18 They do not know, nor do they comprehend; for their eyes are shut, so that they cannot see, and their minds as well, so that they cannot understand.
Many people may think they understand, and many more want to understand, but no one can really know what it is really like to be single parent unless they have walked in our shoes.
In the past it has bothered me when someone who was not a single parent tried to give me advice…it was even worse it they were not parents at all. Most of these people meant well and were just trying to help…they could see I was in over my head and thought that their advice would be helpful.
I had one friend tell me that she knew what it was like to be a single parent because her husband did very little with their kids unless it had something to do with sports. Otherwise he was working, hunting, out with his friends, or just sitting and watching sports on TV. At the time my daughter was still very young, and I had lost all privacy, and all ‘alone time’ (except when I was in the car driving too and from work) I could not even go out to the store alone, did not have much of a social life, and absolutely no free-time!
I know my friend was trying to identify with me, to let me know she understood what my life was like…but I just got annoyed and wanted to tell her that she had no clue what it was like being a single parent, as at least she could leave her kids at home, even if her husband was just watching a ball game on TV, at least he was home and she had some help!
I often felt like I had no help at all…like I really was raising my child totally on my own, as if no one could understand the challenges I faced!
And I was right, no one who was not a single parent could understand; and I took pride in the fact that I was doing something that many people would never experience, and although I was a perfect parent (not even close) I WAS doing it! It got to the point where I would only listen to other single parents if I needed advice and tended to discount the advice offered by well-meaning friends and family.
It was the other single parents who ‘got it’ and it helped to talk to people who understood the stress, the exhaustion, the lack of privacy, the sacrifices we had to make, and also the great joys of being a single parent, like being able to form a strong connection with our children, and being able to re-learn the joy of playing with stuffed animals, or going for a trip to the park and swinging on the hot swings, or breaking the ice on top of frozen puddles!
I got a lot out of talking to other single parents, who understood…it always helps to connect with others who have similar experiences, and who know both your pain and your joys; however, I discovered that tuning out anyone who was not a single parent was a mistake!
Christ calls us to follow him, by keeping to two basic commandments: to love God above all else and to love one another. By cutting off all those who were not single parents, and refusing their help I was not showing them love, and I was not doing myself (or my daughter) any favors either! In fact I nearly missed out on a lot of valuable advice!
God speaks through us…all of us; even those people who we may think have nothing to say to us, and these are often these are the folks who wind up helping us the most.
It was when I put aside my pride and remember that God speaks through others, that I was able to open my mind and begin to listen to the people who wanted to help me: not just other single parents, but those who had gained wisdom by having raised children of their own, as well as people who did not have children could provide me with a fresh perspective on a problem I was not sure how to handle on my own.
Often I was just too close to the situation or too frustrated and stressed to make the best decisions for myself and my daughter, and a fresh perspective was what I needed and I learned not to be too choosey about who offered it to me.
It is always good to connect with those who understand where we are…who have experienced the same things we have, but it is also good to listen for the voice of God in anyone who is trying to help us. Keeping an open-mind can also open our hearts to God’s direction and grace in our lives…allowing us to be able to listen to fresh points of view which will give us new resources of wisdom and support as we continue on our journey of life as single parents.
Once given the benefit of the wisdom others, the direction and support of God’s love and of our own experiences we can then share these gifts with all those around us, especially our children.
Let us Pray
Dear God, thank you for putting people in our lives who understand where we are, who have experienced what we have as single parents. We also thank you for those people who can give us a fresh point of view, and for all those who can give us love and support as we face the challenges of lives. Please help us to keep an open mind so that we can hear you speak through all those who are willing to help us and show us the compassion we need to meet the challenges of being single parents. Once filled with your wisdom please help us to use these gifts to be better parents to our children, take better care of ourselves and to help others who are facing similar challenges in their lives.