The smell of coffee stirs you from sleep. You smile as your eyes open and fall on your husband’s empty pillow. As you stumble into the kitchen, stretching slowly, he turns from flipping the pancakes.
“Morning, honey. Thought I’d let you sleep in.” He plants a quick kiss on your lips before handing off the next pancake to a chomping kid at the table.
It’s Saturday and there’s a lot on the to-do list. You finish your pancakes and instruct your middle child to start loading the dishes. You clean the counters and scrub behind the toaster, a place the kids always miss.
Your husband heads outside to start the yard work. The mower roars to life as you sit down with your coffee to pay the bills at the computer. Your youngest comes up with a smile and a hairbrush, asking for help with a ponytail. You look out the window as you brush her hair to see your husband teaching your oldest how to mow the lawn.
When they come back inside, you are working on trading out your middle child’s outgrown clothes for the new hand-me-downs in her room. Maybe getting her to clean up this mess will be easier if there aren’t so many clothes packed in here.
Your husband tells you he’s headed to the hardware store to get a piece for the toilet that won’t stop running. He’ll take the youngest with him.
For many of us this sounds like a good Saturday. A day filled with spousal teamwork tackling the to-do items that inevitably come with parenting and caring for a home.
Now imagine waking up and realizing this all needs to be tackled without the second adult.
This is the reality for single parents.
When It All Depends on One Parent
I’ve been a widowed mom of four kids for five and a half years. My husband died suddenly after twenty years of marriage.
Twenty years of cooperation and sharing the load, of boring and busy Saturday mornings and hectic school nights. I am a strong, confident, Jesus-loving woman and being a single parent is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It all depends on me.
The day-to-day care of the kids is compounded by the practical needs of caring for the house, the yard, the budget, the dog, the vehicles, and so much more.
Recently the heat stopped working in my house (a real problem in January in South Dakota). A friend asked when was the last time I checked the furnace filter? Hmm…not sure?
Problem found: apparently, it’s not supposed to resemble the heart of darkness. But it was one more thing on an overwhelming list that just got missed.
We Need Community
As followers of Jesus, we are called to live in community. But in our hectic society, we can get focused on the needs of our own families. I know I do. We fill our schedules so full that remembering those around us who could use a helping hand gets forgotten.
The single parents in our lives desperately need support. God designed for two parents to share the load of raising kids. But in this broken world, that isn’t always the reality.
I believe the reason this parent is single matters far less than the fact that one person is doing the job designed for two to raise children well.
Do you have a single parent in your church? Your neighborhood? Your workplace? Realizing how much extra work it takes to care for the day-to-day things we encounter without a second adult to assist is eye-opening.
They need community.
They need us.
Simple, Small, Strategic
The phrase “If you ever need anything…” is one of the least helpful things we can offer someone. It shows our willingness but lacks any specifics for them to take you up on the heart behind the offer.
Are you who I call when I don’t know how to clean my gutters? Or are you the one I call when I get the flu and the kids need a ride to school?
Last summer I gave a TED Talk and was a voice for single parents. I shared simple, small, and strategic ways people have reached out to me that have helped me keep going when things got to be tough.
You don’t have to take on every need and problem of a single parent. But specifically offering what you can is a God-send.
- Can you offer to carpool after school or to activities your kids both attend?
- Could you reach out in a busy season and offer to send pizza or drop off a freezer meal?
- Are you handy and could let her know if she has a house repair crisis, you are the one she can text?
- Could you offer to be on her emergency contact list if she gets sick, an emergency arises, or she needs surgery?
Just Reach Out
God has sent multiple people to help me when each of these things have arisen. I have been humbled and thankful. I have offered to be these things for other moms in my life when they hit busy or tough seasons.
We need each other and that doesn’t always mean a huge commitment. It just means we are willing and specific with what we can give.
We are so much better together. Let’s walk that out as followers of Jesus in practical, every day ways.
Practical Resource for You
Download this help sheet, fill it out, and give to a single parent in your life that would let her or him know exactly how you are able and willing to help.
It also works for special needs parents, someone going through a crisis or a health scare or just a friend who needs support.