Meet the Author: Single Parenting Expert Bette Freedson
About one out of three Americans aged under 18 — or 25 million children — lived in single parent households in 2013, according to The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Kids Count Data Center.
National Association of Social Workers member Bette Freedson, LICSW, LCSW, CGP, decided to write the book Soul Mothers’ Wisdom: Seven Insights for the Single Mother (Pearlsong Press) to offer advice and encouragement to the millions of parents of these children.
Freedson is a clinical social worker in southern Maine and has worked with single parents. However, at times Freedson has also been a single mother.
SocialWorkersSpeak.org talked to her about the book.
Q: Tell us about your experiences as a single mother.
Freedson: I am currently a re-married single mother. Even remarried, single parent issues arise. I am the only biological parent of my two daughters. My former husband died when they were very young. I became a single mother three times — the first time when I was first married to my first husband and had two babies. At age 30 my young husband had a serious heart attack which landed him in hospital for a month. That was in the 1970’s when the medical technology for heart treatment was in its infancy. That first month of hospitalization, and his recuperative time period following, were very difficult experiences for me as I had to manage the kids, his care, the household, the relatives, and my emotions with little to no support from him. He was in a hospital bed in our den and I was chief nurse, head housekeeper, nanny, and manager of his stress level. I write about this in the chapter on Stress of Soul Mothers’ Wisdom: Seven Insights for the Single Mother. The second time I became a single mother was about about five years later when my husband and I separated. The children were four and seven years old at that time and again it was very difficult. Despite the fact that their father did take them every other weekend, the chief responsibility was mine. Again I managed everything while trying to put my self together and create a new life. Much of my story of this time is woven through my book. Finally, I became a single mother for real when my ex-husband died of a massive heart attack nine years after the first one. Various chapters of this part of my story also weave their way through the book, chronicling my story from feeling like a powerless victim to becoming an empowered mother and a successful social worker. Thus for most of their childhood, I raised my children by myself with support from as many adult sources as I could rally. I had some support from friends and family, but the proverbial buck (and luck) all stopped or started with me. Very hard and also part of my story that is in the book. I have now been remarried for 20 years to a man who was a colleague and friend for the last six years of my actual single motherhood. However, even remarried, I still consider myself a single mother. One of the stories in Soul Mothers Wisdom takes place early in my marriage when my first daughter was to be married. I tell about the feeling of “giving her away.” This is something her stepfather, my second husband, could not possibly have shared. Many single mother issues arise for remarried single mothers, especially when the new husband is a single dad. My husband Ray, has no biological children, however, I have many clients who have been in the “blended” family situation.
Q: What was your main motivation for writing the book?
Freedson: This book is based on both mine, and my clients’ experiences. However, the basic motivation came from wanting other single parents to have the book I wish I had had when grappling with being a single mother. My goal is to provide emotional support, educational help, parenting and single parenting best practices and ideas about how to access and utilize the strengths in the inner mind, i.e. “soul wisdom.”
Q: How did you coin the phrase Soul Mother Wisdom?
Freedson: The phrase “Soul Mother Wisdom,” which in the title became Soul Mothers’ Wisdom was not coined immediately. It took time to evolve. I had a few possible working titles before settling on this one. In all iterations of any title, the idea of “soul” is key for me and for the book. Chapter Five/Insight Five of Soul Mothers’ Wisdom tells the story of my introduction to the “psychic dimension” of the mind and the development of my own psychic ability and the intuitive/psychic experiences that have shaped me. As I was attending the Boston University School of Social Work, I came to understand that the inner dimension of the mind provided a serious and powerful coping resource. I supported myself and my children through graduate school with some assistance from my ex-husband when he was alive and beyond by doing “psychic readings. ” However, I never considered myself a fortune teller. I am a highly intuitive person, some would say “an empathic,” although I have not used that designation. My readings are designed to help people discover their own inner strengths by virtue of the kind of supportive information I could provide, similar to what today some call coaching. Currently, I call these sessions “intuitive consultations.” In those days, and now, what I did and do, was and is to use my own intuition to help people develop self capacity and be proactive responders to stress in their own lives. As I have for more than 25 years, I still teach stress management in groups with a focus on accessing inner resources via the intuitive mind. I have studied hypnosis with Jeffrey Zeig for many years now and find clinical hypnosis techniques extremely effective for reaching the intuitive guidance of the unconscious mind. From my deep belief and respect for the inner wisdom of the mind, and the spiritual strength inside of each individual, I thought of “Soul/Sole” as a metaphor, but the two words together was too unwieldy for the title. Finally Soul Mothers’ Wisdom evolved from my passion for helping single parents and my deep respect for inner mind. Although my book is geared toward women, it applies to single Dads and there is much inside for all parents in general.
Q: This book is definitely written for consumers who are single mothers. But is the book a tool social workers can use?
Freedson: A resounding yes! Soul Mothers’ Wisdom is written as support, comfort, encouragement and hope for single mothers and parents and is intended as a tool for social workers and other clinicians. Soul Mothers’ Wisdom offers a process, a structured approach and strategies for social workers to use to assist single mothers (and fathers) to go from feeling disempowered to experiencing the empowerment that comes from knowing who they are and embracing an authentic solid core of self. The entire book is dedicated to the development of self-efficacy and positive self cognitions, and cognitive replacement. The goal is to help single parents change a negative personal narrative and develop coping efficacy. One of the key features of the book that is vital to social workers is the intent to refute and defeat negative social stereotypes. Some of these stereotypes are gender specific to single mothers, however, single parents in general remain cognitively victimized by the myth that their families are broken and there is something wrong with them for being single parents.
Q: Could these tips apply to single parents who were in same-sex relationships?
Freedson: As for those in same sex relationships, the idea of developing a strong sense of self and refuting negative stereotypes applies, is very important. Best parenting practices, changing negative personal narratives, and accessing Soul Wisdom is a natural fit for same sex parents or partners as well as for any combination of partners.
Q: What has been the response to the book?
Freedson: There has been a very positive response from both lay readers and clinical peers. In fact, noted pediatrician and author T. Berry Brazelton wrote: “A fine book full of support for single parents who have to face the job of raising children alone…I would advise all single mothers to read it.”
Q: Why did you decide to go into social work? Where did you go to school?
Freedson: I attended the Boston University School of Social Work. From the time I was very young, when asked, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” I answered, “I want to help other people.” I had this vision as a child (psychic, remember!) of myself sitting in a chair talking to people across the room on a couch! I had no idea what that meant at the time. In the early 70’s shortly before my husband’s first heart attack, I attended a program at a local counseling center, and became hooked on personal growth. Soon I became a volunteer lay counselor at the center. This could not happen in today’s world. Too many liability issues. But that experience changed my life. I became close to the staff social workers and found my life’s work. They encouraged me to go to Boston University because of the strong clinical program there. Once matriculated, I realized I was on course to fulfill my prophecy of helping other people. My first profession had been teaching junior high school English, which I also loved. Now I combine social work with teaching as I present programs and training seminars to other clinicians and as I now am bringing the information in Soul Mothers’ Wisdom out into the world.
To learn more about how social workers such as Freedson help clients overcome life’s challenges visit the National Association of Social Workers’ “Help Starts Here” website.
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