How to Be Happy as a Single Parent, Part Two

Find Steps 1-3 in Part One

4. Learn to Ask for Help

Sometimes I used to think the entire “purpose” of my divorce was to teach me how to ask for help.  And man, did I need a lot of help.  We all do.  Being a single parent is hard.  That may be an example of the greatest over-simplification of things ever stated.  Being a single parent is thankless, exhausting, emotionally taxing.  It is just simply, hard. 

So why wouldn’t we think it’s going to take help? 

Why We Resist Seeking Help

There are a multitude of reasons why we resist getting help—even in the most dire circumstances.  And in my eight years as a single parent, I’m pretty sure I covered them all! 

We worry about being judged.

Or that asking for help shows our critics that we aren’t capable of caring for our kids.

Worse than that, we question if we are capable of caring for our kids.

We wonder if asking for help damages the confidence our children have in us—confidence that we can support them; confidence they need for their peace of mind.   

It makes us question if we will ever be able to be the independent adults we either want to be, or already believed we were!

It eats away at our already deteriorating self-esteem.

And worst of all, we wonder if we are even worth helping?

How Asking for Help Became Easier

Three things happened that made asking for help so much easier.

One, I got a job

A job that was able to (very delicately) support my family.

Though we often focus on the burdens, the stress, the fatigue that comes with a job, we do ourselves a disservice if we neglect one very important aspect of having a job: the boost it provides our self-worth. 

Along with the increased financial security that provides peace of mind, a job also helps our purpose becomes clearer and we obtain the comfort of routine—all things that can work together to make us happier, provided we maintain the proper perspective.   

Having a job reassured me that I was doing everything I possibly could for my children, but sometimes that just wasn’t enough, and I still needed help. 

Two, I re-framed why I was asking for help. 

I wasn’t looking for help to shirk responsibility or trying to sustain an extravagant lifestyle.  I was solely trying to take care of my kids. 

Even the times when the help received appeared to solely benefit me, I was then in a better position to care for my children.   

Three, I slowly built a support system

A real support system, which had people who would help care for me and my children, no matter what.  Those individuals are rare.  Not to sound cynical or jaded, but there are few people who really embody the spirit of Charity.  These people seek no recognition or recompense for their help, and you don’t have to be someone in particular to receive their help.  They love you no matter what and are always willing to give help whenever they can. 

Charity isn't about pity, it is about love. Mother Teresa

I was blessed to pick up a few of those individuals over the years.  And they created debts of gratitude that I will most likely never be able to repay. 

One woman I became acquainted with through Church just absolutely loved my kids.  I had no idea what a huge help it was to have others love my children until I became a single parent.

One night I went to the Emergency Room with a kidney stone.  When she heard I was in the hospital, she took pizza to my kids, cleaned my kitchen top to bottom, and then just hung out with my children until they went to bed.  Technically, my older children could have provided care for them all without her help, but she gave them peace and happiness in my absence.

That moment, and many others, taught me that I want to be someone who helps

Why Learning to Ask for Help Showed me How to be Happy

Learning to ask for, and receiving help, taught me who I needed to become to be truly happy.  There may be no greater access to a happy heart than charity. 

I need to become someone who embodies charity.  I want my loved ones to know that receiving help from me isn’t conditional on who they are, or what circumstance they find themselves in.  And I never would have learned this lesson without having to be on the receiving end first. 

“Ask for help.  Not because you are weak.  But because you want to remain strong.”

Les Brown

We ask for help, we learn that it’s okay, and we reciprocate when needed.  This is your valley.  It will pass.  In time, you will climb higher up your mountain until you are in a position to return help with an understanding, empathetic heart. 

5. Be at the Crossroads

“…take time to always be at the crossroads when your children are coming or going…”

Ezra Taft Benson

This was advice my mother always tried to take to heart in her parenting.  “Being at the crossroads” meant she would be the first and last person I saw when coming and going.  She (or my father) sent me off to school in the morning, would be the first person I saw when I came home from school, or would always—much to my teenage dismay—be waiting up for me on my return home from a date.

The reality is that it wasn’t always possible for her to be at every crossroad of my youth, but the message she sent was clear: wherever you are on your journey through life, I am there with you. 

Different Crossroads for Different Families

The realities of single parenting, before/after school programs, and long hours at work make “being at the crossroads” difficult.  However, you can set your own crossroads with your children.

Maybe for you that is breakfast and bedtimes—easy “bookend” moments for busy days.    

Or maybe you are able to drop your kids off at school or the bus stop and be the unconditionally loving face they see before they tackle their day. 

Maybe you are the first person they see at the end of their school day and thus able to give them a soft and reassuring place to land each day. 

Or if you work late hours, but they know they will receive a 5-minute phone call for prayers before bed, it doesn’t matter as long as the message is clear: I am here with you.

Don’t let others dictate what your Crossroads should be.  What works for you and your children is all that matters.

Understand that you cannot physically be everywhere your children need you.  As a single parent, there will be many times you simply cannot give your children the attention they want and deserve.  Those neglected moments might cause temporary hurt and resentment—for both of you.  Establishing your unfailing presence at their crossroads will ease that resentment.   

Your late work schedule caused you to miss their soccer match, but they know during your morning breakfast the next day, they can tell you all about their triumphs. 

When our children can depend on us to be at established crossroad without fail, their hurt will be lessened, and over time, they will understand

Happy Moments

Whatever you make your family’s Crossroads, make sure they are a time for happiness.  Don’t let the last words they hear from you be words of anger, or the first words be criticisms.  This will embolden them and build love, trust and confidence between you.

They may act like your constant presence at these crossroads—especially during their teenage years—are an annoyance.  Don’t believe them.  Despite the poutiness that accompanies having to get out the door early, or the annoyance of waiting up for them at the end of their date, having your presence consistently there will make them happier.

“Those who are hardest to love need it the most.”

Socrates

These touchstone moments you and your children depend upon every day will also make you happier.

You will find happiness in watching your children grow in independence and tackle the world but come back and tell you about their day. 

You will have peace of mind in knowing that whatever difficulties they may face through their childhoods, you are an immovable force in their small lives.    

See the Forest Through the Trees

I cannot guarantee 365 happy days a year.  I wish I could tell you that you’ll never again go to bed thinking that you are failing as a parent, or that your kids aren’t going to need therapy because of you!  But such is the life of every parent

Parenting is not a sprint to the finish line.  It is a slow, often mistake-filled process.  There is no degree required to become a parent; no study or proof of mastery to be certified as capable of child-rearing.  That’s why we’re given a minimum of 18 years—to help make up for so many of our screw ups!

And yet, despite our woeful inexperience and ineptitude, there is no single responsibility closer to godhood than parenting.  We are incapable of His perfection, but we are not seeking daily perfection in our parenting.  We are building, shaping, and refining the best person we can during the years we are entrusted with them.  And with our love, guidance, and yes, even mistakes, we can provide them a solid foundation from which they can build.   

“Though earthly families are far from perfect, they give God’s children the best chance to be welcomed to the world with the only love on earth that comes close to what we felt in heaven—parental love.”

Henry B. Eyring

Learn from Your Mistakes

We are imperfect: imperfect people, imperfect children, imperfect parents.  Being a single parent is the equivalent of parenting under duress and will only exacerbate those mistakes.  Mistakes are not a prison sentence.  They do not brand you a bad parent any more than they brand your child a failure or determined to rebel. 

It is what we do with those mistakes that determine our success in parenting.  Do we take the time to reflect  on our parenting—what is going well, and what we could improve upon?  Chances are, if you’re reading this you are a reflective parent.

Do we ask forgiveness of our children (SAHM Pt 2) when we know we’ve hurt them?  What better way to teach our children forgiveness than by modeling it ourselves?  Our children will remember us humbly asking them for forgiveness more powerfully than insisting they forgive others when they’ve been wronged.

Just like we would never expect perfection from our children, we would be foolish to demand such from ourselves.  Doing so will only cause more stress and unhappiness.  Asking forgiveness for making mistakes, forgiving ourselves, and improving upon our failures will enable us to be much, much happier!

Let Go of What You Cannot Control

…and focus on those things you can. 

Parenting is messy.  Children’s lives are messy.  And as much as we may want to shelter and protect our children from harm, and never be the cause of any of that harm, it’s just not a reality for parents—especially single parents. 

The adversary places so many “trees” directly in our vision—distractions from our greater goal of raising good children.  These distractions are even more deceptive by

Sometimes it is beyond our control that a bill is paid late or our child doesn’t complete his Science Fair project.  In the grand scheme of things … have great, significant consequences?  No.  They are a tool used to undermine our confidence and the subsequent effort we put into parenting our much loved children.   

“It is no wonder that Satan has declared war on motherhood.  He understands full well that those who rock the cradle can rock his earthly empire.”

Sheri Dew

Rock the adversary’s desperate grasp for your children by being their immovable, solid foundation.  Let go of things beyond your control without even a momentary thought, and embrace the things that will make you and your children happy:

  1. Create one individual moment with your children every day
  2. Establish a routine
  3. Learn to ask for help
  4. Be at your children’s crossroads
  5. Take care of yourself
  6. Always keep the end-goal in mind

Conclusion

If my words of encouragement have failed to move you, maybe this video will underscore the critical role of mothers and fathers. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bQoJqDi8490

Even though the message says “Mom”, I know that there are also amazing Single Fathers out there doing everything they can for their kids, too!  The role of Father should be paramount to every man so entrusted with this calling.  After all…

Single Parent father

To all Single Parents, I implore you, every time you doubt yourself, please remember, you are doing more good than you know

“I say to mothers collectively…you are doing terribly well.  The very fact that you have been given such a responsibility is everlasting evidence of the trust your Father in Heaven has in you.”

Jeffrey R. Holland

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