The Art of Being A Single Mother

Over the years on my Web Site I have tried to show why being extreme on the right or the left, harms the Church and families. I have seen children leave the Church because liberal Catholics compromised the faith. I have seen children leave the Church because Conservative Catholics made the faith such a burden of rules and regulations that they forgot that God is love. I have seen home schooled children so out of touch with society that they could not cope with society at all and ended up either giving up religion all together or becoming so critical of both Catholics and non-Catholics that they lost all love except for their own brand of faith.

After writing “THE ART OF BEING A FATHER OR MOTHER” I received so many emails explaining the horrors of their upbringing, I have decided to follow this up with many other Newsletters on the problems of being a child or a parent, and there are so many that I find it hard to know where to start.

I was raised to love science but approached it a little differently than many scientists. I looked for what worked instead of what did not work. Find healthy people and find out why they are healthy instead of finding sick people and look for what made them sick.

Using this same method for social problems, I have seen what appears to be great and loving Catholic parents who have driven their children to rebel against the Church or to find themselves unable to hold their own marriages together. Often these parents protect their children to such an extreme that they do not know how to deal with the world, which is full of sinful people, who would otherwise be converted by them if they could just love them instead of condemning them.

I have also seen the long term results of good and loving parents who got involved in false or strange movements in the Church, and led their children into these also. Sometimes these movements are extremely liberal like the Charismatics and sometimes extremely conservative like the Legionaries of Christ, but in every case they are extreme. There is only one extreme that I support, and that is the pursuit of truth. But even the pursuit of truth must be with love.

Love (charity) must come before all laws, rules, truths, methods, sacrifices, new movements and each and every action of our lives. God is love and love is God. God’s law is to love - love God and love one another.

I have spent the last month with just such a well balanced family. I spent 6 years in Fatima, going to the shrine each and everyday, and yet I have seen more love in this family and more faith and more love and more fun and more joy than in the entire 6 years I spent in Fatima. I want to share this love with you, and to my great surprise and yours it is in a broken family and done entirely by a single mother.

I do not want to get into why her marriage did not survive, because I do not want to place blame. But I have known this family most of my life and I was involved in the problems of the marriage, the separation, and the Church annulment. I only want to say that never has any woman tried harder to save a marriage (just for the sake of the children) but in the end there simply was no choice but to walk away with 5 children, no job, no money and no home.

In spite of these problems she has raised the most well balanced children that I have ever seen. Since her divorce she found a way to make a living on the internet, where she could work at home. Since her divorce she bought a home and continued to remodel it until it was worth 4 times what she paid for it. Since her divorce she brought her ex-husband into the daily lives of her children so that they have not had to suffer the loss of their father any more than they had to. To his credit he comes around 3 to 4 times a week.

Starting with nothing and five children to take care of, she now has more than most married families, and she did it all by herself - a beautiful home, with large patio and outside gas barbeque, fireplace, sink, tool house, new inside kitchen, designed bedrooms, new double pained windows, new and completely insulated walls, emergency generator for electric power, and coordinated designed furniture in each and every room in the house.

Not only this, but on her own, she has taken out life insurance on herself and her ex-husband so that if anything happens the children will be taken care of. She has bought and paid for yearly memberships for all her children and herself in a full service gym. What a joy to see teenage children playing basketball with their mother and working out in a gym as a family. Everyone is impressed by how well they get along together as a family. She has bought and paid for yearly membership in snow skiing chair lifts for those children that use it. She bought and paid for two cars and the insurance for her two oldest children who now drive. And she did all this by herself.

She feeds these children nothing but the best of everything and I mean health foods, vitamins, fruit juices, and everything good. The house is always full of food. I have witnessed at least $700.00 to $800.00 a month food bills. And no one in the house is fat because the food is pure and good.

But this is not how I judge a mother or a father. I judge them by how the children are, not by how much money they have. I grew up with very wealthy children from Del Mar and Rancho Santa Fe, California, two of the most wealthy areas in the state. Some of these children had everything, including good college education, but they were not good people. Good people treat others with charity, kindness, gentleness and love. When a person has everything, but treats others with meanness or unkindness, no matter what they have, I would say that they were not raised properly, and I would not be proud of them.

The test of anyone and how well they were taught by their parents is how well they treat others and what others think of them. It is because of these children that I consider this mother the greatest mother I have ever known. Her name is Kelly. You do not have to know her to understand her, you just have to know the fruits of her labors, her children.

You Will Know Them By Their Fruits

The oldest of Kelly's children is now married with a child only three months old. He is a great father, husband and provider. It is a joy to see his love for his child and his wife. He not only works hard but comes home to help with the house work, changes diapers, and feeds the baby. There is also a lot of joy and laughter in their home. Any mother would be proud of this son because he understands that as a man he must be both protector and provider and at the same time, be loving and kind.

The second oldest of Kelly’s children is a 17 year old son. He is in his last year of high school. He is athletic and lifts weights at the gym 5 days a week. He is a star football player and girls like him. He does not date much, mostly because the girls like the boys that are rude and “bad boys” and he treats them with respect. He likes a little beer now and then and sometimes drinks at home with his mother, but he gave it up for lent.

He has no problem that he is a virgin and is going to stay that way until he is married. No one makes fun of him because he can beat up anyone at school. He wears a scapular even when in a bathing suit, and goes to confession more than once a month. It is very noticeable that his best friends are his own brothers and sister and he protects them from any abuse. He has no problem praying on his own before meals and in public, but he is all man. This is no sissy Catholic but a man through and through.

Kelly’s next oldest child is a twin boy with his sister. He was a star football player. He is a little too good looking because all the girls chase after him but he does not date for much the same reason as his brother. He is a straight A student and is already getting letters from Colleges because of his test scores even though he will not get out of high school for two more years. He could probably get into movies and make millions but he never thinks of this or even reacts to the attention he gets. Like the other children he treats others with love and kindness and loves God without compromise. He is not yet 16 years of age but already has bought himself a car and is fixing it up.

His twin sister, Nikki, is a doll. She is winning many awards for art, and had all A’s this last time. She is a very logical person and can even teach me things about life. She is so beautiful she could get any boy, but she makes sure that everyone sees her Brown Scapular so that they know she is first and last a child of Mary and the Church. (Also, her brothers have made it clear that she is off limits at school!) This does not make her a fanatic Catholic, because no one, even bad people, have any problem talking with her about anything. Something about her (maybe joy) makes you feel good just seeing her smile that never leaves her. She is so self reliant it seems that she is always helping others instead of herself. But even with this charity, she takes good care of everything she needs to do for herself and without being told, she also does other work in the house. She is always helping her mother, and making everyone around her feel better just by her smile and kindness.

Andrew is the youngest and a straight A+ student. He is very quiet but at times very funny. Andrew is very short, even for his age, but he plays an awesome game of basketball and is one of the shortest boys in all the teams but this does not affect his play at all. I have watched him play now at least 5 games. Andrew is 4 foot - 10 inches and one of his team mates is 6 foot 3. In spite of this, in the games I have seen, he has stolen the ball 9 times, made 7 baskets, 14 assists, and has great defense. In the last game he was named most valued player.

Andrew keeps his room so clean and neat you would think it belongs to an interior designer. In spite of his size he is not intimidated by anyone and will mix it up without fear even with his oldest brother and the biggest kids in school.

This is the happiest family I have ever been around and the kids clown and laugh with their mother and even tease her a great deal. Everyone does his or her own thing but they like being home more than away and most of their friends come here instead of them going to their homes.

Kelly teaches Confirmation classes. She is also a core team member in the Life Teen Program at their Church. She decided to teach the confirmation class because she has two kids in it and did not trust anyone else to teach them something this important. She and the children help the poor and ill when they can and this is a great lesson to the children to be grateful for the wonderful life that they have.

In fact sometimes the children actually come home and tell their mother of some family that needs help and they all go and help them. One such family was in such need. (father has Lou Gehrig’s disease and is near the end of his life) Kelly and the family went over and helped remodel their entire home and helped to organize many others in the effort.

In spite of almost never stopping work, cleaning, cooking, washing, taking children to school - to sports events - to the gym - to art classes - to ski resorts - even to jobs, Kelly finds time to help others from morning to night.

She is always on the phone giving advice to mothers and fathers with family problems and she must be good since the phone never stops ringing. When people get stranded in the snow, they call Kelly. Kelly takes one of her boys and goes and digs them out.

Sounds like a great home does it not? In fact I think it is a perfect Catholic home. Why is this? The answer to that is that it is full of love, trust, and forgiveness. She has problems with the children at times, Danny has gotten drunk, and all the other problems that kids get into from time to time. But these things are talked out and resolved with loving care and not condemnation and hatred. Then it is forgotten as though it never happened.

No one is afraid to say that they did something wrong because it will be talked out, taken care of and forgotten. This is how you keep love, happiness, fun and laughter in a home. Church and religion are not forced on the children, but it is made to be special and loving, and not an obligation.

Sometimes the children go to Mass during the week with their mother, but they are asked and never told that they must go. Because of this, the children like going. If they were forced to go, they might learn to think of a hard God instead of a loving God, so they are invited, not pressured. I watch them in Church as altar boys or just praying and they love God, not because they are forced, but because you just know that they know they are loved by all of heaven.

Saint Therese said, “God spare me from unhappy Christians.” I find it hard to believe that anyone knows God, and at the same time goes around with a sad face being critical of others. These kind of people do not know God. He is loving and wants us to be happy on earth and live with love forever in heaven.

I expect that I will go to heaven someday, but in the last 3 weeks I feel I am already in Heaven. Seeing children (or young men) laugh and hug their mother, and joke around with her, even playing tricks on her, is such a joy for me you would find it hard to believe I am telling the truth.

When I see spoiled children that will not do this or that, or will not eat this or that, I know that the parent does not know how to love children. When I see children that are not kind to others, I know they do not feel loved themselves. I have seen this in my own family, but here in this home, I feel totally loved by people who know that they themselves are loved.

Why has Kelly done so well with all the odds against her? Long ago there was a woman with 8 children before she was 30 years old. He husband died without leaving her any assets. She had to go to work as a cook in a college. But first she went before God in the Tabernacle and said,

“God, I can feed my children but I cannot educate them. So I am going to place them in Your hands and I will trust that You love them as much as I do.”

Five of her children ended up Bishops, the sixth a Cardinal, and the other two mother superiors of convents. This is what Kelly did. She put herself and her children in the hands of God and trusted that His love would take care of everything.

I am proud of her and her family, because this mother, Kelly, is my daughter, and her children are my grandchildren.

Rick Salbato