The divorce was a heartbreaking one. Jackie Lim and her husband had a three-year-old daughter, and she was pregnant with another child. It came about because of her husband’s drug addiction, which posed danger to the family. He had once fought and beaten the addiction, but had relapsed soon after they married.
The separation left Jackie as a single parent with Junise, 3, and Jacob, who would be born soon. But she was determined to bring up her two children to the best of her ability. Being a single parent, she quickly discovered that she would have less resources to tap into.
While other parents had access to a plethora of Christian parenting books, for example, Jackie found her choices limited, as the majority of these books were written for families with both the mother and father present.
Of course, there were Christian books available for single parents, but Jackie didn’t find them helpful. “After I read some of them, I felt demoralised,” she says. “I felt that I just wasn’t doing enough, and it made me feel guilty. So, I stopped reading.”
Instead, she went to “the best parenting book” ever—the Bible. Over the past 12 years, Jackie has gone to God’s Word frequently, and found both counsel and comfort in untold amounts. The Bible, she discovered, held many truths, not just about God Himself, but about parenting.
Parenting from God’s Perspective
A few years ago, Jackie’s church initiated a programme to encourage members to read the Bible. Under “Prayer Altars”, Jackie began to read as many as 10 chapters a day. “That changed my walk with God,” she says.
One of the greatest takeaways she got was a fresh insight into Romans 1:23: “[People] exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.”
While this verse was warning against idol worship, God used it to help Jackie sort out a “wrong principle” she had long held about parenting. First, she had to discard her belief that she had to raise a “perfect” family.
“I had this image of what a ‘happy family’ should be, and I was trying to parent my children towards that image,” she says. “At the same time, I was nursing a fear that our family would become dysfunctional because of the lack of a father.”
What fuelled this fear were the many reports she had read of children growing up in single-parent families.
“I had this image of what a ‘happy family’ should be, and I was trying to parent my children towards that image . . . but God told me that my image of a ‘happy family’ is a corruptible image. Rather than focusing on that image, I should keep my eyes on the incorruptible God.”
“There are so many examples of children growing up with issues when the father is absent,” she says. “I worried that some day, someone might comment, ‘Your children are this way because they don’t have a dad.’ A statement like this would mean that I had created the situation for my children to fail.”
That day, God used Romans 1:23 to correct Jackie. “He told me that my image of a ‘happy family’ is a corruptible image,” she recalls. “Rather than focusing on that image, I should keep my eyes on the incorruptible God.”
God showed Jackie that she had been parenting from a position of fear, which could result in her pushing her children to succeed—not just in academic achievements, but even in spiritual excellence—with little tolerance for failure. She realised that in the long run, this was a recipe for a stressful and unhappy family atmosphere.
As Jackie took the verse to heart, she became more relaxed around her kids. She also began to think more about what God wanted for them as His children, rather than what she wanted.
“For example, in the past I would not be so tolerant if they told dirty jokes or used vulgar words, but I learnt to disassociate such behaviour from ‘success and failure’,” she says.
Instead, Jackie learnt to pray for God’s blessings over her children, and to trust Him completely. Romans 4:16–17, on relying on the power and promise of God’s grace through faith, inspired her.
“When we speak blessings over our children, we are empowering them to prosper,” she explains. “We move from praying for victory to declaring that God’s identity, purpose, and destiny for our children will be achieved in full and without delay.”
Jackie also tried to nurture the habit of reading the Bible together with her children every night, after dinner. It became something they enjoyed as “family time”.
“They don’t understand everything they read in the Bible, but it’s okay,” says Jackie. “The important thing is that we are in the presence of God.”
Jackie, Junise and Jacob
Keeping God as Top Priority
As a single parent, Jackie struggles with the same issues as families with two parents—including not having enough time to do what they want to, and a tightly packed routine. While some mothers with new babies stop attending church services temporarily as they cannot cope with their newborn, Jackie was determined to keep going after Jacob was born.
Juggling a toddler and a newborn all by herself, she continued to attend service every Sunday. She even continued keeping her house open for cell group meetings. “Right out of confinement, I resumed hosting cell,” she recalls. “My children’s bedtime would be pushed back on those nights.”
And while some parents might worry about keeping the kids up late, Jackie chose to see it differently. She says: “Let’s not forget—a church community is the safest place for children. Being with the family of believers is a good time for others to help care for my kids.”
Trusting in God’s Provision
As the sole breadwinner, Jackie faced a challenge common among many single parents: raising a family on one salary. Her ex-husband was not able to pay alimony, but God showed her that He would provide for her, blessing her with a good job and salary. He even gave her favour with her employers, who allowed her to work from home on some days.
Her parents, who lived in Malaysia, were also understanding and supportive, and moved to Singapore to help care for her children.
But while she had enough financially, Jackie felt there was one thing she didn’t have: more time with her kids. So, after seeking the Lord’s guidance, she resigned from her job and set up her own consultancy business, which gave her more flexibility.
As the sole breadwinner, Jackie faced a challenge common among many single parents: raising a family on one salary. But God showed her that He would provide for her.
It also gave her more time to personally supervise her children’s schoolwork. That proved to be a big challenge, particularly with Junise, whom she describes as a “strong-willed” child. “When she was between 11 and 13, those were the hardest years, especially when I was tutoring her,” recalls Jackie. “It affected our relationship.”
But Jackie persisted. She saw that managing her kids’ work was better than sending them to a tuition centre. “I could time the homework to suit her energy level,” she says.
“For example, when Junise had it rough at school, I would not insist that she start work immediately. I would allow her ‘small wins’. If she felt like doing her homework on the floor, or writing on pink paper, I let her. After all, she needed to feel in control and experience rewards during her study time.”
Jacob and Junise at East Coast Park with cousin Mina
Learning to Forgive
One thing Jackie has never shied away from is the topic of her ex-husband. A firm believer in maintaining a culture of open communication, she has always let Junise and Jacob know that they can ask her about their father—anytime. “It is not a taboo topic,” she says.
So, when Junise wanted to contact her father a few years ago, Jackie heard her out and discussed the issue together. She explained that she had challenged her ex-husband to stay “clean” for a period of time before meeting their children, but was not sure if he had fully recovered from his addiction. Jackie shared her concerns with Junise frankly, and in the end, Junise did not meet her father.
Then, she discovered that her ex-husband had remarried and started a new family. She went through another round of “Should I or should I not inform the children about this?”, she recalls.
Finally, she decided to let them know. “When I told them the news, the response was quiet as they needed to process it,” she says with a grimace.
“Without open communication, it will be hard to elicit the emotions buried in their hearts, give a listening ear, and guide them through their challenges.”
But when an opportunity came up later, Jackie reminded her children: “You have to forgive your father for your own sake. His life still goes on, but if you don’t forgive, you will be the ones who are affected.”
She has even asked Jacob openly whether he missed having a father. Fortunately, she adds, her son—an extroverted child—has many uncles he is comfortable with. His mother hopes that they will help to meet some of his needs for a male mentor.
“Without open communication, it will be hard to elicit the emotions buried in their hearts, give a listening ear, and guide them through their challenges,” she adds.
Jacob himself has assured his mother that he lacks nothing. “I’m very close to Mom,” says the 12-year-old. “She is both mom and dad to me. She trained me competitively in my sport, a job usually done by dads. Mom loves me very much, and she would go out of her way to help me. For example, after a hard day’s work, she would still run an errand for me.”
Junise’s Mother’s Day card for Jackie
Trusting in God’s All-Sufficient Grace
While Jackie believes that it is not God’s design for children to be parented by one parent, she believes fully that God’s all-sufficient grace will make up for any lack.
She can even see the humour in it. “Sometimes, my two kids gang up against me,” she says with a laugh. “See, when there is a father and a mother laying down a set of rules, it is a ‘family culture’. But when it’s just me, my lone point of view is seen as an ‘opinion’ by my kids, and an opinion can be contested.”
In such times, she counters them by explaining her decision and leaving them to “see the sense in what I say”. “And if they want to do something I don’t advise, I would just have to allow them to bear the consequences of their actions,” she adds.
With Junise and Jacob entering their teenage years, Jackie’s parenting journey is by no means over. “But I hope my children will always desire my company, no matter what age they are,” she says fondly.
Jackie’s Tips on Being A Single Parent
- Read the Bible daily, trusting in Him to be the first and ultimate Parent who will guide you with His Word.
- Stay in a community of believers. A spiritual family provides much-needed support, fellowship, and counsel.
- Spend time on self-care, so that you will be physically, emotionally, and mentally stronger to care for your family.
- After disciplining children, make every effort to comfort them. Don’t let them feel “alone”, as they do not have another parent to turn to for comfort.