Being His Hands: Single Parent Edition
Some people have a gift.
They look into your eyes and see something’s troubling you. They just know. They ask the right questions. They learn you’re overwhelmed or hurting or grieving or in pain. They find solutions to alleviate some of your burdens. They encourage you, love on you, dive in and help in just the right way. They are God’s hands in your life.
I am not one of those people.
I’m that person who should be observant—I’m a writer after all. Don’t writers see everything? Not this one. I get so caught up in my fictitious world that I miss the one around me. Is that you? Oh, not the writer bit. (We’re an odd breed.) But maybe you’re caught up in your busyness, and everything else is just a blur. It happens.
Or maybe you’re in between. You’re the kind of person who sees the issue, but you’re shy. You don’t know what to do or what to say… So you take a second look at that family who shares the pew with you or give a warm smile across the aisle, but go your own way, wishing you could help. But…not.
This series is for you.
This series is for me.
It’s meant to make us aware of situations faced by those sitting next to us in the pew and to equip us to reach out…to be the hands of Christ.
~ Jenness Walker
Till death us do part.
That’s what a girl expects when she walks down the aisle to the smiling man at the front. That’s what the boy plans for as he kisses his new bride and promises her the world and they start a family together.
Sometimes death comes sooner than they’d hoped. Sometimes people change, plans fail, and commitments are broken. Whatever the reason, the future is not what these parents thought it would be. They’re left to play both father and mother to the children in their care, as well as deal with grieving the loss of a future with their spouse. As Shawna Wright says, “The needs are all still present. They don’t go away. There’s just less of me to go around.”
But God is the father of the fatherless, and we are His hands and feet.
For this article, I heard from some moms and a dad who are raising great kids on their own. Here are some ways they thought we could help families in situations like theirs:
Help with daily responsibilities
~ Single parents now have double responsibility and thus less time with their kids. A huge blessing might be a volunteer team handling mowing their grass, or offering to pick up whatever is on their grocery list when you make your regular shopping trip. Snow removal. An occasional house cleaning, if they’re comfortable with that. Taking care of some of these types of things give the parent a chance to get in some special time with their kids that doesn’t involve chores.
~ Think of that thing you have to do that makes you say “ugh,” and figure a single parent is saying the same thing…twice as much. Offer to change the oil or take the car in to get it changed. How about doubling what you make for supper and taking it to the single parent once in a while so they don’t have to come home from work and fix something?
~ Most single moms work full time jobs and the daily tasks all women struggle with such as housework and laundry especially fall to the wayside. Consider volunteering to help lift the load, because sometimes just having company and a person next to you dusting while you vacuum does wonders for the human spirit!
Help them get some necessary time to themselves
~ Understand that they may not be able to be as involved in ministry or church activities as they once were. Things have changed. We have to prioritize the use of our energy and strength, and most of that has to go to survival and giving what we can to our kids. So I’ll get back into ministry slowly…as I feel I can manage it without upsetting the precarious balance of my life.
~ Offer to watch the kids so they can go shopping, run errands, or just get a break.
~ But something to consider about childcare: It’s always the first thing people think of when they start considering ideas of how to help single moms…and this isn’t a bad idea. But something they forget or maybe don’t consider is that a lot of children (especially younger ones) coming out of divorces are very clingy to Mom. Babysitting offers are wonderful, but if the child isn’t comfortable with the person offering, it’s a wash. If the mom is going to be concerned for her kids’ happiness while she’s out, there’s no point in going. More practical tips in those situations would be instead of offering to babysit, offer to come play with the child in the house or apartment while the mom is there doing other things like cleaning, catching up on bills, or even just taking the time to enjoy a hobby without ignoring her child.
Help lift the burden they never expected to carry alone
~ Gift cards are also especially helpful for moms trying to raise a family on a single-person income. $5 to Starbucks is a dream come true for a stressed-out, sleep-deprived mommy on a budget. $10 to McDonalds to treat her kids to Happy Meals also is invaluable. Never think a small gesture isn’t worth it, because it’s priceless.
~ It can be a strain only having one income, which is the case for many. Pay a power bill one month. Go out and buy the children school supplies at the beginning of the school year. Pay for the parent to go out to eat and either babysit the children or pay for a babysitter.
~ A big worry for the single parent is their children not having the other parent as a role model. If a single mom has a boy, maybe you can invite them to participate when your guys go fishing, play baseball, go camping, etc. If a single dad has a daughter, you can invite her over to do baking, maybe take her on a shopping trip. Teach her to sew.
~ Notes and cards of encouragement letting the parent know they’re not alone never hurt.
~ Last but not least is PRAYER. Much of the battle a single parent fights is in the lonely darkness of the night. It’s a deeply psychological and spiritual battle no one can help with save on your knees. If God puts their name on your heart, then take the time to pray. This is the greatest thing you can do.
Every situation is a little different. No one is exactly alike. But ask. Listen. And become the hands of Jesus in the hectic lives of these precious families.
A special thanks to Betsy St. Amant, Shawna Wright, and others for sharing their thoughts and experiences!