missing-paperdoll

Single parent. I wonder where that phrase was first spoken. And what the circumstances were.

It is a phrase that continues to define me no matter how much I wish it didn’t. It is an adjectival phrase I did not choose nor want. And yet, I find myself described by it every moment of every day.

When women became single parents in times past, was it very different? Was it less or more accepted? Did the circumstances matter? Did churches welcome them or shun them? Did communities come alongside them or distance themselves? Were they supported or scorned?

I wonder.

I wonder because sometimes I have looked during a crowded church service and I can see them…a lot of them. Single parents. For some reason, I can spot them easily. There is just something about single parents and their children, I don’t know if I can articulate it well, but there just is.  And sometimes I wonder, how many of us are there? And, when will this ever stop?

Was life ever easier for single parents?

It seems so difficult now. There are so many responsibilities, so many activities, so many expectations, so many distractions, so many things to worry about, so many financial drains, so many things…and so few supports.

So few people who can help, so few resources, so few helping hands, so few moments of quiet, so few hours of sleep.

It just had to be easier when we weren’t separated from one another. When we weren’t so busy. I wonder if there was ever a time when people surrounded single parents for more than the first few months. When people realized that after the shock of the new situation wears off, there is this life of struggle to live. And it is exhausting and lonely and sometimes full to the brim of anxious thoughts.

Please don’t think I’m trying to make anyone feel guilty or accuse anyone of not being helpful, but it does seem that many single parents I talk to feel this way. That they are alone…that the burden to figure things out rests solely on their shoulders. There is no one offering to help with the stuff of life like household repairs, car issues, or help with children who need adults to pour into their lives beyond just their very tired single parent.

I guess what I’m saying…maybe asking is…would you consider helping someone who is a single parent not just survive but thrive?

There are some really simple things to do…

  1. Offer to come over and help with household repairs.  My pastor once spent 6 hours at my house trying to fix a plumbing problem! My small group organized a day to help me with the bazillion small projects I had to do but had neither the knowhow nor the time to do.
  2. Offer to babysit so he or she can have some time alone.  I have a friend who has offered to spend time with my kids this summer so I can prep for classes next year – I have a ridiculously hard course load to teach and that is such a hopeful thing to me…time to prepare!
  3. Offer to make dinner when someone in the family is sick. A friend from work surprised me with dinner when I had the flu. She just called, said she’d be at my house in 10 minutes, rang the doorbell, handed it to me, and said she’d pray for me. And ran…it was the flu after all.
  4. Offer to run an errand or help with homework.  I have a colleague at work who is helping one of my daughters with math twice a week for free. He does not have time to do this but does anyway. That is pure kindness.
  5. Offer to spend time with their children. I had a dear friend whose husband took my girls on “daddy-daughter” dates and they loved it.  I so wish men would have poured into my sons more, but I know even though I didn’t see it, God has provided somehow because they are both stellar faithful young men!
  6. Pray for them and with them. I so missed having a husband to pray with about our children, our life, our finances, our decisions, our work, our church, everything. It is a blessing to have someone to pray with regularly.
  7. Text or call and just say “thinking of you” or “hi” or send a funny meme. Sometimes those silly videos make me laugh really hard and it is just what I need.
  8. Don’t expect them to “get over” their life or to “get in a better place”…because it is really difficult to do that when circumstances are constantly challenging and things don’t seem to be getting better. I have a friend who never ever makes me feel badly for struggling with life’s challenges. She always listens with compassion and understanding and I cannot tell you how much that means to me.
  9. Help make a way for them to participate in things like Bible studies, mother-child events, or even field trips or activities at school. The first few years when I was working full time and had two little ones under 3 at home, I could not do so many of the fun things my teenage daughter was doing with other mothers and daughters. They kindly adopted her into their activities, but how my heart hurt not to be able to go too.
  10. Don’t judge. I could not have imagined how hard being a single parent was until I became one. It can knock you to your knees really fast.

Pick one.

Any one.

Just reach out. Single parents are everywhere and very few have all their ducks in a row…or even in the same pond. We all need each other…no matter our circumstances. It is a blessing to help and a blessing to be helped!

{Editor’s Note: May we suggest you gift the child(ren) of a single mom with a week at Pine Cove summer camp or day camp, or Winterfest! Contact Pine Cove and they’ll help you with all the details.}