At the mention of the term “single mom” (and nowadays “single dad”) most people see a mess. There is an image that society has painted about single moms and dads – like they have done the worst sin in society. Finding myself on my own as a single mom was not an easy transition; it didn’t matter the circumstances behind my status or what hardships or mistakes led me to my position in life. In many circumstances, life bogs single moms and dads down as they work hard to manage this (single parent) position as they make ends meet.
To digress a little, I am an advocate of both-parents homes with a father and mother as God intended from the beginning when He created Adam and Eve. He then blessed them with three sons, Cain, Abel and later Seth. I do not agree with those in single-parenthood by choice and plan. My hope is that single-parenthood will decline as we appreciate the benefits that come with having a dad and mom raising children in a home.
I was a single mom for a couple of years, and from first-hand experience, nothing can prepare you for the harsh realities of this kind of life. The struggles range from emotional, psychological, financial challenges and more so raising the kid(s) you have in your situation.
When balancing work and family in the effort to gain a home-court for your kid, no one is in a more difficult situation than a single mom or dad. I realize there’s not a tougher job in the world. Single parents’ lack of time and choice, and the fact their decisions are often motivated by guilt, can end up turning a difficult situation into something far worse. But if you love, discipline, and stay close to your child, and make him/her a top priority, you can make it through the difficult times. And you can have a homegrown kid.
If you aren’t or have never been a single parent, you will never really know what it’s like to live day after day without any relief in sight from the pressures of single parenting. What a single mom or dad doesn’t have is help and time. You can’t invent time; you can’t buy it. You can only come up with creative ways to free up more of it, and most single parents will settle for the crumbs of a minute or two scattered here or there. Having part of a day each week that they can call their own happens only in their dreams.
As a single parent, you can easily feel like life has kicked you in the teeth. I know you didn’t expect your spouse to die, or ask you for a divorce. I know you did not expect to hear from a friend that they saw your spouse with another person. Neither did your kids wish for any of these scenarios – now everybody’s paying for it.
The question to ask yourself is not “What did I do to deserve this?” It’s “What am I going to do with the path ahead?”
As easy as it may be to collapse beside the road, will you keep running the race? You may have been pushed back, but you haven’t lost. You and your kids can finish strong, providing you give them the discipline they need; a predictable, safe environment; a healthy dose of vitamin N (no) and vitamin E (encouragement); and wise use of the time you do have (Excerpt from Home Court Advantage book by Dr. Kevin Leman, emphasis added).
In addition to the tips in my first blog, How should we raise this child God? Give your child home-court advantage, here is extra practical help for single parents applicable anywhere in the world. It does not matter what led to your single-parenthood.
1. Don’t let guilt run your life. I have come to appreciate that I cannot undo my past – what’s done is done. Paul talks of letting go of anything that will hinder you from running the race and instead focusing on the now and future (Hebrews 12:1).
Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:18-19
Do not dwell on the past. When we focus so much on what has happened, we tend to miss out on what is happening right now. God has promised to make a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. Work with Him today and forget the past. I know what you are thinking – it’s easier said than done! Yes! that’s why you have to be intentional on this and you will realize another level of liberation in Christ that allows you to move forward. You can read more on this from my book, Back on My Feet – The ‘How to’ Manual for Single Parents.
2. Use your situation to your advantage for an extra bond with your child. The mentality of “it’s you and me, kid, against the world” can foster intimacy between you and your child, and develop emotional fortitude and responsibility. One of my friends who’s a single dad, is with his son everywhere he goes for social gatherings. The people in his circles are accustomed to making provision for the boy. This provides space for the two to bond as well as an accountability structure for the single dad as he cannot attend social gatherings that will be a bad influence on him and his child.
3. Be consistent in your discipline. Despite the extra tiredness and fatigue that comes because a single parent is doing the job of two parents, be consistent on what your kid should and shouldn’t do. Sending double messaging can be very confusing for the child and you do not have the other parent (a spouse) to correct the double messaging. Let your No be a No, and your Yes a yes (Matthew 5:37).
4. Try to achieve emotional stability for you and your child. Whether you are here on emotional instability because of sexual sin, separation, divorce, rape or death of a spouse, the root emotion of single parenthood is that feeling that you are disappointed, afraid, dejected, and doing a job of two people alone. You are either upset at yourself for the mess you are in; or that boyfriend or girlfriend for leaving you when things were not convenient for them; or that husband or wife that could not give your marriage more effort and another chance; or God for allowing you to go through this kind of suffering, grieving your spouse whether your marriage was great or not. The emotional rollercoaster can be very draining and that’s why for your own sake and that of your kids, there’s need to get back to a stable place emotionally.
My go-to Scripture during moments of intense emotional struggle is:
Do not be anxious or worried about anything, but in everything [every circumstance and situation] by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, continue to make your [specific] requests known to God. And the peace of God [that peace which reassures the heart, that peace] which transcends all understanding, [that peace which] stands guard over your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus [is yours].
Finally, believers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable and worthy of respect, whatever is right and confirmed by God’s word, whatever is pure and wholesome, whatever is lovely and brings peace, whatever is admirable and of good repute; if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think continually on these things [center your mind on them, and implant them in your heart]. The things which you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things [in daily life], and the God [who is the source] of peace and well-being will be with you (Philippians 4:6-9).
Talk to God about your disappointment, your suffering, your pain, your needs, the needs of the kids, the uncertainties of life, your broken heart, your provision – talk to Him about everything. That is called prayer and supplication – communication with God. His promise in this communication agreement is in Jeremiah 33:3 ‘Call to me and I will answer you. I’ll tell you marvelous and wondrous things that you could never figure out on your own.’
From the Scripture, here are a few points for you to work on:
Since communication is two way when you pray God will talk back. He has many ways to talk to us. Some of the ways are through the Bible (so read it often), through dreams, through visions, through other people, through revelation, through a small still voice within us among other ways according to His manifold wisdom.
b. Give thanks for whatever good you have
We are also called to thanksgiving. In my life, when faced with challenging and uncomfortable times, I wonder what’s the point to give thanks. But every time I look back in retrospect, I realize that things could have been worse.
When we are depressed, whether single parents or not, it adversely affects our kids. I know it’s a hard thing I am asking you to do, but try to achieve emotional stability for you and your kid’s sake. Challenge yourself to meditate on the good things in your life and celebrate small (or big) miracles in your life. You will also be healthier and have an opportunity to be there for your kid. It’s better for your kid to have one parent than to be an orphan with no parents at all because you died of depression.
5. Ask for help from the people you love when you need it. Do not allow your single parenthood situational guilt or self-pity to stop you from asking for the help you need. The truth is, even people who are in both-parents home ask for help every now and then. If it’s done in moderation, getting a little babysitting help for a day off will go a very long way to help you grow and develop yourself as well as rest from all the chaos of life.
I know we have learned as Christians the humility to give as the Lord directs. However, I have also come to realize that asking for help requires even much more humility. Do not be drowned with needs when you can ask, and it shall be given to you (Matthew 7:7).
6. Take advantage of value-packs. When you can, buying food in bulk will help you reduce the daily trips to the market or to the shop in addition to saving you a little cash. If you have a refrigerator, you can also cook meals in quantity to reduce on time spent doing daily preparation of meals. This can give you a huge time-break to concentrate on parenting your kid, spending quality time with him/her as well as some spare time for your ‘me-time’.
One of the tips for saving time and money I am exploring this year with my high-school-sweetheart is when we cannot afford bulk buying, we can join forces with a friend or two and we shop together from a wholesale shop. Whatever you can to save time and money, just do it.
7. Suggest useful gifts. When I got my second-born daughter in 2013, I remember my former boss calling me and asking what I needed. I initially thought that was weird – just go to the supermarket grab some newborn diapers for the baby, some Ovaltine or Milo for the new mom, some sugar and bread for the family, it’s always that simple. When she called, she told me, “Hi. I want to come see you guys and the baby. I have a budget of x amount. What would you really like me to buy?” Later, I realized that was a very good trait to pick. Her visit was so exceptional and appreciated because she only brought what we really needed (plus a few extra luxuries of her choice anyway). I now make it a practice to ask people what they would like me to take on a visit, instead of assuming and taking ‘wanted (not needed) things’.
If you feel a better gift would be for someone to pay for a weekly cleaning lady, instead of more foodstuffs, then ask for that. Another gift could be tickets to watch a movie with your kid. Or even a massage or day at the salon for the single mom (or barbershop for the single dad). Or even a night out for your kid at a trusted friend’s house so you get a full night’s sleep or time by yourself every now and then. It could also be specific foodstuffs – if things are really tight financially, maybe getting 20kgs of assorted dry cereals would be better than getting milk and bread for a day – whatever is convenient and long-lasting for you! My prayer is that the people in your life would be willing to give according to your needs and that you will be wise enough to choose priority needs to be met by your loved ones.
So, my prayer for all single parents today is, may the good Lord meet you at your point of need because He’s the Father to that kid, He cares for him/her. May you learn to lean on Him to lead and guide you. May He cause people to come to your life to relieve the pressures that come with single parenthood. May He bring an understanding spouse your way to compensate you for the years of suffering you have endured raising your kid alone. And even if the help does not come immediately or as soon as you want, may He give you endurance and long-suffering to wait for His appointed time.
“In the meantime, may you be the perfect single mom or dad for your kid. May you make the right choices in life for their sake and your sake too. They will not lack anything good, because the Lord walks with you. In Jesus name. Amen!“