We’ve all heard the saying “it takes a village” when it comes to raising children. I know some parents resent this notion, thinking it implies some removal of control over how their children are taught and disciplined. However, every year that progresses in this parenting gig—particularly as a single parent—I find my family’s village to be more and more essential. I love and appreciate every villager who surrounds us!
I think that recognizing the people who love our kids and offer us support carries great importance. It helps us to remember the sense of community that gets lost in our busy and often isolating world. Hopefully, it also propels us to seek out how we can be a valued part of someone else’s life. With that in mind, I would like to introduce you to some of the people you will meet in my family’s village:
Knowing that my children have wonderful teachers not only concerned with their learning but also their emotional health and development has been a great comfort. They offer encouragement, help connect my kids with needed resources when questions about divorce cause anxiety, and (in one instance) gave me a hug and just let me sit at a tiny desk and weep when I met her at back-to-school night after a rough day. (A lasting first impression, I’m sure!)
I recognize the need for positive male role models in my children’s lives. I’m deliberate in deciding who will be allowed to have that influence. For my kids, their coaches have been amazing. They ask about school, offer hugs and high fives, model sportsmanship, tell them their value, provide rides and childcare when I cannot be in two places at once, and check in during the off season. Their impact on my son and daughter extends well beyond teaching them the rules of a game.
My parents and brother live more than 650 miles away—in Maryland. My sister? She lives even further away in New York City. I do not have a built-in grandparent babysitter. That would be so handy. But I have a phone. I call my mom at least twice a week while making dinner and say, “I just need to talk to another grown up for a minute.” And she doesn’t mind if I have nothing important to say. My sister is one of my best friends and is there for those midnight texts to remind me to stay strong and practice self-care when days get long.
Family of Faith
I went through my separation when seven months pregnant with my son. My daughter was three. My church family held me together those first months when I felt like I needed help just to breathe. Over the past seven years? Fathers from the congregation have taken my kids to dinner, told my daughter that she’s smart and beautiful, shown my son — through daily example — what it means to be a husband and a dad. Women held my hand, prayed with me, hugged me, and watched my kids while offering me rest. They all embody love for my family.
I ADORE my friends. Strong women surround me, and I never walk alone. I trust them to discipline my kids, to talk with my kids when they want to confide in someone (other than their mom), to be at my door at 2:00am if I need help. I can be honest with them when I’m struggling or having less-than-loving thoughts about my child’s whining or eye rolling. And they make me laugh—often and uncontrollably. I am so fortunate to have at least ten women in my village to fulfill this role for me. And I could never reciprocate the times they have saved me.
While there certainly are unique needs that come with being a single parent, a support system is invaluable to all of us as we navigate the world of parenting. Who makes up your village? Let us know so we all can celebrate them!
And for those of you who are part of a single parent’s village like mine . . . thank you. You are appreciated, and your role does not go unnoticed.