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Single Mother As Superwoman: Strength or Abuse?

My new book, When Mama Is Daddy: The Male Crisis and the Challenge of Father Absence debuted last week to bestseller status on Amazon in the fatherhood category. I’ve already gotten lots of feedback from readers of the ebook, as well as orders of the printed book. I’m excited about this project because of the work I aim to do with it: Heal families.

I tackle the tough and complicated subject of father absence, as I believe it is one of the most pressing problems facing us today. If we effectively address father absence, we can help more children do better in school, experience fewer behavior problems, avoid drug abuse and teen pregnancy, and bypass a host of other destinies that unfortunately seem to follow fatherless children at a higher rate than those children whose fathers are around.

  • This week, I talk about the single mother. Here is an excerpt from the book. Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below:

“Society seems to expect a single mother to take up the mantle of superwoman without complaint or falter."

We all know a single parent’s job is never easy, but some single mothers do such a good job that we think it is easy. We see them juggling work, children, homework, after-school activities, community, commitments, and everything else. Bills somehow get paid and children go to all those important milestone events: birthday parties, homecoming, prom, and graduation.

“But does this idea of the single mother as a superhero actually serve her children well? I believe single mothers who never show stress or show that they have it all under control may in fact put their children at a disadvantage. They give their children unrealistic expectations of what it means to be a single parent.

  • “To their daughters, the relative ease with which their mothers handle mothering responsibilities may suggest that becoming pregnant as a teen or becoming a single parent is no big deal."

I’ve seen cases where youngsters actually wanted to get pregnant at very young ages. To their immature minds, having a baby was about having ‘fun.’ When these girls don’t see their mothers having to make tough choices or sacrifices, they underestimate the work involved. For them, the superwoman has made motherhood look like something anybody can do well.

  • “And to their sons, superhero single mothers’ actions may suggest that it does not take two to raise a child."

This could in turn undermine the importance of being present for his own child, whenever the son becomes a father. As far as he is concerned, his mother raised a child with no problems, so why can’t his child’s mother?

  • “The thing that the mother set out to do — protect her child from the bumps and bruises of life — could actually backfire."

Drawing on the cloak of a superwoman may in fact cause her children to be unprepared for the very real concerns, stresses, and strains of parenthood.

  • “But the idea of a single mother as superwoman doesn’t only become a disservice to her children. It becomes a disservice to her."

Women who portray that they have it all figured out or that they don’t need help with their children suffer a higher degree of strain than those who seek help. Many single mothers are loathed to ask for help for a variety of reasons: They feel it makes them look bad. They don’t want their request for help to be used against them in a custody battle. They feel that they have no support system available to provide help.

  • “That isolation is deadly".

Single mothers who take on the superwoman role try to do way too much alone. When you have only one parent, Mom is overcompensating. She tries to be the nurturer and the disciplinarian all at once. That is a tough act to pull off. She often gives mixed signals to her children, first saying no, but caving and finally saying yes.

  • “I encourage single mothers all the time: Say what you mean and mean what you say, one time."

If you are going to discipline, you can’t discipline and then go into the corner and cry about it. Discipline is a protective measure and that structure can help save your child’s life. It gives children boundaries.

  • “It’s tough to wear so many hats all at once. It turns you into a ‘human doing,’ rather than a human being.

  • “Single mothers need to feel comfortable enough to ask for help. They need to feel comfortable enough to show their vulnerabilities and admit they can’t do it all.

  • “The single mother as superwoman is a much celebrated figure, but I believe the very notion opens single mothers up to harm because the word packs unrealistic expectations of what the mother should be.”

What do you think?


If you’ve not had a chance to download your copy of:

Order on Amazon now.

If you would prefer an autographed copy of the print book, please drop me a request at:

Therapeutic Justice Institute

21037 Coventry Circle

Shorewood, Il 60404

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If you would like to invite me to speak about the topic of this book — father absence and its impact — at your conference, convention, retreat, or other events, please BOOK an introductory call or email me at


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