Divorced And Filling The Missing Parent Gap


Missing Parent

For spouses who fought to save their marriages or whose split came as a last resort to maintain safety within the family, divorce is a grave hardship for men and women, alike. Hardship in the form of financial concerns immediately come to mind. In our economy that teeters on the verge of collapse, single parents valiantly move heaven and earth to make ends meet and give their children what they need. They will do whatever it takes for their kids, often if not always, putting themselves and their own needs last.


But probably one of the most difficult aspects of being a single parent is playing the role of the absent mother or father. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of parents do a phenomenal job in helping their child become as well-rounded and firmly grounded person as possible. But there is a reason why God created families with a father and a mother. Each one has unique gifts they bring to the table that provide stability and balance to the children.


So, as a single parent, I’d like to offer you a suggestion I hope will help you out: don’t be afraid of asking others to help you fill in the gaps that would normally be filled in by your ex-spouse.


For example, after my friend, Skotti, was divorced, she regularly asked the dads of other families she trusted to take her 10 year-old boy on the father-son outings they went on. Camping, miniature golf, a baseball game, whatever it was, she became adept at getting her child involved with other dads and sons because she knew doing these things was a unique and necessary experience she, herself, could not provide.


I can imagine it would be the same for you if you are a single father, trying your best to give your daughter everything she needed. What a heroic effort it is to be so committed to covering all the bases. But there is probably a good Christian mom you know somewhere who would be willing to take your daughter skating with her girls, or to the nail salon to get her fingernails painted, or something “girly” that could help balance out all you are doing, yourself.


Some people may not feel comfortable sticking their necks out in this manner because it can feel like admitting weakness, or worse yet, you might feel like the other parent thinks you’re hitting on them. But not to worry. If you are completely upfront about wanting your child to have a good experience, and if in your heart you know it’s purely for the sake of your child’s happiness, you can overcome any discomfort about making this kind of request.


Another good idea is looking into Big Brothers/Big Sisters in your area. A few years after my divorce I, myself, became a Big Sister and know the solid process of examining and investigating each person who applies so as to ensure a person to be a trustworthy and responsible influence in the life of a child looking for leadership and friendship. It was a great way for me to stop focusing on my divorce and be a helping hand for another parent.


As a single parent, doing your best does not mean you must do it all. There are people who would probably jump at the chance to give you a break and help you out with some of these finer details. That way, even you can carve out some time for yourself, too.


Feel free to send me your disagreements, comments and questions at asklisa@catholicmatch.com.



  1. Amy-952196 March 20, 2013 Reply

    This subject is near and dear to my heart. I have single parented my children for 10 years (since they were 1 and 3). Their dad is a part of their lives. My children’s time with him is limited to weekends and performance activities such as games and recitials. Supporting my boy’s relationship with their father is so important even though I am no longer married to him. God has taught me that children are not possessions, they are gifts.

    I get frustrated when people feel my children are missing something important by not having the family structure of a traditional family. Before judgements are being made, I would like to suggest that it is more important to have a healthy, loving family with a single parent than it is to be in a family that looks like they got it all together but it’s broken and abusive.

    My goal is to do everything I can to make my boys turn into young men who will be strong in their faith, loving to their families, and giving to their communities.

    It has taken a lot of self reflection and growth to learn to discern God’s will for me.

    That leads me to why I joined CM. A couple of weeks ago after church, my oldest son commented, “Mom, why can’t we have a perfect family?” After asking him what he meant, he thought a perfect family included a Dad, Mom and kids. It got me to thinking–is this God’s message to me that I need to stop being selfish as a single mom? So here I am…..

    So with great trepidation and some excitement, I am reaching out to see if God does have a bigger plan for me and my boys. And maybe my boys can have a godly role model they can lean on to learn to be the men God wants them to be.

  2. Caroline-930073 March 18, 2013 Reply

    Wow, good thread here. My ex is only 30 minutes away, and sees the five children on weekends and midweek for an overnight. But that’s the extent. No involvement in schools, doesn’t know their friends, doesn’t keep track of homework/projects, and never requests to have them more than our agreed-on time unless I am willing to babysit the others so he can go be Disney-Dad-for-a-Day. This is such a complicated subject. I have been very careful not to try to do everything and be everything for my kids, and I explain that to them outright. They know my gifts, and I am willing to let them try new things that are out of my gift-circle. I long to be near my own siblings/parents and their families, where there are 3 uncles and a grandfather, all wonderful Catholic men who live the faith and are good fathers. I just have to keep the faith that God will send me someone who can love my children as if they were his own, without competing with their own father’s meager givings. I would think that if I ever got up the courage to ask another father to have my kids tag along, that I would talk to him and his wife about it first, to make sure there is no misunderstanding of my intentions by the wife. I will have to pray on that!

  3. Kathy-730470 March 8, 2013 Reply

    I can understand that it is important to have an adult male or female figure in the lives of children who are with one parent. However, I think that if at all possible both parents should be in their children’s lives. Many times the parent who has the children makes it impossible for the other parent to see their children. It is not always the parent that leaves that does not want to be in the life of their children. Sometimes the parent who has the children alienates the other parent. Therefore that parent is absent but would like to be if they were not alienated. Divorce is such a terrible thing that destroys families. Not all absent parents would chose to be so if they were not alienated against their children. It is not always the parent that leaves either that has another man\woman in their life. Sometimes it is the parent who has the children who has another woman\man living with them. I understand the need for an adult male or female in the lives of parents if they are raised by one parent after divorce. I would make sure that the adult male or female was an uncle\aunt, grandfather\grandmother etc. I just think if at all possible both parents should be in their children’s lives. I am divorced and so I do know about divorce.

  4. Katrina-552899 March 8, 2013 Reply

    I understand your points Kathy they were very good points! On the other hand I am one of those single parents who doesnt have the my children father in their life very much being he moved out of state and sees the chlidren countless times a year. Its a hard task to have to fullfill the duties of a mother but also trying to fulfill or even attempt to fill the void of a father. So having a male figure in their lifes is very important whether it being a grandpa, uncle or friend. Its hard to put yourself in someone elses shoes when you may not understand or went thru the same experiences.

  5. Jim-141704 March 7, 2013 Reply

    Yes I agree great post Kathy not all parents are there to take responsibilty they are more intrested in their new fling. I took my girls to the mall many times by myself shopping for things they needed and now Iook back and glad i took the time and did it. Now they are older and come to me and say Dad you took time out in your busy time and made time for us
    Thank you and we love you for it

  6. Maggie-918313 March 7, 2013 Reply

    Great post, Lisa. I’m in this situation, and have been for more than a decade now. My ex took off when I was pregnant for the twins, and has never been a father, even to the other kids (fourin all). I’m blessed to have a strong Catholic community with lots of solid fathers here. Other dads are always willing to include my kids when they do “dad” things, and I really appreciate the help! As for the wives of these men…that’s when we get together for a glass of wine!

  7. Lisa-727959 March 7, 2013 Reply

    Hi, Kathy, thanks for your questions.

    If I had to count the families I know that have gotten divorced (good, mass attending, faithful Catholics included), I would say that the parent who left the family in at least 50% of the cases have little or nothing to do with their children. Yes, it’s very sad, but very true.

    There are parents who have divorced and both agree to share the time with their children, but there are a huge number of single parent families that do not have that luxury, or have extenuating circumstances that make sharing time with the other parent not such a great idea.

    One of the most prominent problems among divorced parents is, the parent who left moves in with another person who is not their spouse or lives alone and has a variety of men/women spending the night. This is not a good situation for any child. Also, parents struggle mightily with getting their ex-spouse to take their child(ten) to mass when they visit and I’ve rarely seen that work out well. Very often, the spouse who left tries to talk the children out of being faithful altogether and attempts to turn the children against the spouse who is being faithful. There are plenty of situations that could be mentioned here, but those are reasons at the top of the list why a single parent would consider asking another Catholic parent to include their child in the father-son or mother-daughter events.

    Your concern about what the wife or husband of the person you are asking would think, which is a good question, and precisely the concern I addressed in the article. Clear communication about what the goal is seems to work well.

    Divorce is a terrible thing and even the things you thought could never, ever happen very often do.

    Sincerely – Lisa Duffy

  8. Kathy-730470 March 7, 2013 Reply

    An interesting blog. However, why are you writing about finding a replacement for the mother/father of a divorce??? When people get divorced they are no longer married but they are still parents. Why can’t children of divorce see both parents??? Why don’t they share the children? Why can’t they both be in their children’s lives? I would find it very strange to ask another father to take my children. I would never do that. What about the wife of the father I was asking to take my children. What would she think??? Again I would never do that. I think children should be shared by both parents if possible.

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