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Raising my child as a single parent

  • What encouragement can you offer to those of us who are single parents? Each day seems more difficult than the one before it. Can you help plead our case to those who don't understand what we're facing?

Question: What encouragement can you offer to those of us who are single parents? Each day seems more difficult than the one before it. Can you help plead our case to those who don't understand what we're facing?

Answer: In my view, single parents have the toughest job in the universe! It's difficult enough for two parents with a solid marriage and stable finances to satisfy the demands of parenting. For a single mother or father to do that task excellently over a period of years is evidence of heroism.

The greatest problem faced by single parents, especially a young mother like yourself, is the overwhelming amount of work to be done. Earning a living, fixing meals, caring for kids, helping with homework, cleaning house, paying bills, repairing the car (if she has one), handling insurance, and doing the banking, the income tax, marketing, etc., can require twelve hours a day or more. She must continue that schedule seven days per week all year long.

Some have no support from family or anyone else. It's enough to exhaust the strongest and healthiest woman. Then where does she find time and energy to meet her social and emotional needs – and how does she develop the friendships on which that part of her life depends? This job is no easier for most fathers, who may find themselves trying to comb their daughter's hair and explain menstruation to their preteen girls.

There is only one answer to the pressure single parents face. It is for the rest of us to give them a helping hand. They need highly practical assistance, including the friendship of two-parent families who will take their children on occasion to free up some time. Single moms need the help of young men who will play catch with their fatherless boys and take them to the school soccer game. They need men who will fix the brakes on the car and patch the leaky roof. They need extended family and friends to care for them, lift them up, and remind them of their priorities.

Question: My husband died three years ago, leaving me to raise my ten-year-old son and nine-year-old daughter alone. For the past year I have been dating a very gentle, kind man who has three kids of his own. We have recently begun to talk about marriage, which really excites me. I have a major concern, however that my children are not in favor of the relationship, even though Bill has been very good to them and quick to include them in many of our activities. I know Chuck and Laura miss their father and don't want to give up his memory, but I need companionship, and this is definitely a good thing. How should I handle this situation?

Answer: If you love Bill and he loves you, I think you should press forward with your marriage plans. I do need to tell you unequivocally that the blending of your two families will not be easy. I have seen fewer than five "reconstituted families" in my professional career that didn't experience major adjustments and struggles. There are highly predictable points of conflict that must be anticipated and dealt with early in the relationship. One of them is the situation you've described, where the children of one parent refuse to accept the new step-parent. These problems can be sorted out, but you must set your mind to doing it.

Question: I am a single mother with a five-year-old son. How can I raise him to be a healthy man who has a good masculine image?

Answer: As I think you recognize from your question, your son has needs that you're not properly equipped to meet. Your best option, then, is to recruit a man who can act as a mentor to him – one who can serve as a masculine role model.

In her book Mothers and Sons, the late Jean Lush talked about the challenges single mothers face in raising sons. She says the ages four to six are especially important and difficult. I agree. A boy at that age still loves his mother, but he feels the need to separate from her and gravitate toward a masculine model. If he has a father in the home, he'll usually want to spend more time with his dad apart from his mother and sisters. If his dad is not accessible to him, a substitute must be found.

Admittedly, good mentors can be difficult to recruit. Consider your friends, relatives, or neighbors who can offer as little as an hour or two a month. In a pinch, a mature secondary schooler who likes kids could even be "rented" to play ball or go out with a boy in need.

Certainly single mothers have many demands on their time and energy, but the effort to find a mentor for their sons might be the most worthwhile contribution they can make.

This article was written by Focus on the Family Malaysia and the Questions and Answers are extracted from "Complete Family and Marriage Home Reference Guide" with permission. For more information, please contact:

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