Matthew 18:20 “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
I want to tell you a story.
A young woman walked into a church. Her 23 year old body formed a cradle around a growing baby, and she was alone. Week after week, she exchanged polite handshakes with people during the obligatory greeting time before the service, but she always sat alone. As far as she could tell, she was the only pregnant one without a loving Christian husband beside her. As her belly grew with baby, so did her loneliness. There were hundreds of lovers of Jesus in that room, but no lovers of her. No one went beyond the handshakes. There was no comforting touch when tears would penetrate her resolve, encouraged by worship music that touched her so deeply in the wounded places.
Time passed lonely. The baby came and the young woman balanced precariously on the fence between her old life and her new one. She was desperate for her old friends, carpe diem life, and freedom while also desperately in love with her baby boy and with motherhood. It was a difficult time. For a year she struggled to find footing as a young mother with no husband, until she found that she’d had quite enough sitting alone in church. She’d had enough of waiting for the phone to ring. She’d had enough of being The Single Person at the tables of happily coupled friends. She went in search of her people - the ones who would get it. The ones she desperately needed. The other single moms. She knew they must be out there.
It was really that simple at first. I wanted someone to sit with in church, and occasionally meet in the park to push swings together and talk. It wasn’t a man I wanted, although that would have been okay, too. I wanted to talk the way you can talk to another woman and mother. Not the brave, surface stuff that came out when people asked me how I was doing. The real stuff - the “sometimes I can’t stand this child and I go outside and close the door and pretend he is not pressing his screaming, snotty face against the glass to get to me” stuff.
I was still rather ashamed of my single mother status in those early days, and it was hard to ask the church leadership if they knew of any single mothers looking for bible study. It was hard but it was the only place I knew to look, so I did it. God smiled at my bravery and made the connections for me. There was a woman who had just recently approached the church about the establishment of a formal group for single mothers. We joined forces, which is to say that we began to sit together in church, and then go out for lunch afterward. And then we found a room and a volunteer to watch our children while we met and we started a bible study. We relied on word of mouth and God to bring the single mothers to us. He did, and I finally found my people.
Together we learned about grace, brokenness and healing, community and friendship. Through our love for each other, we learned about Jesus’ love for us. Most of all, we did life together. We pushed swings in the park. We swapped clothes and meals and we bore each other’s heartbreak. We celebrated each other’s victories and eventually, marriages. We loved each other’s children. Three of us even shared a home for awhile, raising our children together and building our own kind of family. It’s been about 14 years since I met those two women who were my first deep single mom friendships. We met with one child each, all within a year apart. Now, there are 13 children between us.
During a particularly lonely season, I’d watched all of the friends from the bible study group find their Loves and get married, and I was feeling pretty down about it. Marriage hadn’t happened for me, and I was beginning to think it wouldn’t. So I decided to try something new. I joined an online community for single moms. Through this platform, I began to connect with single moms from not just in my city, but from everywhere. A few of us really hit it off, and eventually formed our own small group. We call ourselves the SWMU - Single Working Moms Uncensored. For 9 years, we have checked-in regularly from Baltimore, Philadelphia, Boston, San Francisco, Salt Lake City, and Edinburgh, Scotland. We talk about all the things, big and small. We’ve experienced marriages and babies and new jobs and big moves and even meet-ups! It’s been 9 years of life together so far, with many more on the horizon. I never imagined that an online group would become such a meaningful piece of my life, but so it has.
The thing is, building friendships when you are an overburdened single mom is hard. It takes time and energy which, for those of us who struggle to find even a little time to ourselves, it can seem like too much. I know the feeling. But I also believe it is something you must pursue. Friendship is as essential as Jesus. I cannot imagine my life without the women who have circled up around me over and over again. God saved my soul, but my friends gave me a life.
The Word tells us to bear one another’s burdens (Gal 6:2), to look to the interests of others (Phil 2:4), and to serve one another (1 Pet 4:10). God shaped us for relationship, because He knows how beautiful it can be. He built us with a desire and a need for soul sisters. And so, when we pursue that, when we ask God to make a path to true friendship, I believe He will answer. But we still have to show up, preferably with arms and hearts open to make room for someone to love us.
Loneliness may be part of your story, but it doesn’t have to be the whole story. Don’t let it be - because I promise you there is another single mom out there who needs a friend just as badly as you do. Find her, and be blessed.
Erin is an administrator, freelance writer, photographer, and former single mom. She contributes regularly to HERLIFE Magazine and KC Parent Magazine. She has been a mommy blogger (Single Mom REVEALED, This Heart and Mind, and Life and the Outcome) for many years, focusing on providing an authentic depiction of life as a single mom. She is also currently working on her first book - part memoir and part single parenting survival guide.
Erin is married now, but after over 10 years on her own, she will always have a heart for the mamas going it solo. It is a privilege to walk alongside and equip single moms to not just survive, but to THRIVE.