“I don’t know how you do it all,” she smiled at me in an attempt to encourage. “I could never handle all of that. You know, being both the mom and dad to my kids.”
I stared at her a moment too long, creating an uncomfortable silence between us. A flash of panic flickered through my mind: was I supposed to be both the mom and dad?
Of course, I’d heard the concept before. Often from single moms who were working themselves to the bone with little or no help from anyone else. I’d seen them at ball fields throwing baseballs, at scout meetings pitching tents, and at dance recitals carrying flowers to the stage.
But, before that, I witnessed it firsthand as a child. I watched as my own mother struggled to make up for the hole that was left by my father. Listened as she told me that he still cared about me—even when it was clear he’d moved on. At my wedding—the day he officially disowned me—I felt numb as she spoke encouraging words about how much I meant to everyone else. How it was his loss, not mine.
By the time I became a single mom, I’d had a lifetime of watching others rush to fill the father gap in their children’s lives—and I was sick to death of it all.
I decided from the beginning that I would do whatever I could to encourage a positive relationship with my ex. Even if it meant throwing myself under the proverbial bus every day for my kid’s sake. I wanted them to have a good relationship with their dad. I wanted them to continue to see how much he loved them as often as I could. I wanted them to avoid the empty hole I held onto for so many years in my heart.
And, in my short time as a single mom, as I’ve been witness and comforter to a variety of other single moms, I’ve come to realize one thing:
We are not called to fill the gaps in our children’s lives.
Luckily, for many of us, we don’t have to. Our children’s fathers fall in step with the new situation and do everything they can to be there, to comfort, and to provide a positive experience for everyone. But for others, they fall to the wayside. Slowly pulling away, slowly fading in the time they spend, slowly creating a rift between themselves and the rest of the family.
If you find yourself in the latter situation, I want you to hear me now:
God has a plan for this.
We weren’t called to be both the mother and the father to our kids. We were made their mothers. The very day our children came to being. Mothers. With enough responsibilities in that one word to build a lifetime around. Mothers. Who are gifted at loving, and caring for, and raising our children with the influence that only a mother can give.
We were never meant to be their fathers.
Seriously. Stop trying to do both. Just be you.
Because the fact of the matter is that they already have a father. And whether that relationship is a positive one or a negative one, it is in their lives as little or as much as it is supposed to be. Because God saw this life you and your children would lead before it ever came to be. He knew your children’s hearts, and wants, and needs. And he can use all of it for their good.
Every single bit.
He tells us so, in his own words. “I will be your Father, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” 2 Corinthians 6:18
We should encourage the very best relationship with our kids and their fathers—it’s our duty as their mothers. We shouldn’t try to replace, or hinder, or especially excuse this role because it is pivotal in how they will one day grow in their relationship with Father God. But, if our children’s father chooses not to be involved, God himself will step in and fill the gap. God himself will teach your child. God himself will discipline your child. God himself will guide your child.
How do I know this?
He did it for me.
If needed, he’ll do it for your children as well.