If you had told me when my husband died that four years later I would still be raising these kids on my own, I might have collapsed under the weight of that thought. And yet here I am—still a single mom, still handling all the daily and weekly and monthly needs of our home, of their education, of our lives, without the help I used to have from my husband and partner in life. And let me just tell you, it’s tough sometimes.
This single parenting thing is a marathon. I have friends who love running, something I hate with a passion. But I love them, so I guess I can make allowances for this quirk. (Ha!) I have heard them talk about training for marathons and half-marathons and about how much of it is in telling yourself you can do just the next stretch in front of you. You don’t focus on the finish line. You focus on the next tree or the next hill or the next visible point ahead.
This marathon has hit a hard spot for me. It’s been a long journey—one that I never planned to take. From the start I have chosen to trust God and he has not failed me yet. He has provided in amazing ways for my financial needs, my emotional support, and wisdom as a mom. But that doesn’t change the fact that this is hard and sometimes it feels like too much.
Sometimes I don’t want to tell anyone I’m struggling. I want to show the brave, strong woman boldly tackling everything. I want to be the Pinterest-worthy mama. And, to some people, it’s not safe to show anything else. They won’t offer support but instead pronounce judgement on what I’m doing wrong.
If you are a single parent, you understand that there are amazing days when you get it all right and then there are days when you just aren’t sure you can do anything right. Or, worse, nothing particularly monumental happened but you still feel like you can’t do it all anymore. This week I had a day in which I found myself paralyzed by the weight of it all and felt such shame for that.
As I shopped yesterday, I ran into someone I hadn’t seen in a while. Our talk soon turned to something she was struggling with. She and her husband had stepped out in faith to start a business and it was harder than she anticipated. It rattled her sometimes. One statement stood out: “I wouldn’t post this on Facebook….” Such honesty in that sentence.
Social media is an amazing tool that can do amazing things. It can help us keep in contact with those we love who live far away. It can inform us. It can provide an escape from the daily monotony. But it is rarely a safe space to share the vulnerable, tender things we wrestle with. But posting something from the relative privacy of your device lends a psychological disconnect that gives people the freedom (for lack of a better word) to say blunt, brutal, or cruel things they might not say to your face. As single parents we don’t need trolls, we need cheerleaders.
Make sure you choose safe spaces to share your struggles. I have several private Facebook groups I’m part of that only have members who are dear friends. When I hit a tough patch, these are the spaces I can ask for prayer or share my feelings of dismay. These are people who can be trusted to pray for me or share their own “me, too” moments.
Joining a small group can be another great source of support. As churches have grown, so has the need to create ways people can connect to others with similiar interests or backgrounds. Finding a good small group that does life while pointing each other to the God who meets our needs is a vital tool in the single parent’s toolbox. Hebrews 10:25 (NLT) says, “And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” That’s not just a way to keep attendance at church. It’s an encouragement that making intentional time to build relationships of encouragement as we live this life together.
Being careful with our social interactions is vital to our emotional health. Does that mean we only display the perfect things online or to others, giving us a false façade? Not at all. But it does mean we are careful with the places we hold vulnerable conversations.
Next week I’ll talk about determining who the safe people are in your life. I’d love to hear in the comments how you’ve determined what is and isn’t safe to share on your social media platforms.