Going it Alone: Meeting the Challenges of Being a Single MomGoing it Alone: Meeting the Challenges of Being a Single Mom
Michele Howe
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When the harsh reality of separation, divorce or widowhood sinks in, facing life as a single mom can feel like living in a whirlpool. Going It Alone offers practical yet compassionate advice for single momsand shows them how to anchor themselves in the promises of God.

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Fortified Family:Developing Healthy Interdependence

      Simultaneously, four alarm clocks went off in the Grant household. In thirteen-year-old Corey’s room, the music from a clock radio played softly. A television’s early morning news program was heard from eleven-year-old Ian’s room. And in nine-year-old Jeremy’s room, the shrill dinging of an old fashioned bell clock shook the walls. In Kim’s room, her grandmother’s antique cuckoo clock majestically opened its door and a miniscule bird sang its chirping song a single time and then silently retreated back inside its domain.
Kim groaned. How she longed to sleep in on this spring morning. But in a last-ditch attempt to get caught up around the house, she’d laid down the law to her three kids the night before. “Everybody set your alarms for 7:30am,” she’d told them at last night’s dinner table. “We’re getting up early and we’re going to work until everything’s done. We will work all day if we have to so that this house is in shape before your grandparents come next weekend.”
As Kim’s three boys looked around the house, they winced. Mom meant business this time and it scared them. They shuddered as they allowed their eyes to take in the overgrown weeds and grass, the windows covered with fingerprints and smudges, the cobwebs and dust bunnies taking over their home. Their minds wandered for just a few moments before Mom’s voice beckoned them back to reality. “All right, Corey, since you’re the oldest, you’ll do the yard work. I want the dead branches heaped on the burn pile. I want the flowerbeds weeded. Make sure you don’t leave clumps of dead weeds and dirt lying on the ground either. Take them back to the compost pile next to my garden. Then you’ll need to cut the grass.

“Ian, I want you to sort all the clothes, according to light and dark colors, remember? You’ll be in charge of washing clothes and drying them. Be sure you spray spot remover on any stains before you toss the clothes into the machine. Just put the folded clothes on everyone’s beds. Oh, while the clothes are washing, scrub out the refrigerator and use hot, soapy water to clean those sticky grates. Got it?
“Jeremy, you’ll be working along side me tomorrow. We’ll tackle the sweeping, dusting, and bathrooms first. Then after lunch, we’ll take down the curtains and clean the windows and sills,” Kim had explained. “Well guys, I think that about covers it. Go on outside before it gets dark. You may even have enough time to play ball before the mosquitoes get too thick.”
Kicking at the stones beneath their feet, all three boys looked the picture of perfect misery. “Play ball? Who wants to play ball after hearing that?” Corey said.
“It isn’t fair. Why should we have to work on Saturday? It’s our only day off from school,” Ian complained.
Jeremy walked behind he two older brothers kicking at stones, too. Jeremy’s despair was not, however, about all the forthcoming work. He was wondering where his dad was right then and why didn’t he come home. If his dad loved them, as he said he did, why didn’t he come home to stay?
Inside the kitchen, Kim placed the last dirty dish inside the dishwasher. As she poured the detergent into the dispenser, she sighed. It was going to be a long weekend. What was she thinking? There had to be some way to keep pace with the boys’ schedules during the week. Between working and running them to their games, she just didn’t have much time left, let alone the energy to accomplish it all. She felt guilty even asking the boys to help. It wasn’t their fault she and Jerry had divorced.
As Kim plopped down on the couch and watched for her sons to come home from the ball field, she realized she needed a plan. That was it! The Grant family needed a game plan. Her boys were certainly up to their ears in sports. So, she’d appeal to their sense of team spirit. The more she thought about it, the more it looked like it would work. She’d build one mighty invincible team out of the four Grants.
Kim developed a workable, organized plan for maintaining the household. Then, wisely, she encouraged her sons by explaining how they would each have to help her with the family responsibilities. “Somehow, we’ll make it because we’re going to stick together and work together,” Kim told them, “The four of us are a team now. We’ve got to behave like one.”
Several months later, Kim looked up from her computer, heard the low hum of the vacuum cleaner and smiled. The previous year had been painful. After her husband left her alone with their three sons, things had been rocky. But now, Kim can recall the change that came over their young faces. “It was miraculous. One moment I was staring into the faces of three hopeless, broken boys. The next, they were ready to fight the odds and start trying again.” Kim credits this change in attitude to a single element: interdependence.
Once Kim had communicated to her kids the need to work as a team, her boys felt more empowered to do just that. Kim instinctively recognized that allowing her children to sit idly and amass feelings of anger, guilt, and frustration did nothing to help heal their wounds. Her sons had to believe that their efforts should make a difference. As soon as Kim was able to transfer this key principle of family members living interdependently-depending on one another for the overall success of the family-the children felt a weight lifted off their shoulders. Young as they were, Kim’s boys could help the ones they loved most.
Unlike Kim who realized early on that working together brings profit for the entire family. Tina believed the opposite. Several years after her divorce, she still looked haggard and depressed. Her belief was that her children had suffered enough already and she wasn’t about to add to their burden by asking them to help her. So Tina cleaned, cooked, and maintained the yard, and her children continued to throw harsh, rebellious jibes at her: “It’s your fault we don’t have more money!” “Why can’t you take us now?” “Wait until I tell Dad you said no!”
Perhaps years from now Tina will realize her efforts to lessen the stress in her home are doing just the opposite, that her home is a time bomb waiting to explode. Relieving young people of responsibilities doesn’t create the sense of emotional well-being essential to healthy family life. It does the reverse. Allowing kids to stew in their own selfishness and pampering them because a parent feels guilty only makes a difficult situation worse.
Think back to when you were a child. Can you recall being asked to help around the house? Maybe your job was taking out the trash or feeding and watering the pets. Whatever the task, you had a part in making your family run more smoothly. Hopefully, your parent(s) imparted this sense of community to you as a youngster. Even if they didn’t, you probably already knew your contribution made a difference.
Unfortunately, many single moms identify the emotional pain in their kids as something they directly (or indirectly) caused. In one sense, this is true. However, even two-parent families have times of disagreement, tension, and unresolved issues. But you can bet that chores still get done regardless. So when family life gets tough, everyone has to pitch in and put forth some effort is essential that you and your children realize you’re all integral parts of the family. No matter how the family unit is identified (single-or two-parent) every family must function as its own entity.
As you learn to communicate this sense of unity (and dependence upon one another) as Kim did, your entire family will gain a feeling of security. You will also gain a more complete sense of family identity. You’ll notice individual self-worth will flourish too. Families were instituted by God. He has established home life as the place for maturity to blossom and grow. When we look to his Word and follow his principles, our family life will be brought to fruition in ways we never dreamed possible.