“I never pictured doing this by myself."
In twenty-four years of counseling, I’ve heard this sentence more times than I can count. Last week, it was a mother of three teenage girls whose husband died of a brain tumor. Yesterday, it was a father whose wife had just relapsed again, deciding that life with alcohol was more important than life with her husband and nine year-old son. Today, it may be you, with another story, both sad and unexpected of how you’ve found yourself in this role of single parent. You never pictured doing this by yourself.
But here you are. And now you’ve found a blog article with the pitfalls of single parenting. We want to help you know the pitfalls to give you hope, not to make you panic. You will fall into these pitfalls from time to time. So let me say right now that we serve a God who redeems. He redeems whatever story got you here and he redeems any pitfall along the way. So, let’s talk about those pitfalls. These are a few of the most common struggles for single parents.
- Sorrow. Depression. Grief. You can call it any or all of the above. But, from time to time, you are going to become sad. Your young children may forget your birthday. Your adolescent children may forget that you exist, other than drive them to meet their friends. There will be days where you will feel neglected, used and taken advantage of. Your parents did, too. It, unfortunately, comes with the job. To this, I would say “hang on.” They grow up. And, as they do, they typically “come to their senses” like our friend the prodigal.
- Overwhelmed-ness. There is no better word for those sigh out loud days when the hours run out much faster than the list to be done. There is often simply too much and too many needs and wants requiring your time and attention. To this, I would say “It really is okay to slow down.” In our culture today, kids are oversaturated and overstimulated. Simplifying life could not only help you but also help them have a little more room to breathe. Cut down on the activities. Have a family dinner. Talk together. Read together. Take the time to look each other in the eyes and connect.
- Financial struggles. You may go through periods of strain financially. Churches can give support in these times. Don’t be afraid to ask family members to help, as well. Your children and you are worth asking for help financially and practically when you are struggling. There are also great, Biblical resources available to help you learn to manage your money such as Financial Peace.
- Parent-child Role Reversal. You may find yourself in a situation where you, without meaning to, end up being comforted by your intuitive eleven year-old daughter. Or maybe you’re even told what time to come home from a date by your not-so-intuitive fifteen year-old son. In a one parent household, children often take on the role of an adult. I can’t say enough as a counselor how harmful this can be to them. Your child feels secure when he or she knows you are in charge…not matter his or her age. They need you to be stronger than they are emotionally and the one they depend on, not the other way around.
This may not be what you pictured. But God knew. And, as a matter of fact, He chose you to be the child of your parent. He chose you knowing you would walk this road as a single parent. He is a God who redeems and will redeem not only your story, but the story of your son or daughter as well. You are not alone.
I have a single-mom who calls me periodically and says “Okay, I need another voice.” Your need other voices, too—voices who are like-minded and whom you trust to speak wisdom into your life and the life of your child. Talk to other parents. Seek out a counselor or deacon in your church. Meet with the youth director. Your church is a built-in community that was designed to be in this with you for the long haul. God designed us to live in community and that community can be a life-giving part of your parenting, both for you and your child. We’ll say it one more time…as another voice for you: You are not alone.
And a few added resources that can help: