Hold on Mama

Peeling, yellow walls. One bunk bed. A bathroom shared with three other families. Pajamas for the kids and oversized clothes from the hospital for me. No money. No home. No hope. Just a big, empty void. 

Hold On Mama.png

That was how I started my journey into single motherhood. 

Let me tell ya, sister. I see you. I see the struggle to put food on the table sometimes.  I see the frustration as you have to miss event after event for your kids.  I feel the pain of another holiday with no one to make it special for you. I know there are tears when you have to tell them that there isn't time,  there isn't money,  the isn't... whatever they want. 

I feel your pain. I know it feels like the hard is never-ending. 

But hold on, Mama. You have what it takes, and you are exactly what those kids need.  They were born to you for a reason. You are the only Mama that can mold them into the humans they were meant to be.  You, your struggles,  your victories... you were meant for them. There is no mom that can do better for them than you can.  Because they are yours. Their hearts beat in your womb before they ever experienced this world.  And your heart beats with them as they go through this life.  They know that.  

And ya know what? They will love you no matter what. And your life is all they really need.  It is enough.  You are enough.  In fact,  you're more than enough.  You are good.  You are necessary.  You are beautiful.  And you get to change the world as you hold these small people into responsible adults.  

You may not be able to give them a trip to Disney right now, but you can watch a Disney movie and eat the food that they probably ate in the movie.  

You may not be able to take them on an extravagant camping adventure,  but you can make a blanket fort in your living room and dream up crazier adventures than real life could ever hold.  

Your kids don't need the money and things.  Your kids need YOU.  They need you present,  they need you while they need you happy.  

So Mama, don't feel bad when you can't give them things or when they have to sacrifice.  They are learning about life,  about reality... they are watching you.  

Be the best you.  For them.  Take care of yourself.  For them.  Love yourself.  For them.  

I know it can be hard for us to value ourselves sometimes.  But you absolutely must find your value.  For them.  And for you.  

You are worth it, Mama. You are so loved. 

Shannon Joy

https://roughhewndiamond.com

God Provides

IMG_0683.PNG

As a working single mom, the ends don't always meet. I have a full-time job, opened my own business as a virtual assistant, and volunteer with a local Christian single mom's group. If I were dependent upon my income from my full-time job, I'd never make it. I think most parents are aware that child support cannot be depended on or used as a catch-all, because there are times when it can be delayed, or discontinued-- without notice. As well, there are always unexpected situations that require money. They always require money. Thank the Lord, for His mercy and grace. Every month, my ends meet. Today, my cup overflows.

There is a Buddhist foundation that supplies a food pantry once a month. The announcement is made through our school district. I was intimidated at first, and felt a twinge of shame. I was convinced that others needed it more than me, but that's not the point is it? Every month they service approximately 700 households with a healthy bounty of groceries. There is always something unexpected, like dragon fruit. Or fennel bulbs. But there is also a staple of pantry items that includes: white rice, pinto beans, dry pasta, and sauce. The most impressive part to me is that they always give fresh fruit and vegetables.

The first time we attended was about nearly two years ago. We went through the registration process and were seated in a high school auditorium. I was a little confused. But then we were welcomed with a song of love that was also translated into sign language. We were then advised that we could proceed to receive our donations. As we wound through the snake-like line, we began to see the bounty from which we would receive. All of the volunteers wore vests, and the majority of those handing out food items were teens or tweens. They were kind and spoke to everyone. I left there that day feeling so loved. They really gave from their heart and shared without expecting anything in return. They were courteous and helped elders and women take items to their cars. They all bowed and smiled and said thank you repeatedly.

Yesterday, we received goods from a separate and equally generous foundation. I believe they were also Buddhist. Let me explain how unprepared I was for what I would receive. I've been to food donations before, and I've always taken my own box-bags. They’re reusable bags, that fold up for storage and have a very sturdy bottom. Previously, all of our goods fit within two of those boxes. Yesterday, I used three and still had to ask for another box. I was completely overwhelmed by what was given to me. It filled in every gap within my cabinets and refrigerator. When I left, I sobbed a little. It's just so amazing to be provided with $200+ dollars of food for my family.

Here is what we received yesterday: 12 fruity Cheerios and 8 rice Chex single serving boxes, 2kg of Masa, 6 organic Matcha Latte, 3 organic Roar electrolyte waters, 12 Kind bars, 2-10ct trail mix, 4 small bags Tostito rounds, 2 Kroger brand Wavy potato chips, 2 heads of romaine lettuce, 3 heads of iceberg lettuce, 2 large heads of cauliflower, 5 of the biggest carrots I’ve ever seen, no less than 18 gigantic apples, 2 fennel bulbs, approx 18 avocados, 24oz of pickles, 2 cans peeled tomatoes, 4-60 watt LED light bulbs, a 30-count jar of prenatal vitamins, a 5lb bag of frozen French fries, 3lb bag of white rice, 24 single serving whole grain frosted cereal, 8pk of Hansen’s sparkling lemon water, a dozen fresh roses. Oh, and two jars of "grains and fruit". It seems like an overnight oats type thing. That's nothin' to shake a stick at.

At times, the single mom job is one that pulls from us every emotion, feeling, and strength. We make 4,278 decisions every day. Most of those decisions have to be weighed against the greater good and the long term health and wealth of the family. Our decisions affect us, our children, and their futures. At times, the sheer number of questions, answers, and decisions leads us to a place of hands-in-the-air ready to give up. It's those days that we sob in the shower. Having to always make something from nothing is beyond nerve-racking. The decision to receive donations was hard, the first time. I have never thought it was hard since then. There's nothing shameful about needing food, and there's certainly nothing shameful about sharing and being generous. I am so grateful and we are beyond blessed.

Tanisha Ware

BrownSugarBritches.com

Surviving Divorce and Thriving as a Single Mom

steak night (1).png

Single mom life is tough - I’m raising two boys on one income - no child support or government assistance. I don’t make a huge salary, but we live a pretty good life, and I’m proud of my little family. We’ve learned a lot over the past two years, through struggles and celebrations, and I’m grateful for the lessons.

At the time of my divorce, my ex-husband and I lived over an hour away from any family, friends and my job. I had no support network in that little Oklahoma town. Many times my ex-husband demanded I quit my job and find something closer, but I loved what I did each day. I had a boss, a team and a culture which encouraged me to grow and be successful. I wasn’t willing to give it up.

Our marriage had always been troubled, but when I discovered he was having an affair it was apparent my marriage was over. My world was falling apart, but it was my team at work who got me through the days. My two little boys were depending on me to make sure we were okay through the chaos of divorce. I had some tough choices to make and lessons to learn during this time.

 After we filed for divorce, I moved to the same town where my job was located. Within days, we had a small apartment, my oldest son transferred to the new school and after school care set up for him. My youngest remained in his same daycare - 35 minutes away.

 This created a long commute and made for very long days. To get both kids to school and me to work on time, we had to leave by 6:00 AM daily, even earlier in poor weather conditions. We did it for nine months. The schools supplied breakfast, and I used my crockpot faithfully to keep us fed with home-cooked meals. Meal planning was a critical skill I had to master.

Money was always tight with my ex-husband, but I was used to two incomes when raising my kids. On my own now, I had to learn how to budget tightly and say no to non-essentials. It didn’t help when I was hit with a garnishment from an eviction my husband had received while we were separated a few years before.

 At first, I was angry, but with some soul searching, I realized that although this was not my debt, it was my fault for not having my name removed from the lease when I left and for not settling the debt legally during the divorce.

 Once I took ownership in my part of the situation, I realized that with budgeting I could afford to have 25% of my check deducted each week. The debt would be paid off by the end of summer proving I could afford a better place to live. So, I accepted the lesson I had to learn, and God saw us through - we survived.

 Not only did we survive, but the kids and I also thrived. I found several free activities for us to do in the summer, like hiking and visiting parks. We even took a small vacation to Silver Dollar City and stayed with a family member. I was able to hang on to most of my savings, so when the garnishment ended, we were able to move to a better home.

 We moved to the town where my parents live. God provided a home to rent just minutes from my sons’ schools in a friendly neighborhood. The boys love our big backyard where we play most evenings. My parents helped with getting kids to and from school, especially when I was still working 35 minutes away. Life is better - much better.

 Over the past year, I was promoted with my company, and I am blessed to work from home. I have a great team and no need for daycare. I still budget and avoid non-essentials. I use my crockpot, and I am a master meal planner - with a binder system to prove it! We eat at home mostly and pack picnics when we travel. Last year, we took a bigger vacation to visit a friend who lives in the Gulf of Mexico.

 I’ve learned over the past two years how to set goals and reach for my dreams. I’m already planning next year’s vacation - a camping trip to Yellowstone National Park. But, the most important thing I’ve learned in this time is to lean into the Lord.

 Two years ago, I was a long-time agnostic - a jaded, “recovering” Catholic. Raised in the Catholic church, I had a hard time reconciling my parents’ divorce with the older Catholic dogma. In my teenage years, I briefly attended a non-denominational church, but it didn’t stick. I spent most of my twenties and thirties struggling with faith and trying to put God in my own definition.

 Thank goodness the Lord doesn’t give up easily! Even in my years of sin, He still protected me from so much darkness. The demons that haunt my ex-husband never got their hooks into me, by the grace of God. When I finally realized how much I needed Christ in my life, I fell to my knees in my room and pleaded for salvation. I never knew such love existed until that day. It has changed my life and the lives of my children.

 At the beginning of my divorce, I questioned myself daily, asking “Am I doing the right thing?” It took a little time, but I began to realize that I was making good decisions, thanks to feedback and encouragement from friends. These friends were living good, successful and faith-filled lives - I could trust the source. After years of gaslighting, I’ve learned to trust my own instincts again, and I have a faith deeper than I could have imagined. I made a conscious decision to take responsibility for my sins, seek forgiveness and live a life of faith - and it has made all the difference.

 The last two years haven’t been all roses, though. I’ve lost friends and loved ones with making these changes. I’ve had to deal with ghosts of the past and negative people in our lives. However, I don’t get discouraged when people hold my past against me - I know where my value lies. I keep my head up and understand that each decision I make is leading me to a better life. I know His truth and do my best to live it in the face of those who oppose me.

 Here’s what worked for me:

 Faith

 Forgiveness

 Accountability

Gratitude

My church   

A support system is a MUST.

Clear communication with everyone

 Setting boundaries

 Planning and backups

Budgeting

Fellowship

Seeing problems as opportunities for growth

Meal planning, a crockpot, and premade crusts

Making friends with people who have faith, integrity, and goals

Free, fun activities like hiking and parks

These were my failures:

Living without faith

Reacting emotionally to things outside my control

Not asking for child support.

Not making a clear parenting plan with a schedule.

Not separating the debt legally.

Not having a lawyer

Believing the threats

I’m still working on overcoming my weaknesses. I continue to read and learn how to be a good steward of my resources and how to grow my faith. I’m frugal, but I want my kids to have a great life, so I plan accordingly. I work every day to see the lesson that God is teaching me. I do my best to be a good leader for my household. I pray - A LOT! I’m not perfect, not even close, but I’m trying to be better than I was yesterday. Being a single mom isn’t easy, but with God on my side, it’s worth every moment!

~Tabitha Gripka