Nikki (my amazing wife) is away for the week. She had the opportunity to attend The Journey in Muskegon. I had the privilege of attending the week long retreat last year and had a powerful experience so I’m happy that she could go. But of course, if she’s gone for a week, that leaves me to keep our three precious monsters alive all by myself for five days. So far so good. Adelaide and Evie, our two oldest, are in school during the day and we have the world’s best babysitter in my mother-in-law (an ex-elementary teacher and grandma par excellence) to watch Charlotte. But the evenings are all me: school folder checks, piano lessons, dinner, homework, soccer practice, bath time, for-the-millionth-time-get-off-the-refrigerator-Charli, bed time stories, did you brush your teeth yet?, pack tomorrow’s snacks and all. I love every minute of it, but it’s a great reminder of all my wife does for our family. And it’s made me wonder what it would be like if I was a single dad.
I can remember a period of about two years when my dad was single. My mother had passed away right after giving birth to my twin baby brothers leaving dad four kids under six to raise alone. He worked a factory job and had to hire nannies to take care of us. I can remember him at dinner time feeding the twins. He sat one on each side of him and had a rotation: give Kevin a spoonful, then Keith, then himself. Round and round. My stepmom remembers starting to date my dad about a year and half after mom died and coming over to the house to watch tv with him while he folded our laundry.
This past weekend up at Camp Barakel for Men’s Retreat I got to talk with one of the single dad’s from our church. He shared with me some of the challenges he’s facing. It’s a hard gig, especially when divorce is involved, working through the pain and grief of a lost relationship, working to put food on the table, and trying to give the kids his best emotionally. We aren’t designed to raise a family on our own (men or women), and he feels every square inch of that truth. There are several other men at ReCAST who are single dads and I’ve gotten the same story from each one of them. It breaks my heart, but more importantly it breaks God’s.
The hope of most of these guys is that at some point they will be ready for and find a new relationship, like my dad did. But what happens in the mean time? Are they left to just slug it out alone?
Here are just two of many possible responses to that question, one to the single dads and one to the church at large. Single dads, hang in there, brothers. Have faith in God and stay strong in His grace. He sees you and knows you. It’s okay to hurt. It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to be tired and weak if in your weakness you cry out to God for help. It’s there you’ll find your strength. He will lift you up and help you be the dad you need to be for your kiddos. So regardless of what it feels like, you…are…not…alone. God is with you.
Secondly, church, let’s be there for these guys. As much as my dad did for us, he got a lot of help. Our home church and extended family really rallied around us. Many nights I would hear a knock on the door and someone would drop off a meal. We were given lots of clothes and other practical needs were taken care of like the local barber shop that gave us free haircuts for years. I know my dad appreciated it all immensely. Let’s not wait for the ask, but instead proactively flood these guys with kindness and help.
So I’m on my own for a week, and that’s plenty for me. Other guys aren’t so lucky. If you’re a single dad, hang in there. If you know a single dad, do me a favor this week and do something nice for him, just to remind him that in Christ he is never alone.