What Works.

Alright, ladies! Over the last few months, my blog has been an outlet for the things that weigh heavy on my heart or put pressure on my sense of justice. In perusing my series of blog posts, I realized that an outsider would probably think me to be a fairly angry, sad, lost human being. They would not be wrong. I am ALL of those things. Aren’t we all?

But, I am also quite joyous, passionate, fulfilled, well-loved, productive, and quick to laugh. To honor a more complete picture of my life, I thought for this month, I would turn the tables a bit. Like most single moms, and parents in general, I do struggle and worry - and even suffer. But like others, I have found many patterns, approaches, and tools that work really well to bring peace to my life! So, this month, let’s continue the conversation and community-building by sharing some tools for surviving and thriving in parenthood. Here are my top 8 parenting moves (in my humble opinion):

  1. Meal prep. I spend hours on Sundays prepping ALL of our meals for the week. You heard that right! I prep breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. This may sound arduous, but we’ve gotten it down to quite a science. My girls and I turn on some music and get to work. It is some of our most enjoyable time together and, during the week, it makes life infinitely easier. As much as I’d love to be the family that always sits down to dinner together, we cannot always make room for that ritual. But, with prepped meals, I know I won’t have to run to fast food or lose my mind making last-minute store trips. It is a HUGE stress and time saver during the week.

  2. Early bedtimes. My girls are 9 and 11. I put them to bed by 8pm. Many of my mom friends scoff at this, but for us, it is essential. All 3 of us have busy days. Getting them in bed by 8 pm ensures that their bodies are at least at rest, even if they don’t knock out right at 8 pm, for 8-10 hours. This level of attention to their sleep makes for much smoother days for them and gives me some time at the end of the day to spend in much-needed solitude.

  3. Being active. Being a parent, let alone a single parent, is stressful by nature. Stress breeds sickness in the body, so we try to guard against that with healthy bodies (and minds). My girls play sports year-round, and I make it a point to be active with them. We are not gym rats, and we don’t ever talk about things like weight or physical appearance, we simply prioritize an active lifestyle. This facilitates better sleep, builds confidence, and creates an organic social network. More importantly, it keeps the kids interested in pursuits that do not require a screen.

  4. Open and honest conversations. This is the most controversial of my perspectives on parenting. But here’s the thing, I’ve only ever yelled at my kids twice in nearly 12 years (once when I had a concussion and once when my youngest drank the last of the milk I needed for my coffee – both totally ridiculous). I think a big part of why my kids are so well behaved is the fact that we talk so often and so openly that they know they will have a chance to productively plead their side of any disagreement. I’ve also never played the “because I said so” card. Being honest means explaining my own reasoning which makes them feel more respected and considered than like a cog in an authoritative machine. Honestly, I also think that my incessant talking is likely more tortuous than a few moments being yelled at would be.

  5. Healthy eating. Along with activity, expressing my love for my kids through the way that I nourish them has become a preventative regimen in our household. When I was married, there was much less emphasis on nutrition, and that made the entire schedule more difficult to stick to. Finding the right balance of nutrients for their individual needs (growth, sleep, digestion, activity type, and level) really has been life-changing. When they spend time away from me with a different diet, the change in them is visible. They come home with bags under their eyes, their fuses are a bit shorter, they are more inclined to gravitate towards television, and less inclined to fall asleep peacefully.

  6. Community. Parenting is exhausting in every way imaginable and in ways you never could have imagined. While it is important to know that we are capable of doing things alone, it is even more important to remember that we don’t always have to. Community is the tool that I struggle with the most. It is hard for me to ask for help. I still sometimes ask and then curl up into a little ball of shame. It is true that asking for help parenting can cost you some “friends.” But, the network that is built when you invite people into your vulnerability is worth losing the ones who only want to be around when it is easy. The nagging pain of an absent parent or a broken family will never truly go away, but it can be eased by new people who will love your kids in their own ways. I am working hard to build love where there is pain. So far, I have to say that it is a pretty beautiful thing to watch. The more people to love our kids, the better, right?

  7. Chucking it all out the window sometimes! Rules are great. Tools are helpful. But dealing with humans is not formulaic and sometimes approaches that have worked for years will fail us when we most need them. So, the most important thing is to remember that it is ok to make it up as you are going along. Forgive yourself and your kid for deviations from the charted course. Be flexible when it is needed without having a parental identity crisis. And remember, if you are leading with #8, grace is waiting to catch you when you stumble.

  8. Putting God first. I know, I know. This should obviously be number one. I chose to put it near the end because I thought it made sense to progress from the least important to the most. Life is brutal. Our kids will experience loss, disappointment, and pain. They will inhabit a world that prescribes many different sets of rules, from school to friend groups to jobs. It is so hard to make sense of it all. For me, giving my girls something as unfailing and never changing as the love of Jesus is the way to make sure that they always see their own value and the value of others.  I want them to make decisions based upon what is right, not what is cool. I want them to strive to be like Jesus, not some celebrity. I want them to treat others with love because we are all God’s children, not fear others because of the (mis)perceptions and prejudices surrounding earthly bodies. Proverbs 22:6 tell us to “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” This, for my family, is everything.

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I know that every family is unique and that what works for me may not work for others. I do, however, think it is important that we share with each other when we find tools that works for us. So often, out of necessity, conversations between single mothers are about the ways in which we are struggling. Those conversations are so important. But, what if we could be intentional about having more of the conversations about what is making our lives easier and more joy-filled? Maybe if we (really, I am looking at myself here) took the time to have these conversations more often, we would ward off just a little bit of the need for those heavier conversations. We are, truly, in this together. So, please share with me! What works in your life?

A. Smith

Warriorz-Recap from 7th Annual Valentine’s Banquet

On Sunday evening, February 17th, 2019, SingleMomzRock in partnership with Victory Mission + Ministry held our 7th Annual Valentine’s Banquet at a new location, Doubletree by Hilton Springfield.  Over 200 single moms were treated to a glamorous evening of fun and fellowship created just for them! 

The evening started off by the moms being escorted to their tables by gentlemen in tuxes and roses in hand. Delores Albers Photography, as well as CRNewell Photography, was on hand to take snapshots of the moms all glammed up, dinner was catered, and they were treated to live music by two local choirs that joined forces to bring the house down. It’s truly become the largest event in our area for single moms. It was such an inspiring night.

Our theme this year was “Warriorz.” When thinking of a theme each year, we try to find something that will resonate with our single moms. Struggles they go through. Considering all the battles we fight every single day, and how we truly are warriors, it was a natural fit to choose this theme. Moms were treated with bracelets that matched the theme. 

Our featured speaker, Jennifer Maggio, Chief Executive Officer and Founder of The Life of a Single Mom out of Baton Rouge, LA. Like I mentioned that night, for us to even be able to pull off having her among us was confirmation that we are doing something right! She is well renowned in the single mom circuit and sought out all throughout the year for speaking engagements. She told her story of living in poverty, dealing with abuse of all kinds, teenage pregnancy, abandonment of family, going to college while raising two babies, securing a job in a Fortune 500 company and ending that successful career to start a single mom’s ministry. She is proof that you still get to work towards the calling God has placed on your life it may take a lot more work than you thought it would but being obedient will also bless that path! There was not a dry eye in the house after she spoke, our moms were encouraged!

Daniel Ogunyemi was the first male speaker EVER to come and talk to our moms. He let them know that they are strong, loved and to never give up. Anastasia Phelps performed a special spoken word for our moms. Titled “Rise Up,” Anastasia brought intensity and passion to her words. Check out here facebook page, Beautiful Not Broken

And did I mention THAT CHOIR? Sanctuary of Praise and Urban Praise Choirs joined to bring three songs full of hope, praise, and encouragement in the house. We got to worship together, pray together and encourage each other. It was a moment I will never forget, you could feel the movement that was taking place!

We brought back the element of having women community leaders come to the banquet to be table hosts. We had over 80 women leaders come and sit amongst our moms and pour into them, some even brought extra goodies for their tables.  We also brought back our SMR Ambassador program, where we chose three moms who we knew had been working very hard this past year to make very positive changes to better them and their children’s lives. We were able to present these three moms with $100 gas cards on behalf of Victory Mission + Ministry as well as a “shield” pin that was specially designed for this year’s banquet. 

To be able to host the banquet this year at the DoubleTree was very special for all of us. We had their largest ballroom space, and it was beautiful. After six years of using a church space, for us to be able to host it in a lavish venue just amazes me.  IT JUST KEEPS GETTING BETTER!

Thank you to all that pour your heart into this event each year in order for it to happen. We are very blessed indeed to have such strong support from our community and churches. I don’t know how we will top next year…but I’m already thinking of ways ☺

Janelle Reed

Founder, SingleMomzRock

The Significance in Being Seen

I remember the day someone remembered my name.  You’d think something so basic and simple wouldn’t make such a large impact on a person.  People remember people’s names all the time.  But, at that moment in my life it gave hope to my heart.

I recall it was a pastor, I was attending a new church, looking for a home church.  I was in a new city, single now with 3 kids.  I didn’t know anyone here, I missed my old church, I was desperate for connection and someone who could relate to me.  My life, over the years that preceded all this change, had crumbled around me.  I had lost everything I had worked hard for.  My ex-husband’s addiction had stripped it all away, one by one.  First my security, then my spirit.  The only thing that remained constant in all of that, was my faith.  I clung desperately to God in the eye of the storm of abuse, neglect, exhaustion, fear, and insecurity. I recall emerging an empty shell of my former self.  Used up, essentially.  I found myself in poverty, in emptiness, numb. I found a place I could afford in a broken city.  I moved myself with what I could to this place and attempted to carve out a new life.  But I was merely surviving.  I had young children and a job that hardly paid enough.  When that pastor stopped me, as I was hurriedly rushing into service, he asked my name, he asked my children’s names, and a week later when he saw me coming in again he said the sweetest words I could imagine at the time, “Brandi, I’ve been praying for you”.  I felt like I was in another world at that moment.  I blinked and stood and stared and I couldn’t hold back the tears from my eyes.  I wept.  I felt seen.  I felt known.

For a tired mom, who selflessly sacrifices, for a hollow shell of a heart that has lived through a tragedy and hasn’t yet had a moment to heal, for a hurting that is in that messy middle place of when life you knew becomes a life you never imagined, being seen is so significant.  For a woman who feels unworthy, broken, lost and invisible, to be recognized, validated, appreciated, a word and a genuine act of kindness can lift her spirit and give her hope.  I was feeling like I was suffocating under the weight of my pain but with that one act I could take that first deep, life giving breath.  I had called out the week before to God, “I just want to be seen and know I’m not invisible.”  He answered, and used that pastor to do it.

If you’re a believer you may know that one of the names of God is El Roi – “The God Who Sees Me.”  Coincidentally, the first time this name is uttered is to Hagar, the Bible’s first single mom.  As she is cast out, pregnant, from her family and wandering aimlessly in distress the “angel of the lord” meets her right where she is.

I can identify with Hagar.  I can know what it feels like to carry such a weight, a responsibility not only for my own well-being and healing but for my children’s as well.  The compounded fear of what is next, how will I make it, how will I survive, and what kind of life can I give to my children when I can barely take care of my own needs.  What had started as hope for Hagar, became a place of devastation.

We can all identify with Hagar.  When we are in that messy middle place and we feel the oppressive fears.  When we feel the uncertainty of the future loaded with the grief of hopes and dreams lost.  When we hurt for our children as we absorb the shock and pain of abandonment.  We try to shield them, make things right, try to make things okay, stable, certain.  But we can’t, not alone.

I think there is a reason God revealed himself to Hagar, a woman and mother in this way, one who spoke life and hope and hard truth into her life, the truth she would need to hear and be prepared for.  Her life would be very different from the one she was planning in her heart and head, but it was still a significant life.  Women need to be seen.  We need in our heart to be known and validated.  There is nothing wrong with this, this is how we were built.  Beauty companies spend millions of dollars to make us feel beautiful so we can be recognized and appreciated.  The fashion industry too but on a deeper level, our need to be seen and known drives us to a people who love us just as we are, flaws and all.  And in our distress, we especially need to be recognized, we need to be seen as strong and capable and empowered by others around us.

It was this feeling that created a need in me to make it possible for women to have a place where they can be seen.  A place where they can see others as well.  We all need a community to belong to.  A place where we can ease each other’s burdens, love and be loved, cherish and be cherished, grow, lean in, build up.  God works through people, just as he did with that pastor who saw me that morning and unknowingly answered my prayer.  Just as the women that surround me now see me.  God is present and he recognizes where you are in your journey.  He is there to respond to you as you move through your wilderness.  He will plant people in your path who will push you along your destination.

Never get comfortable with where you are, never accept being invisible.  You’re bigger than that, more significant and more worthy than that.  Connect with a support group in your area and get yourself plugged into a community of like-minded people who recognize and appreciate the need to be seen.  Don’t get caught up in the lie that you should give up, or that you have nothing to offer, or that you’re a burden to others.  You are a light.  Support groups and organizations like Singlemomzrock and Thrive Single Moms are eager to embrace you.  We want to help you feel supported, encouraged and hopeful and most importantly, to see you.   How do you want to be seen?

By Brandi Dailey
Founder and Executive Director at Thrive Single Moms