ON SINGLE PARENTING
I've often said that God knew what he was doing when he designed the creating of new life to require two parents. It's not the creation or even the birth that's so hard ... it's the years that follow. In the ideal design, two parents share the physical and emotional challenges of taking care of children. Two parents support each other, reinforce each other. They teach children respect and demand respect for the other parent. And they comfort each other! ... and God knows, at the end of the day, all parents need lots of comfort!
Unfortunately, in the real world, the "ideal design" is often interrupted because of circumstances beyond our control or because of choices we make. Single parenthood is a common reality today, leaving one parent to carry double the load without the emotional support and comfort ... and I can tell you from personal experience It Ain't Easy!
When my husband died I had to finish raising 6 children, ranging from 10 to 18 years in age. In one sense I was more fortunate than some single parents. My husband had been a strong father, very close to the children. I could draw on that strength as well as his memory and the foundation we had built for them together. Most of the single parents that I know don't have as many children, but they are starting, almost from scratch, to build that family foundation by themselves.
When people ask me "how did you do it?" All I can say is "with a lot of help from God." I kept remembering the old saying we were taught in Catholic school: "God doesn't send you any problems you can't handle." Well, first of all, I don't believe that God "sends" us the problems (more about that in a later blog) but I do believe he is there with special help for single parents.
There were many times when my mind was a complete blank on how to handle a situation or what to say to a child in trouble and somehow the right words came ... through my empty brain, out of my mouth, straight to my child. When I heard my self speaking I wondered "where did that come from?" But I really knew ... and had to say "thank you God."
When all of my shortcomings hit me in the face, as they often did, I tried to say "I'm doing the best I can." And I was ... but I knew that "the best I could do" on any given day, wasn't necessarily "my best". Often it was far from it. So I had to learn to forgive myself and keep on trying. It helped to remember that God forgives us, and gives us the strength to keep going.
I pray every day for single parents, that they be open to the special graces of wisdom, strength and comfort that God is surely sending them.
PS - My own story of single parenting has a happy ending. My children are all grown now, and although there are certainly some "holes" in their upbringing that I could not fill, they all turned out pretty darn well! (if I may say so myself.) And I now have a wonderful husband to share the new challenges of life and the joy of grand-parenting.