Through My Daughter's Eyes

I got home from work last night and made dinner for me and my daughter. Working two jobs has started wearing me down so all I wanted to do was make it through dinner and bath time, and get to bed early. So we sat down, said our prayers, and then she looked up at me and said “why don’t I have a daddy?” I suddenly had no appetite, no words, no train of thought. Nothing.

Let’s go back five and a half years to 2011. Her father and I had been best friends for years, were very much in love, and decided to elope. Pure bliss. A few weeks later, we went to my doctor and found out I was pregnant and I thought my life couldn’t get more perfect than it was in that moment, but my world quickly crumbled around me. Past miscarriages made me a high risk, so I was immediately put on bed rest, he started going out and getting drunk more with his friends, and came home one night and let it slip that he had been cheating on me with a friend of mine. So there I was – 19 years old, unemployed, pregnant, and married to a cheating man.

See? World = crumbled. It was a lot to take on at once, so I had him move out while I tried to figure out how I wanted to handle things. Shortly after he left, I found out he and my friend were also expecting a baby – due just a few short months after we were due. I went through my pregnancy alone, delivered her alone, and brought her home alone – all while another woman was doing the same thing but with my husband, my best friend.

I filed for divorce after I had her. We made child support and visitation agreements amongst ourselves because he had yet to meet her, or even ask about her. We stood in court and he signed his rights away. No mention of child support, no mention of visitation, no mention of my daughter’s name. Just “no, your honor, I do not want rights to this child.” She is now almost 5 years old and we have not heard from or seen him since.

How do you explain that to a child? How could I say “he chose his other daughter over you” without breaking her heart? So I sat there, for what felt like hours, feeling my own heart breaking – for her and for myself. It’s been just the two of us since day one. I’ve had over 5 years to prepare for this. A part of me always hoped it would never come up, that she would feel loved enough to not notice something was missing. I knew she deserved answers – she deserves the world – but there was no right or easy way to tell her she didn’t have a dad because he chose not to be.

I was prepared for a long night…a night full of questions, lots of tears, and little sleep. I was prepared to fumble my way through a conversation I’ve been dreading because I knew she wanted to know. I was completely unaware of any facial expressions I had made, or anything I may have thought out loud, but I zoned back in and built up enough courage to start explaining everything, until I heard her little voice again.

“Mommy… It’s okay that I don’t have a daddy. I like that it’s just you and me because we’ll always have each other.” And that was it. She no longer cared for an explanation. Having me by her side was more than sufficient. The conversation suddenly shifted from one that made my heart feel like it was going to beat right out of my chest to one about Paw Patrol and which book we were going to read before bed time.

So we made it through bath time, and we made it through dinner time, just like we’ll make it through everything else. Bed time finally rolled around (thank God!) and she wrapped her little arms around my neck and said “I love you more than anyone loves anyone.” She was out, and the day that felt like it would never end finally ended.

That one short part of my long, long day made me realize how hard we as single mothers can be on ourselves. We set the bar so high because we have so many roles to play and so many hats to wear, and we tend to forget that we’re not superheroes – we’re human. We don’t have the right answers to everything, and we don’t always know how to find the right answer, but that won’t stop us from trying. We’re moms, it’s what we do. I know I’m guilty of feeling like I have to accomplish everything and then some, or of feeling like I’ll never quite reach the bar I’ve set for myself, and I’m realizing that maybe I’ve set that bar too high. So what if she doesn’t have a dad? I don’t have to play the role of dad, I’m the mom. I can be the mom and give her a good life on my own. Now I’m challenging myself to see myself through my daughter’s eyes. On the days I feel most down and inadequate and think I just can’t do this or that I should be doing more, I’ll remind myself that I am somehow enough for her, and that should be enough for me.

-Jamie Arnold

Accountability 2017

A new year for new beginnings. Now is the time I set into motion my New Year’s resolutions. 2017 will be my year. I will lose weight, change my style, finish school, make new friends, and form healthy relationships. I will begin a career, and buy that house! I will be more relaxed and flowy, and be the mom my kids can relate to.

Or, I will wash this bag of chunky chocolate chip cookies down with a six-pack of apple ale, and cry myself to sleep because I’m too tired and unmotivated to do any of those things--not now, not ever.

My life is overrun with caring for others. Between my full-time job as a caregiver (where I am obligated to focus my attention solely on my clients’ needs) and surviving the war zone that has become my home life (two teenagers, two preteens, and one temperamental toddler), where do I find time to focus on me? Who takes care of me?

According to my doctor, nobody does, as I now know I have metabolic syndrome, and I’m pre-diabetic. My body is becoming insulin resistant, and in turn, stores everything I eat as fat in my gut which has caused liver disease. The treatment: a drastic change in diet and regular exercise.

You mean, I have to find time to exercise outside of my job, cleaning house, doing laundry,  running my kids all over town, mediating squabbles until bedtime, and the inability to sit down for 5 minutes without hearing “MOM!” being screamed from all corners of the house?

How do we as single moms, find time to take care of ourselves as well as our kids?

A good place to start is to put down that bag of chunky chocolate chip cookies, wipe the crumbs off your face, and ask yourself, “Who will take care of them when I’m gone?”

We become so busy with just getting through our daily routines that we forget our bodies have a shelf life. We don't know how much time we have, and as single moms, especially, in order to fulfill our duties to our children we need to be diligent in taking care of ourselves first (that concept has always sounded backwards, but given my current situation it makes sense).

I don't feel I’m in a place to give health advice, as I am an overweight, 35-year-old pre-diabetic who would just assume dive bomb a Chinese food buffet rather than drink a kale smoothie for lunch, but I think the first step here is to find an accountability partner. That may be a relative or a friend (another single mom) who will hold me accountable for taking care of me.

“Hey, friend, I don't think piling away quarter pounders is the best plan of action given your current condition.”

“Why, thank you, friend. You’re probably right.”

That's how that works.

2017. Find your accountability partner. Form a blood oath. Make a commitment…whatever it takes.

I am currently accepting applications for an accountability partner. This is not for the squeamish. It could get ugly. Someone will cry (most likely me). Only the serious need to apply.

I also have a membership to Planet Fitness, and I can take a friend anytime I want.

Heather Voyles

The Unveiling

 

The mirror I see before me is not a reflection of who I am, but yet a mask I wear daily. I am a strange one if I ever let you see me. If I remove the mask long enough for you to get a glimpse of me. I am not trying to boast in my strangeness but rather what I hear people say about me, so I stay hidden often. I can remember people telling me as I was growing up to be yourself and people will love you. It was a nice thought but the practice of it seemed to not be true. In fact, the more I was being myself the more my classmates were angry with me or trying to make me like them. I often came home in tears, like my daughter does now, because we are not like everyone else. I am not sure what it is but it breaks my heart. It also seems that no matter how hard we have both tried to be close to people or wish to have friends we have not been the most successful at it.

 

I wonder what the drive is, at even a young age, to make someone else like you. Do we think we are better than others? Are we led to believe we are perfect? I think an answer I would get is we all long to belong, be part of a group and have connection. That answer is perhaps true, though tears on my daughter’s face are unsettling and remind me of the mask I used to wear at school. It was a strong mask, the one that kept my mouth from expressing through words to others what was going on with me. Though my head was always full of thoughts and questions; even then I witnessed the lack of respect for an individual being who God created them to be.

  

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson

  

As an adult, it has been hard to unlearn being like others especially being a people pleaser like I was (still working on it). It turns out the mind does not unlearn things. There was no way for me to unlearn being like others, trying to fit in, and making everyone else happy.  Instead I tried to be someone else completely to retrain myself to become someone new. When I was deep in the trenches of this people pleasing life there were many masks I wore. I was the perfect daughter, the push-over friend, and "whatever you want" girlfriend. Because of these choices, those masks led me down a path of consequences.

 

Finally, I was tired of being everyone else’s version of "me". I started to figure out what I liked and the things I gave up for everyone else because it was not accepted. It also led me down a path of redefining what a friend really is to me and how they would interact in my life. This time of exhaustion led me to stop dating completely because I didn’t understand how I could even fill out a profile online if I couldn’t answer the questions honestly. I didn’t know the answers anymore and that was okay. I still don’t know them all and I am fine with that too because I don’t need to.

 

 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

2 Corinthians 3:18

 

Someone came into my life that slowly and carefully pulled the mask away from my face. 

He wiped away my tears and my fears. 

He took the rest of the masks I had piled up around me and threw them away. 

God didn’t want me to wear my mask anymore because He does love the face He gave me. 

He created me for purpose on purpose. 

-Esme Alburn

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