Single moms all have different stories.
Some are divorced, some got pregnant out of wedlock, while others lost their husbands at war. But no matter how they became single mothers, they face the same struggles.
Oklahoma Congresswoman Mary Fallin knows personally about those struggles. She raised her children on her own for years, all while pursuing a fast-paced career in politics as her state's first female lieutenant governor and a member of the House of Representatives.
"My mother used to always tell me, 'You're not the first woman who's ever had this happen to you so get up and get going and we don't have to go under the mountain, we can go over the mountain. We don't have to have a pity party, we can rise above all that,'" Fallin recalled.
It was advice that stuck. Now, helping women rise above their circumstance has become one of Fallin's passions. She especially wants to stop what she calls the "generational curse" that is passed down from grandmother to mother to grandchild.
"I really think one of the ways we can better our states is by empowering our citizens and letting them know that they're not alone and helping them find a better path to life," Fallin said.
Ministry on a Mission
She recently invited Arise Ministries to Capitol Hill. The Oklahoma-based ministry has been helping single moms thrive for six years and is on a mission to expand nationwide.
The ministry was birthed by Pam Kanaly, who was also a single mom.
"I believe that we as citizens," Kanaly said. "Especially Christians in the church, it is our responsibility to reach out to these modern-day orphans and widows."
Arise Ministries is based on Isaiah 60:1, "Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you." Each year the organization holds a two-day event called "Survive 'N Thrive," and those two days often change the lives of single moms forever.
"It's amazing," Kanaly said. "One single mom once said, 'You know all year long I give and give to my children but Survive 'N Thrive is my Christmas.'"
Learning to Thrive
Child care is provided for the kids and moms are given the royal treatment. They're also taught life skills like overcoming anger and bitterness, dealing with their children's dads, handling teenagers and time management. They also offer workshops on how to deal with chores that dads typically take care of, like fixing a broken toilet.
On Capitol Hill, Kanaly and executive director Shelley Pulliam urged lawmakers to help by getting churches to invite the ministry into their states.
It is the belief of the ministry that the plight of single moms affects everyone. If you aren't one, there's a good chance you know one because about a quarter of children in the United States are living with a single mother. It's a struggle on many levels.
According to the Census Bureau, less than half of single moms awarded child support actually receive the full amount and Arise Ministries reports children in fatherless homes often have behavior problems, drop out of high school, end up in prison or commit suicide.
Executive Director Shelley Pulliam is a former teacher and has watched students deteriorate.
"I've seen the kids be affected through taking on those burdens that their moms are feeling," she said. "I've seen a decline in their grades, I've seen anger and unforgiveness. I've seen tears."
Rep. Fallin wants single moms to remember they can do anything they set their mind to.
"Our life circumstances don't have to hold us back," Fallin said.
She's living proof.
*Originally aired on April 22, 2010.