Single mom and growing daughter…

by Rod Smith

“I am a single mother with a teenage daughter. This is very tough: earning a living, trying to be available for school activities, trying to have a life of my own, and trying to make up for the absent father who could get in his car and visit occasionally but chooses not to do so – claiming it upsets his new wife. Now my daughter is at an age where her friends are much more important than her family and yet, while I want her to be free, I also do not want to lose the sense of family we do have. Please help.” (Letter shortened)

Your load is not an easy one. I’d suggest you allow the natural process of separation to occur while also keeping some semblance of a schedule that allows your family to remain in tact. Get your focus off what dad is not doing. Celebrate your daughter’s growth, her desire for friendships. Make it easier for her to find her feet apart from what you have known together. Create some flexible arrangement where you share a meal or a movie on a somewhat regular basis. Enjoy your own freedom in the midst of domestic demands. This will offer your daughter something attractive to call home.

2 Comments to “Single mom and growing daughter…”

  1. Rod, you write like someone who either has no kids or who has left the bulk of the childrearing work to his wife or exwife. This woman is trying to tell you that she is already providing her daughter with minimal family environment and structure, because she’s doing it all alone and has to earn a living and stay sane. She’s worried that once her daughter starts spending more time with friends, there will essentially be no family structure, and hence no guidance and protection. This is a serious danger for girls growing up in single-family homes, and it’s part of why the teen pregnancy rate for these girls is so high.

    Obviously she has to “let the natural process of separation” occur — it will anyway — but her question to you is how to do that while maintaining a sense of family for the girl, given very limited time and the fact that there’s no one else in the family.

    A more helpful answer might involve a slow redefinition of the relationship. As the girl gets older, the focus may be not so much on “my relationship with family” but “my relationship with my mother.” Stay involved by opening your home to the girl’s friends. Chances are one or more of them will need an adult as a confidante anyway. So long as you go easy on that, and don’t step on your daughter’s toes, you’ll still be a presence. Let her come to you whenever, and also let her see a bit of your own vulnerability. In other words, let her begin to see you, just a bit, as a person as well as her mother, and invite her into that relationship, while ocntinuing to help her and be there for her and enforce discipline/opportunities as a mother.

  2. Dear Amy:

    You could not be more off the mark about who I am or my role with my children if you tried.

    Thanks for your response.

    I trust the original writer of the letter will be helped by both of our responses.

    Rod Smith

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