This one goes out to all the mamas making breakfast alone on Sunday mornings. All the women up before dawn so they can get ready before waking up their Little Blessings and starting the chaos that is preparing for church. All you mothers breastfeeding while buttoning wiggly toddlers into tiny polo shirts. The ones driving vans full of whining kids who stomp into church, knock over your coffee, and scribble in the pew Bible all before the first song has started.

Ladies, I am your sister and I see you sitting there, exhausted and frustrated. And if you’re anything like me, you’re probably shooting daggers at your husband who is up there playing guitar, collecting the offering, giving the morning announcements, teaching Sunday school, running the sound system, or maybe even preaching. You are mouthing things like, “THERE IS PEE ON MY SHIRT” to him and hoping he gives you a sympathetic glance because Mama has HAD IT. While somebody might tell him he did an excellent job today and thank him for his service to the church, they aren’t likely to notice YOUR service that allows him to do his. But I notice you. And I thank you.

Thank you for not taking the easy way out and just skipping church altogether. Thank you for single parenting it in the pew so your kids can still be part of church community. The hope is that you just might hear something meaningful and be encouraged too, but even if that doesn’t happen IT MATTERS that you and your children are present. I know because I was one of those kids.

I remember my dad spending the time before church doing his Sunday School prep work, so my mom did breakfast and got all five of us ready on her own. Then my dad walked our neighbor (who was in a wheelchair and wanted to attend church) the couple blocks to our church building while my mom drove the rest of us in the station wagon and dropped us off in our classes. I grew up seeing my mom’s faithful work for our family and my dad’s faithful work for our church and I understood that they were partners in showing God’s love and faithfulness to our community.

And there were the times my mom was involved in playing organ for church and my dad sat in the pew with the five of us (and our neighbor friend) and supervised our shenanigans. These were mutual acts of service and we all knew we had a part to play in being involved in our church. But that doesn’t necessarily make it any easier during these days were I’M the mom handling things on my own so my husband can use his gifts in service to our church body.

For All the Worship Widows
All photos by Rebecca Tredway Photography

There are days I think it just isn’t worth it. There are days I imagine the angry whispers I direct at my lovely children (who are wiping things they found in their noses onto their nice pants) may be counteracting any good that might happen at church. There are times I feel like I just finished an intensive wrestling match when I walk out of church because of the physical effort it takes to keep everybody happy, in their seats, and facing the right direction. And honestly, there are days it all feels like too much and we just don’t go. Those are the days I regret the most. That isn’t the message I want my kids to hear about church– that when it’s hard, we just skip it.

I’ve had to learn that somedays the best thing I can do is recruit help. There are weeks my kids know they get to sit with their friends’ families because Daddy (and sometimes Mommy too) are doing music for church. It has been beautiful to be up front and see our kids involved in worship alongside their friends and my friends. It has been humbling to admit how hard it is to wrangle my kids alone, but it has also given me a new level of awareness for what we ask of single parents and those whose spouses can’t or don’t attend church for whatever reason. 

It has helped me to notice those moms and dads who are trying to work this out on their because I know how hard it can be. Now I don’t just assume their struggles aren’t my problem. What if I offer to help? What if I just let them know I’m thankful they came? What if I ask if I can hand their antsy child a lollipop, or offer to walk the baby when he’s fussy, or grab them a cup of coffee once the kids have settled down, or help walk their child to children’s church? What if we started noticing the families that have overcome some big obstacles just to BE at church and then worked to be part of their support structure once they arrive? We can do this for each other and we can do this for Jesus.

So for all the Worship Widows and for everybody else wrangling kids on their own in the pews, I see you. I’m thankful you made the effort to come. I want to help. If you see some weird lady making funny faces at your kids to hopefully help keep them entertained and comfortable in our church, it’s probably me. And I’m glad you’re here.

Maralee Bradley

Maralee is a mom of six pretty incredible kids. Four were adopted (one internationally, three through foster care) and two were biological surprises. Prior to becoming parents, Maralee and her husband were houseparents at a children’s home and had the privilege of helping to raise 17 boys during their five year tenure. Maralee is passionate about caring for kids, foster parenting and adoption, making her family a fairly decent dinner every night, staying on top of the laundry, watching ridiculous documentaries and doing it all for God’s glory. Maralee can be heard on My Bridge Radio talking about motherhood and what won't fit in a 90 second radio segment ends up at