In the early days of my being single again, friends said, “Call me if you need anything.”
But I didn’t call anyone for several months. Why? Because I had so many needs I didn’t know where to begin.
Then one Saturday morning, a flat tire forced me to into the unfamiliar world of car maintenance. My husband and I had settled into traditional roles: I took care of the house, and he took care of the cars. I didn’t have a clue where to go for a new set of tires. So I called a longtime friend from church. All he had to do was recommend the tire store he trusted for his vehicle.
Instead he snapped, “Now that you are alone, you’re going to have to figure things like this out for yourself.”
I was so stunned I stammered, “You’re right,” and hung up.
Obviously, I didn’t ask for help again.
Now these years later, here’s what I wish I had been able to verbalize then to my friends and to my church.
Pleas for my church
Please welcome my family. One of America’s greatest mission fields may be in church pews every Sunday. What a great opportunity—to have a life-changing influence on a child.
Single-again parents can’t always depend on our extended families to provide the encouragement we need, especially if we’re across the country. So, a good church will do wonders in seeing our kids through rough times. Oh, we have no guarantee church involvement will keep them out of trouble, but our chances for survival are much better. And please remember that accepting a divorced person isn’t the same as condoning divorce.
Please remember we still are a family. If your church has several departments, please include single-parent families in the family ministries instead of expecting us to return to the never-married singles group. Our challenges and interests no longer fit that lifestyle.
Please talk to me. When you see me in church, please offer a sincere greeting. If my children are small, I’m especially hungry for adult conversation. I often feel awkward in church, and your smile and greeting on Sunday morning will make a big difference.
When you ask how I am, please hang around for the answer. If you’ll take an interest for even a few minutes in what I’m doing, I won’t feel so alone.
Please talk to my children. Even a two-minute chat as you ask specific questions about my son’s interests will make him look forward to coming to church and will help him feel less invisible.
Please extend common courtesy. Most single mothers1 can tell about being asked at a banquet to move to a different table because two couples wanted to sit together. Not only is the request rude, but it tells the single woman that her preference doesn’t matter.
And please don’t talk about the upcoming Valentine’s Day gatherings in front of me. I may be reading the bulletin board in the cloakroom, but I’m also hearing you. Am I being overly sensitive? Yes. But in the early days of singlehood those discussions remind me of additional losses and make me feel all the more invisible.
Please offer practical help. Many churches have auto clinic days when single moms can bring in their cars for tune-ups, oil changes, or winterizing. Other churches keep a file of handymen who are available to help with home repairs, but assign the men to work in teams of two. That wisdom protects the workers—and the single mother.
Pleas for my friends
Please be patient with me. In the early days of being single-again, I’m frightened. Yes, this is unfamiliar territory. But I’m not asking you to carry me over this stone-filled road. I’m just asking you to let me put my hand on your shoulder as though I were shaking pebbles out of my shoes.
Please pray for me. I may appear strong, but the load of single parenting and career juggling is heavy. As you pray, if the Lord gives you specific direction, please listen. He knows my needs, whether it’s for a recommendation for a good mechanic, help with grocery money, or someone to take my son to the father/son banquet at church. If my children are young, it would be great if you’d offer to take them shopping for my Christmas present.
Please include my children. The only fun traditional family my children might remember is yours. What a wonderful ministry you can have just by inviting them to join you and your family for a picnic or game night. Please understand I’m not asking you to raise my children. That’s my job. But many young boys and girls have no idea what godly fathers do since they either don’t remember their dad or never see him make wise decisions.
And don’t discount the importance of just a few minutes of attention. When I was twelve years old, the course of my life was changed in a five-minute meeting with my elderly neighbor’s niece, Doris Schumacher. Doris taught English and social studies in Minneapolis and, by her example, showed me that education would be my key to a bright future.
Please understand we are not contagious. I don’t want to be feared or pitied. I just want to be treated normally. Simply invite us into your home just as you would any other family. And please accept when I invite your family to my home. Just by being a friend, you will be a blessing in my life and in the lives of my children. And perhaps we can be a blessing in yours.
This excerpt is from Sandra P. Aldrich’s Heart Hugs for Single Moms: 52 Devotions to Encourage You (Revell, 2015).
- While this article is an excerpt from Sandra’s book written for single mothers, we must remember that single fathers are facing these same types of struggles.