Sitting in Church with Kids: 5 Ways to Help the Single Parent

6 ways to help single parents There are a variety moms that come to worship and manage their kids single-handedly. A single mom, a pastor's wife, a wife without the spiritual support of her husband, a wife whose husband is away for work (military, oil, farming, business, music...), and it can even be a grandma with her grandchildren.

I realize that a single parent can be a mom OR dad but since this is a women's blog I am going to address this topic from a mom's perspective. Onward Christian soldiers...

1. Get rid of high expectations.

She may come on time or late. Her kids may sit quiet or have outbursts. She may be dressed up for once or have wet hair and no nylons. She may make it to church every week or miss services occasionally.

Don't expect that the kids will behave or misbehave. Do plan on them being who God made them to be - kids!

Like Colleen commented on Corissa' s post, When We Feel All Eyes Are On Us "With three little ones, church can be a struggle. Especially if your husband is not able to be there to help. My husband is in Koine, and travels most Sundays to different churches. I keep trying to perfectly pack the diaper bag to keep all three kids happy during church. The littlest one needs random objects to keep her hands busy. And, if we attend the “late” service, she will want lunch right in the middle of the sermon. The older two are fairly well behaved, but still want snacks and the occasional coloring activity. There are some Sunday mornings that do not go as planned. I cannot imagine the kids cooperating during church. We go anyways. I usually am surprised on these days by their behavior. Then there are others like two weeks ago… baby is on the move and can be impossible to hold. The middle decided he should keep his hands down the back of his pants the entire sermon. And the oldest was wanting to be mommy and boss her siblings around. Being at church, no matter the struggle some days, is still worth it to me. I love hearing the kids sing along or ask questions about the sermon. They are listening…"

2. Share your stories!

Storytime! Share stories of when you didn't have it all together. Moms often think that their children's cries and nudges are noticed by those around them. *insert paranoid shifty eyes here* Hearing that we are not alone and that this phase will pass is great encouragement! Check out our friend and mentor Linda Buxa's timely blog post - To the moms who take their squirrelly kids to church.

3. Don't be a grabber.

Always ask before you take a child "off her hands." It may make things worse. Church may happen during nap time, the child may be shy, not feeling well, or like most children they prefer their mommy in a crowd. This is okay and it doesn't mean anything against you.

After church I'll be in several conversations and then next thing I know I have no idea where any of my kids are! Most of the time I can safely assume my kids are playing, eating one too many cookies, or are in the loving care of my church family (and hopefully still in church!) but it is always appreciated when people ask first.

4. Grandparent the family.

Some church couples have kids in high school, out of home, or are grandparents. If you fall in one of these categories consider asking a mom if you can sit next to her during worship to help. Do you have a teenager who is interested in babysitting? She can help out during worship!

This can be a wonderful help and creates a greater sense of church family and consistent support for the family. We've got each others backs!

Be a sister's keeper. You can sit with her kids when she goes up for communion, plays music, or sings with the choir. When she has to change the baby the older children can stay seated next to you and hear the message in church. When she has to feed her baby in the pew or in the nursery the older children will helped.

Either you or an usher can help the mom get the crew back to the car. There is so much to carry! Sunday school papers, busy bags, diaper bags, the infant carrier, and the same wiggly kids. Parking lots are tricky and having an extra hand for the littles ones to hold while crossing the parking lot is a life saver.

5. Simply smile and say "Thank you!"

When you are in church you will likely get distracted from a kid's cry, a hymnal slamming to the ground, Cheerios cascading to the ground, or water cups (even children!) rolling under the pews. But when you look over your shoulder and make eye contact with the mom - instead of quickly glancing away - smile! It shows that you are happy her family is there. Especially acknowledge any good behavior or character you noticed to that specific child. Children are the church's future!

Women AND men, acknowledge the effort and sacrifice single parents make to bring their kids to church. It would have been easier for them to not come at all. May our actions and attitudes make kids feel ever so welcome to come into God's house. In a way we are kind of on their turf...

...for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.  Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them. Mark 10:14-16

What are some other ways we can help single parents?

If you are a single parent, how can we help you?

In Christ we are family.

Amanda2

Making the Burden Light(er)

The last few weeks have been rather interesting at our house. Between recent illness and “boundary testing” among the girls, I’ve been finding it difficult to keep up with the housework, grocery shopping, meal preparation, and life itself.

Whether it is an issue of pride, a need for control, or something slightly resembling martyrdom, I rarely ask for help. After all, if I send my husband to do the grocery shopping, he might (heaven forbid!) choose the wrong brand of ketchup or purchase the bananas too green or too ripe. If I ask him to throw in a load of laundry during his next trip down to the basement, perhaps he’ll wash the clothes using too warm of water, resulting in some minor shrinkage of a few precious articles of clothing. And how can I be assured that he’ll remember to disinfect the doorknobs and light switches adequately if he tackles the bathroom cleaning this week instead of me?

Bananas

 However, in light of recent circumstances, I’ve had no choice but allow him to help me.

For instance, we’ve recently settled on a plan that he will be in charge of dinner every Tuesday evening. Tuesdays end up being one of my longest days since it is a day I spend at work and then pick up the girls from the sitter’s afterward. This means he gets to decide what we’re having (only fair since he’s the one making it!) and even if that means spaghetti three weeks in a row, I’m okay with it.

Last Sunday, I actually wrote him a list, entrusting him with the complicated task of picking up a few items from the grocery store. That same afternoon, he cleaned the bathroom while I took care of changing the sheets on the beds.

Groc_List

And guess what? The world did not end. The food he brought home from the store was completely edible. The bathroom sparkled. We didn’t go hungry on Tuesday night. Even more importantly, I was a bit more rested and my husband felt good for contributing.

So again, I ask myself (and you, if this happens to sound familiar): why is this so difficult? Is not one of the blessings of close relationships (such as marriage) not only companionship but also the sharing of each others' load?

Are not my husband and I components of the very same household, working for common goals, such as daily sustenance, cleanliness, and the Christian upbringing of our children?

When I really take a step back and analyze this situation, I think I would have to say that the main reason I don’t ask for help more often is largely due to the fear of inconveniencing anyone else. I figure that it would be far better if I would simply proceed in completing the task at hand myself, even if it means added stress and exhaustion – ultimately leading to a mother and wife who is too spent at the end of the day to even think about engaging in any enjoyable activity or meaningful conversation.

What I’ve failed to realize is that by allowing my husband (and others, for that matter) to support me and lighten my burden, I’m actually giving him a blessing, too: the feeling of being needed and relied upon. I often find myself feeling “recharged” and inspired after serving someone else. Denying my husband the opportunity to help me has resulted in him missing out on that same feeling from the person he loves the most.

I have to admit, it’s been frustrating lately not being able to successfully keep up on things in my own mind. But I truly believe that God has brought this time to our family for a number of reasons, one being to teach me that it’s not a bad thing to have to rely on my husband for support – both physically and emotionally. In fact, it’s really quite a wonderful thing and something He actually instructed us to do.

 Carry each others' burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. ~Galatians 6:2

I find it rather ironic that in my first post this month regarding our relationships I focused on becoming a “more suitable helper” to my husband. But over the course of these few weeks, God has also been showing me the importance of allowing my husband to be the same for me.

 How much easier would life be if I simply allowed my husband to help carry my burdens as God intended?

MelSignature