Growing up, I always knew I wanted to be a dad. Most kids I ran around with wanted to be an astronaut or a football player, but not me. I had bigger dreams. I wanted to be a dad. I looked forward to it becoming a reality one day. I dreamt about what kind of dad I would be. And when it happened, it was even better than I could have ever imagined.
“Daddy” is my favorite name, and being daddy is the most rewarding position I have in my life. But a little over a year ago, after my wife lost her battle to breast cancer, I became “mommy” as well, and that was something that I could have never prepared myself for. You see, life still goes on even after you lose the person you’d planned on doing the rest of your life with.
My wife, Rachel, went to be with Jesus on March 1, 2020. Twelve days after that, the entire country went into lockdown. The kids were no longer going to school. March Madness was canceled. Churches stopped gathering in person. Restaurants and stores were all shut down. Uncertainty was all around us.
I remember thinking after Rachel passed that all I wanted to do was find a new routine. I wanted to figure out what our new normal would look like. But Covid came around and had a very different idea. Covid didn’t allow for routine. It didn’t allow for normal. Nothing about what we’ve all gone through over these past 18 months is normal. And it’s been hard. It’s been frustrating. And I don’t know about you, but I’m tired.
All that to say, I don’t have a great routine. I sure don’t have this single parent role figured out. But I have figured out a few things that have helped me through the hardest season of my life. And I know that some of you are right in the middle of a similar season. Or maybe you’re heading into one. Either way, here are just a few things that help me each day and may help you, too:
1. Find your people.
You need people who will support you. People who will show up for you. People you feel comfortable asking for help when you need it. And even better to find the kind of people who will show up for you before you have to ask. We all need help because we can’t do this all alone.
You don’t need to feel like you have to do it all alone. Because you’re not alone. What I learned in this season was that people want to help, they genuinely do. But more often than not, they don’t know how and they don’t know what to do. So, don’t be afraid to ask.
2. Keep it simple.
You can’t do it all, and no one expects you to. You don’t have to make all the parent-teacher conferences. You don’t have to make it to every practice. You don’t even have to prepare a meal each night. It’s OK to cut back on activities for you and for your kids.
For me, I’m just honest and upfront about it all. I let the teachers and coaches know early on what they can expect from me. Grace is a beautiful thing and you’ll be happy to know that it’s all around you. Teachers are super understanding if you can’t make it to something at the school. My kids probably aren’t going to be professional athletes (and I hate to tell you, but yours probably aren’t either), so don’t drive yourself and everyone else crazy trying to make it to three different practices for three different kids each night.
Just keep it simple. Don’t overcommit. But if you happen to do so, don’t be afraid to cancel something. You and your kids will be better for it.
3. Accept the mess.
One of the things I never realized while Rachel was here was that she cleaned nonstop. She must have done so because the house was always clean. I miss that. But I also know that I can’t do what she did. She was a superhero and I’m not.
I’m doing my best to teach my kids to pick up after themselves, but I also understand that this is a process. I definitely spend way too much time cleaning up after them. But I don’t let it bother me like it once did. I saw a quote one time that read, “Cleaning a house while kids are growing up is like shoveling snow in the middle of a blizzard.”
To be honest, one day, the mess will be gone. There won’t be any kids to clean up after. And though it’s not one of my favorite things to do, I’ve accepted that the mess is here to stay, at least for a while, and I’m OK with that. One day, not too far off, I know I’ll miss shoveling the snow and I’ll long for the blizzard.
4. Find “you” time.
I know this one may be the hardest, especially for single parents. Because more often than not, you’re giving all you’ve got to those who need you most. But this will eventually catch up to you and leave you feeling defeated, worn down, and no fun to be around. If you don’t intentionally take time out for yourself, you’ll eventually break.
For me, that time is just 30 minutes each morning on my back porch with my coffee and my quiet time. It’s the best way for me to start my day and I don’t ever regret taking that time. For you, maybe it’s a midday workout. Maybe it’s a walk around the lake. Maybe it’s reading a book in the bathtub. Find something you love to do and then actually do it. It doesn’t need to take a ton of time, but it does need to be consistent. Each day, for 20-30 minutes, find “you” time and watch how it impacts the rest of your day. Take care of yourself. Stop feeling guilty for doing this. Make it a priority.
Between being a single parent and the pandemic not caring about my agenda, a routine has been really hard to come by. So, if you take away anything from what I’ve written, please be encouraged and know you’re doing great! Solo parenting isn’t easy and you’re doing it. I don’t even know you, but if your kids woke up today, had clothes (clean or not) to put on, and eventually ate something, you’re killing it! And for what it’s worth, from one single parent to another, I’m proud of you.