A Letter to Single Mothers: Your Best Is Good Enough
Dear Single Mom,
I see you. I see you trying to grab extra hours at work so that you can buy your kids at least a few Christmas presents. I see you wearing those clothes you’ve had for years so that your youngest can get a new winter coat. I see you watching Frozen yet again because you love to hear your kids laugh and sing along, even though you’re desperate for “real” TV like Survivor or The Bachelor.
I also see you crying into your pillow at night because you’re overwhelmed and underappreciated. I see you balancing that checkbook with fear in your eyes because you don’t know how the ends are going to meet. I see you watching your kids argue in the backseat, yet again, and you just don’t have the energy to make them quiet down.
I see you, and I want you to know that what you’re doing is good enough.
Your best is good enough.
You are good enough.
I’m not going to paint some idealized picture of what life will be like because by now you know that’s just not true. In your daily routines, Pinterest meals are replaced by Pizza Hut, and cleaning is what you do when you manage to stick the empty paper towel tube into the garbage. Your life isn’t perfect. In fact, your life is messy, and you make plenty of mistakes.
As the product of a single parent home, I can tell you that what you’re doing is enough.
But none of those mistakes are going to keep your children away from God’s plan for them.
I don’t remember a single present I didn’t get off my Christmas lists (which were lengthy and detailed, often color-coded and itemized by prioritization), but I can tell you several meaningful gifts my mother, one of the best gifters I know, has given—like my opal ring, similar to the ring that her mother gave her, or the expensive makeup I received for several years so that I could use the good stuff on my acne-prone skin.
I also can’t tell you a single time that my mom yelled at me when she probably should have spoken more kindly, though there were undoubtedly those moments. Instead, I remember laughing until I almost peed on our steps because she was pretending to talk in her sleep. I remember her painting my toenails a deep red, just like hers, on several occasions. And I remember getting those huge Pillsbury rolls and how she always took the time to make extra homemade frosting because she knew I liked that so much better.
While my brother and I offered her perhaps her greatest challenge in motherhood—our constant bickering could wear on a saint’s nerves!— I don’t really remember her telling us to quiet down. But I can still picture the tents that she let us put up in the living room. I can almost feel myself clunking down the stairs as my brother and I raced down in our cartoon sleeping bags while my mom watched, laughing at the bottom. And I can still hear my mother reminding my brother that he is the “big brother, the Bubby,” and it’s his job to look out for me—and to this day both my brother and I take that last lesson very seriously.
Childhoods aren’t perfect, and your children may have to experience things that they shouldn’t—like learning the basics of cooking while you’re running late at work (simmer means low, not boil—found that one out the hard way), seeing the limited stretch of a dollar when even a candy bar can’t be added to the list, and separating darks from lights because ruined clothes can’t be replaced. But none of these lessons will break them because there is a source that supplies unlimited strength.
The beauty of the gospel comes in God’s ability to redeem us, no matter our circumstances. We are all irreparably broken, yes, but we naturally long to know and seek God, the only one who can fix us. Nothing you can do—no words that you say, no bouts of frustration that you show, no grace that you withhold—can push your children beyond where God can reach them.
John 10:28–29 states, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand.”
With the same hands that crafted this entire world, he holds us so tightly that no man—not a stressed-out single mom or even her rebellious teen—could escape that grasp. So while your days are long, your praise is little, and your fears are growing bit by bit, know that God is in control.
In her recent address at Dartmouth, Shonda Rhimes (a popular writer for many hit shows that you probably don’t have time to watch) reminded us that you can’t have it all. With every investment you make, something else is taking a hit. But as you decide every week whether you work more overtime in order to pay for the next field trip, or you try to come home early to spend a little quality time with your kids, or maybe you finally scrub out those moldy dishes in the sink, know that it’s going to be okay. The plates will keep spinning, or, as is perhaps more likely, one will inevitably fall and break, and no amount of anxiety or worry will miraculously keep that plate in the air.
The amazing thing about God’s sovereignty is that he is in no way dependent on our humble offerings—our works, our stress, or even our strengths—in order to produce fruit. Even without five loaves of bread and two fish, he could have —but the miracle is that he chose to use five loaves and two fish from a single boy. From my own life, I can testify to the amazing power of a single mother’s five loaves and two fish. You don’t have much, little more than a mite I’m sure, but when you have that and the Lord? There is nothing too costly for you.
So as you’re packing lunches, speeding to practices, working long hours, and wondering how your kids will possibly turn out okay in light of all of your mistakes, take a deep breath. Remember the pride that comes in thinking your mistakes are bigger and more influential than God’s sovereignty, and maybe spend a few more minutes laughing about how bad the dinner tastes or offer to paint your daughters nails while she’ll still let you.
Your love is strong enough. Your faith is big enough. You are good enough.
By Joy Beth Smith
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