(Book Excerpt 4) Single Mothers Speak on Patriarchy Ed. by Trista Hendren & Pat Daly

Call To Action

Trista Hendren


One question that repeatedly came up during the compilation of this anthology was: What can I do to help?

I have given this question a great deal of thought, and also posted it to the other contributors. The first thing I’d like to share is some personal experiences that made the biggest difference in my life and that of my children.

Single moms often need help in the practical, every day sense. I want to share this first because it’s something every person can do now that will help immediately while we wait for the systematic change that needs to happen.

My mother and co-editor probably saved my life. I am not sure I could have made it through my years as a single mom without her help. When she saw that I was alone, she told me, “Consider me your partner in raising your kids.”

This gave me the freedom to ask for what I needed from her without feeling guilty. If I needed help getting the kids to school, or navigating between various appointments and school functions—she was there. She took the kids on a regular schedule so I could work or have time to myself. The last years before we moved to Norway, we all lived together. Having another adult in the house with young children helped tremendously. Not to mention, if it were not for my mother’s financial support, I would have been homeless—with my children—numerous times.

When my children’s father died suddenly, we were not even remotely in a position to come home—although I knew almost immediately that we needed to. My longtime friend Daylene offered to set up a GoFundMe for us—which ultimately enabled us to take the trip.

I am a very proud person, so putting this out there was very difficult for me. My heartfelt gratitude to Daylene for putting it together and all those who contributed to the fund.

My best friend since childhood has been an amazing auntie to my kids. She would offer to take my daughter overnight so I could have one-on-one time with my son. She took us on trips to the beach that I could not afford to take. She often bought my children backpacks or school clothes. She was always welcome at our dinner table and holiday celebrations as “Auntie Tanya.”

She—and my mother—also made sure my children were able to make it home to mourn their father through their generous donations and fund-raising efforts.

The world needs more aunties.

In my early years as a single mom, the Spaccarelli family in Lake Oswego invited us on their annual camp out at Orcas Island. This is a trip that I never could have pulled off on my own and one that none of us will ever forget. They had been taking this trip as a family for 40 years and had all all the camping, canoeing and fishing equipment imaginable. And, if you are familiar with Riccardo’s Ristorante, you know how well we ate.

When we moved to the St. John’s neighborhood, we had awesome neighbors. This allowed me to homeschool my daughter with support from her best friend’s mom across the street. It also meant that we had handy men around who helped me assemble benches without being asked, hauled the heavy furniture and did whatever else I couldn’t manage on my own.

Lastly, there are a few extraordinary men in this world who I would like to also recognize and thank. My first husband, Hussein, lent me money numerous times—no questions asked—the first year of my son’s life. He also was a wonderful source of emotional support and has served as an honorary uncle to both of my children.

My current husband, Anders, has done more for my kids and I than I can ever repay. There were numerous weeks before we moved to Norway where he ate nothing but oatmeal so that my children could eat and I could pay the rent. He has put up with all shades of crazy over the last 5+ years without complaint—and has become the father that my children lacked. His belief in me—and the work that I do—has allowed me to heal and continue on with The Girl God books.

Aside from the personal help that I received, I think it is important for us to think big. Single mothers have been a low priority for too long. It is time to demand child support enforcement everywhere.

If you are in the U.S., contact your state child support office and ask them to make enforcement a priority. Contact your senators and governor and do the same. Remind them that $108 billion dollars is a lot of money to go uncollected with serious repercussions for women and children.

I have already mentioned the National Support Office. Take a moment to write and tell them to start enforcing child support. (OCSEHotline@acf.hhs.gov.) As I have written to them numerous times: “Why even have an office of “Child Support Enforcement” if you don’t enforce anything?”

If you are outside the U.S., take a moment to get acquainted with how child support is collected and enforced in your country. Talk to single moms and ask them if their needs are being met. If you can help with some of those needs, please do. And please, join those of us who have lived as single moms in demanding change.

“As feminists, we must start to demand that our political and economic systems live up to our dreams, for ourselves and our children. The fact that we don’t is a telling demonstration of that old chestnut: we are silenced out of fear or shame, of not wanting to want too much, not wanting to demand or expect, lest we overstep our mark. Thing is, if we don’t speak up, if we don’t demand the political system reflect rather than dictate, nothing is going to improve.” -Vanessa Olorenshaw41

We will continue to add links to petitions and other updated action steps on my website:


Thank you in advance for your part creating radical change.

(Meet Mago Contributor) Trista Hendren.

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As an isolated single mother I remember only too well the years of hell I endured, the shame I experienced of not being enough – I could go on here. Anything we can do to help other women navigate motherhood makes a difference. For the past three years there has been a woman in my life, she is married with four children – a fifth if you include her husband – when she lost both her parents she lost her navigators and I stepped into a mothering role, by choice, not necessity, recognizing that this woman needed emotional support. I… Read more »