Find your strength, one step at a time.
On a day like Father’s Day, I reflect on the way God has tested my strength through many a season of challenges. A few months before my 40th birthday my husband and the father of my two children left us – choosing another life over the one he had with us. I had just recovered from cervical cancer, we had lost our home, and we were living in the basement of my parents’ house at the time, and then I was suddenly a single mom, the sole bread-winner, with a soon to be middle schooler and a four-year-old. “Really, God?”, I would call out, “Um… OK, what now?”
It was a chaotic time, but somehow I managed to find a way to wake up every morning, put one foot in front of the other, and carry on. With the support of my faith, friends, and family, we all found the strength to survive – and thrive!
Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved. ~ Helen Keller
Strength for the single parent
Parenting requires patience, understanding, sacrifice, and discipline – all of which are difficult in the best of situations. Add being a single parent to the mix, and life gets downright hard. We must face challenges, meet deadlines, cope with stress, and try to stay positive in the process. How we respond can help us develop into even stronger parents and people, and our actions going forward help to promote resilience, both in ourselves, and in our children. It’s a win-win!
With strength there’s hope
So how do we find the strength to forge ahead not lose hope? One thing that works for me is to take life one step at a time. It sounds cliché, but you really can only control what you can control, and one of those things is YOU. The better we take care of ourselves, the better parents we can be to our children. Take the time to cultivate and nourish the best YOU that you can be, and you’ll find that you can make it past most anything that comes your way!
Step 1: Emotional strength
A friend asked me once if I was keeping my “emotional tank” full. I had no idea what she meant, but learned later that it was like a metaphorical gas tank that if kept full allows us to thrive.
How do you know when it’s getting empty? You’ll start to feel negative emotions like inadequacy, doubt, and overwhelm. So find a friend to laugh with, go enjoy a movie, spend time at the beach, curl up with a favorite book, or do whatever it takes to fill up!
Finding ways to keep our emotional tank full helps us to find more joy in each day.
Step 2: Financial strength
Single parents have to stretch their income to provide a roof over their kids’ heads and pay the bills, but somehow we need to make it work.
To do this, you must know exactly how much you have, assess your wants vs. needs, and tell your money where to go at the beginning of each month, rather than wondering where it went after it’s gone. Assign each dollar a “name” – rent, groceries, electricity, etc. – and allot yourself a specific amount per category. Stick to this allotment (use cash envelopes if it’s easier to stay focused). Do not rob one category to pay for another, do not spend more than you bring in, and pay down all debt.
Tweak your system for 3-4 months and you’ll see it start to begin to work. And don’t worry about your friends who may laugh at you. Most of them are probably broke.
Step 3: Physical strength
You’ve filled up your emotional tank and you’re working on your finances. Now it’s time to turn your attention to your physical health. Physical strength is about so much more than losing weight and fitting into your skinny jeans (although who doesn’t want that?). It’s about preventing disease, developing confidence, avoiding injuries, managing stress, and enjoying a positive quality of life – all essential for running a household by yourself.
Set a good example for your kids and take good care of yourself by eating well, getting active, and especially, making sure you get enough sleep.
Step 4: Spiritual strength
I am a single mom, but I do not raise my children alone. Every day I thank God for my blessings. He is the one who is always there, always available to fill up my emotional tank, and always shows me grace when I fall short. I know He has a plan for my life and for my family, and I will continue to count on Him for the strength to get me through even the toughest of days.
As Deuteronomy 31:6 says, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
So on this Father’s Day I think back to that four-year-old who looked at me with confusion when I tried to explain why his daddy wasn’t coming home. He is now a young millennial, and my middle schooler is now a doctor. Together, we’ve all managed to make it work, and we have all become stronger through our challenges.
To all the other single moms out there (and dads, too), remember that despite those curve balls that life is inevitably going to toss at you, you don’t have to give up, because there is always a hope and a bright future!
To your success and beyond,