The Story of Solo Parent

March 17, 2024

This month we’re talking about parenting. Today we’re taking a little bit of a detour, and we’re going to talk about the story of Solo Parent because Single Parent Day is coming up on March 21st. So for this episode, we wanted to do something special for our Solos, and a lot of our listeners have been asking us to tell the origin story of Solo Parent and how it came to be.

I’m super excited to get into this conversation today. One of the primary reasons that I’m excited is sitting right across from me. We’re so thankful to have Kimberly Mitchell back in the studio with us. The big thing we want listeners to do is just pay attention to how God is moving throughout the story. And we want you to realize and understand that God’s moving in your story too. So we hope that there’s some inspiration and encouragement here.

Robert, let’s go back to the beginning. Go over your story of how you became a solo parent. How old were your girls? What happened? Let’s start there.

I never intended to get into this nonprofit world. I never thought that that’d be part of my story. I was very involved in the music industry. I started a record company in California way back in the early nineties, sold it to a company back here in Nashville, and ended up moving back here. Got involved, started a label and it was purchased. So then I came back here to run it, and very quickly I met a girl, and we got married literally three months after I met her. And we had three girls. And so just kind of fast forward, I was married for 13 years, but in that time I was so involved in the Christian music industry that it really didn’t set a good foundation for my home. I partied way too hard, especially for the Christian music industry. But I wasn’t out having affairs, I was just so ambitious that the business took the place of my family to a certain extent.

I don’t think I really understood what it was to be a good parent and husband. I mean, I knew how to check off the boxes and that kind of thing. But after about 10 years of marriage, things started becoming really dysfunctional at home. And I started slowing down in my being wild. But my wife was like, “Okay, I’m sick of you having all the fun.” Literally, she said this in a counseling session and she said, “Okay, I’m going to go and have some fun.” And eventually she got caught up in some addictive ways, and ultimately that created serious havoc at the time. And so in 2006, she ended up actually leaving me and the girls. And so three months prior to that, I had completed my contract with Sony, which was the company that I worked for. And decided that I didn’t want to renew it. I wanted to start again.

I had just turned 40 and I thought, “You know what? I want to start another record company. I want to start a music company.” So I left Sony and three months later she left me and my girls who were nine, seven and four at the time. And so I ended up going from being a full-time music executive—we had a great run with some very successful artists—to just being basically a stay-at-home dad with no wife, no job, no whatever. And so I was up a creek. It took about a year for a divorce to finalize. But in that period of time, I had full custody. I was like, “How am I going to navigate starting a business and being a full-time dad to these girls that are completely dependent on me, not to mention dealing with some serious litigation going back and forth on custody issues?” There’s no way I could do it.

So I looked around for resources and I couldn’t find anything out there. And the church was no help. I couldn’t find resources from a faith perspective either. Since then, I’ve come to believe that churches really do care about single parents, but they just don’t know exactly what to do. And they’re worried that if they step in, they’re condoning divorce or that kind of thing. And so I’m like, “You know what? I’ve got to do something about this. When I get healthy, I want to start something that fills that gap because the more I studied it, the more I realized how many homes are single parent homes.” And then there’s the tragic statistics coming from single parent homes. I’m like, “Okay, nobody’s doing anything about this.” And so I just thought, “Well, I got some time on my hands. Let’s see what that might look like.” So I started blogging and writing and that kind of thing, and that just started the process of Solo Parent.

So you didn’t necessarily go into it with this vision for where we are today? Or were you just telling your story to see what happened?

At that time, I didn’t know that I had a story to tell. I had no confidence. I had built my life propping up other people’s stories, their songs. I love listening to songs and trying to craft hit songs and pulling out of artists what would appeal to the masses. I love that. To think that I would have anything to say myself was like, “Nah, no.” But I knew that there was something to do. I just didn’t think it would have anything to do with me. I thought maybe if I started building a platform, the way I would get there was if I understood more, dug into a little bit more what it means to be a solo parent. And so it really started by me just telling my story.

But no, there was no master plan. At the time, I started another media company for kids, so I could do that with my daughters. We started something called iShine, which was a tween television show and touring thing. It was kind of like a Christian Disney without the theme parks. I got to do that for quite a few years while thinking about what Solo Parent was going to look like, if it was going to look like anything at all. Because again, it wasn’t a plan. It was like, “Well, if I blog things or vlog things, if there’s people coming behind me, if I could drop some bread crumbs along the way, maybe I can help them get through some of the things that I don’t know what the heck I’m doing. And so I recorded the things that I was doing, things I thought were terrible mistakes and things I had no answers for. It wasn’t just like, “Here’s what you should do.” It’s more like, “Don’t do this.”

Kim, I want to ask you, when did Robert rope you in and how did that happen?

We have a very similar story. I moved here in Tennessee in 2016. I married my second husband who’s one of Robert’s very dearest friends and has been for over 30 years. And that’s how I met Robert. I had heard his name throughout the years. I also worked in the Christian music industry in Canada. My story’s very similar to Robert’s. My kids were five and eight when my marriage ended. It was not a good situation. I was also married for 13 years and it was awful. All 13 years it was pretty verbally abusive and all those things. I am a good preacher’s kid and you don’t ever get divorced. And I’m the one that chose to step away from that marriage. I didn’t want my kids to think it was okay, because I didn’t do it for myself. I couldn’t do it for myself. I had no self-esteem left. But I remember looking at my daughter one day thinking, “This is not okay, and you can’t think this is okay.” And at my 8-year-old son, going, “Oh my gosh, this is not okay and you can’t think this is okay.” And so it was by truly, I know this sounds so weird, the grace of Jesus that helped me leave, which sounds so wrong to say.

I totally grew up. You don’t ever [get divorced], but I did. And it was probably one of the best decisions I ever made. I was a single parent for a really long time in Canada, and then this guy drew me to the USA. He just was a gift from Jesus that I never thought would ever, ever, ever happen. I had my meltdowns with Jesus: I’ll be single forever. I might as well just be a nun. I’m not even Catholic. All the things. And yet the greatest seven or so years were spent with my kids, when it was just the three of us. We lived in crappy little apartments. We did not have very much money. We loved the thrift store, and yet had some of our best days and memories in those years. And my kids are now in their twenties. They’re 20 and 23. And the memories they talk about are from our solo parent season. And when I’m like, “I’m a failure.” And they’re like, “Remember that? That was awesome.” I’m like, “What is wrong with you guys? That was not awesome.” But they didn’t know. They just knew they were still loved. And that is what’s important.

Anyhow, I came here and got married, we knew each other. In 2016, I finally met Robert again, and I don’t even know how it really happened. I have a heart for single parents. One day we said, “We should probably do a podcast or something.” And we did it at your house. We just talked. I don’t even remember having notes. It really is amazing to look back and see where God has brought everything. A lot of hurting people. I was a really hurting mom. I was a really hurting married person too. And we got to sit and share our stories because we’re all in it together. What has made me happy over the years was not the people with the greatest advice to “do this” and “do that.” But it was when my girlfriend said, “I was so mad at my husband and I threw the pots and pans across the kitchen.” I’m like, “Thank you for saying that. I don’t feel so alone in my story.” And that’s what we’ve been able to do: let people know they’re not alone in their story. We’ve been there and we may have seemed to have come through lots of things and been remarried and stuff like that, but it still ain’t perfect. There’s still lots of things we’re walking through.

Brian (Kim’s husband) has been a friend for over 30 years and one of my absolute dearest, best friends on earth. So we’ve done a lot of life together. We’ve done vacations together, walked through divorce together. He had a terrible divorce and we went through it at the same time. And I think that’s one of the things that really helped start the podcast: If we went kayaking, we’d be talking about stuff or if we went out to dinner, we’d be talking about stuff. And it just kind of organically grew. And I think it’s because there was an authentic connection between Kim and I, it was never meant to be, “Well, we know what we’re doing.” It was more the opposite of that. And we just kind of stepped into it. And every time we would pray, “God, just showed up. Do whatever you want to do.”

Like you said, when I was a single parent, there was nothing at my church. And I’m a preacher’s kid. I’ve been in the church my whole life, but there was nothing. I went to a great church in Canada. I surrounded myself and my kids with really super people, but it was just those few couples that kind of took us under their wing. There wasn’t anything.

How did you come up with the idea for groups?

At the time, going through my solo season, I was involved in a men’s group called Samson Society. None of them were divorced, but it was this place where you got to know people on an intimate level. You’d go and just pull things out of the shadows and talk about them. And I saw the transformation that made in my life, just being known by other men, being known by other people. And from a therapy standpoint, I think one of the most important things we can give someone else is a safe place to be known. And so I thought, “Well, gosh, I would love to do something like what I’m involved in, but it’s completely centric to single parents.” I didn’t have a plan per se, I just had an idea. So the church that I was involved in was very receptive to it and they called a meeting. The senior pastor’s wife brought along someone on staff, also a single mom, that was going to be leading the charge and had a heart for this, and her name was Amber.

I’m curious, Amber, what was your thought when you heard someone was trying to do something?

It’s so interesting because I was newly divorced and I was wrecked with pain, fear, trying to juggle it all, feeling really alone. I was on staff at a church, so I felt like this oddity, here I am among all these super Christians and now I’m divorced. I remember approaching my boss at that time and saying, “Do I need to step down? Do I need to no longer be on staff or talk to the elders or something?” And thank goodness he was an incredibly grace-filled, wonderful human and he was like, “No, Amber, of course not.” And he’s like, “Listen, if you get any questions about this, you just send them right to me.” So I was on staff, a little bit of a poster child for the single parent world—nothing I ever asked for or wanted ever in my life. And the pastor’s wife came and said, “Hey, there’s a guy who wants to start something for single parents.” I remember feeling like, “Huh, this is interesting” and kind of felt thrown into the mix. But I have a super big heart for groups. I had been part of significant recovery through Celebrate Recovery. That was the only thing that I could find as a single parent. And so I had found some respite through Celebrate Recovery, but it wasn’t specific to my situation. And so I was super receptive to having this conversation with Robert. And I remember meeting in the upstairs part of the church in the offices and him starting to talk about this book he was writing, and I was like, “Whoa, this is cool.” And so he just started telling me his idea and the framework and the vision God had laid on his heart. And man, it really does hit because God sees single parents, he really sees you. I just think about how he brought together all these somewhat random factors to create a space now for single parents to have their stories heard, to be pointed toward truth and help. And it’s just remarkable when I look back. So we put the word out about the groups.

I remember my posture at that time was very much about overcoming. Every morning it was like, “God give me strength.” And as much as it was an unhealthy cope at the time, checking the boxes, overcoming getting things done, being the resilient one, it was a big part of my identity. And it was the way that I knew how to win at that time.

Amber and I really hit it off. [I loved] her passion for groups and seeing the strength of sharing stories because she had been through recovery groups. And it’s remarkable that we do our best to make something out of the stories when it’s kind of God’s job to do that. I said in a podcast last month or two months ago that I think Solo Parent started because I was trying to cope and I was running from facing my loneliness and facing my own stuff. I’m like, “I’ve got to do something with this. I’ve got to do something with this.” “To win, to achieve, to overcome, I’ve got to turn this into something.” And God’s like, “Okay, that’s cool.” It’s like a little kid that’s like, “I can fly. I’m going to jump off the roof.” And the response is, “Let’s just slow down a little bit.” But God uses it.

In 2017, you guys kicked off groups, right? And how was it received at the church?

It was amazing. We were at capacity within the first week and it had never been mentioned from the pulpit. We really didn’t know who was going to show up. I remember that first Sunday we had a good leadership team and I was like, “Well, if this is what shows up, this is fine. These are good people.” But it was packed. We had an incredible team of leaders and I always want to celebrate the leaders because even now, the leaders of our groups are the heartbeat of this ministry. We say it often because it’s so true, but we had a great team of leaders who are all single parents and they came willing to share their story, willing to provide a safe place for other single parents to feel welcome and accepted. So that they could come back into a church building in the honesty of their life circumstances. And it was incredible. And what we did in person has morphed again. And it’s incredible what God continues to do with the ministry.

Elizabeth, you were a participant in the group when you first started. What were your feelings when you first came to the group and started just as a participant?

It was sometime in 2017. I heard Robert tell his story from the stage. Our pastor interviewed him. And I thought, “This is really interesting.” I had this little tug in my heart that “Maybe I might need it one day.” I was married, but it had been a rough road at that point, but we hadn’t separated or anything like that. And it was actually going to be another few months before we did. I went out to the lobby and I was like, “Hey, I don’t know if you need any help from married people, but this sounds like an incredible organization. I would love to volunteer for anything that you have.” And so I wrote my name down on the list. And fast forward, we separated later that year. Our divorce was final in April of 2018. And immediately was like, “I’m going.” I think our divorce was final on a Thursday and that following Monday I was in group. I didn’t know anyone. I was there the first week. I just knew I needed something; I needed people around me. I didn’t know anyone divorced. I wasn’t close to anyone who had walked through this. So I showed up to the group and walked in and didn’t know anybody. I was hoping that because it was my home church, I would at least know someone. But I didn’t know anybody. But I went over and loaded up my plate with a couple pieces of pizza and a girl named Jenny walked over and was like, “Are you new? Come sit with me at my table.”

You asked what I felt like coming into that room. I was so full of fear and shame and I didn’t want to be there, but I knew I needed to be. And I was overwhelmed with everything that was coming with it, but also had a little bit of an excitement. I am a people person, so I was excited to get to know new people, but I didn’t know what I was walking into when it came to a group and I didn’t know a soul in there. So it was just a really hard place to be, but I knew I had to have it, whatever it was.

Over the following weeks, I heard other people share their stories. We had open share time after we finished the group portion. And that open share time was probably the most transformational part because not only did I hear other people cry with other people, but they cried with me and my story. And I remember one of the first couple of weeks we would introduce ourselves and we’d say, “I’ve been a single parent for however long.” And I was like, “Well, I’ve been a single parent for a week or two weeks.” And looking at people around the table that have been single parents for a couple of years and thinking, “Oh man, I wonder what it’s going to be like when I get there.” I remember asking one week, “How do you guys deal with the fact that your dream is dead? Your dream for what your family was going to look like is gone. It’s not going to be there. It’s not the same and it’s dying and it’s dead. How do you deal with that?” And I’m just crying. And of course you can’t have crosstalk, and so nobody could fix that for me. But the fact that I could even just say that and have people sit with me in that discomfort and in that pain and know that they knew what that felt like was so transformational.

And I think the thing that’s been remarkable is this has all come from our stories. And I remember the first time you came up to me and you said, “Hey, I think I want to use my story to help other single parents. If you ever need help with publicity or if you ever need help with whatever, I just don’t want this to be for nothing.” And that’s what I prayed all the time. I was like, “God, you gave me this story. You better do something with it. It’s the only way.”

It’s so beautiful to see how it brings different people in and how he brought Elizabeth in and how you’re here now. It’s just remarkable. And I think about a single mom I knew at that time who had become a single mom because she was a widow. Her name was Missy, and she was the one who came forward and had this passion to meet single parents who had lost a co-parent or spouse to death. And that was her passion. She said, “God gave me this idea. He even gave me this name, it’s PALS, Parenting After Losing a Spouse.” And she became one of our instrumental leaders. She had her own small group that was specific to widows and widowers and it was just a really beautiful thing. They had their own open share time. And we now have PALS groups today that have still come from that genesis. And Missy has gone on to be remarried and has a beautiful second family now, but God’s in the business of redemption. And I want our pals out there to know how much they’re loved and cared for and how that came from God’s heart through Missy to bring that forward.

None of this is by design. And I think about as we’re reflecting on Single Parent Day coming up and all the things that God has done with Solo Parent, it’s pretty humbling thinking how far it’s grown from us having a conversation about, “Hey, let’s just start a podcast. What are we going to do? I don’t know, just talk” for now. Amber started a Solo Parent group which grew to 18 states before the pandemic. And it just kind of mushroomed. We never marketed it. And then Elizabeth saying during the pandemic, “COVID has shut everything down. Let’s go online. Let’s just see if anyone shows up.” And that has become the lifeblood of what’s happened. And now we have over 35 leaders around the country that lead groups seven days a week. And then we get a call out of the blue from someone in the military saying, “Hey, would you be interested in collaborating with the military? There’s nothing for single parents in the military.” Fast forward and we’ve made multiple trips to DC and the Pentagon and are collaborating with them, and now we have two officially-adopted programs with the US military for the first time in history. All of this has nothing to do with our plan. It has everything to do with just stepping into it and going, “I don’t know what you’re doing, God, I have no idea, but I’m willing for you to take what I’ve got and multiply it, use it just in one other person’s life, whatever it is.”

So in wrapping this all up, we’ve come so far and each one of you has played an instrumental role. There’s others like Marissa and other team members that have been the right person at the right time with the right chemistry and the right skillset and all of it. From the very beginning, we haven’t recruited, it’s just been a bunch of misfits. We’ve not aired some interviews because they were so terrible nobody can ever hear them. We’ve cried an awful lot. I’ve cried with people I never expected to cry with, and that moved me to my very core. We’ve laughed till we’ve cried. And we can all do this together. I was reading something the other day about how we of course celebrate who God is and how great, gracious and wonderful he is—and all these things are true. But also, Jesus wept in our grief, and it doesn’t have to necessarily be death, but losing a marriage, losing our dream of our family is a death. Jesus wept when his friend died, and I just really believe He’s cried with all of us too. I needed him to cry with me. I didn’t want people just to go, “Oh, God does have you.” I didn’t need to hear that all the time. Sometimes I just needed to hear “God is sad too” or “That is not the plan that he ever had either. However, he can bring such great beauty from ashes.” And there were some days I didn’t know that he could or would, but when we do just kind of go, “Okay, I’m here. I don’t know what the future looks like. I don’t know what these kids are going to be like, but we’re all yours.” And we get to put our feet on the floor and go, “I’m here.”

We can’t measure the outcome from where we sit. We just measure how we show up and recognize that God is doing something greater than we might’ve imagined. And I think the only thing that we have held each other accountable to is to ask, “Are we leaning into the fact that we are dependent and broken and in need of a Savior, in need of grace and mercy?” Other than that, I think we just put one foot in front of the other and trust that God has the greater good, not just for us, but for those around us. I’ve always said this, “with Solo Parent, there’s a story of Jesus healing the lepers,” one came back and said, “Thank you.” I want us to be the one that comes back and recognizes where healing comes from. And that has always been core to Solo Parent for me. It’s great to be healed; it’s great to move on; it’s great to have another life, but never, ever forget the origin of that redemption and that healing. And I think that’s why this was so important to talk about for Single Parent Day. It’s not just self-gratification and thinking like, “Oh, we’re so awesome.” We’re very aware of the fact that we’re just kind of misfits, but God has a different plan. And so if we come back and realize that he is the origin of anything good, it’s a testament to what he wants to do.

The point is, we didn’t know the outcome of this. We didn’t know it was going to get this big, we didn’t know any of this. And in the same way as you, listening, don’t know the outcome of what’s going on in your story, that’s okay. Just take the next step forward and be faithful and surrender, hold things with an open hand, and be willing for things to change.

We want to keep bringing you into these conversations every week, and we do that through our listener questions. So I’m going to read this week’s listener question.

“Are there any books, podcasts, or other resources that are a must have for single parents? Not just informational, even entertainment, like movies or TV shows that are relatable?”

My Single Mom Life by Angela Thomas. All of her books are awesome, but that book changed everything for me. I was working part-time at a bookstore when I was a single mom, and I kept walking by that book and I refused to pick it up because I did not want to be labeled. I’m like, “No, I’m never touching it.” And one day I actually picked it up and that book changed everything for me. Yeah. Another book is Going Solo by Robert Beeson.

There weren’t a lot of resources for single parents (and I still think that is somewhat the case although we’re working to change that) so I needed to change my mindset and go into other materials, whether it be psychology books, spiritual books,  etc. If you go into something looking for something, you’ll typically find it. I’ve found that principle to be so true amongst everything. I don’t know what I’m looking for, but I know that I need some healing. Walk into it with an expectation that God will direct what you need out, whether it be entertainment, whether it be a book, whether it be music, whether it be, I believe he brings that, and it doesn’t have to be labeled “single parent.”

It was hard for me to learn that lesson, but I did eventually learn that I needed to slow down and let God bring the next right thing to me, the next resources that I needed to heal would come. People would come into my life that needed to come. But I was overloading myself with too many resources for a little while. And so I’m glad that you brought that up.

A huge resource I mentioned earlier was Celebrate Recovery. I still think it’s an incredible opportunity to receive healing or growth, support from your hurts, habits, and hang-ups. It’s where I started because it’s what was available at the time, and I’m so glad it’s free. It’s available in multiple communities and churches, maybe even other organizations. Now I’m a firm believer in the recovery process, sitting in a circle, sharing your stories in a safe place and so much like our solo parent groups. But thinking about the fear and hurt I had going through divorce; I found a safe place with Celebrate Recovery to talk about that and to overcome some of my unhealthy dependency on my marriage and on my ex-husband and learning to let go of control and perfectionism and some of my fear. And so I still think the recovery community is an incredible resource if someone is in a void and they need something.

Sissy Goff and Dave Thomas have great resources from Raising Boys and Girls. I have a 10-year-old boy and one of the books I’ve been reading that stays on my nightstand is called Wild Things, the Art of Nurturing Boys. And then Sissy Goff has resources and books for raising girls. The Wild Things book breaks it down by age, which is why I keep it on my nightstand, because they grow through things, and it takes you through all the way into their adulthood and the things that they struggle with. Sissy was my girls’ counselor before she became an author, and I will tell you that her wisdom is phenomenal. And it seems remiss if I didn’t just say: Please look for resources for low-cost discounted therapy for you to become the best parent you can be, and therapy for your kids. We really need to heal our own stories.

If you want to send in a question, which we need more, please keep those coming, go to our website You’ll find directions on how to email, call, or leave a voice message. And you can also message us on Instagram or Facebook and we’ll follow up with you there.