“I could never be a single mom”. I said that after my husband was gone for 10 days to West Africa while I took care of an 18 month old and was 7 months pregnant. Those 10 days were so hard and long. I am sure I repeated these words again when my husband was gone at summer camp for a week and I was taking care of a 2 year old and a 3 month old. I drove 5 hours by myself to get some help from family because I just didn’t think I could manage a week by myself with two little ones. Being a ‘single parent” for a week at a time was exhausting and pushed me to my limits. I knew other single moms could handle it, but that was something I could just never do and was hopeful I would never have to do.
My first Mother’s Day as a single mother, I remember being in my grandmother’s bathroom during the early hours of the morning with a crying baby covered in poop feeling completely exhausted and alone. There were no gifts, no flowers, and no cute photos taken, I sat on the bathroom floor, tears streaming down my cheeks wishing things looked differently. The images of the previous Mother’s Day were still vivid in my mind. The year before I was on the beach with my boys, one peacefully sleeping in the baby carrier and one splashing through the waves with his daddy in hand. That day felt like a lifetime away instead of just a year. I longed for that to still be my reality. Yet here I was living that single mom life I always feared.
I am a four years into this single mom life now and I have learned a few things since that first Mother’s Day.
- Never say never. The phrase “ I could never do ___________” is something we often say when it comes to our worst fears. Obviously we never want to walk through hard things. And we would never wish tragedy to befall our own families. However, what I am learning is when you say you could never walk a certain path, you are discounting the grace of God that is promised to you. I may have never thought I could survive single motherhood, but here I am crushing it. Ha, okay that was a joke. I am not crushing it by any means, but I am doing it. I never took into consideration how His grace is sufficient in every situation and no matter how dark and scary life looks, He is always there offering us more grace to walk through that moment and come out the other side. THere have been many days of this journey when I am down to my last straw and not sure I can get through the rest of the day, but that’s when I lean into the truth that God is actually with me and hasn’t forgotten me. Do I still have fears for the future? Yes, of course I could list off a tragedies that I can’t imagine having to bear. Sometimes I do feel like I am waiting for the next heartbreak to be just around the corner. I can be anxious about more fears playing out in my life. However the truth is the more I experience suffering, the more I have experienced supernatural grace poured out on my life. Because of this I know that whatever would come my way, God would be faithful in it and never let me walk alone.
- I can’t do this on my own, I need a village. I do not like asking for help, because I hate feeling like a burden for other people. When I became a single mother, I was in pretty fragile state and knew that I would need some help taking care of my two babies. In the months to come, people showed up for me with clothes, diapers, and money. As much as I appreciated it, it was such a strange feeling to become the needy family so I often rejected that idea. However, the truth is we were created to be dependent on each other no matter our situation. God blesses community and desires for his people to support and care for one another. Over the last few years, I have had many times that I needed help, but I refused to ask out of a sense of pride and wanting to be independent. What I learned is to build a team of people around me who are in my corner, ready and willing to show up when I need them. When my divorce went through, they showed up with pedicures and a night out. When my child was in the hospital, they showed up in the emergency room with coffee, gifts and prayers. When I go through hard dates on the calendar, they showed up with a weekend getaway. When I had Covid-19, they showed up bringing meals and caring for my children. When I started grad school, they showed up to take care of my boys so I could get some study time in. When I was depressed after a hard weekend of parenting, they showed up by sending food to my door. When I want to serve in church ministry, they showed up to watch my kids so I can use my gifts. I am blessed with a village of people. I could try to do this alone, but I would lose out on so many opportunities to see the beauty of community and interdependence that God created me for. (I know that I am very privileged, and many single moms do not have this option)
- I learned that I really need God, and in that need His power is displayed. When I was pregnant with my first child, my brother-in-law dropped some wisdom on me that I will never forget. He said that parenting goes like this. One moment in parenting you will think you are crushing it and the next you will have no idea what you are doing so he encouraged me not to get too confident or too discouraged. That was the truest statement of parenting I have ever heard. It is unbelievable how quickly these moments change. I can’t tell you how many days I have gone back and forth between these two sentiments. I try to start each day before my children wake up in prayer asking God for his grace over me to parent my children with wisdom and patience. Honestly, it does not take too long after my kids wake up and cannot find their shoes or are fighting over the cereal box at breakfast when I realize I already need renewed. Parenting, whether single or not, takes a moment by moment approach of leaning into the spirit of God for help. I cannot pray just once a day for help and expect that is going to take me through. I have never taken the verse “ pray without ceasing” as seriously except in this season of life. I have so many days where I am at the end of myself not sure how I will ever pick myself up off the floor and carry on. Yet in these weakest moments is when I am reassured that God doesn’t need to be try to be better or stronger, He just wants me to lean into Him.
I say have learned a lot and want to offer wisdom, but the truth is very simply that I am a mess that’s doing her best…..sometimes. These lessons I have learned, I am still learning. I have in no way mastered these lessons. I still say “I could never do ______________” or have fearful moments of what the future might hold. I still get anxious asking for help when I need it. I still feel utterly alone some days even with the village I have been blessed with. I still try to do everything in my own strength and fail miserably. I still give my kids too much screen time. I still long for the days of having a partner to share responsibilities with. I still scream and yell at my kids when they aren’t listening. All of these things lead me to my last and only piece of wisdom that I have learned and try desperately to adhere to.
I have learned that in all my faults and failures, that Jesus shows up for me everytime and that is all that I need my kids to know. I may get everything else wrong in this motherhood role, but if I can keep turning back to Jesus and modeling to my children His grace, love and forgiveness, I think we are going to make it.
So this Mother’s Day as I eat the beautiful breakfast that I made for myself (that my kids threw in the trash) I am thankful for the gift of motherhood, yes even single motherhood. I am thankful for the messy life I am living with these two crazy boys. I am even more thankful for my God who continues to give me all the help I can get. If this is a hard Mother’s Day for you today, know that He sees you and cares. Whatever the reason its hard, your first single mothers day, you first Mothers Day without your own mom, or you are in a season of wishing to be a mom and aren’t yet, you are not alone. His grace will hold you through all of the tears and heartache. You can do this!