It all depends on me.
That thought is a heavy one, isn’t it? I think that feeling is one of the hardest things about being a single parent. There is no back-up. There is no one to share the schedule or the routines or the decision-making. I’m it. I’m it for rules, for home maintenance, for budgeting, for meal planning, for parenting wisdom, and for all the other stuff. The buck stops here.
One of the places it is most complicated is in trying to handle the tension between work and home lives. Our society doesn’t have a great track record for supporting single, working parents. Our employers expect us to give more and more and often don’t understand that you simply have no more to give when you are the only one to attend sporting events, concerts, after-school pick-up, appointments, and just to be present in the lives of your children as their childhood slowly evaporates. Employers often just don’t get it.
So how do you handle this when you need that job? How do you juggle it all without letting your kids suffer or not doing your best as an employee? That’s a tough one. As a single mom, I’ve had to wrestle with this again and again. There are a few things I’ve discovered and determined that might help you as you strive to find a balance to this tension as a single mom or dad:
Determine your priorities. My priorities are clear in my heart and my mind. God is first in my life, followed by my family, and then my vocation. That may not be what an employer would like, but it’s a choice I made long ago. Determining what your priorities are helps simplify whether a demand for your time gets a yes or no. Yes, sometimes as a single parent you might need to miss a school program or other event due to work or other demands. But I believe it should be the exception not the rule. My kids know they come before other demands on my time, with certain exceptions.
Ask God to lighten the load. It all depends on you? Well, yes, sort of. You bear the responsibilities alone that maybe used to be shared. That is heavy and exhausting and just the reality sometimes. But never forget that God walks with you and promises to carry what weighs you down if you’ll just give it to him.
Matthew 11:28 is pretty clear: “Then Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.’” NLT My pastor, David Kinnan of Fountain Springs Church, once reminded us that sheep aren’t designed to carry burdens. That’s one reason they need a shepherd. And leads us to the next one.
Pray. Pray for creativity. Pray for your boss to have compassion with your circumstances. Pray for your boss to have the resources and support he or she needs to do their job well and manage employees well. Pray for friends or family who can help you when you just can’t be two places at once. God loves answering our big prayers. I have seen God send me help when I didn’t remember to ask as I’ve walked this journey as a single mom. I believe he wants to help you too. I’ve had friends attend school events to help my kids feel loved. I’ve had friends offer to pick up kids on a busy day. I’ve had friends ask if they could bring me a meal when they know my week is going to be IN-sane. God can send you community, too.
Be honest with your employer. I recently talked to my new boss, a woman I’ve worked with for years who understands I’m a widow with four kids. I was nervous as I told her I just didn’t know if I could take on any extra responsibilities. She said with such grace, “I’ve always respected that you prioritize God, family, and then work.” Seriously, I cried. Not everyone is blessed with an employer who loves Jesus or values this. I get that because I’ve had bosses like that–both Christian and nonChristian. But being honest and up-front with your employer about limitations and priorities is essential to an open working relationship.
If they ask you to give something you simply cannot, do some research on alternatives to what they are proposing. Could a job-share situation work with a part-time person supplementing what you are doing? Could something else you do go away or go to another employee so you can take on the new item? Could you get creative with hours or a work-from-home situation? The modern workforce is changing and sometimes that can mean more flexibility. When you show a boss you are willing to help solve the issue, they often respect that more than a simple no. It shows you are a team player.
Lastly, trust that God can and will provide another job if this one is not a good fit for your season as a single parent. It can feel terrifying when you think that you need this job. But I have come to realize that what I need is the God who provided this job and can provide another one if this one doesn’t work. We should never feel trapped by fear in a place that is unhealthy or doesn’t value it’s employees. Ask God for wisdom if it might be time to move on. And make sure you are wise in securing the next job before quitting this one.
Single parenting is a one-person show with a lot of extra weight, stress, and responsibilities. But remembering that God promises to walk with us even in the tough stuff can lift a lot of the weight. Asking for his wisdom and help when it comes to balancing work and home is always a good idea.
How have you struggled to balance work and home as a single parent? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments.