When I was a single mom with young children, grocery shopping was one of the most difficult activities I had to do. Between the stress of managing young kids and trying to get necessary items on the list, it was a herculean feat.
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At that time, the grocery store I visited the most installed a “kid watch” program where customers could have their children watched by trained sitters in a special section of the store that was full of toys, video games, computers, and crafts. The boys loved going there when the store opened this invaluable area – and I could finally shop in peace.
I wish now, with my youngest daughter, I could have access to such a place, but that grocery store has since closed. I was thinking about this and wondered: what Christmas gifts would I have wanted during that season of being a single mom?
My boys would want to buy their mom a Christmas gift, so there we’d go, off to the dollar store, and, armed with a few dollars each (as money was very tight), they’d choose gifts for loved ones, including me.
It would have been sweet had someone else taken them to do this. It always bummed them out, at their young age, that I went with them and saw what they picked out – even had to help with the wrapping. If a church has a single parents ministry, it needs to realize that Christmas can be a tough time for kids and parents alike. Just taking the kids shopping and help with wrapping the gifts for their single mom or dad would be a huge blessing for all.
Often, people want to bless a single mom or dad with gifts at Christmas. There are some things that I received during this season in my life – and some things that I wish I had received that would have been a blessing. Such things can make life just a little easier for women and men who are carrying the entire weight of being both parents for their children.
Back to the grocery shopping: besides the obvious of a grocery store gift card, there are some items that would have made bringing the groceries in the house a lot easier, especially with young children.
Inevitably, I would have both arms loaded with the handles of plastic bags, trying to balance the load and walking like a pregnant polar bear, while trying to herd kids to the door. This tool was a great help to place the handles on the hooks to hold multiple bags and not create those unsightly handle lines embedded on your skin.
Conversely, utilizing cloth bags for grocery shopping was even easier. These bags can hold a ton of groceries, or a picnic lunch, books to return to the library, or snacks for the soccer team. I still use the cloth bags I bought in 1992! They last a very long time and pay for themselves quickly. While I used them a lot as a single mom, I still find myself relying on these now. The key is to buy sturdy bags with solidly-made handles, like these nice canvas bags.
Another gift idea for grocery shopping is to watch the kids while the parent shops. This could be a set weekly time or an on-call ministry. Wouldn’t it be an incredible outreach tool to have a weekly kids’ Bible study, utilizing past VBS curriculum including crafts and music, while parents shop in peace? I found that not having the kids with me actually saved me money – and peace.
Once the groceries are purchased, meals need to be made. As a single mom, it was just hard to work all day, pick up the boys from after-school care, then home to balance making dinner, homework, chores, bath, cleaning up the kitchen – all by myself. There were several things that would have helped with this process.
An Instapot is a multi-use, programmable slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, sauté and warmer appliance and even yogurt maker in one. While it cooks dinner, a single parent can oversee homework, chores, clean the house up, work on laundry – any number of necessary items, then sit down with their kids to a delicious dinner without the hassle of constantly stirring or putting a meal together on the stovetop or oven. This also helps the family eat healthier because they’re not eating fast-food or microwaved processed food all the time.
The Instapot is a great gift for non-single parents, too, for all of the above reasons!
There are other items that would assist single parents in the running of their home. When my husband left, he took with him all the tools – so when a kitchen cabinet door fell off its hinges, I had to go buy a toolbox and tools – which I use to this day. General household tools, such as this toolset, is a big help.
Another great gift idea for a single parent are gift certificates for oil changes, grass cutting or landscaping, or even a once-month maid service. It’s important to think about all the chores that a typical couple tackle together – then imagine if it was just the mom doing it – or the dad.
Often, self-care took a back seat as a single mom. I was too busy trying to balance work, a house, children, bills – and all the little emergencies that came with it.
As a single mom, my version of “self-care” was putting the boys to bed, straightening up the house, then taking a hot bath at 10 p.m. There was no money for regular hair cuts or other things that are taken for granted.
Gift cards for hair cuts, mani/pedis, massages, and other self-care items would make meaningful gifts for a single mom particularly. Offering to watch the kids during the appointment would be even better.
I’m not saying that single parents don’t want to be around their kids. What I found as a single mom is this: there were some things that were made more difficult because I was by myself. Mowing the grass while watching a nine year old boy with autism who wandered and a six year old who would follow his older brother….that was hard. Painfully hard. However, after a church friend of mine drove past on a day that I was trying to mow and keep track of the boys, she saw the difficulty. She and her husband, who owned a landscaping company, talked and offered to cut my yard at a discounted rate. It meant the world to me.
Shouldn’t the Church take care of all its members?
I tell you, the most difficult holiday in memory was the first Mother’s Day as a single mom. No flowers, no gift, boys too young to think about making breakfast in bed. So, after church, we went out to eat at a restaurant the three of us liked, picked up a movie rental, and spent the rest of the day cuddled on the sofa in our pajamas.
Churches who want to have a single parents ministry would do well to remember how hard Mother’s and Father’s Days can be, and perhaps either have a luncheon for single parents and their kids, or give out gift cards to restaurants and for movie rentals.
The same thing applies to Christmas, which can also be a difficult holiday for single parents – especially the ones whose ex-spouses receive visitation on holidays, and they are left without kids. Including the parents who are alone at Christmastime in festivities can do wonders for their spirits.
Parenting is hard work, no matter what. Some men and women, through death, divorce, disability, or deployment, are faced with managing a household, rearing children, and working either at home or out – very much on their own. These people need to have the hands and feet of Jesus extended to them by the Church, to know they are loved in word and deed.
© 2017 Terrie McKee
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