by Andrea Bowen and Judith Broadhurst
Being a mother is no easy task, but the
job becomes much more difficult when
you are both "mommy and daddy,"
when there is no father around to share
the responsibilities and even the rewards
of parenting. Emotional stability and maturity are essential to coping with the
"The single mother needs to get in
touch with herself. She needs to realize
that she does not have to meet all the
needs of her child or children. Friends or
support groups are most helpful," emphasized Bette Graham White, former mayoral candidate and mother of a 19-year-old
Mother of seven and owner of a bicycle shop, Joy Boone echoed White's
views. "Any woman married or single or
divorced needs to find her own personal
Getting in touch with her emotions
was difficult for Grace Ramirez Moore,
mother of four children ranging in ages
from 15 to Vh years.
"I knew long before my 31/2-year-old
twins were born that my marriage was
not steady. But, by the time my husband
left, our family size had doubled," Moore
"I just fell apart emotionally. I did not
want the separation, it was all my husband's idea. Realizing that the only way
to make our family work was to take one
day at a time helped me cope better," she
Moore's separation which is ending in
divorce was like a death to her. "I went
through the whole death process, the
same as I would have if my husband actually had died. I grieved and mourned,
but I am over that now."
Friends or relatives are another important ingredient in making a single mother's role more bearable and even enjoyable.
"The best thing a single mother can do
is to have a lot of friends who will listen
to her problems and help her with babysitting or running errands," advised Gloria
Guardiola, mother of 5-month-old Robert
Guardiola, assistant director of the
Association for the Advancement of
Mexican-Americans, and psychologist
Jeanne Zell, mother of 18-month-old
twins, needed friends' help because they
elected to go through the pregnancies
alone without the children's fathers.
Even though each was somewhat surprised to find out about the pregnancies,
both women were delighted. "When I
found out that I was expecting, I was
happy. I never thought once about ending
the pregnancy. There was no reason to, I
was older, 37, and felt secure in my life,"
stressed Guardiola, an avid worker for
rights for women and Mexican-Americans.
Zell, equally thrilled to be pregnant,
smiled, "I read and reread The First Nine
Months of Life and other books on infant development, and kept imagining the
baby, stage by stage, growing inside of
A single friend of Zell's volunteered to
be her coach for the LaMaze method of
prepared childbirth. That friend also was
at the hospital with her when the babies
came two months ahead of schedule, thus
ending Zell's course in prepared childbirth.
"Since I work and sometimes not regular hours, I have to depend on friends to
take care of my son. When he is ill, I often call them to go get some medicine for
me," Guardiola expressed.
Shrugging off one's pride enough to
ask others for help was extremely hard
for the community-involved White. .
"When my son and I moved to Houston 13 years ago, I finally admitted I
needed some kind of support and help to
try to learn how to be a mother and a
leader in the community," commented
A church community in the east part
of Houston was the answer to her immediate problems. It helped alleviate all the
pressures of rearing a child by herself and
allowed her time to go back to school and
obtain a bachelor's degree in theology.
After securing the much needed help
of the church, the young mother and her
son moved back on their own—and White
worked in the administration office at the
University of St. Thomas.
"I sent Troy to private school at St.
Anne's partly because we had been living
in a sheltered environment and also because the school had an excellent sports
program—my son always loved sports,"
Having a male role model is a concern
expressed by several single mothers. The
recreation program at Troy's school
helped give him a male figure, but Moore
worries about Benjamin, one of her twins,
growing up without a man around.
"I seriously am considering looking
into Big Brothers to help with a male influence. My soon-to-be ex-husband helps
financially with the children, but rarely
calls them or comes to see them. Benjamin has no male figure," stated Moore
who works as an aide to state representa-
tive Lance Lalor.
Guardiola also feels the need to expose
her infant son to many other people. She
also forsees the day when he, too, will
need a male role model.
While her son's father has never cast
eyes on the baby, Guardiola struggles not
to be bitter. "I have tried to keep a positive attitude toward my son's father. I
never want him or my son to say that I
kept them from seeing each other. I also
hope I never pass my negative feelings
about the father onto my child," she reflected.
Zell's feelings about the father of her
twins fluctuates from fondness to bitterness though he has not been around to
share either. "I've become more aware of
how other men view themselves as
parents and their relationships with
children. It has become a new test, what
kind of parent would he be? It helps filter
people out of my necessarily limited
social life. The ones who are flexible,
tolerant and able to hang in there are
more my kind of people."
As the mother of seven ranging in ages
from 13 to 23 years, Boone also felt bitter
towards her husband. "I was furious that
he just walked out. I, too, wanted to
duck out of my responsibility, but I just
couldn't walk away from my family."
Pondering her situation, she says, "Actually, now that I look back on it, my
husband did me a favor. I needed the responsibility to become a more independent person."
Boone, like White, recognized the need
for support and assurance by seeking
psychological counseling. Both readily admit that the counseling worked wonders
for them and helped improve the family
"Through counseling I have established
my own personal identity. I would like to
marry again, but I now know that if I
have to, I can make it on my own with
the children. I know, despite having six
children still at home, that I need my
own personal space. Gradually, the children have begun to accept this," continued Boone.
In addition to learning their true inner
beings, all of the women, except Guardiola, expressed concern over family finances.
"I panicked at first. My initial worry
was finances. Although I liked my job, I
knew the salary was small and I felt insecure about the money. My twins early in
life had many ear problems, which helped
mount the doctor and hospital bills,"
stated Moore who finally thinks she is
ready to take the giant step of looking for
a better paying position.
Zell's twins, Katie and Jenny, born
two months early had to remain in the
hospital for several weeks after birth.
Though she had insurance, like many
policies, it did not cover the babies' care
while in the hospital. As a result of the
unanticipated expenses, there still are a-
bout $12,000 in outstanding bills.
"The thing that really makes me angry
is that my credit rating is destroyed. Even
if I could save the money for a down payment on a house, I could not get the
mortgage approved. Fending off bill collectors is a continual struggle," she stated.
When Boone realized she could indeed
pay the mortgage on her home and make
a go of the bicycle shop, she breathed a
sigh of relief. "We do not live extravagantly, but we never have gone hungry."
White was not so fortunate. She can
remember times when she did not have
money for food and had to turn to others
for support. Having and rearing her child
practically alone has meant sacrifices for
the 39-year-old college lecturer.
"Only a few times did I work at regular daily jobs. I would speak and teach at
various schools and organizations. I felt
that my son needed me more than I
needed a permanent career. A balanced
life was important for him," recollected
White who soon will be faced with the financial burden of college for her son.
Although these women have gone
through many of the pains of child rearing by themselves, none is completely
opposed to the idea of marriage.
Guardiola however expressed a fear
that her husband, should she choose to
marry, would not care for her son enough.
"I have my own ideas about disciplining
children and about how a child should be
reared. I do not know if I could have the
man impose his values and discipline on
She does not see marriage as a solution,
but as a meaningful relationship. "I
would never marry just to give my child a
name. If I ever decide to marry I want it
to be because I will be getting a better
way of life."
When asked if she would ever marry a-
gain, Moore quickly replied, "Oh, yes. I
know that I can live my life alone if I
have to, but there is a great deal to be
said for marriage."
Zell, even though she adores her youngsters, does not recommend becoming a
single parent. "It is difficult. I emphatically favor the two-parent-in-residence
family with the extended and intentional
families also being important."
The mothers of older children, Boone,
White and Moore, have discovered that
the divorce and being reared by a single
parent have had an effect on the youths.
"Although my children do not talk
about our situation much, I know that it
bothers them. In 20 years or so I'll be
able to say if our divorce and my raising
them had a good or bad effect," commented Boone.
White and Moore feel that it has made
their offsprings more mature and knowledgeable about love relationships.
'"My oldest daughter, Chela, is far
more mature about marriage and children
than I was at her age," Moore said.
If any of these women could tell other
single mothers a bit of advice, it would be
to better their marketable skills.
"If a woman stays in the job market, I
firmly believe that she is more secure in
her marital relationship," Moore contributed. Women should develop skills and at
least try to work part-time at a job or
volunteer post. Whatever she does, a
woman should not let her whole life revolve around her husband.
Moore continued, "All women need to
acknowledge the fact that they may be
spending parts of their lives alone through
either death or divorce." Or choice.
Andrea Bowen is a former reporter for
the Orange Leader and is now a staff
writer at the Houston Westside Reporter.
Judith Broadhurst is a freelance writer.
(Pictured above) Jeanne Zell and her twin
daughters Katy and Jenny.