Robert Beeson offers encouragement and practical advice to single parents in a discussion based on his book Going Solo: Hope and Healing for the Single Mom or Dad.
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Tell me why the title Going Solo? Why did you pick that?
this is not normal. This is not the way God intended it. So I thought I want to re-brand this. I don't want to call them single parents. I want to call them solo parents. Single is a status. Solo is a condition.
And me, in my idealistic thinking, thought this must be a sign. And so I got to know her, and we got married within three months and didn't have a good foundation for our relationship. Um, I had started a record company and, um, it actually grew very quickly. And we had a lot of success very quickly.
not here right now, but she'll be back in the morning, or she'll be back later today. Or, you know, don't worry about this or that.” But I had this just feeling that, like I said, this - I had to deal with this. So they came down. And inevitably, they're like “Where's Mommy?” And I said, Girls, let's - let's talk. And so we went into the living room, and we gathered around, and I just said, “Girls, I don't know where she is. And I don't know - I don't know that I can tell you that she's coming back. But I can tell you that I'm not going and that we're going to be OK.”
And it was weird because I - and I also said “I know you've seen a lot. I know you've seen that there's things going on,” but I couldn't spin it any more. I couldn't try to play it off. I had to acknowledge the elephant in the room. And I just said “I don't know what this is gonna look like. I suspect this is gonna be difficult, but we're gonna be OK. God's gonna be with us.” And the weirdest thing happened - I mean, first of all, they - there were tears, not wailing, just what does this mean?
Jim: They were grieving.
Robert: Yeah. What - what does this look like now? Um, but there was also a sense of relief from my perspective that I wasn't hiding anymore. It was just one more layer that needed to be stripped away of hiding. And so that was the basis of my relationship moving forward with my girls.
Robert: Total transparency.
Jim: What were those early days like - the weeks, the months that came after that?
Robert: Well, when she left, I didn't know where she was, and we didn't find out where she was for a couple of weeks. And so that was a very difficult, challenging - how do we deal with this? But you just - what I thought was important was just figuring out things that I knew to be stable and focusing on those things. Like, um - I talk a lot about this in the book - the importance of creating habits and rituals that basically you know that you can count on. When you're in this season where everything is up in the air, find a few things that you know kids can count on.
Jim: What was an example of some of those?
Robert: Uh, dinners. Like, we would at least four nights...
Jim: Just make sure you're eating...
Robert: Make (laughter)...
Robert: Yeah, make sure we're eating.
Jim: Make sure you're eating...
Robert: Make sure...
Jim: Make sure you're eating together.
Robert: Make sure you're eating together.
Robert: And so, um, we would make sure that we would come together and, um, share time. Sometimes it was just silly, but - but it was more about time. And the thing that I didn't give them before was my presence.
Robert: I was actually completely present.
Jim: So now you're engaged.
Robert: Now I'm totally engaged.
So that was one thing - eating together. Finding things to do together. You know, every night after dinner, we would watch a nature show like, uh, "Planet Earth" was a great one. And we would talk - I would talk about, not in a weird, cheesy way, but just like, that is amazing. Just looking at creation is evidence to God that takes care of everything, you know. And one of the things that we did that - every Sunday night, I would bring them into the bathroom and, I was involved in an Anglican Church at that time. And the Maundy Thursday service - is the foot-washing service - was always one of the most powerful things to me because it's very - you actually wash each other's feet.
Jim: It's very humbling.
Robert: It's very humbling.
Robert: And so I did this — I guess girls could call it a pedicure. But to me, it was - I got them all in the room. And one by one, they would sit in a chair in front of me, and I have a basin of warm water, and I would wash their little feet, and then I would say a blessing over them.
Jim: How old are they at this point?
Robert: OK, so Zoe was nine. My youngest was four. So then, um, Skyler, my middle, would be seven and nine.
Robert: And so those were some of the most precious times that we had together and bonded us together in a way that, like, I had never experienced in my life.
John: Hm. Well, as you can tell, Robert Beeson has, uh, some terrific heart and some great advice for solo parents, not single parents, but solo parents. And, um, his book Going Solo is published by "Focus on the Family" and available at our website along with the CD or a download of our program. That's at focusonthefamily.com/radio. Or give us a call - 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY.
Jim: Robert, help us understand what a typical day looked like (laughter) for you as a single dad. I can imagine it.
Jim: Jean occasionally has taken a trip out of town. It's a bit of chaos.
Jim: ...If I could be honest.
Robert: Yeah, it is.
Jim: Like, OK, I could do breakfast. But dinner - what am I going to do for dinner?
Robert: It is chaos. It started a 5:45 getting up and getting the girls ready. And there's the typical drama of, like, Skyler took my brush, or they're wearing my clothes. And you're having to kind of sort that stuff out (laughter) and then make - make lunches and...
Jim: And this sounds like normal.
Robert: Yeah. Well - yeah, except there's nobody else to buffer it. You're...
Jim: That's true.
Robert: You know, it's - it's - it's mayhem. And then, you know, getting them off to school and then taking a shower and going to my work and making sure that I was home in time for them to get off the bus and then starting dinner. This is one thing that I did everyday though - just before dinner, I took 15 minutes, and I went into my bedroom, and I turned off the lights, and I laid on the floor, and I did what I refer to as meditation. People that are, like, studied in this probably would say that's not meditation...
Jim: You took a break.
Robert: I took a break. But...
Jim: But that's fine.
Robert: But it was being still. And I took 15 minutes, and I just listened to my breathing, and I just started thinking about things that were true. I would recite, you know, the Lord's Prayer or Psalm 23 - I shall not fear, for you are with me.
Robert: And just - there's something about repeating that and bringing yourself back to this grounding place. I did that every single day. And then I would go back out, and I felt recharged. It's amazing to me, if you discipline - as crazy as our days are as single parents, if you discipline yourself to say time out - put yourself in time out - it will revitalize whatever chapter comes next in the day. For me, then I went into dinner prepared to engage...
Robert: ...Because I was able to discharge what was really stressing me, be reminded of Who's in charge and Who's not surprised by this. God is not surprised.
Robert: We are. We don't know what's around the corner, but He is completely aware of what's going on in my life and my kid's life. And then go into the rest of the night.
Jim: It's so true. I've had that same experience when - actually, before I was married, just taking some centering time...
Robert: Centering, exactly.
Jim: ...And praising the Lord, thanking the Lord, repeating the Psalms.
Jim: It's an amazing experience of how the Lord will readjust your day then.
Jim: And then you can keep moving. You had even a funny one. Because being a single dad of three girls (laughter)...
Jim: ...You had - you had the beautification issue, right?
Robert: The beautification issue.
Jim: Like, what - how do I do their hair? And, in fact, you created a - some kind of a character. Did you come out...
Jim: ...In this character? Was that you?
Robert: Well, no, I didn't dress up. It wasn't...
Jim: Right, but...
Robert: ...Like "Birdcage" or anything like that.
Jim: Yeah, yeah, and what...
John: That would have done even more, right? (Laughter).
Jim: But what was the name? It was...
Jim: Jean-Marco, the beautician, would come out.
Robert: So my daughter Zoe (Laughter) was just getting to the age where she wanted to start highlighting her hair. And so she would be like, Dad, I need to go get my hair highlighted.
Jim: That's intimidating.
Robert: I'm like, I can't highlight hair. I mean, I - we don't have the money to go send you to get highlighted hair, so let's take a stab at it. So I just entered into this alternate personality and was like...
Jim: You became the hairdresser. (Laughter)
Robert: ...It’s fabulous...You know, and just started straight - and it was just a good - it was a fun experience.
Jim: Think of the memory they're going to have of that though.
Robert: Like, my dad is whacked out of his mind.
Jim: No, not at all. What fun!
Robert: We had a lot of fun.
Jim: Yeah. That even in the pain, you create an environment where they can laugh.
Robert: And it's simple.
Jim: I'm telling you, my mom, even though I only had her till I was nine years old — that right there I think was one of the things that sustained me as an orphan kid was her great sense of humor.
Jim: She taught me, very young, to be able to manage the blows that life would give me with humor and to embrace it.
Jim: That's what you were doing there.
Robert: And just act wacky.
Robert: I mean, it's just - we - we would...
Jim: Kids love it.
Robert: They'd - they - we would do this ritual of getting a gallon of chocolate ice cream and marching, like (Laughter) around the house and then sitting in my office each with a spoon and, like - but it was...
Jim: Going after the bucket. (Laughter)
Robert: Yeah, together. I mean, it's...
John: That's inspiring me right now! I’m going to try to do that tonight.
Jim: Let's get a - let's march around the studio right here! And the other key thing - that value of community...
Robert: Hm. Yeah.
Jim: ...We're seeing that, again, in the experience helping a single or solo dad right now.
Jim: Uh, in fact, some experts in that area told me that in this particular case, it's likely that he will be 100 percent unsuccessful if he doesn't have wraparound help.
Robert: So true.
Jim: And he'll be 90 percent successful if he does.
Jim: Has that been your experience...
Jim: ...Observing others?
Robert: Yes, absolutely. And I would say two things. First of all, the temptation to isolate is incredibly strong.
Jim: Why is that?
Robert: Because you're exhausted. And the idea of putting yourself out there and going into a social setting just feels like another thing to add to your list.
Robert: And so - but that's very dangerous. Isolation leads to depression, all kinds of things. I would say this - find a community, find a church group or find friends that you can just reach out to. Have a touchpoint.
The second side of this, Jim, that I think is so critical, as a church, that we start realizing that single parents need community. They have to be in a place that's safe. Like I said, they feel judged. They feel like they don't belong. And so one of my goals with this book and the Solo Parent Society is to say to the church, it's - we're creating resources for you to do this, but create a safe place for single parents to come together to process life together. Community is one of - it is one of the most important lifelines for a single parent that a church could offer.
Jim: Robert, let me ask you this question. And - and I'm asking it from a different perspective. This is not my understanding.
Jim: But some in the church will say if you accommodate that kind of thing, if you create a space for single parents, you encourage single parent-ness. I mean, I hear that.
Jim: And I always cringe because it's a reality of the culture today. Is it God's best? No, but it's usually due to conflict - irresolvable conflict. Death. You never know what...
Jim: ...A person - some kind of trauma.
Jim: You don't know why a person is a single or solo parent.
Robert: That's right.
Jim: It just is. And maybe that is a conversation that can happen down the road. But for a pastor to seriously take into consideration creating that space, that's a good thing, not a bad thing.
Robert: It is a huge thing. No, these are the wounded. These are the broken people. These are people that we need to say I see you, I love you, and I want to serve you.
Robert: This is not about do you meet my expectations. Jesus was not about that.
Robert: He was going to the people where they were. I feel so called. And getting churches and pastors to look out and in their communities - we started a Solo Parent Society group at our church. We were at capacity within the first week.
Robert: It was - and we never mentioned it from the pulpit.
Robert: Here's the weird thing that pastors should hear - 30 percent of the people that attended didn't attend the church. Word just spread. There is a community of people out there - single parents - that are not going to church because they don't feel like they belong, and they feel judged. I get maybe a lot of these people did make mistakes. I certainly made mistakes. But there's a lot of people that are innocent...
Robert: ...That this just blew up in their face.
Jim: Well, and the reality is we're sinners saved by grace.
Jim: And the church is filled with sinners.
Robert: That's right.
Jim: And we may not be able to identify some of those sins in a typical two-parent family...
Jim: ...Because we look normal, if I could say it that way.
Robert: In fact, if I could - if I could go a step further, I would say that being broken and embracing the brokenness is exactly where God wants us. Yeah. He wants us to see our fallen nature.
Jim: Let's move, uh, in the last few minutes here, to Barbara because...
Jim: ...How many years went by before you remarried? And what was that...?
Robert: Eight and a half years.
Jim: Eight and a half years. And Barbara - Carol Brady... (LAUGHTER) she has three boys of her own.
Robert: Yes, she does.
Jim: And she brings that dimension. Speak about, uh, the blending of the two families - three girls that you're bringing, three boys that Barbara's bringing.
Jim: Uh, that's got to be a little bit of chaos!
Robert: It is a little bit of chaos. (Laughter) I mean, you know, it... meeting Barbara was, um, redemption in and of itself. Bringing...
Jim: Wait, describe that. Explain why.
Robert: Because - I was just talking to someone today about their daughter, who was a single parent, and how when you're a single parent, you feel so ashamed, and you feel so like you haven't measured up. And to think that you will ever find a mate that will accept you for who you are, the damage and everything, is a really hard thing to believe about yourself about a situation. And so meeting Barbara was the redemption of, like, this can be better. Life can actually be full.
Jim: Sounds like hope.
Robert: It is hope. It is total hope. It is hope that I don't think - you can't romanticize it, and you can't jump into it too quickly. You have to trust that our Father at the right time will bring the right things to be. It's tempting to jump into relationships early because it's lonely.
Robert: But, in time, the right things can happen, and there is hope. And so Barbara came into my life. And blending is a whole 'nother book and whole 'nother episode.
Jim: Yeah, book two!
Robert: But it's - it's been - it's been amazing because it's - you know, the hard thing obviously is you've got a household that's set in their ways and another household, and you bring them together, and it's - it's wonderfully challenging.
Jim: Robert, let me, um, make sure that people are hearing us loud and clear. When we at "Focus on the Family" are talking about the family, there is a design that God has given us.
Jim: In this contemporary culture, it's not unusual - the Roman Empire was full of divorce, as well. So it's not new to human beings. But we want to reinforce this idea that it is important to fight for your marriage.
Robert: One hundred percent.
Jim: And there's many people who have done that. We have Hope Restored. And they're - many of them have signed divorce papers, but they go, and they have an encounter with God, and it changes them. That can happen. I want to make sure people hear me on that.
Robert: Yes, it can.
Jim: Yet, at the same time, either through death or through irreconcilable differences, affairs and other things, divorce occurs in our culture. To Christians - and we need to be willing not to judge, to be a friend. It's like Jesus with the woman caught in adultery.
Jim: Uh, it's not the debate about the action, it's about God's heart toward that woman...
Robert: That's right.
Jim: ...Which was forgiveness. And we need to be able to, um, ask them to come and be part of God's story even after that brokenness and the power in what they learn. And just think of your journey, Robert - how you are more connected with your kids today than you were as the big...
Jim: ...Industry - music industry exec.
Jim: Um, you've now learned what's truly and eternally important.
Jim: And that's worth everything.
Robert: It's worth everything, absolutely. I mean, it is - the season is a perfect opportunity to come to an idea of who God is and his pursuit of us individually. I'm gonna add to what you said, Jim, that, yes, marriage is between man and woman. And if there's someone listening that feels like, yeah, but my husband does this, and my husband does that, or my wife does this — it doesn't - don't walk because you need to try everything that you can for one of two reasons. First of all, God can redeem relationships. And if it doesn't get redeemed, if there is - because we all have choice - if the other person walks away or it is just not repairable, you need to be able to say I tried everything I can.
Robert: You can't take the easy road.
Jim: Exactly right. And, again, Romans 8:28 - that all...
Jim: ...Things work for good. And you can't apply that if you haven't tried. And, uh, Robert, I so appreciate your courage, what you've done, the funny stories. (Laughter) Don't be offended. Single parents can have fun, too, everybody.
Jim: And, uh - and, Barbara - she's in the audience - thank you for your, uh, steadfastness. I don't know your part of that story and how your marriage ended, but thank God you're serving the Lord with these six wonderful kids, showing them that God still loves you even in brokenness and that you can make it in Christ. Thanks for being with us.
Robert: My pleasure. Thanks for having me.
John: And we'll direct you to focusonthefamily.com/radio to find Robert Beeson's book, Going Solo, and you'll also see details about, uh, the CD or download of this program. And we have caring Christian counselors here, if you'd like to talk to someone about your marriage, even if it seems hopeless. As Robert said, let us help you do everything you can to save that relationship.
For example, we have our marriage intensive program, Hope Restored, which is changing the hearts of couples who are literally on their way to divorce, but God intervened. So, contact us today. Our number is 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY. 800-232-6459 or visit focusonthefamily.com/radio.
Jim: And let me add, John, my gratitude for the many, many friends of this ministry who are helping us provide resources like these because of their monthly pledge of support. Uh... your generosity is equipping mom's like Connie, who wrote us not long ago. She remembers the challenging years of raising her son alone, and feeling like “the teenage years seemed too big to handle, but not too big for her God.” Focus friends like you helped Connie raise a godly young man who is now married and has a family of his own. That's a great investment!
Now if you’ve never donated to Focus on the Family before, can I encourage you to do so, now, because we know many more single parents like Connie who will benefit from our broadcasts and the resources that friends like you make possible through your giving. So sign up to become one of our monthly supporters or send a gift of any amount today and we’ll send you a complimentary copy of Robert’s book, Going Solo, as our way of saying thank you. This is a great resource for you or for any solo-parent you may know.
John: And our website, once again, is focusonthefamily.com/radio. You can make your pledge there and request that resource, or call 1-800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY. Coming up next time on this broadcast, a fun message from Ken Davis about the joys of being middle-aged.
Ken Davis: I want to let you know, I am not right. I have never been right. I never will be right. (Laughter) I have been weird from day one. (Fade out during applause)
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