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Women’s Conference: Single parents keep it simple

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PROVO — Single parents who rely on God for answers, accept the support of others and free themselves emotionally by giving their angry or vengeful emotions to Christ can find success with one of life's most difficult challenges.

Those were the messages shared by three panelists Thursday during the first day of the annual Women's Conference at Brigham Young University.

Lynan Buie, Elizabeth Funk and Brad Mosteller agreed that single parenting had forced them to rely on God and listen to the inspiration of the Holy Ghost in ways they had never done before.

Buie, who became a single parent 14 years ago when her daughter was 2, said after repeated attempts to pray in a general way about her circumstances without success, she learned to ask specific questions and have faith that the answers would come.

When she presented God with two choices for her daughter, neither of which seemed appealing, she found "he brought another choice to me that I hadn't even considered and was not aware of. It was a little odd for other people, but it still works for me today."

She said listening to answers from God is often difficult because "I found I have a really strong will," and she needed to learn humility.

"I found the Lord's ways are not always our ways," she said. "We have such a narrow view of the possibilities."

Parents often wish they had an instruction manual for their children, she said, but God "will tell us about our children if we ask in specifics and listen to the still small voice." After investing a lot of emotion and worry over a situation her daughter had to face on a regular basis, Buie prayed to know what God thought about it.

"The answer was, 'She will do fine. She has everything it takes to handle this in her life.' That allowed me to put the emotion and energy I had put into it aside, and saved me so much that wasn't wasted on this problem any more."

Mosteller was serving as an LDS bishop when his wife died 20 years ago, leaving him with five children. He didn't remarry, but raised them while reformatting his life to "focus on the things that matter most."

He said single parenting taught him to "love and appreciate them more than I ever would," had his life continued on its normal course. Raising his children alone was "nothing magical."

"We just took it one day at a time," he said. "Sometimes it was just sitting down after the kids were in bed and just crying, then going on."

He said most of his support came from friends and neighbors, including a woman across the street who combed his daughter's hair every morning until she learned to do it herself.

"It's important to accept what we can and can't do" and "expect and ask for the support of priesthood and Relief Society leaders," he said.

Single parents "never do it alone," he said. "Many answers to prayers came through the service of other people."

Children need to see a strong example of teaching and living the gospel in everyday life, he said.

"Do your best and keep it simple," he said. "We must be patient with ourselves and our children. They will see our struggles for righteousness and learn from it."

Because single parents can't always be with their children, Mosteller said he learned to teach them correct principles and let them govern themselves — "most of the time, anyway," he said.

Funk became a single mother of four sons about 20 years ago, and said it took time to listen to God's answers to her prayers, particularly when they didn't jibe with what she thought was the right avenue to take.

After her divorce, she took a job as a part-time schoolteacher, but decided she needed to begin working full-time because finances were always tight. After two years, she said God told her she needed to go back to part-time work.

"The Lord knew what little emotional and time reserves I had needed to be spent with my children," she said.

Her fear kept her from making the change directly, but circumstances came about that sent her in that direction.

"If you do it the Lord's way, even if it seems harder in the moment, it's easier in the long run," she said.

Single parenting requires carefully allotting time, energy, money and emotional support, so unless projects like deep cleaning the house or growing a large garden can be shared, "you might need to choose to spend time more effectively elsewhere," she said.

With so many tasks and so little time, single parents have to guard against becoming "a drill sergeant, rather a loving mentor ... It's more helpful when we dialogue, with eye contact and real listening, putting down your other work" to give children time.