- 2020Jan 14
The more hurt I was, the more I wanted to run. The more I replayed the past, the more I wanted to simply stay underneath the covers and not get up in the mornings. It seemed the harder life was, the more I wanted to isolate myself from others. And life got darker….and darker…. and darker.
That’s the danger with isolation. When we’re going through hard times, it is easy for us to isolate. We don’t want others around. We don’t want to cry one more tear over the situation. We don’t want to explain our emotions again and again. But the more we pull away, the darker the situation becomes. God created us for community. He created us, so that others around us can encourage us when we are down. He uses people to speak life into us, when we are too tired, or broken, or emotionally weak, to even read His word.
The problem is, when we are really hurting, it can be much easier to isolate, than to reach out to others and really address the layers of emotions we’re battling. But the easy route isn’t always the best route. In fact, the easy route is usually the temporary fix anyway.
For those of you who may be reading this and saying, “I don’t tell anyone what’s going on, because they won’t understand. Or people will judge me.” Don’t believe that! Those are lies the enemy of your soul would whisper into your ear that would keep you doubting and lonely and isolated. Will there be someone on occasion who will not understand or maybe even judge you? Yes. But we can’t allow that one person to keep us from creating community that enhances our lives. Many of my very best friends were met at church. And it didn’t happen overnight. And it didn’t happen with just one gathering.
I can remember joining a Sunday School class and feeling, very much, like I didn’t fit in. I didn’t talk much and I looked around and feared others were judging me. But I did make the decision to go back again and again. Although it took many weeks and months before I felt comfortable, I started attending socials at some of the members houses. I would call them occasional for prayer. I would reach out. See, that’s the key. I didn’t sit back and wait until someone else reached out to me. They may not reach out, because they think you don’t want to be reached out to. Sometimes, we will take them not reaching out as a sign that they don’t like us or care or want us around. When in reality, they do care, but they simply don’t know what to say or maybe have an insecurity of their own. I’m so thankful, oh so many years ago, that I began to reach out to make friendships within that class. Some of those very people are my best friends now. They came at a time when I desperately needed an ear. And they’ve been with me ever since.
God places the lonely in families; he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy. But he makes the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land. Ps. 68:6
I don’t have much in the way of physical family. Many of my family members died when I was very young, and several had died through the years. But God has placed my lonely heart in a spiritual family – the local church. And it changed my life. It kept me from isolating and becoming more depressed. And although it didn’t happen overnight, I slowly found the strength to move on past my past. You can do. Whenever you feel the desire to isolate, fight it! In fact, push harder to get out and do things with other people:
Take your kids to the park or mall, even when you don’t feel like it, and bring a friend along too.
Invite a friend over to dinner, even when you aren’t in the best of moods.
Get out and serve at a local homeless shelter or food bank and invite your Bible study group to come alone.
There are dozens of ways to keep yourself busy and involve others while doing so. Not only will it help keep you from slipping into a dangerous depression, but you may just make some new friends during what could’ve been the darkest days of your life.
Jennifer Maggio is a national author and speaker, mom to three, wife to Jeff, and CEO/Founder of The Life of a Single Mom Ministries. She is passionate about helping hurting women and single mothers live a life free in Christ. For more information, visit www.jennifermaggio.com.
- 2020Jan 01
25 Parenting Tips for Single Moms
If we surveyed a thousand single moms, there would be a thousand different answers on the best practices of how to parent your children well. Different strokes for different folks, as they say. That said, we want to provide some clarity and calm to what can sometimes be a difficult journey of parenting alone. Let’s be real. It’s hard. It’s really hard. But droves of single mothers have gone before you and have done it well. They have raised well-rounded, loving, respectful adults who are contributing to society in amazing ways. Don’t let the naysayers distract you from the task at hand.
In order to raise your children up in the way they should go, you are going to have to persevere, pray, press, and push through. You will likely cry, scream, and collapse in bed at night with exhaustion. But you can do it! You can do it! You will do it. Know that there is an army of women throughout the United States that pray for single mothers. Know that you are not alone. Know that God goes before you and makes a way, when there seems to be none. He’s going to give you the strength for the daily grind. It will likely be just enough strength for today, but sufficient strength, nonetheless.
Here’s a few tips to help you with your parenting tasks along the way.
- Teaching your children is not the same as leading your children. Be sure to lead them by example. They will often emulate what they see. Don’t assume they aren’t looking. Don’t make the mistake of thinking they are unaware of bad choices. Do your best to honor God with the way you lead your children. People follow those who lead, not those who speak.
- You can’t do it alone. You need God! You need an army. You need your family, friends, church, single moms’ Bible study, coworkers, and parents at your children’s school.
- Focus on the behaviors you want to see in your children. Focus on the positive, not the negative. We nag too much. Reaffirm positive behavior. Recognize when you need to issue grace. Don’t major on the minors. Relax. While it is important to create structure, sometimes, single moms can err on the side of too strict, because they don’t want their children to be “that” kid. While admirable, it’s dangerous, because it likely will backfire. Being too strict can lead to rebellion.
- Say “I’m sorry” to your children. We all fall short of perfection, really short, every day, all day. Be willing to acknowledge your shortcomings. It teaches your children great character!
- Never misuse your children’s trust. Don’t lie to them. Don’t ask them to lie for you about anything, ever. If you are at home, don’t have your children say that you are not. Don’t have them tell even little “white” lies.
- Foster the relationship. They will one day be your friends! Be kind. Treat them the way you want to be treated. Don’t talk to them inappropriately. Don’t be rude or unkind, because you’ve had a bad day.
- Let friends come play, despite your exhaustion. You want to be that house! You want to create an environment that is available for fun. You want to be the mom that allows her children to foster strong friendships.
- Lose the mom guilt. Do the best you can and don’t compare yourself to other moms.
- Find lots of free activities in your community and ask others to join, e.g. kids eat free night at restaurants, parades, parks, community festivals, etc. Even if funds are tight, you can still have a great time with your children. Going for walks around a local park, hiking trail, or neighborhood are free. Having an arm wrestling contest at a local park with your kids’ friends is free. Be creative. Have fun.
- Communicate with your children. Talk to them openly and honestly. Keep the lines of communication open from the time they are very small on through their adult years. Many lines of communication become closed in the pre-teen and teen years, so work hard to open or re-open them.
- Provide clarity on decisions. It is okay to explain to children why you said “no” about a request. As they age, it is important to acknowledge their curiosity. Asking “why” doesn’t mean they are being disrespectful. Your response can help create a better understanding that establishes a lifelong principle into their lives. (Now, once you’ve offered an explanation, the answer is firm. Don’t allow continual nagging or questioning or negotiating. Let your no be no.)
- Work on you. It’s hard to train when we ignore what is going on inside us. Always be growing. Pursue your goals and dreams. Take that class. Develop that hobby. Get counseling for past wounds.
- Avoid overindulging your children. They don’t need the latest phone, toys, clothes, shoes, or to attend every event. Many single moms overindulge out of guilt.
- Create healthy conversations around their father. Do NOT badmouth their father in front of them or even behind their backs. Honor that he is their father, regardless of his behavior, if it happens to be poor. Be open to conversations that remain honoring, the same way you would want him to honor you.
- Don’t bring adult information to them. Your kids are not your best friends. They are not your counselors. They do not need to know about the household money struggles, your emotional woes, or adult challenges. Be mindful of developing a friend network that can support you, so that your children are not unnecessarily burdened.
- Seek help from friends, family, a single moms’ support group, and/or your church. It truly does take a village, so create your village. Don’t complain that you don’t have a village. Work on creating one. Be the friend you want to have in others. It takes time and it won’t be perfect, but your village can help you, when you need a break.
- Self-care is important. Money may be tight and you can’t afford a spa day, but you can afford to get into a nice warm bath with soft music after the children go to bed. You can take a lunch break in your car (or wake up earlier) to have 15 minutes of coffee and prayer. There are intentional things you can do to support your own emotional health. Small things make big differences. It’s not selfish to address your needs. It makes you the best mom you can be.
- Serve others. It is so important that we teach our children the value of volunteerism and servanthood. We have stronger communities because of our service to others. Beyond that, there is much research that says acts of service supports our own mental health.
- Establish boundaries and stick to them. Stop negotiating with your children. There is a time that occasional boundary changes need to take place, but too often, we negotiate away our boundaries with our children and it becomes our habit. Stand firm. Our children must know that there will always be rules whether it be through school, employers, or the law of the land. They must understand how to follow rules and honor boundaries.
- Acknowledge their pain. Sometimes, our children carry hurt from the past (or even the present). Don’t avoid talking about it, because you don’t know what to say. Sometimes, the most important thing to say is, “I’m sorry you are hurting. I don’t know what to say. I love you. I’m here for you.” You can sit in silence with a hurting child and offer only those few words and yet, it makes so much difference to know they are safe and supported.
- Offer regular encouragement to your children. When our children are small, it is easy to praise their first words, first steps, first potty visits, etc. As they age, it is sometimes harder to encourage, because we tend to focus on the things they may not be doing well. Offer regular words of affirmation. “You are an awesome kid. You are amazing at that sport. I always appreciate how you keep your room clean. I am so thankful that you work hard at your grades.” Regardless of the difficulties your children are experiencing, they are doing something well. Find it and praise them for it. (Note: Be honest. Don’t offer false praise. They need to be acknowledged for the things they do well and instructed in the things they need to work on).
- Be consistent. Children of all ages need to know what to expect in order to feel safe. Don’t be “fun, wild, crazy mom” one moment and “militant mom” the next. Find a healthy balance and stick to it. Yes, it will be hard. Yes, you will be tired. Your children’s safety and sense of security is too important, however, not to be consistent.
- Have fun. Love them. Laugh with them. Dance with them. Play board games. Be creative. Have a race. Create a contest. Sing karaoke. Don’t allow the stresses of life to dominate every part of your family. Learn to have fun again.
- Take them to church. Start early and do it often. They will go willingly when they are younger. They will likely make it harder on you, as they age. That is normal. They are exerting independence (which you want them to do), but insist on it. Developing the habit young creates a yearning later. Even when it seems they aren’t listening, they are. The Word doesn’t return void.
- Be encouraged. You will make it!
- 2019Dec 18
Battling Exhaustion as a Single Mom by Jennifer Maggio
Have you ever slept so hard that when you awakened you couldn’t remember where you were or how long you had been there? It’s only happened to me a few times, in life, as I’m not a great sleeper, in general, but a few months ago, it did. At 6pm, I came home from work, was in a conversation with my sweet daughter about the goings-on of her day, and slowly I began to drift off to sleep. I NEVER do that! I slept until 8:30pm. And I slept hard! I couldn’t even remember what day it was. My little one had fixed her dinner and was relaxed in front of the television. I had a small bite to eat and within an hour, I was back in bed and slept through the night. The next morning, my daughter said, “Mom, you must’ve been exhausted yesterday, huh?” It was an innocent enough question, but it was one that left my self-analyzing more than she knew. “Yes, sweet baby, yes I was.” And the truth is, the better answer would’ve been, “Yes, and I still am!”
I had been burning the candle at both ends for some time. In fact, I was burning it at both ends and multiple places in the middle! There was no way a human could keep up the pace I was setting and yet, here I was, starting my day with an endless list of tasks and demands. I realized I couldn’t go on with such demands. The danger of exhaustion is real for all of us, but never more so, for a single mom, who is balancing work, kids’ homework, financial demands, parenting decisions, and so much more.
Do you find yourself utterly exhausted today? Have you been battling exhaustion for a long time and simply don’t know what to do or how? Do you believe that it is possible to be well-rested AND a single mom? Read on:
- Learn to say no. Learn to say no to your kids, your church, your boss, friends, family, and whoever else you need to, in order to protect your sanity! I’ve often found that many struggle to say no for a barrage of reasons. Sometimes, it’s simply because we don’t want to hurt another’s feelings. Maybe it’s because we carry guilt over a past decision and feel forever indebted to another person or just in general. Whatever the case, I can assure you that the word “no” is the best word you can learn to say. Learn to embrace the God-given authority you have in your home and tell your kids “no” when you can’t afford something, when you are too exhausted to drive them to the birthday party, or even when you just know in your gut that it’s supposed to be a no. There’s great freedom in that response, sometimes.
- Put the phone down. I know this seems like such an insignificant thing to do, but it’s not. The advances of modern technology have afforded us many opportunities, including the joy of connecting with old classmates, enjoying photos of out-of-town family members, growing our businesses, or even meeting friends from other states or countries. However, the significance advancements of cell phones mean high levels of dependence on them. They are our camera, calculator, maps, and address books. They are our source of entertainment and communication. The problem is that most of us can’t pry our eyes away from the incessant and constant scrolling and scrolling and scrolling through social media, or editing of photos, or checking the texts. It’s endless. And it’s exhausting. Determine to put the phone away for a set time every day and not to pick it up at night after you’ve gone to bed. You will be shocked at how much time you save and how well-rested you feel.
- Learn the art of life balance. The balanced life is not an elusive life for you, just because you are a single mom. There is an ebb and flow to life. Maybe you are in a time of parenting, where your kids are playing sports and that means lots of practices and games, right now. It doesn’t mean you have to frazzled and exhausted all the time. Be proactive. Create a car pool roster with other working parents who can help each other out.
- Take time for the Lord daily. Too many of us complain about our to-do lists and the exhaustion we face and we use it as an excuse to not have daily time with the Lord. I’m reminded of what a dear friend said to me once. She said, “Jennifer, the Lord told me years ago that if I’d give him the first part of my day, He’d multiply my time.” The cool thing is that she is the mom of 7 children, so she really, really needs the extra time. She is one of the most organized and relaxed moms I know! She credits it all to her daily quiet time with the Lord.
- Evaluate your relationships. Sometimes our exhaustion is related to people who are “sucking the life” right out of us. They are the ones who always take and don’t give. They are the complainers, the naysayers, the ones who’s glass is always half-empty. Listen, we all have family members or even co-workers who are hard to deal with, but we don’t have to give them permission to monopolize our time or take advantage of us. Pray about those folks in your life who need to be one the once-a-quarter conversation schedule instead of the every-day conversation schedule, and move them around accordingly.
- Take the time to rest. Sometimes, the very best thing you can do for yourself is just remove everything from your list of tasks, call on a friend to come babysit, and just lay there in silence. Put your feed up, sip some coffee, and take some deep breaths. Meditate on God’s goodness and faithfulness. Turn the phone and tv off. Clear the schedule and simply “be”. There is great power in those moments, even if they are few and far between. It could be the very thing that fuels your ability to keep pressing on, instead of running on empty.
Jennifer Maggio is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of The Life of a Single Mom, a global nonprofit committed to seeing no single mom walk alone. Having served more than 71,000 single mothers each year, the goal of the organization is establish support groups for single mothers in communities around the world. To date, we have worked with more than 1,500 churches & community groups to start or improve a single mom’s group. Our programs focus on empowering single moms to grow spiritually, emotionally, physically, financially, and parentally. For more information, visit www.thelifeofasinglemom.com