This last week my wife joined her father for a trip to Russia to see some relatives, leaving me to look after our two sons by myself. It was a tremendous blessing because it gave me an opportunity to bond with my children and it also helped me understand what it’s like to be a single parent. I learned many lessons from this experience and some of them would be hard to put into words, but here are some basics.
First, it was a huge shock to me just how time consuming it was to be responsible for literally everything that needed to be done, from laundry and dish washing to packing lunches for my sons and getting them both to school in the morning before going to work and then picking them both up on the way home. My wife and I usually share these tasks and I used to think that they took a lot of time out of my day. But when I was only doing roughly 40% – 60% on a day-to-day basis while my wife did the same, it turns out that it took up much less time than when I was doing 100% all by myself every single day.
A related issue is how utterly exhausted this left me when the day was over and my boys finally fell asleep and I was able to go to bed myself. I used to think I knew what the word “tired” meant but this has left me with an entirely new appreciation for that word.
These two related issues produced another lesson about how difficult it is to take care of one’s physical health by eating right and exercising. I managed to keep us fed this past week only by taking advantage of the pizza place down the street, highly processed pre-cooked food like frozen schnitzel, hot dogs and the like. We certainly didn’t eat the kind of “real” food we usually eat when my wife is home and she actually cooks. As for exercising, I just didn’t get much done because I was too tired and wanted to sleep every possible second I could, not get up early to work out like I usually do.
As a footnote, some bills arrived this past week which my wife usually pays out of her salary and although I was able to put them aside to give her when she returned, it made me think about how difficult it would be if there was only one salary out of which everything had to be paid.
What allowed me to make it through this difficult but highly enlightening week without my wife was a few different things. First of all, my sons behaved better than I could have ever hoped and I have no doubt this is because my wife and I prayed fervently in the weeks before her trip that they would.
Second, we had friends from our fellowship who came alongside us and helped in many ways. We spent time at the park with one family we’re particularly close with and the daughters of this family spent the entire time playing with my sons, which gave me a break, gave them a quasi-mommy experience which helped tide them over till their own mommy was back and in general helped manage the situation. Other friends helped in many ways and many other people prayed for us.
So, here’s my takeaways.
First, it is a fact of life in 2019 that there are single-parent families in nearly every fellowship of Believers and they are the modern-day manifestation of the “widows and orphans” that were so common in Biblical times (See James 1:27). So if you’re a pastor or leader of a prayer group, set aside time to pray specifically for these families.
Even if you’re not a pastor or congregational elder, just take a moment to look around the next time you’re at your meeting and see if there’s a single parent family you can pray for and otherwise assist. Invite such families over for dinner or to an afternoon at the park, the mall, or whatever to give the single parent a break from preparing meals and also to give them and their children a fun break from their normal routine. Ask them if it would be okay for your children to over and play with their kids and while you’re there, help them clean up around the house. There are many other ways single parent families need help and there’s many ways you and I can help them without damaging their dignity.
Finally, if you’re a single parent yourself, don’t be embarrassed to ask for help. Ask for prayer and practical support, and give these things to those other single parent families you’re in fellowship with whenever you can. If we all carry each other, the load on everyone is lighter.