A couple of years ago, someone asked me, “What’s it like for you as a single parent?” I teared up instantly. The feelings of being adrift after the shipwreck of my marriage and the struggles of raising my daughter alone over the last decade all flooded back in. I felt loved and seen at that moment—the first and only time in the last 10 years anyone has asked me that question unprompted.
My single-parent friends and I sometimes talk about our experiences in our churches. Though our stories are unique, common themes surface. Here are three things single parents wish our brothers and sisters in Christ knew.
We Need a Break
Married parents know how exhausting the privileged role of raising children is—the tricky balancing act of discipling your kids while staying on top of work, church life, and household tasks. But imagine taking away one capable adult’s skills, support, and perspective from the usually shared responsibilities. Additionally, for many single parents, there’s often a powerful undercurrent—dealing with our own broken hearts, unpleasant negotiations with the other parent, ongoing legal battles, trauma, abuse, and more.
Single parenting feels more like double parenting, in challenging conditions.
So please, hang out with our children! How about rock climbing or a trip to the cinema? Could you take them to church and stop for breakfast on the way? Or teach them a basic life skill, like changing a tire or cutting the grass? As a single mom, it feels like a physical weight is lifted off my shoulders when my daughter is spending time with Christians I trust.
Single parenting feels more like double parenting, in challenging conditions. So please, hang out with our children!
While you’re doing that, we’d love to have you pray with them and tell them about how you came to know Christ. We’d love you to ask them about their relationship with Jesus. We love having you in their lives. Our kids need you.
We Need a Family
Our worlds as single parents are often stormy—we’re healing and helping our children do the same. It’s tempting to lean on our kids in unhealthy ways—as a shoulder to cry on, a place to vent about their other parent, or to help us make decisions beyond their level of maturity—risking even more dysfunction in their young hearts and minds. Distance or complicated relationships with ex-in-laws and our own biological families means relying on them for adult company isn’t always an option. Though other single parents relate, they’re often just managing to keep their heads above water.
We need Christians in different situations and life stages to be around us. We need our church to be our family. We need you to talk to us, to help us see our blind spots, to give us perspective.
Nine out of 10 single parents are single mothers, and we benefit from having guys—single and married, young and old—to help us understand the male point of view and to demonstrate godly manhood. Help us not to fall prey to men who mistreat us. Help us learn how to better raise our sons. We also learn so much from couples and singles modeling healthy marriage and singleness! Please don’t think that because you’re in a different life stage than us, you have nothing to offer. We need your friendship.
So, let’s just spend time together! It doesn’t have to be fancy. Some of us are still dealing with the pain of rejection and being the only responsible adult in a family is draining, so it’s helpful when you take the initiative to get together.
And though we are needy, you also need what Christ has given us: our perspective, our experience, our service. We have gifts to share and can help carry your burdens too.
We Need Leadership and Counsel
The enemy wants us isolated, drowning in bitterness and victim mentality, blaming others for our situation. He wants us adrift, away from the safety of the church, searching for satisfaction in romance rather than in Christ. He wants us to view our children as little angels to be worshiped or as inconvenient ballast to be dumped. He wants us thinking we’re wise in our own eyes, following our hearts, and leading our households into the deep waters of sin and folly.
Without the accountability and perspective of a spouse, single parents especially need church leaders and mature brothers and sisters. Their counsel is vital to help us stay on course. Sometimes, though, we feel like a burden. Pride or shame often stops us from getting help with navigating our lives. Who wants to be the poor single mom (or dad!) always asking for help?
Keep us accountable, but please be gentle. We’ve been through some rough seas.
So, please, chase us! We need your leadership. We need your counsel. Ask us if we have any big decisions we’d like to talk over with someone. Or arrange a regular meet-up to chat and pray about the kids. Or offer to do a one-to-one Bible study relating to singleness. Keep us accountable, but please be gentle. We’ve been through some rough seas.
Asking someone in your church, “What’s it like for you as a single parent?” could be the first step to replacing their feelings of being adrift and alone with being loved and seen. You could be the one God uses to steer them—for the first or the thousandth time—to the life-saving love of Jesus.