Robert Beeson: The secret life of a single parent — remember this on National Single Parent Day

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If I told you that in 1984 President Ronald Reagan had established National Single Parent Day on March 21 each year, there’s a really good chance your response would be, “Well, I’ve never heard of that. I had no idea.” You’re in good company because most people don’t know about a day set aside to recognize these parents.

But because 34% of U.S. homes—yes, one out of three—are headed up by a solo mom or dad, isn’t it time we re-established this annual day in our country?

Of course, any mom is eligible to be celebrated on Mother’s Day and any dad on Father’s Day, but single parents deserve a special day to be recognized and applauded for their valiant efforts in singlehandedly raising their children. In fact, that’s why we are also dubbing this day—March 21, 2021—as Super-Hero Sunday.

From just a casual glance, those of us who live the single-parent lifestyle may look like we are holding life together. We might even make it appear that parenting alone is just a different form of normal in our society. But if you stop and pull back the curtains, looking deeper at the reality, you will discover lives we work so hard to not let anyone else see.

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First, we feel overwhelmed most all the time. So much of our energy is spent trying to keep all the plates spinning, nothing stopping, nothing else breaking, all the while knowing we don’t have enough arms, or energy, to keep up. But inevitably, it’s only a matter of time until something gets dropped. And most of the time it’s the plate labeled “me.” The concept of self-care becomes a mirage for us.

Second, we aren’t likely to ask for anyone’s help. Why? Because we already feel embarrassed that we have failed at keeping a family intact. So why would we want to bring even more attention to our shortcomings?

Third, even though our numbers are many in this nation, we feel like we no longer fit into modern society. Or in a church. Or in a social group. Even the ones we were once a part of. Like being relegated to the penalty box or time out until we can figure out a way to re-enter functional society with a different spouse.

But here’s the twist … the unexpected upside to Solo parenting.

In our season of challenges, and loneliness, and isolation, and invisibility, there are insights that often get covered up in traditional intact families. When we are forced to be deliberate about life, the Solo Season gives us the opportunity to see all aspects of life for what they really are.

We find that we are more than the roles we play in society. Our identity doesn’t have to be attached to what we do or our image. Losing our “social standing” brings us to understand that we spent more time keeping up appearances than actually living an authentically integrated life. We can use this time of being alone to get down to the basics of who we truly are, what we actually want out of life, and most importantly, what we have to contribute to others.

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We can also learn to spot pretenses and facades in others. There’s nothing like being stripped of what we once used to prop ourselves up—status, power, designations, money—to clarify what is real and what is counterfeit, those social dynamics we often wielded to control others’ perception of us.

One of the most important upsides to a Solo Season is grasping the ability to actually be in the present—with our kids, with others, and even with God.

The Solo life is filled with unknowns, especially the future. For that reason, we become very familiar with our lack of control, so what we are left with is only what is right in front of us in the moment.

This new reality affords us the beautiful freedom to fully focus on being content with what we have, right now, things like our kids and our health. Life has to get really simple. And especially in these times, that’s a good thing.

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Although the life of a Solo parent is filled with constant challenges and struggles, we can be transformed as people and as parents into a healthy balance, the way we were created to be.

Yes, this requires a lot of work. But the very things that we once thought were our kryptonite actually turn out to be our superpower.

For more information on Super Hero Sunday, please visit singleparentday.com.

Solo Parent Society is a nonprofit that helps single parents raise healthy kids by providing support groups in person and online, creating resources and advocating on behalf of the 34 percent of U.S. homes that are single-parent homes. Learn more at soloparentsociety.com and follow on Instagram @SoloParentSociety.

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