The stigma of single motherhood can be stifling, so Marika Lindholm has made it her goal to change that perception—vowing to help make the journey easier for others than it was for her. We say, mission accomplished.
With this as her guiding vision, Marika founded and created ESME (Empowering Solo Moms Everywhere), a social platform dedicated to Solo Moms who face the challenge of solo parenting in a society that provides little help or guidance. And most importantly, a community has been formed—one that helps those on this often times solitary endeavor meet like-minded women facing the same challenges and triumphs.
We welcomed the chance to chat with Marika about ESME, her inspiration to start and why its cause means so much to her. We're grateful for strong women like Marika in the world who empower women regardless of choice or circumstance and we're honored to introduce her to you today. Enjoy!
Tell us about ESME, why it was founded and the mission of the site.
ESME (Empowering Solo Moms Everywhere) is an online community dedicated to Solo Moms who, whether by choice or by circumstance, parent primarily on their own. I founded ESME because, as a sociologist and former Solo Mom, I wanted to create a safe and supportive space for all the hard working single mothers who get up every day and care for approximately 22 million children. It’s a thankless job made even more challenging by “single mom” stereotypes aimed at women who deserve to be honored instead of denigrated.
At ESME, we are redefining single motherhood by using the term Solo Mom to describe women who are divorced, widowed, single by choice through adoption or donor, and moms who parent alone due to a partner’s deployment, incarceration or disability. ESME’s mission is to empower and connect Solo Moms in a community that offers inspiration, resources, a platform and some laughs along the way. I’m so proud to be part of the incredible ESME team that champions a broad base of Solo Moms and gives them a collective voice.
How did your experiences as a single mom inspire you to start a resource for women in a similar situation?
I really could have used ESME when I was in the throes of my divorce and raising my two kids on my own! Loneliness, financial stress and guilt are just the start of it. The divorce process was SO much more difficult than I expected. I found my groove as a Solo Mom, but there were many situations and challenges that continue to inform the type of articles and resources found on ESME.com. Some are basic questions such as, “What do I do about work when my kids are sick?”, while other questions are more existential such as, “Will my kids be OK?”. In the thick of my divorce – helping my kids adjust, losing friends and being judged – I vowed that if I had the opportunity to make the journey easier for others, I would.
What are some of the myths or stigmas about being a single mother that you think it important to dispel?
There are many myths and stereotypes about single mothers that are mean-spirited and completely contrary to the facts. For example, you might hear politicians or folks at a dinner party talk about single mothers implying that they are teenage moms on welfare with lots of babies that they can’t take care of. The reality is that most single moms are in their 30’s and 40’s, divorced, working over 30 hours a week and are raising just one child.
The other tendency is to describe single moms as morally lax or lazy, which is ridiculous and cruel since day in and day out Solo Moms sacrifice their own needs, health and wellbeing for their children. Women don’t grow up wishing to be a single mom. It’s infuriating because every mom has the potential to join this group due to death, divorce, abandonment and a host of other circumstances. As a society we should be honoring their hard work and fierce desire to make a loving home for their children.
What would you say to a woman on the precipice of making this transition in her own life?
I would look her in the eye and say, “You got this. It’s not going to be easy, but if you accept support, take care of yourself and have a sense of humor, you will be an amazing mom to your kids.” And then of course I would tell her to check out ESME!
How has being a single mother impacted your life?
The decision to leave an unhappy marriage and be on my own was both dramatic and liberating because I found my strength and voice. I rented a very small two bedroom apartment where my son and daughter had their own rooms while I slept on a pullout couch. It was a third floor walk-up, we had no dishwasher or laundry machine but it was our home and I made it work.
I learned that I was a strong person and could do many things on my own such as putting together Ikea furniture, snaking a toilet and traveling alone with my kids. It was daunting and empowering to be in charge of everything! Those days gave me the gift of organization, a level head and a happy heart that I carry through today in my work and my family life.
What do you hope your children remember most about the time when it was just the three of you?
The time when it was just the three of us is full of bittersweet memories. As an academic, I read stacks of books on divorce and took great care to make sure my children were OK. I worked hard not to speak ill of their dad, helped them with stressful weekend transitions and tried to make life fun. For example, I always did the food shopping and other boring chores when they were with their dad so I could focus on joyful time together.
Now that they are 18 & 20, we reminisce about our small apartment and the three of us piling onto the pullout couch to watch movies and eat popcorn. What I hope they remember most is that our home was filled with joyous love.
p.s. Have you met The Community Acupuncturist?