Guiding my girls as a solo mom

Written by Clarissa Moll
Published on March 11, 2022

“He won’t walk them down the aisle,” I lamented, a lump lodging in my throat as I watched my girls walk down the street together hand in hand. As though time opened up, I envisioned them standing alone at the end of a church aisle. 

Dressed in their best, they waited for the man who would never show up—the father who’d held them at birth and stretched his arms to receive their first toddling steps. 

In one of their most important life moments, he wouldn’t be there. In the years since my husband’s sudden tragic death in a hiking accident, I’ve thought many times of that first instinct toward grief. And, as the years stretch out before my girls and me, I’ve come to realize that an escort down the aisle is the least of my parenting worries. 

A gentle guide into a messy world

As they grow, far greater concerns emerge as I navigate parenting daughters alone. How do I teach them about relationships? What can they know of marriage when I can no longer model it? What can and should be the role of men in their lives as they travel the often bumpy road of adolescence, dating, and singlehood to the glory of God? 

Whether you’ve lost your spouse to death, you’re rebuilding after divorce, or you’re exploring intentional single parenthood, it’s hard to envision what parenting can look like solo. From the mundanities of juggling children’s busy schedules to financial concerns, solo parenting can often loom large, highlighting our inadequacies and playing upon our deepest insecurities. 

Especially when it comes to guiding our children through adolescence and into emerging adulthood, the task can feel too big to manage alone. 

My husband’s death ushered me into solo parenting unbidden, but regardless of the circumstances that place us raising our children alone, we can offer them what they need to launch into the world on their own. 

While school teachers will help them learn reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic, we can model our own four R’s as we gently guide our children through the often messy world of growing up. 

4 ways to guide our children

1. Rooted in identity

Many times since my husband died, I’ve had to remind myself that I’m capable of raising my girls. In God’s mysterious goodness, he chose me to parent them as they navigate puberty and relationships and step into adulthood. 

Even in marriage, I was never a “better half.” Then and now, I bring my whole self to the task of parenting. What God has asked me to do, he will equip me to accomplish all by myself. As I root myself in my identity as a whole person beloved by God, I can acknowledge and celebrate my capacities and acknowledge my inadequacies without fear. 

Loss has taught me much about relationships. I can speak honestly to my girls about marriage in ways I never could with my husband alive. The wisdom gained in sorrow is part of me now, just like my understanding of what puberty feels like and how to know a guy isn’t interested in you. 

I can bring my wholeness to the task of parenting, assured that my husband’s death doesn’t change God’s enabling power as I remember and act in my belovedness.

2. Relying on the village

When my husband and I married, the liturgy asked those gathered, “Will all of you witnessing these promises do all in your power to uphold these two persons in their marriage?” 

In the face of loss, I realized I’d forgotten that long ago request. My marriage had never been a duo act but a community endeavor. As I look at my girls, I’m reminded that those who love me in my faith community committed long ago to my marriage’s wellbeing. 

At my children’s baptisms, they promised again to protect and nurture our family. As I navigate the murky waters of growing up, I can rely on my village to help me raise my children well just as they raised my marriage well. 

Contrary to our individualist Western mindset, marriage isn’t just two people. It isn’t even the melding of two families. In the context of the church, marriage is a regular rhythm of body life. 

If this is true, I need not worry that marriage and dating must only be modeled by me. My girls need not look far to find examples of faithful love, sacrificial care and wholehearted devotion. 

Yes, they can reflect on the love their parents had for one another—but even better, they can learn from a supportive community who is seeking to live out singleness and marriage vows to the glory of God. We can raise these girls together. 

3. Resisting the fearmongers

I don’t have to Google far to find statistics about the precarity of my children’s position. The world is a hard place to be a grieving person. The world can be a dangerous place to be a child, a teen girl, a woman. 

I can easily let statistics of vulnerability cause panic and anxiety as I raise my children without their father. Fears of what could be cloud out my faith in God’s provision and protection. 

When I see how big and bad the world can be, I wonder if there’s any way I can care adequately for my girls as they grow. When fear’s voice begins to speak loudly in my ear, I’ve learned to flip the switch, click the off button, and turn the station. 

Yes, statistics tell me that loss accompanies children in ways that make them vulnerable as they grow. But statistics aren’t the only data on which I should rely. Part of my call as a parent is to help my girls learn to confidently engage with an unfriendly world. God has placed me in their lives to teach them how to care for themselves, how to discern right from wrong, and how to live as lights in darkness. 

4. Resting in God’s care

At every turn, I find I’m driven to my knees in solo parenthood. I pray for my girls’ safety, for the relationships they may someday have with boys. I pray that they would choose wisely, that what they have seen modeled for them will so engage their hearts as to want these things for themselves. 

I pray that the absence of their father becomes a catalyst for growth and good. In all of these prayers, I must place my children into God’s hands over and over again. When my husband was alive, I used to look at our family and marvel with love. 

He and I had made these children. They were ours. I confess, I often forgot that there was Another who had loved them first and best. 

As I parent my girls alone now, I hope I don’t make that same mistake again. At the end of every aisle, on every date, whether married or single, my girls will belong first and foremost to God. When in doubt about how to parent my children along the rocky road of adolescence, I can take heart. 

As I relinquish my instincts for control and fear and offer them up to God’s perfect parental care, I will always guide them well. 

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Clarissa Moll

Clarissa Moll is an award-winning writer and podcaster who helps grieving people thrive after loss. Clarissa’s writing has appeared in Christianity Today, The Gospel Coalition, RELEVANT, Modern Loss, Grief Digest and more. She is the author of Beyond the Darkness: A Gentle Guide for Walking with Grief and Thriving After Loss. Clarissa is the cohost Christianity Today’s “Surprised by Grief” podcast and hosts the weekly Hope*Writers podcast, The Writerly Life. Her free 7-day devotional “Disarming Grief’s Myths” offers honest, soulful grief support.

Read more about Clarissa

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