By Jessica Kastner, Crosswalk.com
There is no circus quite like the life of a divorced mom. I’m recently re-married, but it wasn’t long ago I found myself raising three boys on my own, post-divorce, dealing with that special blend of loneliness, fear, stress, guilt, and exhaustion felt solely by the divorced mama. Here are my best encouraging truths, with a smattering of Scripture for strength, because Lord knows we need it.
Truth #1: We Can’t Do it All, and That’s Okay
One common defense mechanism for the divorced mom is denial. We pretend everything is okay despite now having to help with all the homework, carpool to all the sports, buy all the things, and open all the bills…because we don’t want our kids to “feel the difference.” Meanwhile, we’re suppressing mental breakdowns on the way to work and napping on our lunch breaks because we’re so exhausted. I know some guilt and chaos are unavoidable after the death of a marriage, especially when a ball or two drops (oh, there was practice today?), but we need to give ourselves some grace.
Friends, we will never be the sum total of two parents. Raising kids alone is not ideal, and it’s not natural. But if we’re doing all we can to care for our kids, it will all be okay. Feeling loved and secure is the base necessity for all children. All the other mishaps or letdowns — the late permission slips, the rushed car rides, the not-so-name brand everything — will be easily forgotten. The love will stick, which leads to my next point.
Truth #2: Be Protective of Your Attention and Affection
My single greatest regret in life has been placing too much attention and focus on my dating life after divorce instead of my kids. I cringe to this day. I never did well with being alone, so I was Christian Mingling it up from the moment I was single, and then again after a breakup, and then again. Oh, how I wish I had waited. Just sat in the discomfort and unrest for a while. Given myself time to grieve the death of my marriage and let the Holy Spirit bring some healing. And most of all, I wish I had been there more for my kids.
It’s tempting to juggle too much after divorce when there’s suddenly more time to pursue our own interests and activities or when we’re trying to fill the void when the kids aren’t home. Other priorities like our careers, friend groups, ministries, and volunteer work can garner too much of our attention if we allow it, misdirecting our energy away from my kids when they need it the most.
It can be so painful and difficult (and boring!) being single again, craving family life, and wanting to find a partner. But God does have a plan. I encourage all single moms to prayerfully consider when it’s right to date again and be super careful and guarded about how much time you devote to new relationships when you’re ready.
As a mom of a 23-year-old, 15-year-old, and 14-year-old, I can say with bittersweet confidence that kids grow up in an absolute flash. Soak up every second of quality time you can, even during this lonely season. Sometimes it’s the sweetest. However. On that note…
Truth #3: Don’t Be a Martyr Mommy
We shouldn’t put ourselves in time-out just because we’re divorced. No one wins when we neglect our health routines or sacrifice those monthly dinners with friends that keep us sane. No one wants to witness our rough appearance because we spent every last cent on our kids’ endless Nike haul. I’m far too selfish to claim to have been one of these moms, but I’ve sadly watched friends sacrifice everything for their kids because they’re so mired in post-divorce guilt.
This isn’t healthy. Our lives still matter. Our goals and dreams may get altered a bit after having kids and getting divorced, but they aren’t meant to disintegrate right along with the marriage license. God wants us to live abundant lives in every circumstance, even in the wake of failed marriages. Pray on this and consider what you’d like to start doing (or stop doing) for yourself. If you really want to join that life group once a week, leave the kids with your mom/loved one. If the thought of getting hair extensions makes your heart sing, then splurge a little and skimp on the monthly takeout. The kids can feel it when we’re happy and personally fulfilled.
Truth #4: Alone Time Is a Temporary Opportunity
None of my glasses are rose-colored. Divorced parenthood is rough. However, I will say that parenting on your own can create a unique bond with your kids. God works everything for our good — and our nutty, chaotic divorced lives are no different. Instead of mourning and lamenting the loss of your nuclear family (and I know it’s hard), start creating your own little traditions, routines, and memories with your kids. For me, it was planting trees and flowers together around our new house and then buying a trampoline for the first time. Admittedly, when sharing custody, we’re often left with less quantity of time, but we can definitely increase our quality of time.
Every hour is precious when we see our kids less, which can open our eyes to the importance of being present and fully engaged with our kids. After I finally re-married, it felt surprisingly bittersweet not having my kids all to myself in our own little world. Try to embrace this season instead of resisting or “surviving” it. It’s almost always temporary.
Truth #5: Do Not Feel Less Than
As Christians, it’s common to experience this unspoken “scarlet letter” feeling, even if it’s in our own heads. We’ve all been to those family carnivals, birthday parties, or school open houses, sitting by ourselves while all the other couples flaunt their nuclear familyhood. It feels a bit isolating, and it can be easy to fall into the trap of self-pity.
Looking back, I wish I had held my head higher without feeling any shame or need to explain my current situation. Who cares if you’re the only female parent at your son’s Cub Scouts meetings or the only volunteer in the church nursery without a wedding ring? There’s no shame in the journey. Your family and your home are not less than, nor sub-par, just because you lack a husband. Period.
Truth #6: God Is Big Enough to Fill The Gap
We know God considers marriage sacred and opposes divorce. But sadly, many God-fearing, well-intentioned couples end their marriages for reasons too endless mention. After divorce, feeling a sense of defeat, failure, and even a little spiritual flatness is common and natural.
In most cases, under the anxiety, depression and restlessness lies a fear that we’ve somehow screwed it up. That God is disappointed with us, and we don’t fully deserve His favor and provision. The enemy whispers into our hearts that we’ve sinned via divorce, and now we’ll have to strive more, pray harder, and work extra to achieve the life of love and peace we still dream of.
Friends, let’s come against this lie together, in this moment, replacing it with the biblical truth that nothing and no one can separate us from God’s love. And that nothing we do can hinder his extravagant love, protection, provision, and mercy towards us.
As divorced women, God now stands in the gap as our husbands and as a father to our kids when they’re under our roof. There might be more empty chairs than we’d like, but He’s at the head of our table. He’s alert and vigilantly watching over us, even when we feel completely alone.
Divorced mommyhood is not for the faint of heart. But it does get easier with our Lord, a little help from our friends, and a lot of faith. You’re not alone, and you’re enough for your kids. With the Lord, you’ll not only survive this season; you’ll thrive.