I had dinner last weekend with some good friends. In the midst of my telling the wife how terribly I am doing with diet, exercise, and self-discipline, she told me I needed to give myself some grace. Her words were something like, "You are a single mom with two kids under five and a full-time job. If you met someone doing that, you would be full of grace for them, why not for yourself?" I scoffed at that at the time, just knowing I could do better than I was doing. My house could be clean. I could workout a few times a week. I could eat better & drink less caffeine. I could. I should.
And, for a few days, I had myself fooled. Today, I can acknowledge how foolish it is to not have grace for myself. But first, a caveat. I am, by nature, ridiculously lazy. I enjoy sleeping. And eating ice cream. And bad TV. And talking to my friends. And word games. And reading. I love to read. Sigh....
I am sitting here, head pounding, shoulders hunched over with stress. This post was written on a Saturday. The one day of the week I do not have a schedule in the morning. We like to visit the farmer's market, but we're not required to be there at a particular time. Saturdays are also the only day I can have both of my morning cups of coffee at home. No slugging it down in the car on the way to somewhere else. What happened this Saturday morning? The same thing that happens the other six mornings of my week. Baby Batman coos happily from his crib around 6. And 4-year old Chickadee bounces into my room around the same time and says, "Mama, is it wake-up time?" That question is repeated, at different tempos & volumes, until I grumble something from under the pillow that sounds something like, "FINE. It can be wake-up time." But this morning, something happened. I'm not sure if it's the baby's ear infection, my headache, or the 4 year-old's desire for cereal before 6:15, but our morning was rough. So rough, in fact, that coffee was all I had until noon. (And we love our breakfast around here.) By the time lunch was ready, I'd already apologized twice for being so grouchy, and probably needed to double that number. When lunch was over, I was nearly in tears because I wanted a nap. Sure, the kids needed naps, but I think I was the only one who actively wanted one. Instead, I had to get this out first.
Single parents (including me), it is okay if you're not perfect. It is okay if your house is not sparkling clean. It is expected that you'll be a little tense some days. Don't feel guilty that you don't have time to juggle all the relationships you used to juggle. Ask for help when you need it. People who love you & your kids will help if they can.
Friends of single parents (including you, whether you're married or not), offer to help. Show up one evening just to drop off a rotisserie chicken (even if it's not for dinner that night, it will be eventually). Offer to take the kids somewhere on weekends, even for a couple of hours. Volunteer to babysit one night a month (or once a week, even) at the kids' house, so if mom/dad is out, they won't have to rush home for bedtime. Offer to mow the grass (or just do it one day your friends aren't home, in case your friends are prideful & refuse help). And, and, and. If you think it would minister to you, try it out with a single parent.
Those things would minister to me so much (and probably other single parents, too), that I feel less hunched over, just imagining that ONE of them could happen. I'm not saying everyone can do these things, or that married parents don't also need help somedays, but I want to say, loud and clear, I know I need help. I need God's grace, absolutely, but also the grace of my friends & family & neighbors so that my family can see God's grace in you, His hands & feet, right here. I can't speak for others, but I would love to be surprised by that grace.