And I really think that's an important insight for a single mom to have.
You had hopes and dreams for your life with this guy or maybe the relationship or whatever. Well, maybe that promise is not going to be the one that's there, but God always sees, He always hears, and your son is a son of a promise. Well, that's Roland Warren, and he joins us today on Focus on the Family, offering help and encouragement for single moms who are raising boys.
I'm John Fuller, and your host is Focus president and author, Jim Dilley. John, speaking to the listeners and the viewers, odds are you know somebody who is a single parent, single mom, particularly. The U.S. has the world's highest rate of children living in single parent households. I'm not sure I knew that.
Yeah, that's a stunner. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, one in six children in the U.S. are being raised without a father. And again, you know, we understand there are dads who are single parents, but another data point is 80% of the single parents are moms.
So we're going to speak to that today. We see you, we know you are there, that 20% that are the dads raising their children. I think a lot of what we talk about today is going to be relevant to you, but we're going to address our topic toward moms raising sons. And you know, let me just say, I come from a single parent household. My mom, you know, after my mom and dad divorced when I was five, she did it and she did it well until she died when I was nine. I mean, she didn't have that much time with me, but she gave me so much and man, even the work ethic, I can remember her working two and three jobs just to put food on the table. And she was just that kind of person and then running around trying to keep the family together, you know, with meals and laundry and all the stuff.
I think back on it, I just wish I would have been more mature and been able to do my own laundry to help her out now. But we want to speak to your heart today. You've got a big job, the most important job, and we want to help you with the tools to do it even better. And our guest was also raised by a single mom. And as Jim said, there are single dads listening in. We do believe you'll hear some good stuff here from our guest. Roland Warren is the CEO of Care Net, a pro-life ministry that supports a network of pregnancy centers and helps women in crisis pregnancies. His latest book is Raising Sons of Promise, a guide for single mothers of boys. And it really is going to form the basis of our conversation today.
Get your copy when you stop by the show notes or give us a call. Roland, welcome back to Focus. Well, thank you for having me, Jim. Great to be here.
It's good to see you. Thanks for all you do at Care Net. I mean, Focus works with Care Net and we both work with those wonderful pregnancy resource centers around the country who are trying to help a mom make the right decision. Absolutely.
So thanks for that. Yeah. So and certainly from the perspective of single moms, unfortunately, a lot of those cases, you know, the women who choose to bring their children into the world end up living as a single mom. And that was one of the reasons that, you know, God's kind of had me in that place, having grown up with a single mom and then has me in a ministry that disproportionately ministers to women who make that amazing choice to bring their child into the world. Yeah.
Let me make that big commercial statement right here. In church, if you notice a single mom and you're an intact family, can you wrap around her a little bit, maybe help her with the kids and just be that family that stood in the gap for her and with her? And same is true with the guys who are single parent dads. But I'm just saying and we won't say it again, but if you had the capacity, put your arm around those folks and those kids are going to benefit substantially by your act of kindness.
Let's go to it, Rowan. It's not culturally acceptable to say that a father's absence is difficult, even though all the data supports that, man, children do so much better when dad is in the home and the culture, especially the progressives want to ignore that, you know, it doesn't matter. Dads don't matter. Moms can do it all. It's not the way God designed it.
No, absolutely not. And, you know, I think one of the things that kind of led me down this path, having grown up without a dad in my life and that perspective really is what kind of led me to really think about the role of fathers and how important they are to the well-being of kids, but also given the father absence crisis that you talked about a little bit before, the role of single moms, that in so many of those cases, you know, a dad may not step into the picture. So if you're going to break the cycle, certainly we need to reach out and try to engage dads. But the other key is really helping moms raise their boys, not just to be good men, but also to be good husbands and good fathers as well.
So true. Yeah. You, you mentioned the need to acknowledge the loss of growing up without a dad.
You know, you and I come from the same family type, right? And I wonder, I thought of myself, did I ever really do that? Acknowledge the loss of growing up without my dad. I don't know that I can point to a time. I think it was, it just was. So explain to me what you mean by acknowledging the loss of not having a father.
Yeah. And you, you said it well early on. I mean, so often, you know, single moms are kind of taught to kind of view this that you just need to power through this and that in fact, it's empowering. I mean, when I was writing this book, I was looking at other books that were written for single moms and they were all had this sort of, you go girl and be a butt kick, single mom, all that kind of thing like this.
You can do it. This is an empowering kind of opportunity for you and really didn't kind of lean into the fact that no, it's actually a loss. There's a man who made a promise to you in many of these cases and didn't keep that promise. He made a promise to your child and didn't keep that promise. And particularly when you think about it from the perspective of the child and boys in this, in this case, I mean, he's bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. It's a loss. It's an amazing loss that he has of someone who I always say, God whispered into the wounds of their mothers that, that there's going to be this guy who's going to love you like no other. And if he is unable, unwilling to fill that hole or fill that gap or fill that, that hole that God puts in his soul, that it can leave a woman that's not easily healed. So to think that it's not a loss, I think for me, from my perspective is, is very problematic. And also I think that causes a lot of guys to go down a path to kind of deal with this loss in a way that maybe not be constructive for them or even for their families.
Yeah. Your mom, Angie, as you wrote in the book, so I'm not outing you, but it's good for people to connect with real life experiences. So your family again, experienced all of this. So your mom had a lot of loss.
Describe it, explain it and what you and your mom dealt with trying to figure out what do we do? Yeah, well, my mom, you know, she lost her mother when she was, was nine years old to cancer. And then my, my grandfather very quickly within almost a year remarried. And you know, so just going through and looking at the story, there's the loss of my mom. And then I, at least as I talked to her, it almost felt that she lost her dad too, because he was so quick to find a wife. Now she had, she was one of five sisters. So I'm confident that maybe my grandmother said, hey, you need, these girls need a mom.
But my, I don't know that my mother really viewed it that way. She got pregnant when she was 16, 17 years old, met my dad. And they got married very shortly thereafter. And then, then the relationship began to fray after some years, and he wasn't around anymore. So there's that loss. And then when I was eight, and my older brother was 10, we were on vacation, and he drowned. Tragically while we were on vacation, there's that loss.
And so no, it's really interesting. As I started to look at my mom's story, it's just loss after loss after loss after loss. And you know, just me observing how she handled loss and what she modeled for us. Yeah, it really was more of sort of you just power through this. You don't stop, you don't process, you don't grieve. We didn't celebrate my brother's birthdays, we really didn't talk about him anymore.
We just in a lot of ways, just sort of erased him out of out of that. And so, you know, I started to kind of think about loss sort of the same way. And, and even with my dad, I realized over time that me not really processing that loss of relationship and the loss of having a father who was involved in my life, the way that other dads were, it really had an impact on me, it was impacting me, even as a father, in a lot of ways as well. You know, so often we talk about processing loss, processing that dark cloud that happened in our life. I don't know that everybody understands what does that mean? What does it mean to process that?
Well, the first step in that really is, frankly, acknowledging it, just calling it, calling it what it is, and don't try to reframe it in or repackage it into something that it's not. And I think that that's one of the key roles that a single mom can play with her son is really calling that loss a loss and acknowledging and talking about it hurts that he's not here. I get that. And, you know, I think that, you know, and frankly, it's a loss for her too. And that's a lot of times why I think that it's difficult for a single mom to do that, because then acknowledging that loss, and that means that takes you to a place of pain and rejection and hurt in some ways. And so you don't want to go there.
So therefore, you're not really equipping your son to go there. And that can lead to some problems, which are problematic. Yeah. You know, one thing in hearing your mom's story, and I haven't had the privilege of meeting your mom, but she represents women, right? Yeah.
And one of the things that I've noticed talking to our guests, our female guests that are here, women have an incredible capacity to look at themselves first. And often that comes with guilt. Yeah.
Right. So they're saying, What did I do wrong? What was my role in this? I see it in Jean. I mean, she starts really with her own heart. Yeah, I think men tend to start with the other guy. So we're wired, you know, it's our ego or whatever, it's their fault, they did that. Speak to that with your mom, did you ever talk about any guilt that she may have felt that she owned the burden of some of the things that were going on? Well, you know, interesting with my mom, I, you know, what I saw from from her example, for me was, you know, in a lot of ways, as pertain to these kinds of things, she really just kind of shut down. In a lot of ways, she just sort of powered down and really sort of just kind of moved through what we were going through. And kind of, I always say, like, like a linebacker, you know, she just takes the hit, just get up and go, you just get up and go.
And that was really what was modeled. And I, and I think that probably embedded in a lot of that, unless you never talked to me about it, my mom passed away a couple years ago. But, you know, one of the things was really sort of admitting the anger that you have, that's there, you're talking about how do you process this law, you got to admit that there is some anger that's there, because of the loss that you have related to this, and then also allowing them for the grief that comes related to that. And I think I, from my standpoint, I didn't see those two pieces as much in my mom's life. And I talked to a lot of single moms, and I think that that's a problem that can be there that can exist. Well, that's a gold nugget for people to take away. You know, I think mental health experts would say, talk about that pain, because that's going to help you heal.
And, you know, I think the word is replete with examples of getting things out into the open into the light, etc. Let me ask you, one day, you said you decided you'd never let your father's absence hurt you again. Yeah, I get it.
I'm connected with you because I am you and you are part of me, right? So we experienced that. I remember talking to my wife about that. And I remember she had an obstacle that was tough emotionally. And I gave her the line, you know, you just got to pick yourself up by your bootstraps and we got to go. And I just remember that fear that came into me when she looked at me and she said, Jim, not everybody's wired like you. And they scared me.
It was like, seriously? I didn't know there was an option. Yeah. But some people like that. I mean, it's not within their capacity to just pick up and go like your mom. Yeah, like you or like me and speak to that aspect of it. Can you really just say, okay, I'm going to decide my father's absence is not going to hurt me?
Well, in retrospect, it's not healthy. I tell a story in the book about, you know, the first time I had to give a speech when I was president of National Fatherhood Initiative. And I told a story about being at my father's funeral. And essentially, you know, my father was a pastor later in life, and it really changed his life around. And I was telling the story about how, you know, people were coming up to the pulpit at the at the funeral and say all these amazing things about my father. And I just found myself becoming enraged, just enraged. And I didn't even know where that was coming from.
We weren't in conflict or anything. And finally, this one guy comes up and he says, you know, I was in prison. And you know, Pastor Warren came to me, and, you know, mentored me, and I was very punch somebody out.
And I had this thought in that moment, that, you know, I went to Princeton undergrad, I went to Penn to get an MBA, all these things that I need to go to prison in order to get my father's love and attention. I was just beside myself, just super angry. And I told that story. I'd never told anyone that story before never told anyone I was mad at my father's funeral, not even my wife, my mother, interestingly picked it up, but never told anyone. And when I said those words, I burst into tears. And I could not stop myself like my first speeches, I'm just, you know, it's like three or 400 people, I'm just sobbing uncontrollably. And as I kind of process that afterwards, you know, what I realized was it goes back to what we talked about before, I really had not learned how to process that loss, like, and that was one of the things I think it was really important for, for, for my mom to help me do like process that loss, even the loss of my brother, we just kind of moved on.
So all of that was in there. And in that moment, before that 300, 400 people, I was really just a 10 year old boy, who was waiting for a father who hadn't shown up for various different things. And I had that hole in my soul that they really became revealed. So the amazing thing that a single mom has the ability to do is really help her son work through that process. And you know, in the book, I use the story of Hagar, Hagar and Ishmael, it's kind of what I use there, Hagar as an archetype for a single mom, Ishmael as the son of the Abraham had with Hagar, as a result of kind of Sarah encouraging that to happen, because the view was that, you know, Ishmael would be the son of the promise, and you walk through that entire story. It's such an amazing story for a single mom, because Ishmael thought for 13 years that he was going to be the guy, and then he gets 13, Isaac's born, and all of a sudden, Abraham says, not so much.
And you realize what happens there. And that's really what brought me to this book, this dealing with that loss. When I was writing Bad Dads of the Bible, one of the mistakes that I used was Abraham's mistake of abandoning his son, I use that. And I realized in that moment, as I was writing that part, that chapter, that I was Ishmael, that I had a similar dynamic. And that really is how God led me to this point in this book.
And so I use her as an archetype for a single mom to really help you kind of process loss, and the other things to move you forward. And I think that the big part of that story, which was important for me was, Ishmael was a son of a promise, but just not the same promise. And it took me a long time to realize that.
It's a great statement. Because in that moment, right, the angel tells her, he's going to be a father of many nations. And from my standpoint, I realized, okay, I didn't have this perspective with my own dad, I had a different promise. And I really think that's an important insight for a single mom to have.
You had hopes and dreams for your life with this guy, or maybe the relationship or whatever. Well, maybe that promise is not going to be the one that's there. But God always sees, he always hears, and your son is a son of a promise. It's a different promise. And you have to have the insight to see that and walk in that.
And in that moment, I think that Hagar moves on and actually moves her son forward. And that's what a lot of what the book is about the encouragement there from that story. Well, some great perspective from Roland Warren. He's our guest today on Focus on the Family. Your host is Jim Daly. And you can get a copy of Roland's book Raising Sons of Promise. We've got that at the ministry.
Click the link in the episode notes or give us a call. Roland, let me ask you this. In the book, you encourage single parent moms to forgive their ex. Now, I mean, all these things rattle in my head. You don't know the man I was married to, Roland.
Are you serious? I mean, you had to be an angel to forgive that guy for what he did to me and to us. So let's start there.
How do you how do you break that crusty heart? And I get it. There's some legitimate attitudes there. But that's not where the Lord wants you to live.
And it's not a healthy, emotional or spiritual place for you to live. But how do you get over that? I don't want to say speed bump, but it may be a brick wall in forgiving your ex for what he did.
Well, it is. It is the most difficult thing probably in the Christian walk is the challenge to forgive. I mean, it's what's modeled by Christ on the cross, right? It's the last thing he did was what? Forgive what? A victimizer, not a victim, but a victimizer, the thief on the cross. So we see that modeled by Christ.
We know we need to go there. I think the insight here is that you have to really understand that having unforgiveness in your heart, it's a bitter root that yields a bitter fruit that you actually can end up giving to your son. And the difference is that it won't come out the same way. Like for me, for example, if I eat carbs, I blow up like a Michelin man. I kind of know that feeling. Right.
But other folks, if they eat carbs, they do just fine. So your bitterness, you may say, well, okay, all I do is I talk to my girlfriends and I just complain about my ex and drag him down. That's as I eat that fruit. That's how it comes out in my life. But when you give that fruit to your son, that may not necessarily be the impact. He may choose a gang because he's working out some father absence issues.
So it's a bitter root that yields a bitter fruit that you're feeding to your child. You know that that's really interesting because what you're saying is your son, like any child, a daughter, too, they're going to want to find their identity. And if they're hearing only negativity about their father, they may go look for an identity other than him because you don't want to be that guy.
And you find it in relationship in a gang or in other maybe not so healthy relationship. Right. Absolutely. So you might be positioning for position your son rather for a situation that later is going to be a parenting challenge for you because all of this bitterness around the absence of his father. And here's the thing. He's got to make sense of that loss. I mean, if you think about the dad who's gone is just sort of like a peg and a pegboard. We got rid of the peg. So now we have to deal with him.
No. Now you have to deal with the whole. I'm thinking of the mom too, who might say hearing us talk about this. Well, then you're just whitewashing his bad behavior. And I think my son at the right age, even with the right motivation, should know about how bad he was because that was true. Well, certainly. I'm not saying in any way, shape or form that you shouldn't talk about truth. That's important. But you have to think about like your motives and what kind of truth you give him at what moment and how you say it and how I just said it. Look, look, the reality is, I think one of the things that really helped me that my mom did, she'd never talk my father down.
She never did. And that was so healthy for me. I don't even realize I didn't even realize at the time how healthy that was for me. I look so much like my dad. I'm built like him. And the reality is, it's very difficult for a boy to sort of disaggregate the criticism that you're giving to this guy who looks like him, you know, walks like him, that kind of a thing to disaggregate that from his own identity, his own reality. So he'll come to a point where he'll see his father for what he truly is. That's not your role. That's God's role to kind of reveal that to him over time, your role is to help him not have bitterness in his heart. That's going to lead to some things that are not going to be God honoring. And I think it's a powerful opportunity that you have as a single mom.
And what a great goal. Yes. I mean, really, it's a noble goal to do that. And actually, frankly, it sets you free. I mean, as long as you're bitter towards someone, you're actually they're captive. Yeah, that's the reality.
So true. We've kind of touched on it, but I want to hit it very directly because again, it's such a good model for people to hear. You talked about your father's absence and how you went about dealing with that.
But directly, how did you forgive your dad for what he did? Well, it's an interesting thing. It's a process. That's the one thing I love in the book, I talked about this whole framework out of another wonderful book about that forgiveness is a dance. And it really is you take a couple steps forward, sometimes you take a step back, something will happen that will remind you of a moment and you have to kind of take that back to God, you know, forgiveness is a, you know, it's a living sacrifice. And the challenge with any sacrifice that's living is that I heard a preacher say years ago is that can keep crawling off the altar, right?
So it's not going to be like one and done. I mean, it's just not the way it works in life. But you have to continually be taking that back to God as those issues come up.
And when I do that, I'm so much healthier. It helps me be able to focus more on the good things that my dad brought to the world to my life, and not focus as much on the negative things. In other words, it gives me the perspective to being able to go forward using my windshield, as opposed to my rear view mirror to guide me. I mean, imagine if you're trying to drive, and you drive using primarily your rear view mirror, you're gonna be up in a lot of ditches, and you're not gonna be able to go very fast. And what forgiveness gives you the ability to do is actually do that. You don't forget what's behind you in that context, right?
You still use your rear view mirror, it gives you the ability to gain perspective, if you will. But that's not where you focus. And people who walk in unforgiveness, and kind of model that for their kids and encourage that in their children actually cause their children to try to move forward in life, using their rear view mirror to guide them.
And you can see how problematic that that is. So God really wants us to forgive, because he wants us to be the sons of promise that he's called us to be. And you're never going to be able to do that, if you don't have the ability to forgive, in other words, frame things properly, but also move forward in the promise that God has.
And I think the other thing, too, is that we've been forgiven for so much. And the reality is, if you think about the sternest rebukes in Scripture, it's really about unforgiveness. And I really don't want to walk in that I don't want to have to be judged in that context when I stand before God.
And so I think that's an important aspect that any single mom can can bring to her son. Well, and so often, you know, the most difficult things the Lord wants us to do are the most difficult things. But again, that gets right back to the heart of God. Yeah, man, did he have justification to say, Hey, I'm not going to die on the cross for everybody?
Because I'm not the guilty one. I mean, think of that. Absolutely.
But he laid it all down. And the challenge for us is embracing that as believers in Jesus and saying, Okay, Lord, I don't know if I can do this. But could you empower me to do this?
And that's really it. You start climbing the mountain at that point, the mountain of healthiness, spiritually, emotionally, the cultural messages about strong, independent single moms. I mean, you've been reiterating that your mom's attitude, let's pick ourselves up. Let's go, let's go. It does accomplish the day's tasks, and you get through it. But you also describe how that can be dangerous.
So let's hit that. Yeah, I think because one of the challenges with with that perspective is that, you know, you can run into a situation where in your parenting model, you don't nurture as much as me as you need to. I mean, I always talk about that good parenting, you provide, you nurture and you guide. And when when you shift into that mode, and this is I think one of the big challenges when you're a single mom, because when you have the dad there, there's two providers, if you will, in the context, right. So and women tend to sort of lean into that that nurturing piece, sort of a natural aspect of that, right. And so what happens when you become a single mom, the focus can be so much on provision that the nurturing piece can be shortchanged.
There's no balancing, there's no balance there. And boys, frankly, a lot of times will give you the impression that they don't need nurturing. You see a boy a lot of times when his mother's getting ready to hug him and kiss him, and he's pulling back, like, he doesn't need it, I can tell you, as a son that probably didn't get a lot of that, right, he desperately needs that.
So you can get very, very focused on just the provision part, which is kind of get this done, get this done, it becomes more task oriented. And so that what ends up happening is that your son may feel more like a contractor like getting all the tasks done, as opposed to a family member, if you will. So I think there's a real miss if you if you don't kind of stop process and really reflect on the fact that he needs you to provide Yes, absolutely. But he also needs you to nurture him.
Yeah. And the nurturing is so key, because the next step that you need to do is guide him. And if you don't build that nurturing construct, that relational context with him, this can be very difficult to guide him. So one of the things we talk about in the book is opportunities to nurture how you can do that with boys being intentional, and you have so much to do with those little things that you can do, like even putting notes in his bag saying, I love you, things of that nature is so important.
And the other thing I would say about nurturing it to make it easy is lean into what's important to him. So I was a sports guy, that's all I did, right? That was a sports, sports, sports, sports.
But here's sort of a miss. I mean, my mom really wouldn't come to my game. She didn't talk to me about that. Such a big part of my life.
You're isolated. So all my hopes, my dreams, my, my disappointments, all of them were on a football field. Right.
And yet, when I came home, there was really no discussion about that. Because I think, in many ways, she kind of viewed that as well, this is a game that he's playing, as opposed to this is part of a life that he's living. So lean into the things that you know that he's interested in.
Those create opportunities for you to nurture him where he is and the things that are important to him. So whatever that may be. So look for those opportunities. Well, let me let me end here, because what I'd like to do is come back tomorrow and pick up the conversation. There's more to cover. But I think for single parent moms listening, watching right now, let's give them that, that hope.
Yeah. I mean that, as a single mom, God has promises for you. Well, he does. And that's really when you going back to Hagar again, her last words in that passage was with God, it's the God who sees me. And he gave her the name for a son, Ishmael, which is a God who hears and so you have to continue to walk in that promise that he sees you, and he hears you. And it's a God who loves you.
And he wants good for you. And he wants you to raise a son of promise. And there is a promise for your son. Amen.
I think a testimonial comment about that. So my mom died in the day before she died, she accepted Christ. And all five of the kids over about a 30 year period have come to know the Lord. Praise God. So that's a promise we won't be able to share together until we're all there in heaven. But to that single parent mom who's worried, that's a promise of God. Amen. I think you have a special place in God's heart.
Wow. And we trust that you've heard Jim's heart, Roland's heart, and the Lord's heart as we've continued on with this conversation today. There are a lot of moms listening who resonated. And I just want to encourage you to reach out to us if Focus on the Family can be of any help to you. We have lots of resources, a lot of caring people here, Christian counselors. We're a phone call away, 800, the letter A in the word family.
We're stopped by the show notes for details. And as Jim often says, we'd like to make Roland's book available to you today. We'd encourage you to make a donation to Focus on the Family.
Help us continue producing broadcasts like this. If you can donate on a monthly basis, or perhaps you're not in a space to do that, right now a one-time gift would be appreciated as well. Either way, donate today and we'll send that book to you. And if you're a single mom, of course, we would love to send this book to you whether or not you can donate. We're going to trust that others will step up and kind of pay it forward so that you can benefit from Roland's insights. Again, our number 800, the letter A in the word family. Well, on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family. Be with us next time as we continue the conversation and once again help you and your family thrive in Christ.
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