I’ve been a single parent for almost 13 years and have learned a thing or two about creating time for my daughter during a busy schedule. When she was 8 years old, I was a full-time graduate student, working two and a half part-time jobs, actively writing for my blog, and trying to stay connected to a thriving church community as a member of the worship and arts team. There would be times where we would leave home for school and work in the morning and not return until 9 p.m. My daughter would find herself nestled under my on-campus work desk, eating her fair share of Goldfish snacks (which would often serve as “dinner”) doing homework. Her sporadic, inquisitive interruptions, “Are we going home, yet?” would disrupt the busyness of my life and remind me that I needed to give as much attention to her as I did everything and everybody else.
In this weird way, I thought that being together in the same space – even with piles of books between us – was “spending time together.” We lived together, rode in the same car together every morning and evening, shared spaces, meals and everything else – but it was always filled with the demands of the day. While my daughter was (and still is) very resilient, forgiving and flexible, she began craving one-on-one, uninterrupted time that allowed her to have all of my attention. So, we began a routine of spending time together. It would be the only way a busy mom of one could make this happen.
On days where dinner would be a quick meal from Chick-Fil-A, we’d sit on a park bench and eat the meal together. No cell phones, no books, just me and her, chicken nuggets and all the wiles of a third grader’s day. When the weekend rolled around, we’d pick a board or card game to play in the morning and an outside activity to do in the afternoon. In between I’d do some work (eek!), but those times were exclusively hers.
Even though during this shift I often felt like a toddler learning to walk on new legs, these scheduled times together began to feel a part of our rhythm, a part of who we were as a family unit. Eventually, these moments moved from “just another part of my schedule” to something that took precedence over things on a growing to-do list. The unsaid fear I had that these tasks wouldn’t get done if I didn’t give them my attention turned out to be a fallacy; the more time I gave my daughter, the more time I seemed to have to efficiently work. There was some kind of supernatural grace bestowed on me when I expanded my time for my daughter, both a priority to God and me.
Now, the “routine” is just a part of who we are as a family. By learning that creating space for family creates more space for us to complete the “tasks of life,” I no longer hesitate to give attention when needed. We go for walks in Central Park, I let her do my makeup, play Uno, cook meals together, or sometimes it’s simply being willing to look up from my phone or computer to watch a new dance she’s choreographed. The opportunities for single parents to spend time with their children are endless when we remember that God has equipped us with the grace to be more than we imagined we could be. It’s the “give and it shall be given unto you” rule in full effect: the more time we create for our children (even when the pressures of single parenthood are present), the more time we find God gives us to manage it all. It’s a win-win for everyone.
Rev. Alisha L. Gordon, M.Div. is a writer, teacher, scholar activist and public theologian. She marries social justice work and spiritual growth to the prophetic call of the church to help women see their full potential in a social and political landscape. Alisha has a 13-year-old daughter and lives in the New York City area.
This article currently appears in the Winter 2018 issue of The MOPS Magazine.