If I Were a Single Mother

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Buc is out of town this week, which has given Sam and me extra bonding time. It has also made me wonder: What would this journey of motherhood look like without the support of a husband?

Pondering this question makes me sad. I have friends who are making this journey, some of them in silence. But I know there must be pain. Any time a baby comes into the world under questionable circumstances, there is the feeling of rejection, non-acceptance, loneliness, abandonment. I grew up in a home where a baby was born under such circumstances.

This event—or more accurately, the negative roots, or bad emotions and feelings (and the misguided marriage), that led up to my baby brother–led to my family members eventually turning against one another and the five of us living far apart, both emotionally and physically. Today we have reconciled to a great extent. Forgiveness, understanding, and grace have been extended, and we have made up for lost time by creating new happy memories. But not all can be restored.

When families come apart, there is un-restorable loss. I have my husband today, and I have Sam, and God has healed much of the childhood wound, but there is still a hole.

Anytime we lose a family member, or a family structure, we have holes. And while God can soothe them, and partially refill them, they will remain until we are restored to our heavenly image and the heavenly blueprint for families. Single parents, and kids with divorced parents, and kids who don’t know their parents, and kids who do not get to see their parents, was not God’s plan for the family. No matter how much family members may bother us at times, we are not complete without them. We miss them when they’re gone.

And yet, sometimes during the daily grind, I have thoughts about my husband like:

  • If he weren’t here, I could actually keep this house clean.
  • If I didn’t have to cook and clean for him, I could have more time to myself.
  • I would eat healthier without him around.

Terrible, right? But it gets worse. I’ve had similar thoughts about my baby. (Oh come on moms, you’ve had them, too.) Christian writer/speaker Lysa Terkuerst admitted to wishing her kids were older so she could finally get something done. A friend of mine has admitted that she often wants her husband out of the house so he will stop messing it up. These are just the kinds of thoughts we have, aren’t they? We are so quick to dismiss the blessings God has given us.

But as I look back at my childhood family, I don’t care about the little inconveniences we caused each other, such as my brother’s pranks on me, Dad’s boring cooking, Mom’s “too helpful” comments on my homework. I don’t much remember them, honestly. I just regret losing the support of a two-parent family, and family unity and harmony. I regret the hurtful words that flew between us and the barriers we erected.

If I were a single mother, I would have cleaner house, sure. I would have a better diet, I think. And I would have more free time to write and do my “own thing.” But these things are poor consolation prizes for what I would lose.

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I would lose the joy of seeing Buc make our baby belly laugh. I would lose a warm body to cuddle with at night. I would miss good conversation over dinner (when we are lucky enough to eat dinner together and in quiet). I would miss feeling loved and needed. I would miss relationship.

God created us to exist within relationships, and no matter how full our lives are in other ways, the lack of close, familial relationships leaves us feeling empty at the end of the day. I know. I’ve lived that way. And living that way left me not wanting to live.

I’m glad I’ve gotten these days away from my husband to remember how much I love and need him. This time alone has reminded me to keep the main thing the main thing. If my home is not in order, then it must get my priority attention. There is nothing else more important.

I’m also grateful to remember how Jesus cared so much for me that he addressed my holes…by taking them into his own body and soul. A year ago I was Christmas shopping and came across beautiful poem by Anne Peterson called “I Have These Holes,” framed as wall art. I cried right there in the store as I read it, because it rang so true for me. And I bought two copies. One I gave as a Christmas gift (which I think got forgotten by the owner), but the other hangs just to the left of my writing desk.

Here is the poem.

I have these holes

(Find more from the author at AnnePeterson.com)

This poem still makes me cry because it reminds me how Jesus brought me through the loss of a mother for some of my crucial growing-up years, the loss of a father for a couple more of those years, and the loss of a two-parent family. I can’t say the holes are gone, but they don’t ache like they used to. And they have largely been refilled. And one day they will be completely filled.

If I were a single mother, I would have different holes. But in that case, Jesus would offer different ways to fill me up, to ease the ache, to provide support.

Today, if you are a single mother or dealing with the loss of any family member, Jesus understands. And he has ways to fill you up of which you can’t even dream right now. Just hold on.

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2 thoughts on “If I Were a Single Mother

  1. ccyager October 24, 2014 / 8:44 am

    Hi, Lindsey,

    Moving post. I’m sorry for your pain around your family of origin. We are who we are because of ALL of our life experiences, painful and happy. Why are men so messy? It seems like the majority of them are genetically incapable of seeing the messes they make, and therefore, don’t think there’s anything to clean up! (smile) I can remember times when I visited my family of origin for Christmas or Thanksgiving. My mother would work her heart out cleaning and cooking. After the big holiday dinner, could the men in the family even pick up their dishes and carry them into the kitchen? Could they clean up and wash the dishes? I think you know the answer, right?

    A thought: what about single women who choose to be single mothers? For whatever reason. Or the gay couple who chooses to adopt or have a child through a surrogate? I do believe there’s more than one way to have a “family” that’s equally legitimate and loving. Our society is moving closer to accepting those alternatives.

    Cinda

  2. lindseygendke October 24, 2014 / 9:03 am

    Hi Cinda,

    Thanks as always for your thoughtful response. You are so right about men and cleanliness, ha ha! Something about the synapses in that area of the brain just don’t connect!

    On your points about alternative families…these are good points you bring up and worth engaging. I’m sure you could guess that I favor the woman-man definition of marriage, based on my worldview. But even trying to (theoretically) step into the debate from an evolutionary worldview, I think it’s hard to argue that the mom-dad configuration is not the ideal: after all, “mother nature” designed that it takes a woman and man to create a baby. Why wouldn’t it be ideal to have both around to raise a child? But I digress…I don’t want to argue about gay marriage. And if someone doesn’t hold the Bible as their standard, arguing is pointless, and while I don’t agree, I don’t fault them for their beliefs.

    I would concede that single mothers who have chosen that path will not have the baggage and emotional struggles of a woman who is, say, abandoned (and this latter woman is who I had in mind as I wrote the post). I know many single parents can and do have a full and happy life, and they do just fine. That said, I sill maintain that this model still not the IDEAL. Whether or not one believes in a creator or the big bang (or other theories of origin), nature dictates a family structure consisting of both a mom and a dad.

    Thanks again for your thoughts–no hard feelings I hope!

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