Thursday, December 20, 2018

My Short Life as a Single Parent

It lasted six weeks.

That was enough.

My family and I recently relocated to Fredericksburg, TX after I accepted a call to become Associate Pastor of Bethany Lutheran Church.  Circumstances dictated that my wife, who is a Spanish teacher, finish out the semester at her current position.

We were blessed beyond measure to have friends offer her a furnished guest house to stay at so that this could be possible.  We were blessed beyond measure that my new congregation was understanding in regards to the dynamics of families with two working spouses. 

Fortunately, I had saved some vacation to use between calls, so for the first couple of weeks, things weren't too terrible.  Getting the kids back and forth to school and establishing a routine wasn't as difficult as it could have been, and I had a lot of time to unpack and set up the house.  Helping the kids begin adjusting to a new school district was a bit rocky, but eventually evened out.  My wife came in on Friday evening and then left Sunday after worship, so at least she wasn't gone all week.

But then, the real "fun" began.  I started work. 

The challenges started thereafter. 

It is not impossible to work full time and raise a family.  I have numerous friends who are doing exactly this, but it is not easy by any stretch of the imagination. 

I think the greatest thing that I faced was simply fatigue.  Man, I was tired.  When you team up to get your kids places; team up on the chores; team up on disciplining the kids and making sure they are doing what they are supposed to do, it lessens the emotional and physical energy you have to expend.  When you are carrying all of that burden yourself, you just get doggone tired!  There were multiple nights during the week when I couldn't keep my eyes open and just crashed out.  That doesn't often happen to me--not in the least.  I should have said that it didn't often happen to me when we were together as a family.

Oh, and throw out getting meals prepared during the week. Wasn't happening.  Now I know why there's a long aisle of frozen food in the grocery store.  And I know why fast food exists.  When your time is limited by work and then homework and school work and making preparations for the next day and then school activities--something's got to give.  My stove top is feeling neglected.  And here is where I am giving a shout out to the folks at Bethany.  We had numerous church members bring my kids and I complete meals--chicken spaghetti, spaghetti, meat loaf, all the sides, wonderful desserts.  My thankfulness meter was truly overflowing.

As a pastor, you have nightly meetings.  It's expected, especially in a large church.  In a large church, you also have multiple opportunities to gather for committee celebrations and parties at the end of the year.  Well, I've had to skip.  Not exactly the best way to enter into a congregation and get connected. Not in the least.  My kids are old enough to stay home for a little while by themselves, but they aren't quite comfortable heading to bed without an adult present.  Kids need that safety and security.  Oh, and when their school activities--i.e. band concerts for a grade--conflict with a church council meeting; the graded activities win.  Again, I am blessed with an understanding congregation and am very thankful they have supported my family in this.  They know it's temporary and have granted me grace upon grace because of it.

And kids are notorious about telling you the things they need at the last friggin' second.  There have been numerous instances of that in the past six weeks.  The worst was as we were pulling up to the Middle School, and my middle child says, "Dad, I need $7 for a band shirt today!!"  That sent my eldest into a scramble of looking through my wallet only to find bills that were much too large to send.  Fortunately, my oldest can be resourceful at times, so she started looking through my truck compartments. Lo and behold, there was a bag with just enough cash... But that's beside the point.  When you've got church commitments or school commitments, and you are told of a need, it's almost impossible to take an extra trip to the grocery store or Wal-Mart to get things done.

I know that I will be thankful for this experience in the long run.  I have new insight into what it means to be a single parent, and I understand much more readily why the Good Lord highly esteems marriage for raising children.  You won't hear me condemn any single parent who says, "I was just too tired to make it to this event."  I know you were.  Enjoy that rest.  My prayers are with you.

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