Faith, Grace, Guilt, parenting

You Have Permission

Being a parent is hard. Being a single parent is extremely hard.

Single Mom or single Dad. Never married. Divorced. Widowed. One child. Two children. Eight children. No matter the reason you are a single parent, the struggles are real. The struggles are often overwhelming. The struggles are often similar.

When you are divorced and have custody of the kids, you are mom and dad. You carry the entire burden of the household, the finances, the chauffeuring. You must be the fun parent and the disciplinarian. You are responsible for every doctor and dentist and orthodontist appointment. You are the cheerleader, faithfully supporting your children in all of their activities.

And, you have the added stress of attempting to co-parent with the other parent, the one who potentially broke your heart. The one who knows exactly how to push your buttons, to get you on the defensive. The one who possibly continues the verbal and emotional abuse of you and your kids. The one who continues to try to hurt you while failing to realize it hurts the kids. You must navigate your own grief over the loss of your dreams while helping your children navigate their own messy grief.

When you are widowed, you carry the entire burden, just like a divorced parent. However, you don’t get even the occasional weekend away from the kids while they are with the other parent. You don’t get the short break can become your sanity check, the time you can use for yourself. You are the only parent on this earth, no one else to even occasionally share the burden, no one else with the same level of concern for your kids. And you must navigate your own grief as you help your children navigate their grief.

In both situations, you face your own struggles, your own loneliness, your own longing to be loved again. You miss your friend, the one who knew all of your secrets and loved you anyway. You miss the companionship and the stability, the security. You long for what you once had…or at least thought you had.

I’ve walked the single parent path because of divorce. Now I walk the single parent path through death. It’s hard. It’s lonely. It’s overwhelming. It’s exhausting.

There are days like today where I just want to hide, not talk to anyone at work or home. I just want to curl up in my closet and pretend the world doesn’t exist. I want to send everyone away and listen to the peace and quiet, do what I want without having to take anyone anywhere, without having to cook for anyone or answer questions or help with homework or remind anyone to clean their rooms. I just want to run away!

Days like today, I remember every difficult moment of this journey. I’m also leaning I have permission.

I have permission to fall apart. Why is it we moms (especially single moms) think we have to be strong for everyone? Why is it we don’t want anyone to see our weakness? Why is it we choose to hide our pain and our tears instead of being real and vulnerable?

I am the world’s worst. I like to be the rock, the one everyone else looks to for support when their world falls apart. It is the most uncomfortable position to be the one in need. And yet, we are all human.

Right now, I’m ready to fall apart. I can no longer hide the pain from my kids, from those closest to me. The tears have been flowing without reserve, not by choice but because I can no longer hold them inside. And, honestly, it feels good to let them out.

When this moment of fear and grief passes, we will wipe away the tears and continue pushing forward. And my kids will know that being strong does not mean we never fall apart.

Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

You have permission to be less than perfect. I value quality. I value responsibility. I value giving your best effort. And, if I’m honest, I often value perfection.

I am learning that sometimes less than perfect is good enough. The house isn’t up to my standards? That’s ok because at least we have clean clothes. The yard isn’t mowed again? It’s not exactly at the top of my list of priorities in my life that is jam-packed with activities from morning to night. My kids’ school projects aren’t Pinterest perfect? At least they are learning and doing on their own rather than having parents who step in and do it for them.

As much as I always wanted to be the perfect mom, I have learned to let perfection go. And I think my kids think I am the perfect mom…for them.

Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

You have permission to not have it all together. Sometimes we are an absolute mess. In less than a month, I left two phones in the bathroom at work. My work phone was stolen; my personal phone was returned. It’s amazing that’s all I’ve lost with the chaos in my life!

How many times have I forgotten an activity? A parent teacher conference? How many times have I missed a doctor’s appointment or an awards assembly? How many times have I had a rough day at work and my kids were the recipients of my bad mood?

Sometimes—many times—I simply don’t have it all together. As a matter of fact, sometimes I can’t seem to get anything right! I burn the dinner. I forget a child. My calendar is deleted. I forget to pray with my kids before school or before bed. But I am learning that we get a fresh start each and every day, a new opportunity to see His mercies fresh as the sun rises above the horizon and we start over.

God knows I don’t have it all together, and yet He still loves me. He sweetly reminds me that in my humanity, He gets to show off His power.

Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

You have permission to be nice to yourself. How many times have you bought new shoes for your kids and neglected to replace your own shoes that are falling apart? How many times have you purchased new clothes for the kids while you continue to wear your college wardrobe?

When’s the last time you did something nice for yourself? Treated yourself to a manicure or a pedicure? Saved up money and went for a massage? Had a girls’ night out without kids? When’s the last time you asked someone for help so you could have a quiet evening alone?

Scripture teaches us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves…meaning we must learn to love ourselves before we can love others. Perhaps it’s time you learn to love yourself, to do something nice for yourself. You will find that you become a much better parent when you take care of yourself.

Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

I don’t know where you are in this journey, but I know our Savior thrives in our weakness. When we can admit we don’t have it all together, He can and will gladly step in and show His strength in us and through us. We can boast in our weakness because we get an opportunity to see His power.

Maybe, like me, you feel as if you are about to fall apart. Maybe, like me, you are at your breaking point, overwhelmed with the exhaustion and stress of trying to juggle everything. Maybe, like me, you can’t hold back the tears any longer.

Let’s give ourselves permission. Cry if you need to cry. Scream if you need to scream. Go for a run. Eat that last piece of cheesecake. Take a hot bubble bath. Ask someone to watch your kids. Admit you can’t do it all alone.

Go ahead. It’s ok. You have permission. And tomorrow, we will wake up, reminded that His mercies are new every morning, that His grace is sufficient, that He is strong when we are weak. Great is His faithfulness!



20 thoughts on “You Have Permission”

  1. Hi Dena, appreciate your sharing, honesty and vulnerability and can relate in many ways, the exhaustion, tiredness etc. There is one difference though, my teenage daughter is with my wife who choose to leave with a stranger. As father I want to take care, be there for her, pray with her, hold her, encourage her, drop her of school , have meal or just a laugh, see her in the morning when she awakes, and say “hi princess” “hi dad” ..But as the weeks and months go by I see her not much, while I desire so much so.. Its a heart pain/ ache hard to describe.. and doesn’t go away.., I can only pray, but at times I don’t know even what to pray.. and as you write go back to the One who Sees and Knows.. Getting a glimps how He feels about each child in the far country…and waits till they return

    He is Faithul till the end

    1. MW, My heart aches for you. I don’t know how I would have made it through all of this without my kids. Many days, they were my reason to keep going. I am so, so incredibly sorry that your wife has separated you from your daughter. I can’t even begin to imagine the pain, the loss that you must feel. I join you in praying that your daughter sees and knows the truth, the God resurrects your relationship with your daughter and restores it better than ever before. God bless.

  2. Great post. You also have permission to embrace God and to feel the comfort of his grace in your life, to remember that he promises to never leave or forsake you.

  3. You are such an inspiration and I thank God every day for your insight. You truly have a gift for not only writing but for preaching His word and guidance. God bless you and your family. Thank you so much!!

  4. I identify with everything that you wrote as if I known you . You are amazing. A kingdom is prepared for all GOD’S children. Let us keep our eyes stuck to our heart. Thank you.

  5. Prayers for you as you navigate this hard season of your life. I have walked the single mom journey (remarried 6 months ago) and it is a hard journey for sure. I had 100% custody of both my boys as their dad did not want set visitation and rarely saw them for the first several years after our separation/divorce due to his focus on his new relationship. (God has somewhat restored his relationship with our boys now that our oldest is in college and youngest in high school but he will never regain the years he lost). It’s easy to fall into being bitter from carrying the full financial, physical and emotional responsibility of raising kids that were brought into this world by two people – not just one – but God truly does give the strength and wisdom to keep going – and puts people in our lives to help us just when we need it! I believe YOU are one of those people to all your readers. You inspire single moms (and dads) who need to know that God has not forgotten us…that He is right beside us even when it doesn’t seem that way…and He is working out His overall plan for our good and for the good of our precious children.

    1. Thank you so much for the kind words. There is no greater joy for me than to see God use my pain to help others. It’s exciting to hear from someone else who has walked this journey and seen God redeem every hurt!

  6. I thank God for your transparency each day. Having gone through the hurt of infidelity, your words always come at the time I need them most. Thanks for reminding me that it is ok to just cry because I don’t have it all together. God is faithful!

  7. Hi Dena,

    I just recently came across your blog while searching for “faith vs trust” in preparation for my next posting. I read three of your posts: faith/trust, wrestling with God and on waiting. I felt as if I was reading my own story. I recently started a blog “My Personal Journey” earlier this year. I post on Facebook under Chl Carlstrom. I felt a sense of confirmation through reading your posts. I really enjoy how you write and have chosen to follow you. Thank you for sharing this amazing gift. Sincerely Chlvie

  8. Dena,

    I just found your page and it wasn’t by accident. In the 15 minutes I found you I have been so blessed. Been divorced 14 years. Amazing relationship with my sons father and wife. When son turned 16 and decided the wild teenager life is the path he wanted I was completely taken by surprise that our years of discipline the same changed drastically. I became the strict no fun parent who drug him to church and daddy became the fun friend. It’s now going on 6 months of not seeing him and it’s tearing me apart. I have a 12 year old and 1 year old at home but miss my boy. I ask for your prayers. It’s a hard pill to swallow. Thanks for all your writings. God is using you in mighty ways!!!

    1. I’m so sorry, Mandy. I can’t imagine your hurt and your pain. You know, some people (men especially) need to sow their wild oats. I’ve seen men who walked faithfully until their 40s, and then suddenly decided they had missed out on something. They threw away their family for the pleasures of this life. I’ve often wondered if it would have been better for them to rebel young, to reach a place of understanding that the pleasures of this world are empty. Just keep praying that God will bring him back, that he will see the emptiness of chasing the pleasures of this world, that he will return to you and the Father…forever and always.

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