Sociologist Marika Lindholm was teaching college courses about sociology, divorce, and feminization of poverty when she went through a divorce herself. Lindholm founded ESME.com, which stands for “Empowering SOLO Moms Everywhere.” It’s a website and social platform dedicated to supporting moms who are parenting alone.
“It's not just moms who are divorced or widowed, it's also moms whose partners are deployed, incarcerated, partners perhaps that are living in another country, so we try to create support and honor all women who are raising kids on their own,” Lindholm said.
The site provides articles, resources and matches moms in similar circumstances. Their team of guides help solo moms with specific topics like children with special needs, adoption, and addiction and their audience is growing.
“You know, the Washington Post came out with data recently that in the next five years they expect half of all children under the age of 18 will be raised by single mom at some time so it's quite an expanding group,” Lindholm said.
But even with 23 million kids being raised by solo moms in the United States, Dr. Lindholm says solo moms still fight an uphill battle with the stereotype that they’re lazy, morally lax, have a large number of kids, and that they’re living off the government.
“In fact, most single moms have one child, and most single moms are in the labor market working over 30 hours a week,” Lindholm said. “So really, it's about sort of that hard work and that dedication that they have. I feel like that's not being understood or honored at all.”
Dr. Lindholm says poverty -not single parents- is the bigger risk factor for kids. In fact, kids raised by single parents may even have some advantages, such as resilience.
“You know, they've had to go through something they've had to also pitch in more, they’re probably more capable,” Lindholm said.
So what can we do to help these moms?
Don’t wait to be asked.
Dr. Lindholm says solo parents are generally very independent and may feel like a failure if they ask for help. Ask them what they need - or if you’re not sure - she says most single parents will welcome help with childcare or a meal.
More and more single women are choosing to become solo parents. But whether you chose solo parenthood, or solo parenthood found you - ALL parents struggle sometimes. Support each other.
When there’s no partner to lean on during tough times, and no one to tell them “good job” - the daily grind can get very lonely. Let them know how great they’re doing.
And that support - even online - can make a world of difference.
“Those vulnerable moments are very important in terms of just having someone just be there and say I've been there I know how hard it is and you can get through it,” Lindholm said.