Sanity-Saving Principles for Single Parents
by Robert Beeson
Trust me, I know—the last thing you need as a single parent is another list of things to do. I get it. As a single father raising three girls for eight years, I am very aware of how little of ‘you’ it feels like there is, relative to all the tasks and responsibilities you face. This list is not to add more to the very little margin you have in your life. Contrarily, this list will help lighten the load you carry, as it did for me. Today, I am going to cover two of the four principles I discovered and wrote about in my book. These are not just theories: These are tried-and-true principles that saved my sanity, maybe even my life, as a single parent.
Principle 1: PAUSE
For me, this was probably the most important new discipline I started in my solo season. I am aware that you might not think you have time to dedicate to something that only benefits you, but I would argue that you don’t have time not to care for yourself. Without taking time for yourself, your energy and resourcefulness wears thin. After all, we cannot give what we do not have. For me, setting aside time daily to be still, even if only for ten minutes, became a life line. Allowing myself ‘alone time’ brought peace and strength I didn’t know I had.
I would go into my room, lie on the floor, and focus only on my breathing. I would pray, God please meet me here—and then just wait. Candidly, this does feel awkward and pointless at first, especially when you consider all the things that still need to get done on any given day. My advice to you would be to just give it time. Just focus on your breathing, the life-giving oxygen filling your lungs and then flowing back out. Don’t attach any meaning to anything. Just simplify your focus, your chest expanding and then falling. Let your thoughts go. When you catch your attention being captured by something, it’s no big deal, just gently bring your focus back to your breathing. As you repeat this (for what seems like an eternity), something happens, without any effort. With every exhale, you start to release the stress, the pressure and the worries. You enter an awareness of how small the things we have let become huge really are, in relation to the reality of the expansive power of our Heavenly Father. In my book, Going Solo, I refer to God’s omniscient power as ‘the constant,’ the great ‘I AM,’ relative to ‘our condition.’ The ‘constant’ is so much bigger than any ‘condition’ commanding your attention. I don’t believe there is a more effective way to become aware of God’s ‘constant’ that exists in your situation than pushing pause and actually making yourself available to it.
Principle 2: PERSPECTIVE
There is no doubt that life as a single parent is overwhelming, exhausting and lonely. Very real issues and challenges are part of our every day. The principle of perspective goes hand in hand with the first principle, pause. Understanding and holding on to the reality of God’s ‘constant’ that surrounds our ‘condition’ is like capturing a snapshot of a mountain range. If you are looking at an enormous, majestic mountain range, there really is no way to capture the expanse. The best we can do is take a picture of the section that our camera allows. This can be frustrating, because there is no way our picture can do justice to what we are looking at. The problems we face are like that picture: While you can truthfully say that it is a picture of that majestic mountain range, it does not capture the whole story. There is a much bigger picture surrounding what you are looking at. Similarly, God’s provision and faithfulness are much larger than what you are able to see right now. Choosing to have that expansive perspective is a decision that goes beyond what you can see in the moment.
We have a saying in our culture that ‘seeing is believing.’ Conversely, I would offer that ‘believing is seeing.’ Let me explain. In Mathew 14, Jesus’ disciples were out in a boat, and the seas were rough. They saw something coming toward them in the distance. It looked like a man, so they said to each other, “Look, a ghost.” We know the whole story, and it wasn’t a ghost; it was Jesus walking toward them on the water. Here’s the point: Because the disciples believed that it was not possible for a man to walk on water, the only believable explanation to them was that it was a ghost. Their belief defined their perspective. So too, our beliefs, based on what we think with all the available information, create our perspective.
If we would dare to believe that the God of the universe—who is not only able to walk on water, but also raise the dead—is actually in control, is very aware of what is happening in this moment and is at work, despite what it might seem in our immediate situation, our perspective would start to shift. This shift takes our eyes off the problem and gives us a glimpse of the possibilities. I believe with all my heart in the concept that we will always get what we look for. If we look for things to be frustrated about, we will find them, always. In the same way, if we look for things to be grateful for, we will find them. Our perspective has a lot to do with our well-being. If we choose to look at a situation and only focus on our limited ability to overcome, it leaves us discouraged. If we choose to look at the situation and focus on God’s unlimited ability to not only redeem but to restore, we can actually feel hope. Either one of the observations is a choice of perspective: One brings despair, the other, hope and life.
Music executive Robert Beeson founded Essential Records and was a senior executive at Provident Music Group. He has worked with Jars of Clay, Third Day, Casting Crowns, Michael W. Smith and others. Beeson is the founder of iShine Records, a faith-based music/multimedia company geared to tweens. He is the author of Going Solo: Hope and Healing for the Single Mom or Dad. After seven years as a single parent, Beeson remarried. He lives in Franklin, Tennessee, with his wife, Barbara, and his three daughters and three stepsons. Robert also launched Solo Parent Society, a community for solo parents to thrive, not just survive.
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