Becoming a Single Mom

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This is my story on how I became a single mom.

At the age of 24, I felt like my life was pretty much figured out.  I finally had my own apartment without roommates and a decent job working as a CNA. I felt like what I had learned in life had prepared me for whatever trials I would face. I just knew I would be able to conquer trials in my life. I didn’t have a carefree childhood. I grew up in a chaotic home with my grandparents. There was someone who was addicted to drugs who lived with us. I wasn’t taught how to drive, but I learned to navigate by public transportation.  I was being an adult by paying my bills and doing well at my job as a CNA. Life was great, but I still felt like something was missing. I was unable to hang out with my friends or go out. I thought a dating website would be a great way to tell the difference between a guy who was a fit for my life and the wrong guy.

Two weeks into having the dating profile I had received a message from a guy that was a handsome “country” guy. I was excited. He also seemed to live for the Lord. A few weeks of talking to him I decided to meet him. He was just as pleasant in person as he was online. We hit it off and became an official couple.

As time went on things were still great, we were spending lots of time together, and he practically moved in with me. The only slight change I noticed was an afternoon as I was coming home from work, he had asked me to pick up his favorite pizza. So, I stopped at the local store and grabbed it from the frozen food section. I arrived home, and as I walked in, I was greeted by a clean house. Wow is this guy for real? I was so happy with him. I handed him the pizza to place it in the oven, his facial expression changed. He directly looked at me and asked, "Are you stupid?" I was shocked and looked down not knowing what I did wrong. He said, "This is not pepperoni! This is cheese didn’t you read it?" I apologized and asked if I could take it back and get the right type of pizza. He smiled told me no, it’s okay. I was very hurt, but I didn’t say anything. He later apologized.

More time passed I realized that he started to have a “not good enough” attitude towards us. After a few months, I was met with an ultimatum that I either I had a child with him, or he was going to leave me. I told him I really want to be married first and this was sudden. I asked him to let me think about it, and he agreed. The next day I called a couple of family members and friends asking for their opinions. Everyone was shocked by his demands. Even after the advice, I have been given I was sure he must want a family because he loved me that much. I agreed, and we decided to try for a child.

A couple of months later I was expecting. The joy I had for my baby overshadowed my doubts, and he seemed very excited. He called his family and told them about the baby. His family was shocked but happy, and I was welcomed into his family.  I felt how close to them and admired how relaxed around each other they were. It made me desire, even more, to do what I could to make him happy.

In 2014, I was scheduled to be at the hospital, so I can be induced, I was nervous by that time, and I felt as big as a double-wide trailer. I have always been a nervous person as long as I could remember. He was comforting none the less to me. The waiting area for the delivery room seemed calmer then what I expected it to be. The faces of family members, husbands, or boyfriends didn’t alarm me; I felt excited and ready. As I went back, I knew he would be in the room, and he wanted to be a part of it every step of the way!

After arriving in my room, the first thing I noticed was the little baby carrier for after delivery, the smell of the hospital was familiar and comforting because of my work in the medical field. After being all setup, we were in for a long night. It seemed close to forever before Pitocin was given. A few hours later I thought I was going to die the contractions were awful. He snapped, "It can’t hurt that bad you’re being a baby!" I looked at him and cried. I asked for a nurse and a short time later a nurse arrived, I asked for an epidural. After many hours of labor and 4 hours of pushing my healthy baby girl was born.

He wasn’t very helpful for the two days we remained in the hospital. The nurses came in to take my little girl for her vaccinations, and they offered to take longer so I could rest. I smiled and slept for a while. The last day we were there we were packing to leave I lost my daughter's personalized binky. I was panicking, and he scolded me when the nurse walked in and abruptly interrupted him and offered to help look. His attitude changed. He said, "We will get another one."

We arrived home, and our plans changed, I had to quit my job, and we were to move closer to his family in a nearby town. I agreed, so we packed and moved a few months later.  When we lived in our new house, we had a lot of time with his family, and my daughter was growing more beautiful by the day. I was happy regardless. Being a stay at home mom was going to be okay. I couldn’t drive anyway, and I would be loving on her all the time.

A year later, he was very little help with her, but he reminded me that he worked, and I didn’t. I didn’t fuss at him, and I allowed him not to help. He was gone more frequently, and his absence lasted well into the nights. Even shopping at the local store was an issue because I was too slow, and he accused me of looking at other men. I was tired of being talked down to. I met him with an ultimatum of him leaving for the night, or the baby and I were going. He shoved me in a corner and took my phone. He said, "If you are to leave then say you won’t make me pay child support."  I reflected back on every evening I anticipated him coming home, I always had the house clean, and dinner sat at the table. My daughter was in my arms now I was crying. I agreed, and he left then I did too.

I was faced with uncertainty, where do I go? We were without a home. I didn’t pack much because I was thinking it would blow over. I thought things would be normal again. I stayed with my grandma for a while. Things downward spiraled. He was not only cheating on me with multiple women, but he also had numerous profiles on dating sites. He had also created a fake Facebook to hide that he even had a “family.” I was so hurt and confused, we planned this baby together. I did everything he wanted, and all I wanted was for him to be home. Time went on, and things got worse between us. After a failed attempt to get my daughters belongings and mine, we had nothing. Not even a bed. I was on the lease of the apartment, and he lured me there saying he couldn’t stand seeing her stuff and said come to get it. I was met by him and his family, and they tried taking my daughter. The police came to keep me, and my little one safe.  Come to find out, he moved in with a woman and her two kids in they were occupying our beds and had used our belongings.

We were homeless couch surfers. The home my daughter knew was taken from her. I left my friends and moved in with my father. At my father's house, I broke down. I had worked this whole time, and I couldn’t stay with people long because I didn’t know how to drive. I begged God to tell me whether I should take my daughter back and give her to him? He’s more financially stable, I’d probably never see her again. I sobbed and begged. The next morning, I received a message on Facebook. 

The message was from my old school teacher, and it was so comforting because she offered to help us. She helped my daughter, and I find a place to live. This woman and her church even furnished this house. We had a bed, a bathtub for my little girl to play in, and she had toys. I bawled and thanked the Lord for this. During the next few months, I worked and took a taxi every day. I could pay my bills again. The church came by to helped with lawn work, and they even brought us essentials like toilet paper and laundry soap. I never felt so much love before! 

It wasn’t easy. The taxis were expensive every day I’d carry my daughter, her car seat, and our bags everywhere we had to go. We went to daycare, dr appointments, grocery store. Rain, snow, ice or sunny we did it. I worked from 3 pm to 11 pm or to midnight. Then I switched jobs, and I worked 12-14 hour shifts. I was so exhausted from all of this.

I recently moved back to the apartments I lived in when I met my daughter's dad. I paid a Driver's Ed guy to teach me to drive. I obtained my driver's license, and my old teacher helped get me a car. I paid off my debt to go to college, and now I work for the school district. I did this in 4 months! I have worked so hard. I promise to all of you broken, lost, damaged, uncertain single moms that anything is possible! Work hard and take care of your babies (P.S. after the one visit with my daughter's dad he hasn’t contacted us in two years) I had some help, but I’ve done all the work! Anything is possible ladies!


Righteous Anger

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Gosh, I love those refrains about single mothers that gush about our unique combination of strength and grace.

“Wow, I admire you.”

“I could never do what you do.”

“Single moms are heroes.”

It is so nice to be recognized, even briefly or superficially, for the back-breaking struggle of parenting children alone. Being a parent is an often-thankless job in itself. So, outside validation is always welcome.

But the other day, I got to thinking and questioning. What is it that motivates me to drive my girls to track meets when all I want to do is face plant into a venti latte?  What makes me keep going? My love for my kids? Yes. But, what else? Is there something special about me? Am I like the X-men of parents, with some genetic mutation that gives me an upper hand that society simultaneously envies and uses as an excuse to ostracize me from the “real family” norm?

As much as I wish I could say that I am understudying Dad while playing the lead role of Mom from a place of love and grace, the truth is that I am deeply and constantly angry.

I am livid that I am nearly 40 years old and still have to ask my mother for help paying for my car insurance because my ex-husband is thousands of dollars behind on child support, and the embarrassing amount he is ordered to pay does not even cover the kids’ food for two weeks.

I am furious that I still feel compelled to respond to his emails offering to help, knowing that he never actually will.

I am vexed that he can sleep at night while I lay awake worrying about how we are going to make everything work this week, this month, this year.

I am irate that he still gets the title “Dad” and they still carry his last name, even though he does not know them at all.

Mostly, I am enraged that these two precious, dynamic, hilarious, brilliant, mind-blowingly incredible little girls may think, even for a second, that his absence is a reflection of their worth.

My X-gene is anger.

It is not a force of will or Christ-like grace. It is full blown, unadulterated, unrelenting anger…and that is fine.

Righteous anger is Biblical. Being angry is not a sin to be prayed away. What we do with anger is what matters. Ephesians 4:26 may be one of the most difficult imperatives in all of the Bible: “Be angry and do not sin.” God commands us to let the sun go down on our anger before we make room for the Devil in our lives. He does not tell us to simply let go of anger.

In his book, Uprooting Anger, Robert Jones tells us that, “True anger properly diagnoses what is an actual sin, it focuses not on personal offense as much as Godward offense, and then it expresses itself in ways consistent with Christian character.” This is the anger that I am striving for in my life. I pray to remain angry about the rupture of the parental covenant and to use that anger as motivation when the demands of parenthood, work, and relationships drain me. I will embrace the righteous anger born of a callous act as an intentional inspiration to be the most loving parent that I can humanly be.

So, next time you see me, it is ok to holler, “Stay angry, momma!”

A. Smith

The Final Year

It’s finally Spring y’all! Flowers are blooming. Birds are singing. Rain is falling. The sun shines brighter. And, I’m over here, facing reality. My youngest child is a junior in high school. In about 13 months, I’ll watch him graduate and walk across the stage, getting his diploma.

Being a mom is all I’ve known for 24 years. From the moment I held my oldest son, being a mommy has been my focus. It hasn’t been easy! Three boys in seven years. The diapers, teething, feedings, colds, ER visits, we’ve done it all. All three boys are taller than me now. Two are adults. And my youngest is counting the days to being out of high school.

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At times, I want to throw a rope around them and make them stop growing! I want to hold on to those carefree days of childhood. I think back to our homeschooling days when we would take our lessons to the nature park and draw what we saw, look at the flowers, and make up glorious stories. And to the times we took vacations! And all the batches of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies I made! And having a houseful of kids, making lots of noise! And when our home split in two, all of us had to find our footing again. But, with the grace of God, we did

Instead, we raise our children to become adults. To explore the world on their own. They make the big decisions on their own. And we pray for them as they step into the world of adulting. I wasn’t always a perfect mom, but I perfectly love my boys. And, when I need something, my boys are there. Fixing the brakes on my car, house-sitting for me when I travel, helping me move, whatever I need, I know they are there.

So, in this last year with kids, I hope my kids are going into the adult world with the important things echoing in their ears:

1.       Always serve God.

2.       Treat that special lady in your life with love and respect. 

3.       Be nice to those around you.

4.       Be grateful for your family.

5.       Follow the Shepherd and hear only His voice. All other voices in your life should be encouraging you to hear Him.

6.       Life gets hard at times, but never become hard against life or against people.

7.       Forgiveness is a way of life.

8.       Joy comes from deep inside you and it will give you strength to carry on

9.       Cling to your church family. They will hold you up with prayer, and meals, when you need it.

10.   Never forget that your momma loves you, prays for you, and is your biggest fan!

Gwendolyn Irene