Friday, January 26, 2018

The Hidden Blessing of Single Parenting

I normally try not to overly quote scriptures on my blog too much as to not alienate reader’s with different spiritual views. However, today I’m going to mention some scripture for a little bit. At various times in my life, certain books/chapters/verses resonate with me. Lately a passage that’s been on my mind quite a bit is Matthew 6:1-4.

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of people in order to be noticed by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 So whenever you give to the poor, don’t blow a trumpet before you like the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets so that they will be praised by people. I tell all of you with certainty, they have their full reward! 3 But when you give to the poor, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be done in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

There's are many ways to apply to this principle to ours lives; however this post I'm going to address this as it applies to single parenting. 

The truth is the life of a single parent is one with most of the hard work, giving, and sacrifices being done behind the scenes. There's not another parent in the home or even a spouse that might be away from the home to vent to or receive encouragement from. Most of the things that single parents do for their children don't really get noticed by anyone. Again, this applies to traditional household parents and so many other groups of people; however, I just wanted to specifically encourage my solo parenting friends today. 

For so long, I just believed our role was one that really just helped our children. Of course, we would get fulfillment and a closeness with our kids, but overall our needs and desires would ultimately have to take a back seat to theirs. All of this applies to both custodial and non-custodial parents. 

As a custodial parent, the wear and tear of emotional strain being the caretaker can be overwhelming. Day in and out, we carry the load of day to day parenting. School mornings, doctors appointments, sports practices, late night vomiting sessions, preparing meals, etc., it's all our responsibility. There is no one to tag out with. No one to jump in the ring for us, while we take a breather. At times we get so tired or emotionally/mentally/physically drained, it's hard to keep up with it all. But... we do. It's our duty and passion. No matter how hard it gets, we find a way to give our kids the best we have at all times. 

On the other hand though, non-custodial parents deal with probably a harder challenge.. not being able to fulfill that day to day parenting position. Many times, their role in their children's life is restricted to only a few days a month. However, either in order to keep their children's life stable, to keep the relationship with the other parent healthy, or just because of custody arrangements, they grit their teeth and go without seeing their child. Throughout all of this, the love for their kids is there beyond measure. To me that's an enormous sacrifice. One that I personally don't know if I could bear. My hat's off to the non-custodial single parents out there. You all are the even more unseen champs. Personally, I know my kid's mother deals with this pain. She is amazingly supportive of us and extremely selfless in our desire to put the kid's well being before her own. I'm blessed to have an ex-spouse like her.

So back to the topic, as single parents we act out our love in secret. We all long to bless our children without them feeling guilty or ashamed to accept it. What I mean by this is, if you or your kid needs a new pair of shoes and you only have money to buy one pair. I can pretty much guarantee that most of the people reading this would buy their kids some nice new shoes with a smile. And if your kid ever asks "Mom/Dad, why don't you buy yourself new shoes too?" Never in a million years, would you want them to feel guilt due to the truth of the situation. Most of you would just smile and tell them our shoes are just fine and that they will last a bit longer. My point is our kids should never have to feel guilt from being cared and provided for. So since there is no one else in our homes but us and the children, these acts of love are something that's only truly understood within our own hearts. 

Recently, I had been having a rough patch in regard to being a single parent, and then God hit me with a random memory from YEARS back: It was probably around 2007. I had to stay extra late one Sunday after church to setup for a skit I was doing the next week. So I finally finished all of my work and went to lock up the building. However, when I was checking all of the doors before setting the alarm, I noticed a light on in the back of the dining hall of the church. Curious, I peaked in to see what was going on. What I saw still sticks with me to this day. One of our church members (a quiet, sweet member who sat near the back & never seeking any kind of attention) had every single piece of silver we used for communion laid out on the tables. I attended a fairly large sized church, so all of the pieces took up multiple tables. I watched her slowly and carefully hand-polishing each individual piece. I could tell she had been at this for hours, just to make sure each item was as pristine as possible. I remember not saying anything in that moment. I just kind of froze up looking at her. It was the purest, most serene thing I'd ever seen.  After a few minutes, I stepped away and called one of our pastors to brag on this woman. I could tell the pastor was smiling over the phone. She told me that this woman got a key to the church in order to stay late once a month to polish all of the silver. No one really knew about it, besides the pastor who she got the key from. She just saw a need and filled that need in private. No fan fare or casually mentioning, the hours and hours spent polishing. Nothing. She just did it in private with a smile. 

As I said, I had been in a rough patch when God brought that story to my mind. I felt him saying that we are single parents are supposed to be like my friend from the story and our children like the silver.  Then he brought up the passage from Matthew I mentioned earlier. If I performed my parenting role in a Godly, non-self serving way I would be blessed as well, along with my children. Sure people will hopefully see the fruit (love, happiness, joy) of our children, but there's a Heavenly blessing in it for us as parents. In the quiet alone moments of prayer, in the times you sacrifice personal time for them, in the love you've given when you yourself have felt unloved, etc. In all of that, there is an audience watching... It's God. He sees you polishing your silver when you think no one is watching. He knows how isolated you feel, but continue to serve. Not seeking public attention and not receiving that support from a spouse that we all so desperately desire, and Geez Louise is he proud of you. 

When we realize that our blessing is more than a future spouse, friendships, prestige, or money, it's when we can finally begin to embrace/understand it. (Seth note: Geez. I'm so guilty of this to be honest).  The blessing isn't something tangible or even visible to people around us. It's the noble gift  getting the lay the firm foundation for our kids. Have you ever completed a project yourself instead of calling in someone else like fixing something the house, hand making a gift, building something instead of buying it, cooking a meal from scratch for a dinner, etc.? What a remarkable feeling we get to experience afterwards! That's our gift we get to experience each day! Of course, God is always in charge and nothing is possible without him. We are never saved by our works, BUT you can be obedient and finish your race with your everything you've got. God wants you to feel that joy because it's what He's feeling when He thinks of you! 

So my single parent friends, yes you are tired, neglected, financially strapped, and isolated. No one sees your sacrifices or trials. However, remember this is a blessing. It's a Heavenly gift to be able to serve in private. I like to picture it like this, God looks us at the same way we look at our kids when they pour themselves out to others with no desire for anything in return. Just a beaming, sweet smile with prideful tears swelling up in His eyes. 

I'm so very proud of you all,

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Things That Make You Smile

My friend recently showed me a book very similar to this idea called "Happiness is". I read it and completely loved it! So this wasn't totally my original idea; however, I just wanted to make my own with a Megow spin on it :)

Being able to pick out our own clothes

Catching your first big fish

When you don’t feel well and your dog cuddles with you

Experiencing your first snow

Checking out books from the library

When you find the perfect present to give your dad for Christmas

A cold drink on a hot day

Using resources on hand to build something you need

Fun class projects at school

Winning a trophy

Someone throwing you a surprise party

Holding daddy’s hand

Board game nights

The 'Comments' section of the internet

Catching a monster bullfrog with your buddy

Organizing your crayon box by color

Holding a newborn puppy

Spending time with best friends

Getting past your ugly duckling stage

When your son accidentally makes an innocent birthday party family photo to PG-13

Finding/cutting down your own Christmas tree and seeing it come together into a magical sight

Sunday School

Surprise letters/blessings from strangers

When your dog lets you dress him up

Getting to hold a baby at work

Surprise visits with your grandma

Losing your first tooth

Rediscovering old, favorite photos of loved ones that have passed

Making unique self-portraits

Winning a costume contest

Drifting away into a peaceful and beautiful ice cream coma 
(Which apparently is common in our house, when looking for a picture I had MULTIPLE occasions to choose from. Hahahaha)

Creating the perfect holiday card

You and your Mimi giving each other makeovers

Going to your first monster truck show

Springtime flowers

The first swim of the year

Be Blessed and Be a Blessing,

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Ex-Anniversary

Divorce is not only painful, but the aftermath is something that we (that have had one or have been affected by one) must deal with for the rest of our lives. No matter the scenario of the marriage, divorce is definitely something that comes with intense emotion. Seriously, the broad spectrum of feelings can be overwhelming. The actual divorce process is hell on earth. Each day after is a step towards healing. However (for me anyways) there is always one day that is simply emotionally confusing, the ex-anniversary date. I truly can’t speak for everyone, so I will speak for myself. I honestly haven’t figured out to handle when this date comes around the calendar each year.

Let’s picture back before the wedding. So much time, energy, and resources were invested into planning for the big day. Personally, it was my favorite day. I love my kids beyond belief; however, this day was the day that made my children possible. All of my future dreams were knit into this marriage. The wedding symbolized a giant leap into my role as a husband and eventually a father. All of my friends and family gathered to celebrate on this specific date. Gifts embroidered with that specific date were given, simply to remind me that this day marked one of the most unique, life changing decisions I would ever commit to in my short time on this earth.

I love celebrations. Birthday parties, Holiday get-togethers, and other special occasions are just my favorite. My anniversary was probably the most special to me. There was no need to invite guests or involve a million other people. It was an intimate celebration of my marriage. This was a day that I looked forward to more than any other throughout the year. Just a time to reflect and celebrate the day we became one and to excitedly dream about what the future years had in store. Another thing about anniversaries is that they get better every year. The next one should always be better than this year’s. In my opinion, that’s the entire point of marriage, to grow together and closer. It’s like adding another patch to a pair of worn out jeans. Sure some wear and tear might have happened, but over time the relationship becomes more and more unique. I loved celebrating the day the jeans were originally purchased and remembering all events that made these things a well-worn pair of comfort. Maybe also because I got married in my dad's jeans from college. When a rip appeared, he just added another patch. Eventually, they were just a giant quilt work of patches. I love those pants and still have them. :)

"the jeans"

Then divorce happened.

Before my first ex-anniversary (probably like most people who have been divorced), I tried to just block that date out of my mind. “The marriage is over. My old anniversary date is just another day on the calendar now.” However of course, I found out that is simply not true. The feelings changed, but each time it rolls around I just feel things that set it apart from just an ordinary day.

Suddenly, there's a strange stack of emotions to process. What used to be a day of joy is now a day of hurt/confusion/anger/resentment/etc. There are as many way to cope with this as there are people that have been divorced. Should I completely bury the past and make this a regular day? Should I take today to be grateful for the good years? This is one of those situations where there's just nothing in playbook of life to know how to think.

The first time my ex-anniversary rolled around the calendar like I said I tried to block it out. That lasted about ten minutes. Suddenly, thoughts and feelings started to bubble up. I really didn’t know how to feel. I can’t keep just ignoring my past. Should I try to focus on the joy that was present for the bulk of my marriage or perhaps focus on the last few anniversaries that were spend alone and heartbroken? To be honest, the first year I chose the latter. My mind went to those vivid memories of crying, praying, and begging for that nightmare to end. What was once my favorite celebration of the year morphed into something I began to dread. I told myself that remembering how horrible and toxic that relationship was would help me move forward. Hahahaha. That wasn’t my best plan of action apparently. I was grumpy and irritable all day. I counted down the minutes until that day was over.

The next year I was already prepared for how I was going to handle it. I woke up and thanked God for that relationship. Focusing on only the good was my plan for the day. That worked for a while until I got sad about not being married anymore. (Disclaimer: I wasn’t sad about not being married to Crissy. Nor am I sad about that all at. Ever.) I missed having a best friend that was as close and intimate that I once had. I think just focusing on only the good wasn’t really the best choice. That wasn’t a real reflection of my history with my anniversary date.

Nowadays, I’m just accepting that I have no clue how to feel. It’s so hard to explain. I don’t really get sad anymore about the marriage ending. In fact, I feel the opposite. I love the person God molded me into from my divorce experience. However, I do feel disheartened about the choices my ex has made and still continues to make. Not because of feelings of romantic love, but I feel that way because I know her better than anyone on the planet. It breaks my heart seeing the person she chooses to be. My confusion not only arises from the people we have become, but it also springs from simply trying to interpret the million thoughts that race through my mind on this date. Should I feel sad? Can I feel relief? Is it guilty to feel relief? How should I remember the good times, while simultaneously keep in mind the hell on earth I went through? What if I meet someone who was never divorced, how am I supposed to feel about this then? How does Crissy feel about this date? Is it ok to feel upset about some things? Have I acted in a manner to ensure I was truly Jesus to her not only during the marriage, but also after the divorce?

Bringing kids into the mix just adds a new depth of confusion for me. They were brought into this world by both of their parents. Not just me. No matter how involved the other parent might be, that person is still their parent, and this ex-anniversary date is a permanent reminder of that to me. Yes, I can and do pray for wisdom. I don’t exactly feel nervous about questions that will arise in the future, but I’m not exactly looking forward to it. Speaking of questions, they do ask me questions very frequently about the marriage and divorce of their mom and me. Each child has a different take and experience on the marriage. For instance, one of the children says things like “Daddy, I want you to marry someone that makes you happy. You were sad a long time with mom.” While another of my children ask questions like “What if mom said she was really, really sorry? Would you marry her again?” Of course, I tell each of my kids that their mom and I both love them more than we can possibly explain, but unfortunately, decisions have consequences both good and bad. Mom and I both made decisions that changed us and we are not going to get married again. I try to explain that while forgiveness is something that must take place, our actions have permanent consequences. It can be hard to explain this concept to children, especially when it regards their parents. The kids know my ex-anniversary date, and it always comes with new questions each year. To be honest, many of my answers focus around the fact that this is something they will understand when they get older. They should instead focus on loving each of their parents and each other.

I think the point of this entire post is to say that it’s ok to not know how to feel. It’s important to remember the good times, but also reflect on the things that helped us grow closer to God and more confident as an individual. I think I have discussed this one the blog before, but I view this like an axe chop to a young tree. At first the giant, gaping wound to the tree will be extremely evident. It takes up such a long surface on the tree. It’s impossible to glance at the tree without seeing that axe mark. However as time goes by, the tree continues to grow and heal. Years down the road the tree has keeping growing larger and larger. The impact of that axe mark is still the original size it once was, but seems so much smaller due to the massive new size of the tree. The scar of that evident is something the tree will never get rid of, but the overall impact of the wound continues to appear smaller with each passing day as the tree reaches closer to the sky. Circumstances can never change the past. The only thing we can do is grow ourselves to change our view on the past. To grow and flourish enough that my axe mark becomes less important each year. For me, this date is a clear reminder of my own personal change and my story.

Be Blessed and Be a Blessing,


Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Why I'm attracted to single moms

I'm really drawn to single mothers. The past few years it's just the kind of girl I find myself really interested to, but I've never really nailed down the exact specifics. Lately, I was thinking of all of this and decided to really delve into the subject internally. Here's what I came up with:

Disclaimer: This isn't related to a specific person. Nor am I trying to group everyone together. Also, I'm not saying that married mothers don't have these traits nor women without children aren't fantastic too! I've crushed on quite a few women without kids too. :)

1) They get it. Single parenting is freaking hard to explain. Just like so many things in life, you just have to go through it before you can really understand it. I don't claim to understand so many aspects or struggles of life, but single parenting is something that I think I really get. For example, my kids don't need a "new mom". There's a big difference in being kind and loving my kids vs jumping ahead of their own mother (no matter what state of their relationship at the moment, she's still their mom). Also, they understand the responsibility I'm under just being a parent. Emotionally it's rewarding but it can also be extremely draining. Financially, it's challenging. Even if child support is present, money is bound to be tight. I love people who budget and are wise with their money. Single moms are typically wise with their budget. Also, trying to explain my lack of time or how hectic our everyday life is to someone who isn't a parent is basically impossible. I don't have that much free time. Especially during the school year. Since quality time is one of my main love languages, it makes this a big challenge. I need someone who understands that my kids come first too (at least until we would ever get married, but that's a whole different situation). Not saying that a significant other doesn't deserve attention. It's important to make sacrifices to spend time together, it's just that I don't want those sacrifices to negatively affect my children. I'm willing to give up some sleep, personal hobbies, volunteer activities I enjoy, but taking away from my kids isn't something I'll ever be cool with. I like to see that in a partner. As much as I love quality time, I also strangely like to see someone sending me a "maybe next time" text because they are doing something fun with their kids. It shows integrity for someone to put their kids first before their own desires.

2) Single moms live in beast mode. I'm telling you... Those ladies get things DONE son. Being a single dad, I feel like a novelty. The idea of a full time single dad is still fun and somewhat unique. Hahahaha. I get cut so much slack by everyone. When me and my kids show up somewhere 10 minutes late in mismatched clothes, shoes on the wrong feet, and Chex Mix spilling out the van door with one kid carrying a frog and another with 2 day old face-paint still visible, people just laugh and say "Well... the Megows are here." Don't get me wrong, I freaking try my best but sometimes having everything perfectly done just isn't possible and I love the grace that's extended my way :D However, my point is that I feel that single moms aren't given this much leeway by our society. It's sad, but single motherhood is just engrained in our culture as a norm. Society expects them to still be "pro moms" without the support of a partner. And for the most part, they deliver. Single moms run circles around me. I know quite a few, and sometimes I just stand in awe of how they can dominate life's challenges. I freaking love it. One of their kid needs cupcakes for a soccer function and another needs a costume for a school event (both by the next day). A single mom will find time to get this stuff done  along with keeping a clean house, staying on top of laundry, shopping, cooking, and being involved in church/community events (and a lot of times working outside the home on top of it all). Not only that but there's no "Honey Do" list for single moms. There's a "I have to do this list" they make for themselves. Fix the broken chair - their responsibility. Cut the grass - their responsibility. Get the oil changed in the car - their responsibility. Change out the dryer hose - their responsibility. It's just a constant cycle of being busy, tired, and putting their kids before themselves.  I'm so attracted to self-sacrifice and hard work. Single moms are basically one of the best examples of that in my opinion.

3) Casual dating/hookups are out of the question. Hahahaha. First off, right now I've very happily single. I think the reason I feel like this is because dating as a single parent can be intense. Like I said earlier, I don't have much free time and the energy I spend in a relationship is an investment. I don't have the time/energy to just go out to dinner with a different girl a week. My kids and I have blanket forts to build, coloring books to finish, frogs to find, bedrooms to clean, video games to beat, and adventures to have. When I do commit to someone in a dating way, it's going to be a legit relationship. Because really, me seeing anyone involves my kids as well. They've experienced instability. They've experienced having their mom leave. I have to mindful of that when I'm thinking about a relationship. For the most part, single moms are pretty keen on that concept too. I really like being able to trust someone explicitly. That kind of thing takes time and commitment to a relationship.  Being a single parent, you are basically forced to be mature in decisions since basically everything involves your children. I just think that's a perk with single moms.

4) They are normally cool with my kind of fun. While I can dominate a karaoke bar (seriously, I slay... hahaha), most of my fun is spent with my little crew. I love when people can jump right into planning an adventure or mapping out a treasure hunt with kids. Honestly, the most excited I was last week was going to a friend's house with the kids to let them make bedazzled bandannas for our dogs. We just brought some fun handkerchiefs, stick on jewels, and puff paint to let them just get out some creativity and fun. (Side note: Olive got sick so we had to immediately turn around and go home. I was more bummed that I was when plans fell through on kid-free nights.) I love when someone has some creativity and a child's sense of excitement about things.

5) They already have children. (It sounds obvious, I know. Just keep reading) I think this is a big one for me and probably the most important on this list. Also this might not make a lot of sense to some people, but it's just my personal opinion. I love the idea of a blended family. Honestly, I haven't experienced it yet, but I've heard how challenging it can be. However, I just think this situation is ideal for me. Here's why... Sometimes my kids freaking miss their mom. Some of my more sensitive children still get sad that they don't get to live with her anymore. If I get married again, you can take it the bank that I'm not going to have more natural kids with my wife. My kids have been through enough with their mom. I think it would so unfair to them for the new baby to grow up and have BOTH of his/her parents living in the same house. Forcing my kids to have a sibling who gets full access to both parents while they are left sad and missing their mom would just be bad parenting in my opinion.  Events like Mother's Day, Christmas, Birthdays, etc. can be tough in my household. Having God kind of stitch a Brady Bunch situation would be my dream family setup. Again, I'm 100% that there are a TON of challenges with this type of household, so that's why I pray about things before committing to anything :) On a side note, I do think that if I got married then adoption would be a good option for our future if we all decided we wanted our family to grow.

Those were just some thoughts floating around my head. So next time you see a single mom or a mom with a deployed partner give them a big high five and some encouragement. I guarantee they are freaking tired and drained more than we can understand.

Be Blessed and Be a Blessing,