Widowhood is Lonely (and a Plea For Single Parents)
I read this post today and wanted to jump up and down, shouting to the world that somebody put my feelings into words. The author, a single mom to a preschooler, expresses the paradox of single parenting: everyone knows it takes a village to parent, but not many people are willing to step out of their own routine and commitments to support a single parent.
In my experience, the most isolating and lonely part of being a widow has been parenting alone. In general, parenting is one of the most exhausting parts of being human, even in the most stable of two parent homes. I have discovered that the term ‘exhaustion’ doesn’t thoroughly describe the mental and emotional fatigue of parenting alone.
When Keith was alive, if I had a particularly exhausting day, he could handle the dinner and bed time routine or at least play with Caleb for 10 minutes while I finish dinner or go lock myself away for a moment. On the weekends or in the evenings, I could go do something fun or relaxing to recharge a bit. My parenting life line is now gone and I haven’t found the village it will take to replace him.
A village for a single parent, especially one with multiple young children, requires more than the help of just grandparents. Grandparents are amazing and wonderful creatures, but they get tired, too.
So, here is my plea on behalf of single parents (in the words of the wonderful Kara Tippetts): please show up. Since Keith passed away, I have struggled to feel like I belong anywhere. It’s hard to feel like I fit in without a husband and with children. It’s even harder to ask for help.
I can’t speak for all single parents, but I can say that there are some very wonderful and helpful things that I have found very encouraging:
- offer to help on a regular basis, even if it’s only once a month
- if you can’t help right now, suggest a time when you can
- when you do offer to help, be specific; it is discouraging when people offer to help, but don’t follow through
- offer to drop off dinner
- grab a few extra groceries the next time you go shopping
- initiate a play date
- initiate a play date and then kick me out of the house to go do something alone
- come watch my kids so I can clean the house, nap, read a book, take a shower, or cook dinner
- better yet, come clean my house
- send a gift card for coffee
- send an encouraging note, post card, or letter
- ask how you might encourage me (if I don’t have an answer, just remind me in a few days or weeks that you’re thinking of me)
- ask if there are any specific ways you can help based on your skills or hobbies (when we first moved in, I needed some lights hung and rewired and had no clue who to ask)
- don’t be afraid to say hi – sometimes all I need to get through the day is a smile and a hug
Would you take a moment this week to do something to encourage a single parent in your life? One moment, word, or act of kindness may be all they need to catch their breath.
Great advice! My only critique would be that as a widow myself I always have hated being called a single parent. We are in a whole different ball park than parents that live in two homes. You can still get a weekend off or an hour for your sanity. Granted it won’t be as easy as when you’re a two parent household but it’s much easier than calling up to Heaven and asking for a favor.
Yes, I struggled with the term “single parent” for a long time. Some people have a lot of assumptions about what that means. But sometimes it’s the quickest and easiest term and there are certainly many similarities in different solo parenting journies.