written by Amy Oliver
I didn’t ever plan to be a “single mom”. It wasn’t a label I ever wanted to wear. At the time of my divorce, I was running a ministry whose mission is to bring women and children into the body of Christ through gospel centered teaching, relationship and service. I stood on stage and proclaimed the beauty of God’s design for family and to be honest, in a way that was my idol. We talked about how to raise children in stable loving households. And I “failed”. Or at least that’s what it felt like when my husband walked away. I’ve been on quite a journey into single parenthood and have been humbled in the most beautiful of ways. I wish I could sit down with you, look you in the eye and tell you how loved you are, how brave you are and how much I respect you. That I know your pain and what it feels like to be “that mom” sitting at the soccer game alone watching other families who seemingly have something you don’t. But I would also tell you this….you are NOT a “single mom”…that is NOT your identity. You are a mom, chosen by God to raise your children in God’s power. You are not broken, defective, less capable or doomed. Your children and you have the same heavenly father. Celebrate that, share it with your kids and allow that truth to remind you that ultimately we are all children of a single parent…one God….whose love will be abundantly more than enough for you and for your children.
I have two girls who are now 13 and 10. I worried that they’d be scarred for life by the break up of our family. I read the scary articles about how divorce affects kids. But can I tell you something those articles didn’t say? My kids are strong, resilient and courageous BECAUSE of what we’ve gone through. We’ve had to learn together how to weather storms, talk about difficult emotions and lean on God together when life just doesn’t look like we thought it would. My kids can set boundaries like a boss! They can see below the surface of a situation and find the truth like detectives. They trust their feelings and are not afraid to say what they mean (which sometimes isn’t fun to be on the receiving end of, but I’ll take it). Together, we’ve rebuilt our little family! We even gave ourselves a new name…the Truth Love Trio! Having different last names felt a little awkward for all of us, so we decided we’d come up with a new name for our little threesome. We wrote up a definition of who we are, unique to us and our circumstances. We love when we see 3:33 on a clock. When one of us sees it, we all yell out, “333” and the others echo it back. To us that is a reminder that God sees our little Trio and loves us. All of us.
Listen closely…this is important. You CAN raise your kiddos on your own, but you don’t need to! You’re not alone even though it can feel like you are. I’m a “do it yourself” kind-of-gal and had a lot of pride about being capable of raising these girls alone. But the reality is my girls need other perspectives, other people pouring into their lives. And I’ve been immensely blessed by letting go of my pride and allowing others to come alongside me. For us, that looked like families having us over for dinner and not allowing myself to feel uncomfortable because I’m sitting at a table with a mom and dad. My girls have benefited greatly by watching healthy two parent families operate. I hope this for their future, so of course I want them to experience it now. We’ve also invited families to come eat with us, which felt a little awkward at first, but again, it reminds us that we are not on the outside looking in.
At the same time, I want my girls to know they are not the only ones without a dad in the house, so I’ve cultivated great friendships with other single moms and their kids. A healthy balance of both has been just what our family needed. Same thing goes for vacations. We have invited families to come with us and been invited to go with others. I’ve found that many of my married girlfriends have loved the opportunity to go away for a weekend without their spouse and we’ve had great times having their kids with us. Recently, my girls and I went on a vacation and at the last minute another married couple and their 3 boys came with us. It was so much fun for my girls to experience all that boy time! God’s blessed my girls with lots of bonus moms and dads; we talk about that all the time. I want my girls to see how God’s filled the gap with lots of amazing men and women who model for them the love of the Father in unique ways. Coaches, teachers, youth leaders and parents of their friends have really loved on my girls and I’m so grateful for that. Once I let go of my shame over what I thought our family should look like, God built a family I could never have imagined.
Same holds true for a Courageous Girls group. Do not think you are exempt because you are not married. You are a mom with girls and that’s all you need to be. Consider that the other girls in the group NEED to see a single mom and understand that she’s no different than a mom who’s married. Single parenthood is a reality, whether by choice, divorce, death or adoption. Your courage and strength will bless the members of your group. You are not defined by your marital status, you are defined by a God of love. And the married moms aren’t defined by their marital status, either. In actuality, some of them may be struggling in their marriage or have a husband who’s uninvolved. Don’t assume everyone else has a perfect family, because those don’t exist. We all have challenges and sharing that is the point of being in a Courageous Girls group. We’re teaching our girls how to take the challenges of life and trust God to bring healing and hope. And we do it together in community! Embrace that and allow God to use you in a unique way.
All these ideas are just that, not a formula for anyone to follow. The more important thing for you, friend, is to take good care of YOU! There are a lot of demands on your plate: Caring for children, running a household and likely a job (or two) thrown in there, too. Getting adequate sleep, eating well, caring for your body and having someone to talk through your deepest aches with is invaluable. The best thing you can “do” is to focus on your health – physically, emotionally and spiritually. For me, that looks like spending time alone in the morning with my journal and bible. It means taking the time to make myself a healthy meal even if my girls won’t eat it. It means yoga and taking every opportunity I can to go for a walk with a friend. It means being in counseling to address my wounds and acknowledge my hurt. Prioritizing myself is a discipline, not a selfish act. My girls need me to be healthy and whole so that I can love them from that place. And look, they’ve seen me grieve and struggle these last several years. They’ve seen friends show up with meals and watched me cry on the couch. I’m not hiding my pain, but I am allowing them to see God heal me through healthy relationships and healthy coping skills. I want them to know that I need God and others, that I’m not superwoman, because I want them to know they don’t have to be superwomen either.
I see you, single mom! I love you even though we’ve never met. I’m praying for you right now to know God’s love for you is immeasurable. Your girl(s) are blessed to have you as their courageous mama.