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September 23, 2016

Going It Alone

Though the task of child rearing is truly daunting for the overworked and underappreciated mom or dad, the most likely candidate of all for burnout is the single parent. He or she deserves our sincere admiration. These individuals, usually women, must complete the duties ordinarily assigned to husbands and wives without the support and love of a partner. Their lives run not on level ground, but uphill, seven days a week.

Occasionally I meet a man or woman whose journey seems almost unbearable. I will never forget the telephone conversation I had with a young mother some years ago. We were broadcasting live on the radio, and I was attempting to answer questions of callers who sought my advice. The soft, feminine voice of a girl, perhaps twenty-three years of age, still echoes in my mind.

She was the mother of two preschool children, the youngest being a thirteen-month-old son with cerebral palsy. He could neither talk nor walk nor respond in the manner of other children his age. The older brother, then three years of age, apparently resented the attention given the baby and constantly tested the limits of his mother's authority. As we conversed, however, I learned of additional difficulties. Her husband had been unable to withstand these pressures and had departed a few months earlier. So there was this young woman, burdened by the guilt and trials of a sick baby and a rebellious toddler, also confronted by abandonment and rejection from her husband. My heart ached for her.

After broadcasting this conversation, we received dozens of letters from listeners who wanted to contact her and offer financial aid. But I couldn't help them. I only knew her as a voice—a voice that conveyed sadness and pain and fear and courage and faith.

If you are a single mother or father, I sympathize with your plight and urge you to seek help and encouragement from family, neighbors, other friends, and church. You need the friendship of two-parent families who can take your children on occasion to free up some time. If you are a mom, you need the assistance of young men who will play catch with your boys and take them to the school soccer game. You need friends who will fix the brakes on the Chevy and patch the leaky roof. You need prayer partners who will hold you accountable in your walk with the Lord and help bear your burdens. You need an extended family of believers to care for you, lift you up, and remind you of your priorities.

Perhaps most important, you need to know that the Lord is mindful of your circumstances. Remember the words of the psalmist: "You hear, O LORD, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry" (Psalm 10:17).

The rest of us, meanwhile, must bear in mind the scriptural command to "look after orphans and widows in their distress" (James 1:27). If you know of a burned-out single mom or dad, why not offer a helping hand? A little kindness may be just what he or she needs to make it through the day. 

From Dr. Dobson's book 7 Solutions for Burned Out Parents.

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