Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction…. (James 1:27)
Today is a day just like all the others. I take a second to stare into the mirror at myself. I have a bit of oatmeal in my hair, snot on my sleeve, and more than one broken nail. I haven’t showered in six days or slept more than five hours for a long time. I just dropped my three-year-old daughter Elanor off at day-school, and soon I’ll be rocking my one-year-old son Everett to sleep for a nap.
In many ways I’m just like every other mom. From the outside, I look happy, rushed, cheerful, and busy. But I’m not like every other mom. I’m a single mom and on the inside, I’m struggling to balance the load of being both mother and father, bearing the weight of all the household and parenting responsibilities alone day in and day out.
Never did I dream I’d find myself divorced. I didn’t imagine that my life would resemble anything close to what it does now. As a little girl, I pictured the white picket fence, homeschooling, organic gardening, polite and perfectly dressed children, and sitting around the dinner table eating a delicious meal sharing stories about our day. While those dreams are still alive, they’re buried deep inside my wounded heart.
I remember the joy of sharing dinner as a two-parent family and what it was like to fall into bed exhausted at the end of the day with a warm body by my side. I remember taking quiet baths, being able to run out to the store for a quart of soy milk just because I could, and knowing that after a bad day I had someone to talk to over the age of three once evening came. Life wasn’t perfect, but I was happy during the short time that I knew what love, marriage, and a family had to offer. But not by any choice of my own, I lost it.
Now I simply have to survive. I need to decide when I’ll get a job, what to do with my babies when that time comes, and how to be both a mother and a father. I’m sure this may sound overblown or out of proportion, but most days I honestly feel like if anything else bad happens that my heart will just wilt and stop beating from the pain and disappointment.
There are times when my breath won’t come and I feel like I am drowning in this huge lake. I’m right beside the dock but can’t get close enough to grab and save myself. I keep calling out for help every time I come up for air, and that’s when someone puts their foot on my head and pushes me back under. I’ve thought many times that life is testing me to see if I can survive.
Yet it’s in those moments when I feel like I can’t take another step, that I see my heavenly Father’s faithfulness. I know that even if I have to do all of these things in the practical sense alone, that God’s with me every step of the way. He holds me in the palm of His hand.
Thankfully, every day that has downs also has ups as well. Even in the struggles, I’m able to relish in my son’s toothy little grin and my daughter’s precious voice as she expresses herself. I love the feel of Everett’s tiny hand patting my face and Elanor’s joy when we cuddle after naptime.
In both the good and bad, God touches my heart giving me the strength I need. I’m constantly reminded of Hebrews 10:23, "Do not let go of the hope you cherish and confess but seize it and hold it tight. God is reliable, trustworthy, and faithful to His word" and I find myself clinging to the cross, knowing I will survive and so will my kids.
But sometimes I wonder what the people around me think when they see me and my children. Is it pity, compassion, judgment, concern? Do the happily married or single girls around me have any idea what it’s like to parent alone? Do they even wonder at all? I’ve tried to explain to my friends and those around me, but very few seem to truly understand the pain, hard work, and heartache of it all. Even fewer have reached out to offer a helping hand.
Yet a helping hand is exactly what I and other single moms need. While we may put a smile on our faces and act like everything is OK, we honestly need others to reach out to us in practical ways. Examples include:
Offer a ride. Providing a ride for a child to or from school or other activities can help a single mom make more of her time. I’ve been blessed to have one of Elanor’s teachers take her to school two days a week. This is no small gesture. It saves me a twenty-minute drive there and back and keeps me from having to wake up Everett just to ride in the car only to have to turn around and do it again an hour and a half later. On these two days I’m able to eat breakfast and gather myself in a way that no other days in the week allow.
Offer to babysit. Extending an offer to watch a single mom’s kids while she grocery shops or gets a little "me time" can offer much needed relief. If you aren’t able to babysit at her house because of your own household responsibilities, offer to let her drop of her kids on the way to the store.
Drop off an occasional meal. Because a single mom bears the sole responsibility of preparing meals for her family, mealtimes can be stressful. Being able to eat dinner with my children without the daily struggle of preparing something would allow me to focus on enjoying dinner with my children, instead of worrying when and how I’ll get the dishes and kitchen clean (which is what I typically do).
Invitation for fellowship. An invitation from a married couple or a two parent family to lunch or dinner helps provide much-needed fellowship for a single mom and her kids. For me, it’s difficult to leave alone after church when I see traditional families going home to eat together. I grew up having wonderful family dinners with my mom, dad, and brother. We laughed, prayed, talked, and made wonderful memories. Having dinner with others would provide stimulating conversation for me, as well as allow the my kids to learn from adult conversation.
Mentorship. Single moms need other women to reach out and mentor them through accountability, emotional support, and unconditional love. Several examples of how this can be "lived out" include: calling during the week to pray about any present struggles, showing love through cards, emails, or small gifts, and committing to a once a week sharing or Bible study time. In my own life, a consistent time of fellowship would bless me immensely because in each difficulty I encounter throughout my week, I’d know that someone cared and would be there for me.
In essence the most important thing other women can do for a single mom such as myself is to be the living, active hands of the body of Christ. We need others to reach out and serve us, treating us as an extended family.
It took almost a month to write this article between the crying, feeding, bathing, and regular mothering duties. As I now finish, I take a look around and see that today is a day just like all the others. To be honest, my situation is the same now as it was when I started writing four weeks ago. But I have hope that perhaps today someone will stop by and lend me a hand. And then it won’t be just like all the others.