I’m writing this column after an evening of playing and giggling with a toddler — one of my friend’s children. (Pardon my bias, but she also happens to be one of the most adorable children I’ve ever encountered!) My friend and her husband are away for the evening and I have volunteered to spend time with their daughter while they are out. After hours of play, their daughter is quietly sleeping — and I have the evening to myself.
As I enjoy the stillness of the night indulging in simple pleasures, I am aware that if this were my home, I might not be so quick to relax. Laundry testifies to a day of children playing outside and wearing their meals. Towels that have wrapped children after their baths need to be folded. Dishes speak of well-nourished bodies and a busy day that left them waiting in the sink. Toys and books are scattered throughout the house like a treasure map leading to the child that now sleeps. There is work to be done. I can make a dent, but it is hardly enough — and is but a small reflection of the duties of running a household.
While these are necessary household tasks, they are minimal in contrast to the numerous aspects of parenting. The responsibilities of organizing a household encompass just a small portion of the time and energy that is devoted to parenting well. The act of parenting well and being fully invested in serving a family is challenging for every parent. It requires much — for parenting is among the greatest and most demanding experiences of relationship. (Thankfully, it is also among the most rewarding!)
For single parents, parenting is a role that asks of one individual what might otherwise be shared by two. As such, it is the single parent that exercises consistent servitude and care for his or her family — often with little respite and perhaps with minimal support from outside the home. It is the devotion, strength and resourcefulness of the single parent that is tremendously worthy of honor, respect and admiration — as well as support.
As humans, one of the greatest needs we will know is the longing for support. We need people. We need the presence, the support and the encouragement of others. We also need others to share in our lives so as to ensure that we don’t feel isolated or alone in our journey. While this is true for all, the presence of support is particularly valuable for single-parent families. The act of parenting as a single father or mother invites a significant space for adult connection and emotional and/or day-to-day practical support in caring for one’s family. If you are a single parent, where do you receive such connection and support? Where might such supportive relationships be helpful or meaningful in your life?
Take a few moments to reflect on the relationships in your life that offer a supportive presence. Perhaps these are close friends, relatives, members of your local church or place of worship, people that share in your hobbies or interests.
As you consider these relationships, it may become important to intentionally extend beyond your present social relationships in search of others within the community who are able to provide additional support and valued relationship.
Do you know a single parent? I’d like to encourage our community to be intentional in recognizing and honoring the efforts of single parents. In words or deeds, seek to express encouragement and support of the parents in your life — particularly those that are parenting as single fathers or mothers. We need the recognition and support of one another as we journey. It is the support and encouragement we receive that allows our commitments to family to be renewed, the efforts exercised by our bodies to be energized, and the passionate service of our spirits to be refreshed. In an economic climate of need and during a season of bestowing goodwill, may the single parents of our community sense the support of one another in new and unexpected ways this year.
Shannon Renae West is a licensed family therapist serving families on the Eastside. She can be reached at (425) 415-6556 or via e-mail at ShanWest@msn.com.