares for Oprah very deeply and he absolutely respects her. A lot of women with husbands don’t even have that.

  • http://www.ericabunker.com Erica B.

    Really?! I think you’re projecting your personal hurt onto this situation. Winfrey was simply comforting the woman, not advocating single parent households.

  • secret ninja

    if that’s the case that’s really messed up and a whole nother animal all together. i agree with most of the points you’ve made here, but i still can’t with Oprah.

  • http://flavors.me/brran1 brran1

    Y’know, I may be in the minority on this, but I actually think I turned out BETTER due to my father’s absence.

    I met my father at 12 and he passed away when I was 16. As I got older and started to get closer to my paternal siblings, I learned first hand of how my father’s verbal and physical abuse of my stepmother had affected my younger brother. It happened to my mother (and in front of my older maternal siblings) as well, but this was well before I was born. I could only imagine how growing up in that type of household would’ve affected me.

  • TheBestAnonEver, Part 2

    secret ninja:

    Where did you get the 9 out of 10 times statistics from? Do you want to provide a link to your sources?

    There are many women that have become single mothers because of death or divorce. We don’t know how this woman became a single parent so this article is all kinds of ridiculous. What did she want Oprah to say?

  • Timcampi

    Uh this woman was left by her husband. It’s not like she had a choice. I agree with Eric B. And sometimes it’s WAY better to grow up without a mother/father than it is with them– especially if they are abusive assholes. Also there’s a whole argument that can be made for gay and lesbian couples who do just fine raising their kids without a male/female influence. I think it’s more important that a child has various figures in their life to look up to, not the gender.

  • hehe

    Umm I saw that episode and the advice Oprah give was more than just parenting advice. This woman was on the verge of losing everything including her financial security. This woman didn’t voluntarily become a single mother she was left by her husband.

  • Timcampi


    You beat my comment by seconds haha.

  • Trini

    “How do these fathers live with themselves?”

    One word: SELFISH

  • Trini


    Totally agree!

    Though I finally decided to accept and forgive my father for my own sake I cant help but wonder how different the impact would have been if I simply never knew him at all.

  • Maat

    I agree…All I think Oprah was trying to say was that of course it’s not the ideal situation but being there for your children is enough and you don’t have to be shameful or guility that you aren’t providing them with more…your doing what you can do…you’re already giving them the best that you can…and in the best that you give…that’s enough. I think being a single parent has to be a hard job and I respect mothers who are able to give the best that they can provide their children.

  • secret ninja

    wow. no i’m not going to provide a link, a chart, or a graph for a turn of phrase. “9 times out of 10″ as in most of the time.

    there was nothing in my comment to imply that i believe all single mothers are single by choice–doesn’t seem like you read the rest of my comment. as far as not knowing about this woman’s situation. scan down and you will know.

  • EG

    @JJ thank you for your comment “these articles against single moms are getting tired”. I’m over it too.

  • Bitencourt

    I agree with you. People need to understand that the traditional model of family (male / female / children) does not ALWAYS mean perfection. There will be cases where the child will have a better environment without one of the parents, particularly when one of these parent is abusive. And what about lesbian couples? These children will grow up without a father, will their emotion be mess up?

    I am not advocating against the traditional family, but sometimes a single parent does well raising their children, Raticles like this just reinforces the preconceived notions we have of single mother, notions which itself are already negatives.

  • Niko

    Agree as well!

    My father was an abusive junkie and my parents were married. Growing up, I honestly envied my eldest brother who had just himself and his mom because they didn’t have to go through what my mother and I went through. Hell he turned out way more sane than I did and I grew up in the two parent house lol. I wish people will realize that not all two parent households are like the Huxtables and not all single parent households are terrible smh.

  • Niko

    @ Bitencourt

    Exactly! People always believe that the traditional one mom one dad family is what’s always best when it can be the complete opposite. As a matter of fact a study shows that children who have same sex parents are the most well adjusted so really how important is the traditional two parent one mom one dad household. Can it simply be just a loving parent or parents?

    The study: (http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/news/20051012/study-same-sex-parents-raise-well-adjusted-kids)

  • Whatever

    I agree with the author… I never understood why people listen to Oprah’s advice on parenting and relationships.

  • lalalalala

    @ the best anon

    9 times outta 10 may not be too accurate but being that almost 50% of all the children being born in America are being born to unmarried mothers (and it’s over 75 % for black women) secret ninja is not too far off.

    come on you know this.

  • Yeah I Said It

    Obviously the author didn’t watch the entire show because if he/she had they would understand why Oprah was saying to the woman what she said. The woman was not a single parent by choice. Her husband left her when things became too hard. The woman didn’t think she was enough because she wasn’t able to provide on her own the things her children had grown used to and she felt like a failure. Suzie Orman told the woman that she had to look at her situation as a blessing and it was then that she had her light bulb moment. The woman is now remarried and counseling other people on being financially responsible.

    If you are going to tear Oprah down at least do it in context and not to fit your agenda of harping on single mothers who are trying to do the best they can do.

  • binks

    I agree! And my think is that many single parents don’t want to be single parents willing but are trying to do their best with the cards given to them. Maybe it is just me but I truly haven’t met many people who wants to be a single mother/father, yeah I’ am sure that their are people out their who do but that is not the majority

  • Jinx Moneypenny

    I understand what you were trying to get at. Mothering without a support system I can imagine is one of the ultimate forms of hell. One can only stretch themselves so far. It’s why my mom built relationships with relatives from the ground up and sustained them for me and my brother until her death.

    So while a single parent does the bulk of everything for their child(ren), that can’t be the only person in one’s life. There needs to be other figures, a family friend, uncle, grandfather, etc.

  • whilome

    Being a single parent isn’t always enough.

    Being a COUPLE raising a child is not always enough.

    The more support a person has, the easier it may be to raise children. That support could come from a spouse, a co-parent, grandparents, or extended-family and friends. This hasn’t changed in the many centuries our species has been rearing our progeny.

    Tavern wenches got knocked up, wives were made widows, noblewomen were despoiled and sent to the nunnery, children were put in orphanages, adopted by the childless, or left on a cold outcrop to die.

    Nothing in the course of human events has changed. Nothing but a bigger village to assign a scarlet letter or sniff judgmentally at how Goody Johnson’s not the best mother on the lane. We get caught up in how society is viewing our mothering instead of focusing on the happiness and health of our children. This job of parenting should be shared by our extended family. No ONE person should have to go it alone. If I’d found myself in that position, I’d have moved back near my family in the south. It’d make no sense to me otherwise. Every order of primate rears their children socially. Lightens the load. But everybody ain’t able, I know.

    It takes a village, but if all you got is that hut, make it work.

  • http://@clnmike Clnmike

    Who said the father was not in the pictures of these kids lives?

  • A. Mike

    I’m so glad you made those comments brran1 & whilome. As a single mother, I didn’t make the choice to not have a husband. Often times mothers are faced with making choices for themselves & their children not everyone is going to agree with. As in brran1′s case & my own single motherhood plight, I can only imagine the negative life my son would have had to endure with me marrying his father. Marriage is a wonderful institution for a couple that respects it & what it stands for. However, marriage isn’t the cure-all & doesn’t make a bad situation better. The goal is to always give your children the best to make them wonderful adults, and in some cases, having just a mother gives them a great chance at doing so.

  • Sunn3yD

    I agree with the author .. regardless of what Oprah , has her advice isn’t always needed.

  • NOno

    It’s past due time for Black Women realize that we have the power to change all of this.
    stop blaiming men it’s us we keep letting ourselves to be used and abused. and stop bring children into this single parenting mess.


  • damidwif

    “unmarried” is not equal to “single”

    we always paint the tired, overworked single mother who is stretched too thin to support her kids in every aspect. but we don’t speak about the tired, overworked, hetero partnered mother who must now split her time between her kids AND pacifying her husband. having two parents in the home doesn’t always equal double the help. this is a blatant falsehood, especially as it pertains to women because we know women still do most of the child caretaking, even after the 9-5. it may alleviate some of the financial constraints, but it comes with a whole set of other ones. see brran1′s comment as an example.

    see also timcampi’s comment…and bittencourt…and niko

    what oprah said, ““You’ve got to know that you are enough for your children,”” goes back to what I said in the recent “fatherlessness” article that you, @ lala tried to dismiss me on. this is what i said:

    “and what a lot of kids’ real problem is the fact that society tells them they arent good enough…that they arent normal….that they arent whole, on the basis that they have only their mother. stop dehumanizing the single mother because that is what affects kids’ self esteem.”

  • damidwif

    @ Niko, damn, where have you been all this time? LOL

    in regards to lesbians having children who do better than…to take into major consideration is that fact that those children are planned. Planning…puts things on another level. Also, the fact that the two women have similar ideas about how to raise children/parenting styles. How many “no wedding no womb” supporters get that they are making women “hold out” for the ring, so that they can have babies with men who don’t really want to have babies, or have no intention of sharing in the child caretaking, or who intend on sharing but ultimately don’t.

  • SAA

    I’m curious about the NWNW thought: does it mean that women shouldn’t have kids without being married OR that women shouldn’t have sex until they’re married or both since they both sorta go hand in hand. If its just about women not having sex until they’re married then I understand that but if its just about women not having kids until they’re married then I somewhat that. Here’s my confusion though- most men aren’t running up to these women like yes I want to have babies with you, especially men of certain age groups. I don’t know a single male that has babies on the mind but they’re also having sex with women who don’t have babies on the mind either. So a lot of these children are what we call “mistakes”. If the idea of NWNW is to not have babies until you’re married then thats just common sense really not a profound school of thought or movement. Knowing that pregnancy can result from sex, the one thought that should run through anyone’s mind is “this person I’m having sex with- would I want them as the mother/ father of my child?” If the answer is no then keep your pants on and keep it moving.

  • NOno

    yes it is common sense but a lot of black women are not using theirs.

  • http://www.vodkaislove.com Kenn

    Ehh, I grew up with just having my mom around. My dad is a douche and I’m happy he wasn’t around. Mom struggled, but when I got old enough to understand that I can do things on my own, I did. I’ve grown up to be who my mom motivated me to be. Whether 1 or 2 parents, it’s all subjective. I don’t think it really matters as long as a child has someone there to empower them to do and be better.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mel-B-Sherman/1227960672 Mel B. Sherman

    What’s even worse, is growing up without a mother. A woman who carried you for nine, almost ten months and just dropped you off at some random person’s house. I thank God everyday that I have a father like mine. He raised me on his own and did everything he could to be the best father and mother he could be. He is incredibly strong and the stress of raising a child on your own has only made him stronger and more proud of me. I am going to medical school and I attribute my success in life entirely to my father being my parent and cheerleader. My mother was strange and she is like how most men are. She abandoned me before the age of two, had another child with another man, and abandoned that child as well. Can you imagine?! Many people can because the roles are reversed and it is the father that does this.

    There were definitely times when I wished I had a “complete” family but honestly, I do not think I would have wanted my life to be any other way than what it is today. I am happy and I hope to continually make my father proud of me and all of his hard work and dedication.

  • KrissyG

    Single parents exist all around the globe and the only place that seems to constantly rag on them and want to criticize their role and their effectiveness as parents is North America. You guys need to stop drinking the Kool-Aid. I’ve seen first-hand married mothers complain and whine even more than single parents about whether they’re doing a good job as mothers and doing enough for their kids. Where are those stories in the media: The neuroses of married mothers? Any mother — single, married, common-law, widowed — has one objective and one objective only: To do the best that she can do for her children; not what society says she should be able to do. This is where much of the inner conflict, guilt and insecurity comes from in mothers from all walks of life. Go on, live your life according to you, enjoy your children and stop gauging your success as a parent based on what idiots in academia, politics or the religious sphere have to say.

  • damidwif

    @krissy, what people dont lnow, or wont step outside the box to realize and understand is that the reason it is harped on here in the US….is because there is MONEY in it….there is money in faith based initiatives…there is money in marriage promotion….and there is money is “fatherlessness” vis a vis the former. seems like common sensical great causes to support because they are superficial solutions….whilst black churches and other leaders and nonprofits sell out to government grants to support their salaries while saying they are helping the community. for example……look up some of the people behind no wedding no womb and see who they are connected to…..

    and your comment is totally on point, but it wont be in the majority on this site

  • au napptural

    A resounding yes to everything the the best anon ever, part 2 and damidwif said. What the hell do you want Oprah to say? Yes, b/c the man isn’t there you are automatically failing at life. To me it sounds like you want the women punished for having vaginas and having the nerve to raise children, secret ninja. And what damidwif said is the truth, half the time women who are married are still single parents. Studies show we are still expected to do the majority of the cooking and chores, plus hold down a job, and see to the kids. And woe betide you if you don’t do it all in F me heels, lest your husband cheat on you and leave you, making you a -gasp- single mother. *Rolls eyes*

    I had both my parents and even though I had a great father, my mom still was the first one people looked to for everything. Parent-teacher conferences, back-to-school clothes, homework help, etc. Being a mother, single or married, is more than a notion.

  • http://www.lifeinhightimes.com Gypsy

    I have had many beefs with things Oprah has said over the years,but this was not one of them? What would you have her say to the distraught single mother? If the emotional toll absent fathers have on children is your concern,perhaps a better title would be, “Why Being a Deadbeat Dad is Unacceptable”. Why address the women as if somehow they have failed as parents, when they are raising their children.

    The implication of articles like this is that somehow men have less responsibilty to their kids conceived out of wedlock. By the same token the implication is also that by bearing children out of the legal- religious institution of “wedlock” women fail their kids. The failure comes when people abandon their financial and moral responsibilities.

    I did appreciate your emotional honesty in this article. However,It would be nice to see a male blogger address the men, who are the most frequent transgressors of this kind of failure.

  • http://revolutionarypaideia.wordpress.com Antonio Maurice Daniels

    Being a parent is one of the toughest jobs. I really have a significant amount of admiration for hardworking and good single mothers (and single fathers).

  • orchard72361

    First of all, Oprah is not a doctor, nurse or a Phychologist. Oprah can’t give me no advise on being a parent and being in a marriage or any type of relationship. She has never been married and she do not have kids. Dr. Oprah can talk to the hand!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • orchard72361

    Oprah can’t given me absolutely no advise! She can talk to the hand!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    She’s never been married, never raised any children, What does that explain?

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