Dena Johnson Martin Christian Blog and Commentary

What Single Parents Wish Their Married Friends Understood

I spent nearly seven years as a single mom. The years were hard and lonely. They were long and exhausting. They were scary and exhilarating. And, they were rewarding.

Single parenting is probably the hardest job no one ever wanted. But, it’s a job that is often thrust upon us. Maybe without warning as in the event of an unexpected death of our spouse. Or maybe after years of caring for a spouse who eventually dies of cancer. Or maybe when your spouse suddenly walks out the door, his bags packed, never to return.

No matter the circumstances, single parenting is a hard journey. What makes it different from parenting as a couple? What do single parents want their married friends to understand?

I asked that very question of some of my single parent (or formerly single parent) friends. There was no hesitation. So many people chimed in, sharing their biggest hurts, biggest frustrations. And here’s what my single parent friends want their married counterparts to know.

It’s hard to make all the decision alone. Discipline. Finances. Business. It’s all on us as single parents. We may have friends and family as a support system, people we can bounce things off of, but ultimately the entire weight is on our shoulders.

And it’s exhausting to be the one bearing that weight all the time. Yes, we pray…probably more than you can imagine. But the decisions are never-ending and we never get a break from figuring out our next move.

God didn’t equip us to be both mom and dad. Can I tell you a secret? I’m a really lousy boy! God didn’t create me with the mindset of a man, and that’s not something I can instill in my boys. I tried. I tried to find ways to teach my boys courage and how to be a warrior. But I’m honestly not equipped.

I was blessed to have incredible men in my family who stepped up to the plate and did the boy things for me. They took my boys hunting and fishing. They showed them how to mow and take care of the house. They were always available to fill that void that I couldn’t.

But not every single mom has godly male role-models readily available. So many single moms would love nothing more than to have a man step in to help teach her boys how to be godly men.

And lest we forget…there are may single dads raising little girls who would love to have some godly women help with their princesses!

We may have a thick armor, but we are gooey mess inside. How many times did I hear that I must be superwoman to raise three kids on my own. But those people didn’t see me curled up in the fetal position, hiding from my kids as I cried my eyes out. True story.

We may look like we have it all together, but in reality we are one step away from falling apart. We have to wear a thick armor to protect us from this world that has already wounded us so deeply, but we would give anything to have someone fight for us until we let the armor fall off and expose the gooey mess inside. We are terrified of allowing people in after the hurt and pain we have experienced.

We need someone to sit with us. At church. At ballgames. At awards banquets. It’s so lonely. We walk in and see all the “normal” families, parents freely talking back and forth as the kids play and enjoy their friends. And there we sit, alone, wishing for companionship.

Flying solo in a couples’ world can be so lonely. We don’t fit. We don’t fit at church. We don’t fit at school activities. And sometimes we feel as if we must carry a disease, that people are afraid of catching single parentitis…or that we are going to make a move on their husband. It couldn’t be further from the truth. We only want a little adult interaction.

Single parenting is exhausting. I know. Parenting in general is exhausting. But think about it. When you and your spouse can split the responsibilities, one cooking dinner while the other plays chauffeur. That’s not an option for the single parent.

I don’t know how many times I reached the end of my day and literally just collapsed, all the while wondering how in the world I even survived. My only answer was that His grace was sufficient…sufficient to see me through the day and the season.

We need help! How many times did I get the schedule for my kids only to discover that we had three different activities at three different locations all at the same time? Or how many times did I get a notification that there was a mandatory basketball practice at 2:00 in the afternoon when school was out and I was working 30 miles away? Or what about the single mom who finds a opossum in her garage and doesn’t have any idea how to get rid of the varmint?

Whether it’s helping us run our kids to the activities or filling in as a supporter when we have to be with another kid, we could use your help. Maybe you notice the single mom’s yard needs to mowed (the bane of single motherhood). Step up and do it. Maybe you know a single mom whose child is on the basketball team with you son. Offer to help with transportation. Or maybe you could just offer to bring dinner over one night. You can’t imagine how much stress that would alleviate.

We wish we had someone to celebrate the victories and mourn the losses with us. Since remarrying, I have come to realize just how much I value having someone to run to in big times…and in the small ones. How many times have I run to my husband to share the award my son has won? Or how many times have I told him about the fears I have for my daughter?

Don’t take that for granted. Single parents can share with friends and other family, but to have that other person who has the same type of love for your kids, another person who values that child as only a parent can. No words can express what it means.

Make sure your kids know our kids are not less than just because our family looks different from yours. A recently widowed 30-something mom shared this one with me. Kids don’t always understand why families only have one parent, and they can sometimes say some very hurtful things to the kids.

No matter the reason there’s only one parent, share with your children how special these kids are, how much they need love and compassion. They’ve experienced loss no child should ever face. They may have a smile on their faces, but inside they are a mess of emotions. They need people to love and support them because their single parent home is a constant reminder of the loss they have experienced.

There’s never enough. Never enough money. Never enough time. We would love to go out with the girls for the evening, but we feel guilty leaving our kids even if it’s just for the evening. Even if we can make the schedule work, we probably don’t have the extra money to spend in such a frivolous manner.

If we choose to move forward, please don’t judge us. You don’t know the details. Maybe you watched us suffer through the death of a spouse or a messy divorce, and you think we need more time to heal before we move forward. Maybe you think we should be focused on our kids right now.

Ultimately, you don’t know where we are, the work God has done in us. You have to trust us, trust that we are doing our best to walk with God, to hear His voice, to be obedient. Let us live our lives. We will make mistakes, and we pray God gives us the ability to admit our mistakes. But maybe, just maybe, God has given us the freedom to move forward.

Sometimes, we just need a hug. I never dreamed I would miss physical touch so much. But I did! I longed to just have someone wrap their arms around me and give me a big bear hug! Everyone could use a hug!

Being a single parent is a rewarding journey. As hard as it is, there’s a bond between a single parent and his/her kids. How many nights did my teenager lie in bed with me until way past my bedtime, sharing his heart with me? How many times did my daughter give me the words of encouragement no one else could? How many times did my sweet kids see me struggling with something and step in to alleviate the burden?

As hard as those years were, I wouldn’t trade the journey for anything. My kids and I have a tight bond, a mutual respect few others can understand.

For those of you who are married, please look around. Maybe it’s time to find a fresh perspective on that single mom sitting alone at the soccer game. Maybe it’s time to get to know the young widower down the street, to see what you can do to help him out. Maybe it’s time to talk to your kids about the pain and loss those sweet girls in their class have experienced.

Maybe it’s time to look at single parents with the eyes of Christ, eyes that pour out compassion and love. Maybe it’s time to look after the orphan and widow in their distress (James 1:27). 



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