The sun sets an auburn orb as I leave Lubbock and head for home. Autumn brings brilliant color to West Texas, but tonight my thoughts are not on the beautiful landscape as I speed past golden fields of prairie grass and blanketed fields of white cotton. My thoughts are on home and the many duties that still await me there. I call my daughter, Jennifer, to check on her day and ask if she has finished her essay. I let her know I am headed home, and we discuss plans for supper. As I drive, I think about the Integrity board e-mails to which I still need to reply, and the thought crosses my mind that while I am on the Internet tonight, I need to make my insurance payment and check my bank account. Alas, there is always more to do in a day than day in which to do it.
Home schooling can be a challenge for any family, but single parenting adds another element to life’s equation that can make maintaining balance between the various areas in our lives even more challenging. Single parents are usually faced with the responsibility of earning the income and maintaining the household, as well as providing for the physical, emotional, and educational needs of their children. They struggle daily to maintain stability and balance in their homes.
I was very blessed that for the first six years as a single parent, I did not have to work outside the home. My children and I found creative ways to earn money to supplement our income and to cut our living expenses. We schooled together and we worked together. We raised dairy goats and Border Collies, and we maintained a large garden and sold vegetables at the local farmers market. We cut our own firewood and raised and canned much of our own food. Now that my children are older, the Lord has provided employment.
One of my greatest challenges is to maintain balance and harmony between work and family. I think finding this balance is probably a challenge for every working parent. The struggle to maintain a harmonious state where work is not unduly emphasized at the expense of family is not easy in a society that demands we do it all and have it all. However, we often forget how blessed we are in this country, and most of us could do without far more than we are willing to give up. If we are working just to gain material profit, then we should reevaluate our jobs. The deposits we make into our bank accounts may be depleted, but the deposits we make into the lives of our children will last forever. As a working parent, I must decide daily how much time and mental and emotional energy I will put into my job and how much I will put into my family. I struggle to be the best employee I can possibly be and still be the parent and mentor my children need. That means I must learn to set boundaries in my life and abide by them, not just physically but also emotionally. I must carefully guard my thoughts so that my time spent with my family is truly focused on my family and not still focused on work, and the same is true for my job as well. I must be careful to use my time wisely and not let my personal life unnecessarily interfere with my job.
Another area in my life in which I remind myself to maintain balance is the social circle in which I travel. When I lost my husband seven years ago, I became a single parent, but that did not change the fact that I was still a mom. Some of my responsibilities changed, but I had to realize I could not replace Dad, nor was a male influence no longer necessary in the lives of my children. Our society has created categories for every situation. We categorize children by age or ability and we categorize families by marital status. Society has encouraged single parents to create their own society and segregate themselves from dual-parent (married) families. There are singles groups in almost every circle: church groups, work circles, and even home school support groups.
However, children in single-parent families need to be around other families that have both parents. Although it is nice and even healthy to have a friend or two who completely understands the challenges of single parenting, our goal is not to raise our children to be single parents, so our children need to be exposed to families in which both parents function as a team as much as possible. We live in a fallen world, and throughout history wives have lost husbands, children have lost fathers, husbands have lost wives, and children have lost mothers, but that was not God’s original intent for families. Children from single-parent families need to interact with whole families. This is an area in which support groups can help. Single-parent families need to feel included in group activities. Dads can mentor boys who do not have a father’s presence in the home, and moms can do the same thing for young girls. A suggestion to single parents is to invite at least two other couples to your house for fellowship. It can be a simple meal, since it is not about the food; it is the fellowship that is important. It does not matter how you do it, but remember it is important for children to have role models and mentors, and it is up to you to provide opportunities for your children to find those role models.
Since single parents often find themselves pulled in so many directions, balance becomes a vital need in their lives. In fact, the word balance has often been the focus of my thoughts as I try to juggle work, household duties, support group activities, church and Bible study, home schooling, and family. My prayer has become a plea for wisdom, wisdom to know how to maintain that balance in my life and how to maintain that balance without a counterweight. How do I do it alone? I was reminded I am not alone, and I found some inspiring insight into my question from an unexpected source. Recently, while still pondering and praying for guidance, I was inspired to look up the word balance. It means a state in which a body or object remains reasonably steady in a particular position while resting on a focal point. It can also mean harmony or a state in which various parts form a satisfying and harmonious whole and nothing is out of proportion or unduly emphasized at the expense of the rest.
Of course, I realize harmony is the very thing for which I have been searching. How do I maintain harmony and balance between all these good things in my life? Life can seem so precarious, but the key to balance is in the definition. It was such a simple answer to such a complicated question. A body or object remains steady while resting on a focal point. I realize my relationship with the Lord is my focal point, and when I rest confident in that relationship, my life begins to fall into a state of balance. Sometimes that focal point may seem narrow or small, and I begin to teeter because I forget I do not need a counterweight to balance my life, nor can I do it alone. I need to rest my eyes and my life on the focal point. God is more than able to hold me steady if I will allow Him to become my focal point. He is my base when everything around me seems to teeter, and the more I rest on Him the more harmony and balance become a part of my life.