Being a single mom is not easy. It is the biggest test of my entire life. But I am not going to write all the hardships I have endured in this post but, hopeful, will encougare one single mom to dream again and make the most of her current situation knowing that this too, shall pass.
I choose to see all glasses on my table or in my hands as half full, not half empty. Or to enjoy Fridays as the beginning of a weekend, not so close to Monday. My story reflects this perspective. I made up my mind to look at the positives I can find in my situation and I choose to be content in my situation. I don’t want it to get any worse but it can get better, one day, one week, one month, or one year at a time. I make the most of opportunities that come my way for me, my kids, and for society when I get a chance. Here is a snapshot of my story. Just a little bit. Can’t cover over 9 years in this post.
I am a single mom of two boys: 12 and 9. I have been a single mom from the time I was three months pregnant with my younger son. The journey has been hard but rewarding at the same time. Sometimes I look back and am amazed at what I have been through and what has made me who I am. Yet I do believe deep inside of me I would have been a better person had marriage worked and my kids would have benefited from my best as a mom and a human being.
My story began in January of 2001 after I received my third beating. I had warned my now ex that I would leave if he beats me one more time after he did the second time. He remembered that and he actually offered to drive me to a street and dump me, three months pregnant, and that he would keep my then two year old. I didn’t need his assistance. A friend took me in for a day but she had cats and I am allergic to cats so I moved to a shelter. Moving to the shelter was eye opening.
I learned a lot at the shelter and pictured what I would not do and avoid. I listened to the ladies that have been in and out of the shelter on more than one occasion, with kids from different fathers and still keeping on getting pregnant by abusive and not so great men and coming back to the shelter again and again. I learned about kids that were abused by their mom’s boyfriends/partners. I learned about couples that do drugs together, babies given up for drugs. I learned about social services and what’s available to single moms. I lived in the shelter for two weeks. A couple from church heard about my plight and offered me one of their homes very close to my work that I was able to use for about 4 months.
I filed for a protection from abuse order from my then husband and was given a year long PFA. I needed time to make up my mind – divorce or no divorce, what to do with my life and how to go about being a single mom with no family around. I needed to observe him for a while and make an informed decision about divorce. You see, the man has anger issues. So I requested that he goes for anger management. He had started to drink excessively, so I requested that he seek help, doesn’t use money wisely, wasn’t doing his part in finishing school so I could also go back to school. We all had our Bachelor’s Degrees before we got married but no development.
I had enough time to pray, think about it and observe in safety, far from him. He failed every litmus test I put him through without his knowledge and I filed for divorced after the PFA had expired. He realized late that I was learning more about him (which I could have had, had I had the chance before marriage but our relationship was pretty much based on long distance courtship and I thought I knew him but I didn’t). I learned a lot about him in a year apart from him but close to him. But there was no time for regrets but to move on and make the best of the rest of my life that now involved 2 kids.
My divorce was finalized in less than 5 minutes because he did not respond or show up. I did not ask for any property or anything that we had together. Sometimes pride gets much of me, hard to accept but true. My late father always taught me that I should never let anyone put me lower than my current standard which should only get better with the right person. My Dad’s words became even more relevant with each decision I made that year and it was hard to loose him on March 1 2001. I drew strengths from knowing that I could rely on his teachings about life and how to take care of children.
One big lesson from my dad was, he always encouraged people to sacrifice for their children in their early years. His reasoning was that paying now (when they are young) in every way – food, school, safety, provisions , stability, etc – has an end in sight and gives the kids the best chances in life to do well. One will pay later if things don’t go well. Then there is no end in sight and it is more painful especially when you think you could have influenced the children’s life much better when they were much younger. SO MOMS PAY (in every good sense) NOW THAN LATER. NOW HAS AN END IN SIGHT. LATER MAY NEVER END AND MAYBE FULL OF REGRETS.
So my two boys became my number one priority. The number one thing was they would not see a shelter one more time. They would not see me abused by any men in my life. They would not see men come in and out of my life. They would not be abused by any men in my life. I set up my priorities and goals for me and my kids and decided to move on into the unknown world of single momhood, far away from my family.
Dating was put on hold. I even asked that my tubes be tied as I had made up my mind that I will take care of just two kids in this world. (I had met a lady that had a kid by almost every men she had lived with and ended up with so many kids to take care of as a single mom). Couldn’t figure out why that happens but I was sure two kids were enough for me to take care of. My mom had 9 of us with my Dad. Most of my siblings have 2 or more but they are all married. Just me…
Divorce granted. Made arrangements for shared custody with the kids living primarily with me and visiting with their Dad every other weekend. I asked they put in the order lines regarding beer…neither party will drink when they had kids with them. The boys are asthmatic and may need emergency care at any time. I don’t drink or smoke. Never did and never will. I have never been exposed to any drug of any sort and I have no desire to even see one.
Next on the agenda – work and a place to live!! Nightmare….but with God all things are possible.
I had some work problems but God was faithful and I was able to go on unpaid leave for about six months.
Time to get back to work came but I didn’t have money to pay the babysitter upfront. Baby # 2 had just been born! I went to the social services for assistance and was told I didn’t qualify by about $60. Mind you I hadn’t gone back to work yet. I just needed daycare money for the first month and then I would be on my own. I showed them the starting date and when I would be getting my first pay check. No luck. They refused to pay for child care even directly to the babysitter for just until I received my first pay check. A friend from MA called that night when I was having a pity party crying, trying to figure out what to do. She loaned me $500 ( a new born and a 3 year old in day care are very expensive…..). I surely thought about quitting and get on social welfare but I was never raised to be taken care of this way. My thought process was that they would help for a short time when I truly needed help but not for me to make a living out of welfare. I had so many sessions with the social workers but that was all in vain. I had health insurance when I went back to work but I needed help with co-payments asthma medication but nope, no help for this need either. I truly don’t understand why it is easy to live off welfare than for it to help when there is a need…I still don’t get it.
Back to court for child support. Now that I have my payslip for proof of employment I went back to court for child support. He was ordered to pay $700/month. We are to share medical bills that are not covered by insurance – 50% each.
Where to live, where to live! I had learned from the shelter and reading about single parents and their kids that a safe and stable home is vital. I had called up a Real Estate agent earlier on in the year to learn about home ownership. God was faithful again and lead me directly to one small townhome we have called our home since October 2001 when the baby was only 2 months old. Affordable mortgage. Wonderful neighbors. Close to church, school, work, doctors, hospital and so forth. Small enough for easy maintenance.
Things seem to work for me and I decided to go back to school. I took some refresher classes at a local Community College. I enlisted some friends to babysit for me when I was in class and they did it for free! I was able to have 3-4 families that my kids were comfortable with and would offer to help when I needed it. God provided and I promised the good Lord that I would not abuse these 4. They babysat for me only when I needed it and mostly when I was in school.
Growing up fast! Tell me about it. My baby turned two and he was able to start visiting with his dad every other weekend as well. I picked up a part time job where I would work on these weekends so I could build on my savings. Very stable and good paying job. But here comes trouble….
My ex got caught drunk driving with the kids. I received a call in the middle of the night from the police to pick up the kids. Life went down hill from here onwards for my ex. Job lost. More drinking. Jail time. No more child support(He owes more than $33,000.00 as of 2010). No more weekend visits. I had to make some adjustments.
Stopped working part time because I have the kids all the time now. No more school. No more child support. What to do….$700 short every month? Daycare calls for about $950 a month for the two. I have a mortgage. Car payment. I do have medication for both boys’ asthma. Can’t do the part time job every other weekend.
I decided to get a loan to help with daycare. Forget social welfare! They would not help me and my kids but guess what, they are feeding and taking care of my ex, a grown man, with a Master’s degree in Accounting. He is still being taken care of as of today, on social welfare.
I got a loan and paid off my car loan and used it for day care so I can continue to work. My car payment went to the loan so that the loan could pay for the car and daycare. I knew the loan will eventually run out unless ex gets back to work – so more decisions to make…
I decided to go back to school and earn a Masters Degree and look for a better paying job. So I did enroll just before the economy went down. Tuition reimbursement through my employer was cut short from about $9,000.00 a year to $3,000.00 year, barely enough to cover one class. So here we go again…
I took a student loan and completed the Masters Degree in a little over 2 years. I think I did well (just tooting my own horn now) – I graduated 3 years early with a 3.78 GPA and a Master of Science in Information Systems and Technology Management in May 2010. But the downside is that now there is a student loan to be paid off. I don’t mind if the degree can pay for itself so I am looking for THE better paying job to help pay for the student loan as well as serve the initial purpose – pay the bills.
So more, and more decision to be made:
The student loan is to be repaid beginning January 2011. I have made some changes in these last days of 2010, all luxuries out to work on the following (must) major expenses
2. The loan taken for daycare expenses
3. The student loan
4. The children’s tuition
5. One credit card
And I have taken the following steps to prepare for 2011:
1. My kids and I have been members at the Y since 2002 and the boys have enjoyed playing organized sports, swimming, working out and making friends. The coaches make up for the Dad they don’t have in their lives (He has moved states and he just went to Texas recently – number 3 or 4 and has not seen the boys in more than 6 years now). We apply for financial aid but now I can’t even pay the minimum so membership has been cancelled.
2. The boys did Marshall Arts in 2010. They are very good at it but I need to make room for the student loan; membership has been cancelled as well.
3. Borrowed from my 401K to replace Windows and work on other energy saving initiatives on the house to lower bills – that’s my nest! My neigbour’s brother is fixing most of the major things that need attention (no major problems with the house since 2001).
4. Looking for a Charter School so I can take my younger son out of private school. My older son needs more time in a protected environment as I don’t feel it is the right time for me to move him. Have had lots of talks with both boys and the younger one will do well outside private school system, I think. So pray for a good school for my younger son. He is also very good at school so will benefit from a very challenging, academic oriented school. There is one Charter School close to where we live but it is in very high demand so the waiting can be years. The lottery is being held on January 15, 2011. We need to get in! Please pray.
5. I am interviewing and would want you to agree with me that I get a good paying job. I am highly underpaid right now but I believe a job is out there somewhere for me that I will love and will make this journey much easier.
They say the love of money is the root of all evil but the lack of it, is worse. Money helps me pay bills, contribute to causes that I care about and take care of my kids. I would also want to have a professional wardrobe.
- I still believe in love and that one day I will have an opportunity to love and be loved again. My kids are growing. It’s been 9 years so far and feels like I am half way through.
- That maybe someone will pay for our YMCA membership and Marshall Arts for my kids for a year. I do believe I will get a better paying and fulfilling job and be able to pay for activities. I explained to my kids the challenges and I am thankful they did not cry. They swim, play basketball, soccer, football, workout and so forth.
- My student loan be paid off. Even if not mine, I would want to learn and advise single moms how they can go to school and get grants that do not need paying back. Even looking for grants that guarantees loans paid off if one graduates so that this cannot be abused.
- Help with prescription medication to manage the boys asthma.
I do volunteer work for Meals on Wheels and Special Olympics but I would like to volunteer at shelters and hopeful work with single moms one day. I would like to learn to listen to the pains and sufferings of single moms and make a difference.
But everything aside, life has been very fulfilling with my kids though I run like a headless chicken most of the time – there is no sick time for mom. I take them to games, sometimes between two different places because the boys cannot be on the same team, marshall arts, library, church, I am the school bus driver, the doctors appointments, the pharmacy (they take singularX2, inhalersX2 and allergy medicationX2 – almost $200 per month – I pray for no asthma attacks!). I am a homeowner (and yes I have been flooded twice), maintain the car, and all the cool stuff!). And many other neat things that goes on, on a daily basis.
Above all my boys and I talk and I get to laugh. I enjoy the darn things that my boys say. And they do pray for me.
And school is my venting outlet. I did a number of classes at a commuity college for years. Finished my masters in May this year. I just took a homeowner repair class for women the whole month of November. I also just finished a 4 month long Business Analysis Certification class (12/16/2010) and I hope I can get a job as an IT Business Analyst. Any suggestions/resources? I need to use these certificates for myself, my kids and one other single mom , one at a time.
When I think about it, every day is very hard as a single mom. Even the bible teaches that two are better off than one. But I don’t complain…and I won’t complain and will not make my life any worse. I rarely cry when I am stressed out but do cry when I am happy and laughing. I have made up my mind to live for me and my kids. I don’t want to be a burden neither do I want my kids to be a burden to society. I hope my kids will grow up to be good citizens in the world, remembering what they learned from our home, school, and church and from wonderful neighbors.
And lastly some useful tips:
- I use hand downs from my neighbors for my kids and myself. I hope one day I will be able to buy myself professional clothing.
- Do movie nights with the neighbors instead of movies
- One birthday party for the two. They were born on 9/10 and 8/10!
- Spend lots of time at the library – the boys read. We can use coupons for books!
- My work taught my kids the difference between needs and wants. The wants in this house usually are rewards that may come once a year – at the end of the school year; good grades may earn them a game or something using money from tax return
- Pay bills on time; pay the minimum if things are tight. I pay all my bills online and on time. Save money by not paying late fees building good credit at the same time
- Stay away from high interest accounts – credit cards. My credit card has a 3.25% rate.
- Make friends – one or two that you can trust with your kids and listen to your kids or observe and avoid care providers that make the kids stressful.
- Be kind to other mothers even married ones, offering to babysit for them for together time and helping you build relationships.
- Don’t be shy to ask for help for someone to babysit but don’t abuse the privilege
- The kids will grow up, so be patient. We have the rest of our lives to live but kids will only be kids for a little bit. PAY NOW NOT LATER
- Be true to myself. I acknowledge it when I am tired and don’t feel guilty taking time off (I am not the partying type but I allow myself to have me time upstairs by myself or leave my purse at home and walk in the mall). I do ask for prayers when I need them.
- Have a circle of quality friends that are reliable and love you and your kids unconditionally. Be friendly and you will reap friends. Be genuine and people are attracted to genuine people. My family and relatives do not live in this country but there are 3 families that have taken me in like their own – I have 3 fathers, 3 mothers, a bunch of sisters and brothers, nieces and nephews and grannies that are non-blood relatives. Most are very professional and have exposed my boys to college labs and other stuff. They have taught my kids how to read and appreciate nature. They call me once in a while asking if they can have the boys so I can do things by myself or just to give me a few seconds even to watch TV by myself. When I ask for help they are there – I don’t abuse this and I don’t take this for granted. They remember all birthdays.
And I can go on and on…
It feels good to just write about this experience. Hope to share the full story one day with my kids when they are grown ups and my family as well – my family prays but they are too far away for me to tell them all the details of my life as a single mom.
Be strong single mom. Tomorrow will be better. Deal with today. There is great power and will within you. Don’t give up. Kids are innocent in these dramas yet they need to be natured. And we can’t take time off from raising them.
Above all, God has been faithful through this. My favorite chorus, “Your grace is enough for me”. I truly believe He walks this journey for me all the time. Even when I refuse to walk sometimes I get new strength when I take a step and things clear up. Don’t stay in one place, single mom. Make a move and He will move you in the right direction in His own strength and timing. It gets better.