You're Doing Great.

So, another school year has begun. And this year, my youngest son started his sophomore year of high school at my old stompin’ grounds! As we walked around the High School after picking up his schedule, I pointed out different areas I remembered. But, much has changed as well.
The kids don’t get lockers anymore. Their books are on a Chromebook, so they get to miss the joy of carrying huge books to class and running to get to the locker and switch out those huge textbooks, as they go to the next hour. 

Eventually though, I realized that single was just a box I checked. I’m more than that box..png


There’s many more food choices for these kids. They can get Subway or Chinese, regular line, salad, burgers, chicken…pretty much whatever they want. 


My city has a large, modern football stadium now. No more driving over to the site of the original high school and playing football on an older field. It’s across the parking lot now. 
And of course, all the kids have cell phones now. Remember when we had to go ask the office if we wanted to call our parents? And, we had to go to the library to do our research instead of using the internet. 


There are many more activities and clubs for kids now. The list goes on and on and on! 
It was fun thinking back to those days and I laugh at my senior picture with the shoulder pads and the big hair! There are just some things that need to stay back in 1992! 
However, life didn’t exactly turn out the way I planned. I wanted to pastor a church with my husband, while teaching High School History and raising kids together. Instead, I work a couple of part-time jobs and I am a single parent who shares custody with my ex-husband. My kids have a step-mom and step-siblings. 


After my divorce, I didn’t look forward to filling out any paperwork. They all want to know your marital status. Ugh!! I wasn’t married, but I didn’t feel single. Eventually though, I realized that single was just a box I checked. I’m more than that box. And so are you! God made us! He’s made us each unique, with different strengths and abilities. 
Life may have taken quite a few twists and turns, but when I look at my life now, I’m content. And I’m happy. Of course, I want to be married again. But, a marital status doesn’t make me who I am. 


We need to take an inventory of our lives. Instead of focusing on the mistakes and the hurts and the unfulfilled dreams, look at all you’ve accomplished. Is it hard to see the good things? 
Well, let me ask you, are the kids still alive? Do they have food and clothes? Do you manage to get most of the stuff done on your to-do list? Then, you’ve succeeded, Momma! 


People like to remind us how hard it is to be a single mom. And, it’s easy to start focusing on that. But, what we focus on is what we start to believe. So, be careful what you’re looking at! Remind yourself that with God, all things are possible! Look at how well you are doing. Be content and enjoy this time in your life. It doesn’t mean you forget about your hopes, it just means that you’ll be happy while waiting for them to happen! 


And, while you’re at it, tell your kids all those stories about how you didn’t have Google or GPS! Trust me, they’ll think you’re a hero, just because you survived those cave-man days! 

By Gwendolyn Irene

www.gwendolynirene.com

Daring Adventures of Single Parenthood, A Devotional. https://www.gwendolynirene.com/books/

Top Ten List for Single Mom’s As the School Year Starts

 

10. Go for a walk every day. Even if it’s just around the block! Exercise helps to clear your head and stimulate the systems, as well as relax you.

9. Pack school lunches the night before! This will help your sanity every morning, while getting the kids ready for school.

8. Tell them about the family situation. I’m not saying to bash dad to the teachers, but they do need to know if it’s joint or sole custody, which parents pick up on which days, if there are step-parents and step-siblings involved.

7. Set up a Family Command Center. This is where you’ll hang your calendar and keep track of all paperwork that comes back and forth from school. It’s also a good place for backpacks to be dropped, so you’ll never have to look for them. Pinterest has great ideas for this!

6. Get up 30 minutes before the kids. This will give you a chance to shower and pray before waking them. It will help with the early-morning rush!

5. Set up an email just for school use. This will help keep all the important information in one place. It also ensures that school emails don’t get the lost in the abyss of a personal email box!

4. Prepare a daily schedule for you and the kids and stick to it! If everyone knows what is expected, it will be easier to get through the day. It also helps you to know what’s going on.

3. Be prepared to defend yourself as a single mom. There are many pre-conceived notions out there and inevitably, some stay-at-home mom is going to assume that you are poor, have no time for your kids, won’t help with homework, and will date anyone male who asks you out.

2. But, also find those stay-at-home mom who can help with extra-curricular activities! You work till 5:00 and sometimes, basketball practice starts at 4:00pm! Get some moms in your corner, who are willing to help. And don’t forget to thank them! After all, they are taking on additional responsibilities!

1. FORGET THE LISTS!

That’s right! Trash them! Get rid of them!

See, every family is different! In my home, we tend to be night-owls. Well, except for my middle-child, who managed to get himself into bed early most nights. I also have three boys who are extremely different! No set schedules would work for us!

And, getting us out the door on time? Well, there was that one time, when my youngest was in 4th grade. We heard the bus coming up the street. He ran for his backpack and I opened the door. And, that’s when I realized he didn’t have on any shoes! I yelled at him, he ran back, grabbed the shoes, and ran for the bus. I kid you not! His friends were yelling, “Come on Alex!” from the bus. I stood there, thinking two things:

1.      Please don’t let any of the other parents see that my kid doesn’t have his shoes on!

2.      Please let said shoes get onto the feet before the bus reaches the school!

I love Pinterest! I’m sure most of us do. However, let’s be honest. We’ll never live Pinterest Perfect Lives! There is no one on the planet who has a life exactly like ours. Which means, there’s no one on the planet who can tell you exactly how to live it!

There may be some points on the list above that resonate with you. Great! Use them. If they don’t, then toss them. Sit down and figure out what’s going to work the best for you and your kids! That’s all that matters!

So have a great year with your kids! Sell that cookie dough for the fundraiser and hand out programs for the annual musical. Use YouTube and Google to help with homework. Roast marshmallows in the fireplace. Go a little crazy when the science fair project is due…the very next day! Laugh and do your thing, momma!

P.S. For all those momma’s that have helped me over the years, giving my kids a ride to activities, watching them…Thank You!! You’re my hero!! I needed the help and you stepped up to the plate!

By Gwendolyn Irene

www.gwendolynirene.com

Daring Adventures of Single Parenthood, A Devotional. https://www.gwendolynirene.com/books/

Domestic Violence

When I met my ex-husband, I was at a really lonely time in my life. He knew just what to say to really turn my head. I have found out since that it was almost a textbook start to an abusive relationship. I let him move in almost immediately. I found out later the reason he was pressuring me for this to happen was because he needed a place to register for his sex offender registration. He spent the next few months sometimes being extremely attentive and sometimes being very distant. I have since learned that this is an abuser’s way of keeping their victim off balance and constantly guessing.

A few months after he moved in with me, I found out I was pregnant. At first things were great. He was so excited that he was going to have a child that he stayed away from drugs and alcohol for the first few months of my pregnancy, but he couldn’t stay away from either one, or the friends he partied with. Toward the end of my pregnancy, he moved his father and grandmother in with us.

After I had my son, I had to go back to work 3 weeks after a C-section, because he refused to get a job, and neither his father nor grandmother were helping with the bills. Even though he insisted I get a job, he did everything possible to make me lose that job. During this time was the first time he ever put his hands on me in an argument. I had come home on my lunch break, because he needed the car. I was in a hurry to get back, and he did everything to not help. He knew it bothered me to be late, so he made me late all the time on purpose. Trying to get him to get around to take me back to work quickly made him angry, and I ended up against the wall with his hands around my throat. Of course, this was my fault, as I had made him mad in the first place. When it was something he wanted to do, we were always early. It was only when I needed to be somewhere that he would make us late. Any fights were always my fault. Six days after we got married, we had a fight and he left the house and went and cheated on me. His reason was that I had made him angry, so he went and found someone to sleep with. He also told me every time he cheated on me supposedly was so I could forgive him and “wipe the slate clean.”

We got evicted, because I wasn’t able to keep up with payments by myself. We lived in a hotel for 3 weeks. We finally found a house to move into. He went out one night and got drunk and brought someone home, and then he proceeded to pass out in the bathroom. The next morning, I woke up to my money, computer, driver’s license, and Social Security card stolen. I’m still recovering from my losses from this.

He would dump water on me while I was sleeping if I didn’t stay up with him. He would break my phone to keep me from calling people. He ripped our bedroom door off its hinges one night when he started a fight with me. He crawled into bed one night and pulled me close and whispered in my ear, “You know, if I put this pillow over your head and killed you right now, no one would know what happened.” I tried to get up and get away from him, because he terrified me. He held me down so I couldn’t get away from him and laughed at me because I was scared.

After we had been at that house for a while, we did start going to church, and for a while things got quite a bit better.

We moved into a new place and things felt really settled. A few months after we moved in, I got a text from him while I was at work stating that he had cheated on me again. From that point on, things went downhill. He started hanging out with his friends again and starting doing drugs and drinking again.

During this time, I was working full-time but couldn’t afford childcare. I tried to get childcare assistance, but because he didn’t have a job, the state considered him the primary caregiver. He was not fit to take care of my son, but I felt I had no other choice. If I spent $100 on household items, he would insist that he was able to spend $100 for himself for drugs, alcohol, or whatever else he wanted to spend the money on. He would tell me it was his payment for babysitting. Any money we had was from my job, because he refused to work. He would always use the excuse that he couldn’t get a job because of his past.

Towards the end of us being together, he started seeing things coming through the walls. He, at one point, ended up in a local psych ward for a 72-hour hold, because he had done bath salts.

On February 25, 2013, when I came home from work, my son was already ready for bed. This was strange because my ex hardly ever did anything more than what was absolutely necessary around the house. I made dinner and put my son to bed. The next morning, I was off work. When my son got up, I got him ready to take a bath. That’s when I saw the bruises that were all down his legs. Shortly after I put my son in the bathtub, my ex woke up and jumped out of bed, immediately screaming at me for putting my son in the bathtub. He was upset because he didn’t want me seeing the bruises. I tried to stay away from him, because he was being violent. I went into the bedroom to try to put some space between us, and he followed me, screaming at me for making him feel guiltier than he already did. I hadn’t said much at this time. He threw our nightstand across the room at one point. After a while, he calmed down, but he never apologized for any of it. Later that day, he got a phone call from a friend, and he left and was gone for about 24 hours. This gave me a lot of time to think about things. His sister came by, and she wanted to take my son home with her, so I felt it was necessary to tell her what had happened. She asked me how long I was going to continue to let him act like this. I really didn’t have an answer for her.

She took my son with her. A little while later, my ex came home. He seemed happy that we were going to have a child-free evening until it dawned on him that his family was going to know what happened. He started screaming again and stormed out of the house and left. I called my mom to come get me and take me to Walmart, because I was going to change the locks on the house so he couldn’t get back in.

He came back home before my mom got there, and I finally told him I had had enough. I couldn’t take any of it anymore. He told me I would regret that decision. When that didn’t seem to faze me, he then told me he was going to the cops before I could. He was constantly blaming me for things, so I asked him what he was trying to blame me for this time. He looked me in the eye and told me he was going to go to the cops and tell them I had done this to my son instead of him, because my son was too young to tell anyone any different. He left then, because he knew my mom was on her way to our house.

When my mom got there, I asked her to take me to the police station instead of to Walmart. I filed a statement with the police, and they asked me to go get my son and meet them at the hospital. That started what was one of the longest nights of my life. My child was tired and hadn’t had a nap, and it was way past his bedtime. I had to help hold him down for the x-rays. He was 2 at the time, so it was impossible for him to understand what was going on.

I went to live with my parents. I filed a restraining order and for divorce. I got my son into counseling. I had to change my phone number, because of the amount of harassing phone calls and texts I received from him.

My son and I are both in a much better place in our lives now. My child has never once asked to see his father. He rarely talks about him at all, but when he does, it’s never in a good connotation. He doesn’t even call him dad most of the time anymore. I have never said anything negative about my ex around my son. My mother came from a broken home, and I have always known how much it meant to her that her mother didn’t talk bad about her father, so I know how important this is. If my son asks about his father, I answer honestly with what I hope is an age-appropriate response.

I have forgiven my ex for what happened for myself. Letting anger and bitterness fester only continues to let the abuser hurt you. Through the help of God and family and friends, I have become a stronger person. Sharing my story has helped me heal and has helped others escape domestic violence.

~Joy