When I became a single mom, I dove headfirst into being both mom and dad to my kids while learning to do everything in the house I wasn’t previously doingfrom taking care of the lawn to all the household finances but now on one budget. 

I quickly lost my identity. I forgot what I stood for, what was important to me, and how to get back to the person I was before everything unraveled. 

Pretty soon, all the relationships in my life suffered. 

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Before I knew it, I didn’t have any friends to turn to, so instead of doing the hard work of fixing myself and helping my kids, I dove headfirst into work.

I couldn’t seem to get control of my life . . . but work, yeah, I could control that. 

Control outside of work was more challenging to come by. So I worked as much as possible from home. Telling myself, we needed the income.

I began to see my young children as a distraction when I was at home. This inner struggle fed my anger. I was losing the control I so desperately needed. 

Kids not listening? How dare they. I’d yell. 

Kids bothering me when I worked? I’m a single, working parent, that’s unacceptable. 

One night after I yelled at my daughter, once again, to go back to bed, she came very timidly into my room with a homemade picture of a big, red heart and underneath it in 7-year-old handwriting, it said, “I don’t know if you love me, but I love you.” 

And that’s what it took to bring me back.

A crumpled piece of paper with bright red magic marker broke my heart. 

She didn’t know I loved her? My firstborn? The child who I’d prayed for and waited three years to have? The child who everyone said looked just like me? My baby girl questioned my love for her?  

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My laptop never made its way home from my office again.

I made myself look at that drawing every single day for the next couple of years. 

The drawing of a 7-year-old was my motivation to stop taking all my frustration out on those I love the most and to find my way back to the person I once was.

Every parent wants to know the secret to stop yelling at their kids. If you’re asking that question, I consider it good news. It means you haven’t crossed a line where your child questions your love for them.

Once that happens, you don’t need any books, you don’t need any tricks.

Work comes and go, accolades fade, people let you down, what you think is so important you find out doesn’t matter one, five, or ten years later.  

My job from then is gone. Most people in my life from that time have moved on. The awards I’d earned, now gather dust and have zero value in my current career. 

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Who I was back then, I no longer am, thank God. 

My priorities have changed. God. People. Love.

What remains from that day is the love of my children. 

Their love for me continues to shine bright. Children always love their parents, but parents don’t always value that love as it deserves. 

To think I didn’t show my child how much I value that love even for a night. A moment. A season. 

It’s unbearable to think I ever let my child question my love for her. 

Thankfully she doesn’t remember that time in our lives, but I do. And I won’t ever let myself forget it because repeating it isn’t an option. 

Jen Smith

Jen writes at Grace for Single Parents to encourage single moms to live their best life with God’s grace and love. She’s a contributing author for Her View from Home, Grown & Flown, and Sammiches & Psych Meds. She currently lives in Kansas with her two teenagers and two dogs.