Faith, Guilt, Hope, parenting

When Life is Hard

Being a single parent is hard.

There’s loneliness. The longing to love and be loved. The desire for adult companionship. An intense need to share your life with someone. And it is so much harder during the holidays.

There’s guilt. Will my kids be ok? Will my kids overcome the loss they have experienced? Did I throw in the towel too soon? Should I have prayed longer, harder?

There’s the feeling of not fitting in. Church isn’t designed for single parents. Your kids’ friends’ parents look at you differently. You’re the only single sitting in the stands at the ball games. Or, if you’re the 40-something still sitting with your parents at every activity, as if you were still a kid.

There’s the overwhelming pain of feeling as if you are broken. You’ve lost your picture-perfect dream of what your future holds. You don’t know what tomorrow holds let alone the next year, five years, or ten years. It’s hard to even begin to imagine your future because of the uncertainty.

There’s pressure. Every decision for the household is on you. You are solely responsible for financial decisions, for child-rearing decisions. Everything—from cleaning house to medical decisions to grocery shopping to working—is your responsibility.

I’m sure I could go on and on about the struggles of single parenting. But, for me personally, there are two specific struggles that seem to tear me down more than anything else: time and finances. And both of those struggles have come crashing down around me this week.

Time. There’s never enough. Let’s start with my job. I am blessed with a great job, one I truly love, that fits this season of my life like nothing else. I have a lot of flexibility, and I don’t know how I would survive without it. The majority of my weekdays is devoted to my job.

Then there’s my blog. My blog is my passion. My blog, my ministry, gives meaning to my pain. It is the pay-off for every pain I’ve been through. It gives me such joy to know that my journey can bless others, that God is using my pain to encourage others. But, it takes time to write, to respond to emails, to keep things going.

And, of course, there are my kids. It’s basketball season. It’s choir season. It’s quiz bowl season. Just this week, we have had activities in Tuttle, Newcastle, Blanchard, Ada, Geronimo, Dallas, and Chickasha (most of those are small towns within a 1 ½ hour radius of Oklahoma City) We have six basketball games, two choir concerts, two field trips, one quiz bowl, and tumbling practice. In addition, we’ve had three doctor appointments and one orthodontic appointment.

Oh…And we can’t forget pig. Yes, Pig. My son decided he wanted to show a pig this year. He saved his money and bought Pig. He’s doing a great job taking care of pig, but when he’s gone on a school activity, someone has to feed Pig. Add that to my list of duties.

Some of you may be blessed with a co-parent who steps up and helps out with doctor appointments and who supports the kids at their activities. COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS. Everything falls on me. I am the only parent in the stands at school activities (most of the time). I am the only parent running kids to activities and doctor appointments. I am the only parent supporting my kids consistently. And I know that if I am not present at activities, my kids will not have a parent to support them. (Think pressure and guilt.)

(Note: I am blessed with the most amazing and supportive family who picks up when I can’t. But, to my kids, there’s nothing like having your parent there to support you.)

With all of these activities piling on me this week, can I just say that I am exhausted? Yep. Exhaustion is the mark of a single parent.

And then there are finances. Let’s face it. Here in America, it is next to impossible to survive on a single income. Kids grow and need clothes and shoes and coats. Teenage boys eat…ALL THE TIME. There’s always something breaking, something needing to be replaced. There are school activities that cost money every time I turn around. There is no end to the drain on my checking account. Putting aside money for college or the future is often just a dream…one that never seems to come true.

Maybe you are a parent who never sees a dime of child support. Or maybe you were a stay-at-home mom starting over in a new career. Or maybe, like me, you just find the cost of living in this world continues to rise while your income stays the same (or even shrinks). I completely understand.

And then there’s the unexpected. Just today, my oldest son called me in the middle of the day. Within an hour, I had him at the pediatrician ($35 co-pay). I was then sent directly to the specialist (another $35 co-pay). And, within two hours of his call to me, I was scheduling a surgery. I’m staring at a huge and unexpected medical bill, and—to be honest—I have absolutely no idea how it will be paid.

Today, I find myself struggling in my role as single parent. I usually keep going, have a great attitude, love my life. But, it’s times like this where I long for this season to be over. I long for someone to hold me, to remind me everything is going to be ok. It’s times like this when I wish I didn’t have to carry the entire burden alone.

And then I remember:  Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your care on Him, because He cares about you. 1 Peter 5:6-7

I don’t have to carry the burden alone! As a matter of fact, I shouldn’t carry it all! God tells me to cast, throw, pitch—as long and as far and as hard as I can—all of my cares—every fear, every doubt, every concern, everything—on him. Why? Because he cares for me!

He sees me. He sees my plight. He knows my fears, my anxieties, my concerns. He knows my guilt, my heartache, my pain. He knows my heart longs to give my kids the best, to provide for their every need. He knows I want to see my kids grow in the fullness of the Spirit, to see them grow into emotionally, mentally, spiritually healthy adults. He knows I want them to know the depth of my love and concern for them.

And he cares about every single burden on my heart.

He cares so much that he wants to carry those burdens for me.

This is a learning process for all of us. I am learning, each and every day, to cast my cares on him—and to leave them there instead of picking them back up again. I am learning how to rest daily in my Savior’s perfect peace by focusing fully on him (Isaiah 26:3). I am learning that my faith still has plenty of room to grow as I wait to see how he will step up and be my Jehovah Jireh, my God who provides. I am learning—still—to wait, to trust, to believe, to hope.

Are you struggling in your role of single parent? Wondering how to balance everything? Trying to find ways to fight the exhaustion? Wondering where your next meal is coming from?

Please know you are not alone. I am walking this journey right alongside you, learning, growing, trusting as best I can. Let’s commit—together—to casting all our cares on him…because he cares for us.

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41 thoughts on “When Life is Hard”

  1. I am dealing with all the same issues and a few more. No time to slow down and my only rest and hope is in Christ! Great blog……please keep posting. I really needed this encouragement today! Thank you Dena for all the words of wisdom.

  2. This is a double blessing post.I am a single parent(which I’m sure I’ve shared with you before).I have an 18 yr old daughter and 15 yr old son(and YES THEY EAT CONSTANTLY!) I’ve missed alot with my kids,early on it was do to work but then it was due to a chronic illness. Their day is MIA so my parents have had to help support us but we long to free financially and not have to depend on anyone. My daughter is doing her best to not depend on them to help her now that she lives on her own.And I said this was a double blessing post bc my daughter has a 1 yr old daughter and she has just become a single mom and I know the cares of providing for her and her daughter are wearing on her already.

  3. I was there. The most fearful time of my life, and yes, I was a believer. One sad story after another. Quite a few holidays spent alone in my bedroom staring out a window – imagining what my son was doing with his father and stepmother. The loneliness eventually pulled me in a relationship because I was desperate for help. There was no family for me to lean on, and that made me victim of bullying by my ex and his wife. I closed my heart and married a man that I did not love. When I got the Dr.’s news that I was pregnant, I told the Lord, if he would straighten out my devestated life, I would trust Him again. After the beautiful success of adoption, I kept my vows. But when my ex coerced my son to move away with him to Florida, and an earthquake that took away my shelter happened, it seemed like the never ending story of the rug being pulled out from under me, and now, having next to nothing.
    Fast forward 20 plus years…
    It has been the Lord’s rebuilding process, and nothing of my own doing.
    I am happy and I have contentment even though things are less than desirable.
    The peace that passes all understanding. I can live in this forever. Jesus is ever faithful!

    1. The story of my life! God is my peace, my contentment. The desires of my heart are still out there, waiting for him to fulfill. But, I live such a full and meaningful life…because of him.

  4. Thank you, thank you, thank you! It has been one heck of a year and this is my first Christmas as a single, divorced mom. I absolutely love your posts and am so excited when I see an email from you! Thank you for your insight and thank you for your words of hope and love from our Lord Jesus Christ. Praying that you have a blessed Christmas season.

    1. Praying for you as you embark on this first Christmas as a single mom. They get better! You have a beautiful future…don’t ever forget it. Cling to him. He WILL make a way! Hugs and prayers!

  5. Dena, you have a beautiful way with words. My heart hurts that even after so long of being on your own, you still struggle with worries of time and finances. Your words spoke to me during the middle of the night as I lay awake thinking about a husband who left me and a divorce I didn’t want. Your words gave me hope. Something I was told by my ex husband that was gone for us. Hope! My prayer for you is that time and finances will eventually work out for you and that you must continue to write. Your words connect us in ways other people don’t understand who haven’t been through a divorce. God is good. I’ve learned that this year. If we keep our eyes on Him, we have everlasting life. We’re still human, we fail but God gives us hope and people like you give us encouragement to keep going. Thank you!

    1. Oh, sweet friend, there is hope with Jesus! Don’t get me wrong: God has blessed me immensely! I make WAY more (on paper) than I did six years ago. But, I am learning there’s no better place to be than in an impossible situation. You see, when we face impossible, God shows up and makes a way. And he gets the glory because I can’t take credit! I think finances is an area where I often fail to trust God. Maybe if I could release my fears and worries, I wouldn’t live on the edge of impossible any more. 😊

      God sees and knows. He is making a way…for you and for me. We are in this battle together with the Lord of Heaven’s Armies going before us. He will see us through!

  6. 5 years and 5 moves…I lost everything to someone that didn’t care if me and his youngest daughter lived under a bridge. He took all the money, the better car, didn’t pay child support for over a year, no real gifts for the girls, not their birthdays or Christmas. After 20 years he finds someone from his high school days, she divorces her husband and he leaves us and marries her and is taking care of her 4 children. My youngest daughter and I have had to move in with my oldest daughter and her husband. I had no real career and being working at what I could find, even Whataburger, now I’ve been out of work for 10 months…have applied to everything from HEB to a cafeteria lady and 40 applications later. I get sorry we found someone else. Are you kidding?!? I sold everything I had to make some money…picked Pecans for 2 months and sold them. My parents have paid for so many things. I owe so much to them and my oldest daughter. Talk about feeling like a worthless loser!! My youngest tore her ACL during basketball 2 years ago. Her father picked a worthless insurance, so he wouldn’t have to pay much.
    $2500 was my share of that bil,when I was making $9 an hour and he was making $20plus..I hate this time of the year. I have prayed and fasted and read the word and listen to hundreds of hours of sermons, for 5 long years..God is not hearing my prayers or my cries. I’m 49 years and barely getting by, while others are lying, cheating and not giving God the time of day, let alone any thankfulness. But nothing has changed for me, I’ve giving up on God and people. There’s not a worse feeling in the world, then the feeling of hopelessness. I just have nothing left in me. I’m ready to go home…I hope the best for everyone out there.

    1. Dear Georgia

      God loves you!!!

      I know it’s hard but count your blessings and stop looking at the thinks you don’t have or had lost.
      Keep praying and soon this season will be over sister!!!

      Have a blessed day and please don’t give up on God! 🌹

      Kind regards,

      Suzy

      1. Suzy. My blessings are my girls and my 2 dogs.. It’s not about just what I’ve lost, it’s about not having any hope left. I hope your right, Thank you

    2. Sweet Georgia. I haven’t been exactly where you are but I have been cheated on, abandoned. left with all the responsibilities. But God….I am praying for God to restore your soul, your hope, your faith and your peace. I’m praying God will manifest Himself to you in a very tangible real way to remind you that He has not forgotten you, or abandoned you, or left you on the side of the road. Much love….

    3. Georgia, I’m so, so sorry for all you’ve been through. More than anything, I want you to know you are not alone! I’m getting ready to show you all the people reaching out to live on you! I can’t wait to approve these comments! You are loved!

      As I read your comment, I thought of the Psalms. So many times David cried out about his enemies receiving favor while he suffered. It’s not fair. Life just sucks sometimes! No nice way to say it. But, God sees and knows. He cares.

      Love and prayers to you. Praying he shows up in mighty ways to let you know you are loved!

      1. Dena, I’m just so very tired and alone. I’m trying not to give up, but each day gets harder. I just feel so dry and empty. Keep waiting on the dawn to come.
        Thank you

  7. Praise the Lord I’m not alone! I truly know God has His hand over my family (and yours) for it is through His strength that I am able to handle ALL that I am given.

    I am a divorced, working mother of 5 children – 12 year old twins and 8 year old triplets. I’ve been raising them for going on 6 years now. And by alone I mean no help from absent parent (not physically or financially), gov’t or nearby family members. Like you I have a great job that provides the flexibility I need and the opportunity to work from home as needed, if not I’d probably be unemployed or hopping from job to job. I also do it all – early morning drop offs, late night pick-ups, doctor appt’s, food shopping, cooking, cleaning, baseball, basketball, soccer and volleyball practice/games (depending on the season), listen to problems, bickering, emotional issues about absent dad, middle of night illnesses…well I think you know what I mean.

    I sit and think…oftentimes cry…many times angry…about how unfair it is that I have to deal with everything – physically, emotionally, mentally, financially – yet, their father has the “freedom” to do all he pleases; sleep as much as he’d like, come and go whenever he wants, buy whatever he wants and not have to worry about losing a job for taking too many sick days to care for sick children or about washing those huge loads of laundry piling up (the list goes on). But then I realize how truly blessed I am. I have the amazing love and grace of God and such an abundance of love from my children. There are people in worse situations. Those that have no family, no home, no jobs, suffer from illness, face abuse and more…that would trade their life with us in a heartbeat. God knows what we have to endure, God knows the race we’ve been given to run…and yet He is with us each step of the way. I have been guilty of trying to do everything in my own strength and I found myself completely exhausted. I would be emptied by end of each day. Then I remember that the Lord calls us to just cast all our burdens on the Lord because I know that without Him I just can’t do it. He is my source of strength each and every day and each and every day I remind myself of His promises.

    God has given me peace about my ex-husband. To speak candidly, for a very long time I harbored hate and I found that it hurt me more than help me and totally hindered my walk with God. It was recently that I released those feelings to God because if I don’t forgive him, how can God forgive and begin to heal me? My favorite verses are Isaiah 41:10; Psalm 46:6; Jeremiah 29:11 and Matthew 6:25-34. Thank you for sharing Dena and everyone else on this blog. It has truly blessed me <3.

    1. Amen and amen! Release that ex to God! I can completely relate to that entire situation. It’s taken me six + years to fully release him and let God deal with him, but I have. I have my kids, their love every day. I know they will one day look back and know who sacrificed everything for them. My eternal rewards will be great! It may be a daily struggle here, but rewards are coming. And my greatest reward is knowing my Savior is pleased!

      1. It’s not fair. There’s nothing fair about it. We can’t control their behaviors; we can only control our response. We can only ensure that we are seeking God’s face, seeking to please him. And, it doesn’t hurt to live the best, most amazing life you can. Perhaps one day they will look back and realize what they had… Hang in there, friend! God will get you through!

  8. Dena, I wish I could come help you. I live in Florida. I don’t know what to do myself. I am a teacher and looking for a job. I am in such turmoil. Please don’t give up. People always ask what am I doing for myself. It is so hard even to take a few minutes for yourself. Love your words!!!

    1. I will never give up! I have moments, but God always comes through. I am a living testimony of that! It is hard to find time for yourself (it gets better as they get older). But, I do encourage you to find something…anything… To do for yourself. But a gift for yourself. Wrap it and put it under the tree so you have something to open on Christmas. Get a manicure so you feel pretty. Anything. It’s essential to love yourself or you can’t truly live other! Hang in there, friend! God will make a way!!

  9. Thank you for your post. My heart hurts for what you are experiencing right now and what you have experienced. I know it so extremely well. My husband, though not a bad person was lost in alcohol and after many years I just could not take it anymore. It is a long story but out of self preservation for myself and our two small children I had to leave him and it cost us everything. I sold my home for less than I owed on it, was downsized from my job and he killed himself all within a couple months of each other. He left me with a pile of debt I only paid off last year. It was so hard on my children every time we couldn’t do what others were doing. I was eventually blessed with a great job, but the overwhelming debt I had been left with was so all encompassing it was still so difficult to make ends meet and keep food on the table. I will tell you though, that my children now 14 and 9 (and they also eat everything in sight) are so grateful for absolutely everything they have. They have no sense of entitlement, but just one of appreciation We went through some very tough times together and I was very real with them about what that looked like for us and that I had a long term plan for our future but it meant sacrificing more at the time.

    I am blessed to have recently been able to move past that season in my life. However, this time of year is still so very difficult me. The pain of what I walked through always seems to surface this time of year. We certainly are not without our struggles, but we all have a greater appreciation for each other, and how far He has brought us as we have made the slow climb out of such devastating pain. Even though I would not want to walk through it again, I see His goodness in who my children are and how they also lean on Him in most things.

    I love your posts, and I know as difficult as it is, I am sure your children are gleaning from the amazing strength they see in their mother as she tackles each trial knowing she has more on her side. Your perseverance, your transparency and your faith is the most beautiful tangible gift that you give them this holiday season.

    1. Wow. Thank you for sharing. I see so much of the same in my children. We have our hurts, our pains. But they are amazing! And appreciative of every little thing! (Even a homemade dinner!) We all see his blessings, his provision, in so many ways. I would walk through it all again to experience God’s tender loving care the way we have. God is truly good…all the time.

  10. I can so relate to this article! Being a single mother to 3 myself is such a daily struggle. Financially, mentally & emotionally!! Just never feel like there is enough time or money! It’s exhausting. Makes the holidays especially stressful and zaps the energy & joy when we feel so overwhelmed with all the demands placed on us!! I love the holidays but they are not the same anymore and sometimes just can’t wait for them to be over so I can breathe again! And it’s hard when I have to spend every other one without my girls. But at least I get them Christmas morning this year & then dad gets them for the rest of the day. Hang in there Dena! We are doing the best we can and we are loved and cherished by our children & God!!

    1. I have had the same struggle. I used to LOVE the holidays! Now I can’t ever get into the spirit. I just try to get through them. And I hate that. Yes, we are loved and cherished. He has carried us this far, and he won’t leave us now!!

  11. Thank you for sharing this post! It really hit home with me as I have struggled through almost 4 years now of being a single mom to two teenage boys (oldest is now in college). I worked two jobs for a while, and while blessed with a professional career with benefits, still find I have more “month than money” most of the time. It’s definitely a struggle not to feel resentful or dragged down into negativity. My ex is involved “on the edges” – as in he occasionally shows up for my youngest son’s ball games or takes him out to dinner – but no real involvement in his daily life. He is focused on his new wife and her children. It’s completely perplexing to me how this happens so often. A man straying for a “newer model” is sinful and tragic, but sadly easy to understand in the fallen world in which we live. A man leaving his children behind as though the bond between them never existed? That I will never, ever understand! One practical thing that has helped me survive single parenting with (most) of my sanity intact has been limiting my boys activities. My oldest son was almost 16 when his dad left – so he was soon able to drive himself to practices and events that I could not make due to work. My youngest son, however, I have limited to one sport at a time and one “community” activity (drum lessons, youth group, etc) at a time. It has really helped me to be able to manage our schedule. Also, he pitches in to help clean the house and has learned how to cook almost anything he wants to eat (he is almost 15 and growing like a weed). He and I approach our life together like a partnership – he knows mom needs help and he pitches in wherever he can. Our children are truly God’s blessing and one day – most likely when they have children of their own – they will fully appreciate the sacrifices and how God brought us all through the tough times!

    1. Yes. I wouldn’t make it if my kids were overly involved. My problem is that I have 3 kids, all in or approaching that age of involvement. My oldest having his license helps SO much! We all try to work together. They are really good about mowing the lawn, doing their own laundry, packing their own lunches. I learn delegation and they learn responsibility. I’m with you. I will never understand the unwillingness or inability to be involved in your kids’ lives. I owe my kids my life. I would not have survived without them.

  12. Dena,

    Thank you as always for your post and for continuing to keep this blog up to encourage and strengthen our faith. I have come to realize that we all struggle with different things. My children’s father moved to Montana almost 2 years ago and we live in San Antonio, so I don’t have that co-parent support either. My mother is passed away and I am an only child. Any other extended family I have live in another state. However, I try everyday to avoid focusing on what I don’t have and focus on what I do. My kids and I are both healthy, I have a job and am going to school to get my MCM. Some days I don’t know how I do it, the only answer is with God’s strength. I have read the other comments and I encourage everyone to not give up. Like Dena says God sees our struggles and He will never leave us. Everything we go through is a lesson to be learned and to make us more into His image.

    Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4.

    This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him. 1 John 5:14-15.

    To Georgia R: I see you live in Texas, not sure if San Antonio. Here is my e-mail if you want to contact me. bjnovak@hotmail.com

  13. Good morning dear sister in Christ,

    Your words are always so encouraging and direct to the heart.

    6 years ago, I had a divorce. Married to a pastor and working for the church durante19 years, suddenly I found myself alone with 2 children adolescents on the street, not knowing where to go. At the time I was homeless, penniless … jobless. Were two years wishing death every day. Really hard! Nothing went right; where I turned the doors were closed.

    It’s been six years, and although the situation may not be so bad, yet every day when I set foot on the ground, it’s a fight! Earned the minimum wage of € 505 and paid an income from home 310 €.

    During these years I have kept true to my faith, even in the days when I did not feel. My 2 children after divorce left the church, and …. is difficult.

    I know how it feels, how it falls upon ourselves to solve every problem, as everything always does to think that I have to pay a price for something they do not deserve. For this alone, so huge. The days pass and ask God for a miracle and … nothing.

    For wanting to love and be loved by a real man, look at me, to love me, who Hold me and nothing … by entering the church and as they say, I am always apart, I go alone and leave alone all It is too structured for families, and I’ there alone.

    For thinking that God is sad, I failed and I have to pay. I want again one family, family dinners, parties in family !!! I want to laugh again!

    Why does not God give me another chance? A new and good man?

    In addition, all decisions are taken alone, I’m tired.

    2 weeks ago my landlady told me that it will sell the home where I am. have been heavy, too,I’ am tired !!!

    because of my salary is so low, I cannot apply to credit bank, pay a new rent cannot stand. Cry to God, have mercy! Do not know what to do.

    But I speak what I know of the Bible, its promises, one day happen.

    So dear sister, you are not alone. God is Faithful. Please do not be discouraged, God promised to never leave us.

    May God save at all, and God love you.

    With a broken heart,

    lots of blessings,Teresa

    Date: Thu, 10 Dec 2015 01:59:57 +0000 To: teresajesus8@hotmail.com

    1. Oh, Teresa. I’m so sorry for all your pain. I love your faith and your hope, though! What a beautiful testimony! Our sermon Sunday was on When God Seems Late. That’s where I am. I’m so tired of the waiting room, so tired of waiting to see his promises fulfilled. And yet, waiting makes me cling to him, focus on him, hope in him. I’m weary, but he knows. He sees. He cares. And his blessings are coming. I firmly believe that. Hang on, my friend! God loves you and will provide!

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