Single Parenting Struggles
Only God knows what the future holds. We often find ourselves engulfed in unforeseen storms we never imagined possible. Single parenting is one of those storms we do not expect to face.
That’s exactly what happened to me. One month into my forties—I found myself divorced with my two small girls—something I never dreamed I would ever face.
Being a single parent, I didn’t find a lot of guidance, not even in the Bible. While the Apostle Paul talks a lot about singleness, he doesn’t really get into how to handle single parenting.
I felt what a lot of other single parents do…as if we’re foreigners in some strange married land. Television shows, commercials, magazines, and billboards all show smiling families. Even though divorce is prevalent, it seems like everyone I know is married. I’m the only one in my family who has ever been divorced.
Single parents feel very much like we’re off the beaten path. And when you’re off the well-traveled road, there are lots of potential pitfalls at every turn.
For example, I think most single parents can relate to the following struggles:
- It is difficult to find support groups for single parents. Single parents come in all flavors. Some have full-custody. Some split time with their ex-spouses 50-50. Some have adult children with disabilities. Some are single from divorce. Some are single from the death of a spouse. Because of all these different dynamics, finding a support network that can relate to all these different types of life scenarios is difficult. As a result, many single parents often feel alone.
- It is awkward to deal with the needs of children of the opposite sex. I am a single dad with two daughters who live with me full-time. My eldest is 12 years old and youngest is 9 years old. Finding a fill-in female to chaperone them on girl-only field trips has been difficult. Having sleepovers over at our house with their friends is impossible unless I have their grandmother over. I know that single mothers dealing with their sons have similar struggles. I don’t even want to think about puberty. Single parenting as a father to two girls definitely has its unique challenges.
- There is a lot of financial strain in single parenting. Finding a financial balance in this world is difficult enough with two adults in a household. One adult having to shoulder that load feels impossible. Not only is there the stress of making ends meet, but there is also the guilt of not being able to provide for one’s children as well as you would like.
It’s easy to see why single parents are perpetually exhausted. There are struggles and fears every day in single parenting.
Yet, God often speaks to us just at the right time. Here’s what He said to me one night while I was Googling horrifying and creepy stories that had me terrified for my children:
What we fear reveals what we value the most. Fears are just a barometer for what matters in our lives.
Those words felt like a cosmic finger, tapping me on the shoulder, telling me to pay attention.
My fears had to do with being a good role model for my children and how I was going to care for them by myself.
The problem is fears are also a red flag that we are lacking faith. In my case, I found myself being afraid to let go and trust God. He was kind of my last resort.
What if God wasn’t there to take control?
To deal with my fears, I needed to trust that He was in control, that He would help me with my life.
I didn’t even have to have big faith to give God the care and control of my life. Just starting with a little faith, like Jesus talks about in Matthew, was enough:
“If you have faith as small as a mustard seed…Nothing will be impossible for you.” ~ Matthew 17:20 (NIV)
Why Do We Struggle?
I used to ask a lot of “why me?” questions about my life as a single parent. Why was God throwing me into this storm of single parenting?
Who knows why God allows pain, struggles, and suffering into our lives? This is a universal question. It’s also a “why” question, which means it’s philosophical—there is not just one answer. Perhaps the answer is one of these:
- God has given us free-will, and pain is part of the free-will package.
- It’s a way for Him to get our attention.
- It teaches us to depend on Him.
- It allows us to reuse and recycle the pain from our struggles to help others.
Whatever the reason you may find for your storms, we do know storms make you a different person than when you first entered them.
“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.” ~ Haruki Murakami
Storms are some of the best poorly wrapped gifts you will ever receive.
Use whatever storms that come into your life to help you grow and transform into the best version of yourself that you can be.
After all, being the best version of yourself is the greatest gift you can give to yourself, to your children, and to God.
Advice for Single Parents
I’m no expert, but I can write about the things God has revealed to me in my walk as a single parent. The following are the four pieces of advice I wish someone had told me as I started my walk on this path:
Let go and let God. Get out of your own way and have faith that God will take care of you and your family. Give your pride, guilt, fear, worry, and doubt to God. If you’re not sure how to do this, try the following: Anytime you have negative feelings with any of those areas, turn it into a prayer. Ask for God’s help in those areas instead of trying to solve the problems yourself. You do not have to navigate the difficult path of single parenting alone.
Self-care is important. Your physical, emotional, and spiritual states are important in being the best parent you can be. Do the HALT check daily (it’s easy to run yourself ragged as a single parent):
- H – Am I hurting or hungry?
- A – Am I angry?
- L – Am I lonely?
- T – Am I tired (either physically or emotionally)?
If you answered yes to one or more of these, find ways you can help alleviate those feelings. If the answer isn’t obvious, reach out to a good counselor or some of the care and support services offered by Chase Oaks. Check out counseling at Chase Oaks. There are trained professionals that can lead you into the right direction.
Find a good support network. It has been said that it takes a village to raise children. This is especially true for single parents. I highly recommend working to build your support network and tribe. For me, it meant checking my ego at the door, stop trying to be Superman, and let people help me.
Two wonderful groups I suggest at Chase Oaks are ReNew (which meets on Thursdays at 7:00 p.m.) or the Single Fathers LifeGroup. For the Single Fathers LifeGroup, you can check out their private Facebook page, which has information about upcoming events. You can also chat with other single fathers. For more information about the LifeGroup, email [email protected]
Work daily to be a living tribute to God. Work on your physical, emotional, spiritual, and financial health to find peace in your life.
With Father’s Day approaching, reach out to a single dad to let them know they are doing an amazing job. A little note or text of encouragement may give him the boost he needs to keep going.