Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Singleness Part Three: Single Parenting Sucks....It's Awesome!

(I decided some months ago to write a post about single parenting, but I felt like there was a good deal that needed to be said before I wrote this post....if you would like to read post ONE or TWO just click the links.... )

At the risk of offending my bi-polar friends (because I am sure I have a few) I will explain the title of this post. A friend brought this t-shirt/saying to my attention a while back:

This is as funny as the day is long (unless you are bi-polar), but it also represents how I feel about being a single parent. How I feel about a lot of things actually. Being a single parent is HARD and it does suck sometimes ...sometimes a lot. But it is also amazing in so many ways.

I want to clarify up front what I mean when I say "Single Parent". A single parent by my definition is anyone who is actively parenting children in any form or fashion, and does not have a spouse with whom you share that great responsibility. So if you are an every other weekend dad trying your hardest to make a difference in your kids lives with limited time, if you are widowed, if you have a child or children but have never been married, if you have adopted on your own, or if you are a divorced etc... this applies to you.

The fact of the matter is, that God designed this job for 2 (I know that because my bill from Ella's preschool is emailed each month to "Dear     & Jenny"), but for various reasons (as I listed above) many of us are doing the job on our own...and sometimes that's just hard.....but often when things are the hardest they are ultimately the most rewarding!

I have honestly gotten so used to my single parent-ness, that I sometimes forget the pain that so many experience. Many of my single dad friends woke up on Christmas morning to a house filled with nothing but silence. So many of my single mom friends spend every other weekend in absolute misery because their children have so much become their identity that, although they are glad for the break, they simply don't know how to function alone. But is there really a difference in the highs and lows we experience as single parents, and the highs and lows that are just a part of life in this broken world? 

We are going to all experience hardships in life. That is a fact. 

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

The difference to ME in the struggles that arise from being a single parent as opposed to any other struggle we face in this fallen world is, very simply, our children.

I firmly believe that as Christ following single parents, WE will be held solely accountable by God for how we disciple our children. Ugh. Hits you right in the gut doesn't it? But it is Biblical:  

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.Deut 6:4-9

Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.Prov 22:6

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:1-4

If you are a woman, you may immediately think, "well, a lot of the instruction in the Bible is specific to Fathers, so this is not my responsibility". Well, I wholeheartedly disagree. My opinion is that if you are the only Christ following parent (or the only living one), then you take on the Biblical responsibility of both roles. Same goes for the guys.

I am sure there are exceptions to this rule. I would like to think that there are divorced people out there raising kids together who are both Christ followers, but that is not typically the case....which SCREAMS to me about the importance of two people being on the same page spiritually before getting married....but that was another post!   : )

This responsibility is enormous, sometimes overwhelming, but also filled with great reward. It helps me to know that this is fully on my shoulders, because it gives me focus. And when I keep my focus on God, and on raising my children to become disciples of Christ, so many of the other "what if's" and day to day struggles fade into the background. I randomly heard this on the radio a few years ago, and it has been on my bathroom mirror ever since. It gives me such a sense of peace each time I read it:

It says "I love your kids EVEN MORE than you do...I AM going to help you do this". And I can attest to the fact that if you allow HIM (the only great Father) to help you...HE WILL. People asked me when I was pregnant and going through a divorce (with a 2 year old in tow no less) "How are you still functioning and doing this every day?". My answer is the same today as it was then.........."God and Zoloft. In that order."  : )  Here are a few additional suggestions:

1. If you ask God to help you, AND LET HIM, He WILL.
2. If you need help, ask for it. 
3. Find community with other single parents -check out and find a group in your area. I will be on the leadership team for a new group starting at Brook Hills on Feb 8th! Come join us!
4. Learn from and learn to lean on your married friends. 
5. Stay focused on what your most important job is.

I could go on and on with this list, but I will leave you with the Serenity Prayer. I can't fully express what these words have meant to me over the last few years. Most people are only familiar with the first four lines, but I would encourage you to read, and re-read and then re-read the whole thing. I have it posted in my car, on my bathroom mirror...I even have it on a bracelet. I love the whole thing, but I have highlighted my very favorite parts...I hope it helps you as much as it has me!

The Serenity Prayer
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.

--Reinhold Niebuhr
Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will direct your paths.
Proverbs 3, 5-6