Advice for Single Parents—from a Parent Who Knows

advice for single parents

ReclaimedMormonBlog_Large-3Divorce sucks.

Oh, how I wish there was someone who has walked in our shoes, who could speak directly to us and say exactly what we need to hear:

That divorce sucks, but it happens.

It happens to devoted Mormons and devoted parents. It happens to the wavering and the righteous, the young and the old, to short marriages and long term. It happens because of free agency, because of temptations, because of LIFE.

It happens and it will, sadly, continue to happen.

So, why aren’t we talking about it? Why aren’t we acknowledging that so many of our brothers and sisters are facing this roadblock?

This is for all the single parents who have ever cried out:

Why am I alone?

Why do I feel undesirable?

How am I going to do it on my own — I am not enough.

My kids are going to be so messed up — it’s not fair to them.

This is too hard.

When am I ever going to feel ok?

I failed.

Living this new life is an adjustment. Take it day by day, planning ahead no longer feels practical because now you know just how unpredictable it really is.

Here is what I wish I was told:

Fill your network with those who love and support you. Any toxic relationships you have been holding onto now need to be let go. You no longer have the time or the energy, and if you are unsure, the gossip mill of your divorce will soon determine if they should stay or not.

I remember six years ago biting the bullet and picking up my phone to tell my siblings. I have six of them.  I started with the oldest and made my way down, “Robyn, I’m getting a divorce.” Those five words scratched my throat and drowned my eyes in tears. “I’m going to be okay,” the mantra that I played over and over in my head aching to believe sounded rehearsed and phony. Just five more phone calls to make.

I had their unconditional love and support, I had their prayers and I had their reassurances. These were my people, the ones I needed most in my life, the ones that could never be taken away from me. My true friends were by my side and I felt not so alone, not so isolated. Not so different.

You’ll be embarrassed, you’ll feel guilt, and you’ll be humbled but NEVER feel shame. The first Sunday in my new ward I thought it would be easy. They didn’t know me, and they didn’t know my story. My son and I walked in at the very last minute, sat in the furthest pew and we did us. It wasn’t until the beginning of Relief Society that a wonderful sister introduced herself to me and asked, for the whole room to hear, “and is your husband with you?”

I smiled, I said no, then I waited for a spell and quietly walked out of the room. Sensing something was wrong, that same sister followed me into the hall. For the next hour I cried in her arms as she apologized over and over. She knew exactly how I felt, she had been divorced too. She had since remarried but she still knew. And that’s all I needed was for someone to just get it.

You’ll feel a lot of conflicting emotions, mostly at the same time. The more you tell people the more numb you’ll feel. In the real world telling your friends and explaining to your kid’s teachers is embarrassing. Admitting it at church is humiliating. In the real world it is the norm; nobody flinches, but at church where the Proclamation of the Family is branded into every corner you feel like a joke. This will pass.

Stop comparing yourself to others. It’s easy to look out at married couples around you and wonder how many of them are happily married, how many are succeeding at this spouse and parental stuff. How you seem to be the only one who crashed. Don’t. Just don’t. It’s not fair to you and it’s not fair to them.

Keep the Spirit in your home. This is your life-line, your connection to God. Set a routine of family prayer when your children are with you. Be consistent with church attendance, even if you think it will be hard for you and your littles. Family Home Evening can be done any night; pick a day that works for everyone and it will be something they look forward to each week.

Make sure the Priesthood is available to your family; keep your Home Teachers and Visiting Teachers close. For any questions your children pose, seek them out together with prayer, scriptures and through church resources available on-line. Your faith, your testimony, will be a reassurance to your children while insecurities start to creep in.

Make sure there is laughter in your home. It’s so easy to try to over-compensate with gifts, the latest electronics and saying “yes” more than you should. You shouldn’t fill the void with things, but with love and time. With laughter, silliness, playing and dancing. These are the moments that will salve the deepest of wounds.

Don’t rush into a new relationship to ease the loneliness. Figure out who you are, what you are capable of, and what you deserve. Take the time to get to know your children in this new environment. Divorce uncovers new sets of needs, and your kids will express themselves differently. Listen, learn, love. Your kids also need to adjust to you and your new role as a single parent. A new addition when it’s not the right time just complicates things further. Yes you will miss the companionship—but if it’s not right, it just isn’t worth it.

Counseling is awesome! I don’t understand the negative connotation that if you need a counselor then you’re weak. As a single parent, it’s an hour of your voice and your voice only. The only whining is coming from you and is heard by an experienced listener. Your friends and family are great, but they can only handle so much, and it’s not fair to unload EVERYTHING on them. And let’s be honest: there’s a lot you just don’t want them to know. Find a good counselor who you feel comfortable with and listen to his or her expertise.

You are not alone in this. As you pray, as you cry and plead and beg, remember that Heavenly Father knows you and He knows your needs. He will send you the people who can help you. He will guide you to the right resources to better help your children. You will witness everyday miracles of His love for you, even if they’re small and almost unnoticeable. Take the time to notice the simple joys of a quiet morning, marshmallows in your hot cocoa, and Netflix. Re-read your patriarchal blessing; the meaning will be different to you and you’ll be awe-struck of how appropriate it has become for your new circumstances.

You’ll never stop being a Child of God, so hold your head up high! You’ve got this.


Megan is a thirty-something single mom blogger who lives in Portland, OR. She has worked in Pharmacy for the past 15 years and spends her free time free-lance writing for parenting blogs and writing fiction. When in "time-out" (of her own accord) she reads and writes, then reads some more. Her historical fiction novella is available on Amazon The Max Effect.