As an artist, I can paint a pretty picture. And with my artistic skills, I painted a picture of what my life should look like. A young Christian lady married young with two beautiful and healthy children. I added rays of sunshine with happy family pictures on Facebook and spoke of every highlighted detail of our life through my updated status. From the surface of the picture, it looked good. A young couple was learning to be married and learning to be parents with a smile on their faces and God in their hearts.
Yet, this picture was ridden with ugly spots. And the top layer only looked pretty because I painted it that way. But the layers underneath were scraped and marred. I kept adding heavy layer after heavy layer to cover up the mistakes and spots that I didn’t want anyone to see.
I didn’t want anyone to see the toxic spaces. I didn’t want to tell anyone of the harmful moments. I didn’t want anyone to know of the pain and neglect and the dangerous parts. I didn’t want anyone to see beneath the heavy layers of dripping paint was a woman with a shattered soul desperately trying to hold herself together and shield her children.
I was afraid everyone would think I failed in my marriage. That somehow I was the one who messed it all up. If I just prayed hard enough. If I just accepted the pain and glossed over the hurt. If only I had kept on painting a pretty picture, then my marriage would work out. I knew God gave me the strength to carry the world on my shoulders, so I took that to mean I was supposed to carry everything in my marriage, even if I carried it alone.
But there is only so many layers of paint a canvas can hold. Eventually, paint starts to chip and chunks begin to fall off. The day I separated from my husband was the day I was left with my children and a blank canvas. The thick crusts of paint on the floor, because my canvas couldn’t hold it anymore
It was heartbreaking. It was painful from a mixture of all the hard work to keep this pretty picture, the people pushing me to portray it that way it and the fact I was only human. And at that moment I felt like an utter failure because I could create what should have been beautiful.
However, God is the creator. He is the greatest of all artists. From the brokenness, He gave me new paint and held my hand as I trembled to hold the paintbrush. And upon this canvas, He helped me paint the truth. It shows all my scars and all my broken pieces. It shows where I have grown wiser and where my children have grown stronger. It reveals our troubles and our blessing. It shows tenderness and brokenness. It shows the good and the bad. And it shows the deep love I have my children and that we are even more loved by a mighty God.
I think many other women have done the same thing as I did; making pretty pictures to hide the brokenness that we have inside. However, God does not intend for us to hide our brokenness or be ashamed of the fact we can’t do it all alone. We were not all meant to display these fake, pretty, little, pictures of ourselves that lack what is raw and real. Even in our failures and brokenness, God gives us a blank canvas to paint upon. It should be filled with both the good and the bad; the vulnerable places and the victories; the gentle and hard parts; the troubles and blessings. And that picture may have rough parts and ugly bits you do not like, but know that painting is truly lovely.
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:
A support system is a MUST.
Clear communication with everyone
Planning and backups
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!
As single mothers, most of us have a natural nurturing gene embedded inside of ourselves. We want everyone around us to be “good,” and if they’re not, we want to help fix their pain (whether physical, emotional, or mental). We want them to feel joy and happiness, to be confident and exude strength from within, and when we don’t we step in yet again to remind them of their worth. We compliment others often, whether it is on their new shoes or an accomplishment they’ve recently made. We get excited about their wins and feel saddened for them when they take a loss. We cheer others on with fierceness, as we should. However, why don’t we put that same level of ferocity towards cheering ourselves on? When do we worry about our joy and happiness-the things that make us so darned loving and caring, an easily be depleted when you try to pour from an empty vessel. When do we focus on whether or not we feel confident or whether or not we’re exuding strength not only for the world to see but for us to feel? When do we compliment ourselves, not only on things such as, “dang this outfit is cute”, but also on how we kept our cool when a 3-year-old has a total meltdown in the grocery store over the $5 toy that she did not earn nor deserve and was just not in the budget to be so frivolous? When do we celebrate ourselves; our good decisions, or the ability to pick ourselves back up after a crappy decision? When do we make sure we’re “good?
I have noticed that especially we single moms; we tend to treat ourselves with hatred, judgment, and harshness. I personally am guilty of calling myself “fat,” or “old”; focusing on only the crow’s feet around my eyes instead of the really cool dark brown ring that encircles the much lighter iris in the middle. I’ve focused on how many more grey hairs are on my head, instead of the really great haircut my stylist helped me accomplish when I sat in his chair. Focusing on the negative, in turn, feeds more negativity. It spirals out of control until you totally lose sight of who you are, whose you are and how precious you are.
Recently, I had a young client reveal to me that she had no idea how beautiful she was. I was amazed that she had no idea of her beauty because the very moment I looked at her, I instantly noticed her big beautiful blue eyes, her deep dimples that accompanied a glowing smile, and cute girlish figure and an adorable hairstyle. Not only that, knowing this young girl’s story, I thought to myself, wow, she’s also so brave, and THAT alone should be celebrated. I expressed all of my observations to her, and I asked her to please stop selling herself short; to realize not only how externally beautiful she was, but also her internal beauty and her endless worth.
When I returned to my office after that conversation, I thought to myself how easy that was for me to express to her, and to see in her. However, am I not doing the exact same thing; discounting my worth every time I believe anything other than the simple fact that I am me and that in and of itself makes e worthy? We need to learn to embrace all of our positive truths and discount those negative distorted ways of thinking. While it may be true that I’m not 25 anymore, am I really old? No, OLDER, sure, but not old. Although I may have gained a few pounds to go with the years I’ve gained, am I really fat? I’m more like that newer saying “thicker than a snicker.” I lost my girlish figure but gained a womanly body. I need to embrace my worth, and so do you.
I encourage each of you to write down three positive truths about yourself) whether you believe them right now or not) that counter a negative, distorted way of thinking about yourself. Post it in your car, bathroom, and office (anywhere and everywhere). Say it often. Speak it out loud. Fake it till you truly believe it about yourself. Then grab one or two more. I encourage you to start seeing yourself the way others see you; precious and worthy, and beautiful inside and out.
At the age of 24, I felt like my life was pretty much figured out. I finally had my own apartment without roommates, a decent job working as a CNA, and I felt like what I’ve learned thus far in my life had prepared me for whatever trials I would face. I would be able to conquer my trials. I didn’t have a carefree childhood growing up in a chaotic home with my grandparents raised me. There was someone who was addicted to drugs that lived there as well. I wasn’t taught how to drive, but I learned to navigate by public transportation. I knew what I had to do, and I did it, life was great! I was paying my bills and doing well at my job as a CNA, I felt like something was missing though. I was unable to hang out with my friends or go out and meet people, so I thought a dating website would be a great way to tell the difference between a guy fit for my life or a guy that wouldn’t be so fitting.
Two weeks into having my dating profile I received a message from a guy, he was handsome a “country” guy, and it seemed that he lived for the Lord. A few weeks of talking to him I decided to meet him. He was just as pleasant in person as he was online. We hit it off and made it official. As time went on things were still great, we were spending lots of time together he practically moved in. I did notice a slight change, I remember an afternoon coming home from work, he had asked me to pick up his favorite pizza from the local store in the frozen food section. I happily picked up our dinner and headed back to my place. As I walked in, I was greeted by a clean house, and I thought wow is this guy for real? I handed him out pizza to place in the oven, his facial expression changed. He directly looked at me and asked, "Are you stupid?" Shockingly I looked down not knowing what I did wrong. He said, "This is not pepperoni! This is cheese didn’t you read that?" I apologized and asked if I could take it back he smiled and said no it’s okay. I was very hurt but didn’t say anything. He later apologized.
More time passed I realized that he started to have a “not good enough” attitude. After a few months, I was met with an ultimatum I either had a child with him, or he was going to leave me. I told him I really want to be married first! This was so sudden! Let me think about this! He said fine. The next day I called a couple of family members and friends asking for their opinions. Everyone seemed shocked by his demands even after the advice given I was sure he must want a family because he loved me that much. I agreed, we decided to try for a child. A couple of months later I was expecting. Joy took over my doubts, and he seemed very excited, he called his family; they were shocked but happy, and I was welcomed into his family. I felt how close they were and relaxed around each other and it made me desire, even more, to do what I could to make him happy.
In 2014, I was scheduled to be at the hospital, so I can be induced, I was nervous by that time, and I was as big as a double wide trailer! I have always been a nervous person as long as I could remember. He seemed comforting none the less. The waiting area for the delivery room seemed calmer then what I expected it to be. The faces of family members, husbands, or boyfriends didn’t seem alarming to me; I felt excited and ready. As I went back, I knew he would be in the room, and he wanted to be a part of it every step of the way!
After arriving in my room, the first thing I noticed was the little baby carrier for after delivery, the smell of the hospital was familiar and comforting since I’ve worked in the medical field up to that point. After being all setup, we were in for a long night. It seemed close to forever before was meds were given, a few hours later I thought I was going to die the contractions were awful. He snapped, "It can’t hurt that bad you’re being a baby!" I looked at him and cried. I asked for a nurse a short time later a nurse arrived, I asked for an epidural. After many hours and 4 hours of pushing my healthy baby girl was born.
He wasn’t very helpful for the two days we were there. The nurses came in to take my little girl for her vaccinations, and they offered to take longer so I can rest. I smiled and slept for a while. The last day we were there we were packing to leave I lost my daughter's personalized binky. I was panicking he scolded me the nurse walked in and abruptly interrupted him and offered to help look. His attitude changed. He said, "We will get another one."
After arriving home plans changed, I had to quit my job, and we were to move closer to his family in a nearby town. I agreed, so we packed and moved a few months later. After arriving at our new house, we had a lot of time with his family, and my daughter was growing more beautiful by the day. I was happy regardless. Being a stay at home mom was okay. I couldn’t drive anyway, plus I would be loving on her all the time.
A year later, he was very little help up to that point, but he reminded me that he worked I didn’t. I didn’t fuss at him, so I allowed him not to help. Him being gone was more frequent and lasted well into the nights. Even shopping at the local store was an issue because I was to slow, and he accused me of looking at other men. I was tired of being talked down too. I met him with an ultimatum you leave for the night, or we’re going, he shoved me in a corner took my phone. He said, "If you are to leave then say you won’t make me pay child support." Every evening I anticipated him coming home, I always had the house clean, and dinner sat at the table. My daughter was in my arms now I was crying. I agreed he left then I did.
I was faced with uncertainty, where do I go? We were without a home. I didn’t pack much thinking it would blow over and things would be normal. I stayed with my grandma. Things downward spiraled. He was not only cheating on me with multiple women, but he also had numerous profiles on dating sites, and a fake Facebook to hide that even had a “family” I was so hurt and confused, we planned this baby. I did what he wanted all I wanted was for him to be home. Time went on things got worse. After a failed attempt to get my daughters belongings and mine, we had nothing. Not even a bed. I was on the lease he lured me there saying he couldn’t stand seeing her stuff and said come to get it. I was met by him and his family; they tried taking my daughter. The police came and kept me, and my little one safe. Come to find out, he moved in with a woman and her two kids in they were occupying our beds and belongings.
We were homeless, couch surfers. The home she knew was taken from her. I left my friends and moved in with my father. At my fathers I broke down, I’ve worked this whole time, and I couldn’t stay with people long I didn’t know how to drive. I begged God, do I take my daughter back and give her to him? He’s more financially stable, I’d probably never see her again. I sobbed and begged. The next morning, I received a message on Facebook.
The message was so comforting and reassuring it was my old school teacher, (I was in a vocational work program to earn my credits and money, so I can get money to move on my own) she offered to help! This woman helped me find a place! This woman and her church even furnished this house. We had a bed, a bathtub for my little girl to play in, she had toys!! I bawled and thanked the Lord for this. During the next few months, I worked took a taxi every day, and paid my bills! The church came by to helped with lawn work, and they even brought essentials like toilet paper and laundry soap! I never felt so much love before!
It wasn’t easy. The taxis were expensive every day I’d carry my daughter, her car seat, and our bags everywhere we had to go. We went to daycare, doctors appointments, grocery store. Rain, snow, ice or sunny we did it! I worked 3 pm to 11 pm or to midnight. Then I switched jobs, and I worked 12-14 hr shifts. I was so exhausted from all of this, but I kept going.
I recently moved back to the apartments I lived in when I met my daughter's dad. I paid a Driver’s Ed guy to teach me to drive. I obtained my driver's license my old teacher helped get me a car, I paid off my debt to go to college, and I work for the school district!! I did this in 4 months! I have worked so hard. I promise to all you broken, lost, damaged, uncertain single moms that anything is possible! Work work work and take care of your babies. (P.S. after the one visit with my daughter's dad he hasn’t contacted us in two years!) I had some help, but I’ve done all the work! Anything is possible ladies!
Gosh, I love those refrains about single mothers that gush about our unique combination of strength and grace.
“Wow, I admire you.”
“I could never do what you do.”
“Single moms are heroes.”
It is so nice to be recognized, even briefly or superficially, for the back-breaking struggle of parenting children alone. Being a parent is an often-thankless job in itself. So, outside validation is always welcome.
But the other day, I got to thinking and questioning. What is it that motivates me to drive my girls to track meets when all I want to do is face plant into a venti latte? What makes me keep going? My love for my kids? Yes. But, what else? Is there something special about me? Am I like the X-men of parents, with some genetic mutation that gives me an upper hand that society simultaneously envies and uses as an excuse to ostracize me from the “real family” norm?
As much as I wish I could say that I am understudying Dad while playing the lead role of Mom from a place of love and grace, the truth is that I am deeply and constantly angry.
I am livid that I am nearly 40 years old and still have to ask my mother for help paying for my car insurance because my ex-husband is thousands of dollars behind on child support, and the embarrassing amount he is ordered to pay does not even cover the kids’ food for two weeks.
I am furious that I still feel compelled to respond to his emails offering to help, knowing that he never actually will.
I am vexed that he can sleep at night while I lay awake worrying about how we are going to make everything work this week, this month, this year.
I am irate that he still gets the title “Dad” and they still carry his last name, even though he does not know them at all.
Mostly, I am enraged that these two precious, dynamic, hilarious, brilliant, mind-blowingly incredible little girls may think, even for a second, that his absence is a reflection of their worth.
My X-gene is anger.
It is not a force of will or Christ-like grace. It is full blown, unadulterated, unrelenting anger…and that is fine.
Righteous anger is Biblical. Being angry is not a sin to be prayed away. What we do with anger is what matters. Ephesians 4:26 may be one of the most difficult imperatives in all of the Bible: “Be angry and do not sin.” God commands us to let the sun go down on our anger before we make room for the Devil in our lives. He does not tell us to simply let go of anger.
In his book, Uprooting Anger, Robert Jones tells us that, “True anger properly diagnoses what is an actual sin, it focuses not on personal offense as much as Godward offense, and then it expresses itself in ways consistent with Christian character.” This is the anger that I am striving for in my life. I pray to remain angry about the rupture of the parental covenant and to use that anger as motivation when the demands of parenthood, work, and relationships drain me. I will embrace the righteous anger born of a callous act as an intentional inspiration to be the most loving parent that I can humanly be.
So, next time you see me, it is ok to holler, “Stay angry, momma!”
It’s finally Spring y’all! Flowers are blooming. Birds are singing. Rain is falling. The sun shines brighter. And, I’m over here, facing reality. My youngest child is a junior in high school. In about 13 months, I’ll watch him graduate and walk across the stage, getting his diploma.
Being a mom is all I’ve known for 24 years. From the moment I held my oldest son, being a mommy has been my focus. It hasn’t been easy! Three boys in seven years. The diapers, teething, feedings, colds, ER visits, we’ve done it all. All three boys are taller than me now. Two are adults. And my youngest is counting the days to being out of high school.
At times, I want to throw a rope around them and make them stop growing! I want to hold on to those carefree days of childhood. I think back to our homeschooling days when we would take our lessons to the nature park and draw what we saw, look at the flowers, and make up glorious stories. And to the times we took vacations! And all the batches of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies I made! And having a houseful of kids, making lots of noise! And when our home split in two, all of us had to find our footing again. But, with the grace of God, we did
Instead, we raise our children to become adults. To explore the world on their own. They make the big decisions on their own. And we pray for them as they step into the world of adulting. I wasn’t always a perfect mom, but I perfectly love my boys. And, when I need something, my boys are there. Fixing the brakes on my car, house-sitting for me when I travel, helping me move, whatever I need, I know they are there.
So, in this last year with kids, I hope my kids are going into the adult world with the important things echoing in their ears:
1. Always serve God.
2. Treat that special lady in your life with love and respect.
3. Be nice to those around you.
4. Be grateful for your family.
5. Follow the Shepherd and hear only His voice. All other voices in your life should be encouraging you to hear Him.
6. Life gets hard at times, but never become hard against life or against people.
7. Forgiveness is a way of life.
8. Joy comes from deep inside you and it will give you strength to carry on
9. Cling to your church family. They will hold you up with prayer, and meals, when you need it.
10. Never forget that your momma loves you, prays for you, and is your biggest fan!
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):
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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?
I have been thinking about this day for some time and was curious about how I would feel when it actually came. Lately, I have been allowing myself to FEEL all of the feelings for each moment in my life. Allowing myself to feel what I need to feel to process it fully. So I cried this morning after I got off the phone with you lol.
You were born in Joplin, MO, our first child and first grandchild on both sides of the family. We had waited five years to have children. I wanted everyone in the family to be there when you were born. And that they were! We had aunts, grandmas, grandpas, cousins all in the room when you were ready. You gave us a little scare during labor, but our doctor was fantastic, and everything turned out wonderfully.
We teased about making sure I delivered you before lunch so I could eat. You were born right before noon! My little sumo baby with that chunky face and lots of dark hair. It was weird to hold you for the first time, to see you for the first time. While a baby is inside their mom’s stomach, all she thinks about is holding her baby for the first time, what they will look like, what features they will have. You were absolutely beautiful!
Your journey was just beginning. We loved having you home with us, and all the family loved coming to visit. It was like something sparkled now in our lives. Something dull was now shining.
We made the decision that my full-time job would be to stay home and take care of you. I sure didn’t think I was equipped to be a mother, at some points in my life not even knowing if I would be one. But I took this job very seriously, and we made the best of our days together. You have always been loved more than you will fully be able to comprehend; until you have children of your own.
We always thought you were so smart! Your dad taught you to memorize the states in a song. I remember people thinking that was so cool to hear a toddler sing all the states. Heck, I can’t even do that lol.
You loved school and made friends quite easily. I got the chance to come and volunteer with your teacher. I will treasure those memories. This next year would prove to be the most challenging for us both. When things changed at home, you noticed. You have always been very intuitive. I wish now I would have protected you from it more than I did. I was broken and didn’t know what life was going to be like without him in it. Because of that, you grew up faster than you should have. You instantly became a second mama to your little sister who was three years old. Some days I honestly don’t know how we made it through, but you became a source of inspiration for me. You were so strong even though hurting deeply.
Still to this day that is true. You and your sister are my inspiration; my inspiration to do hard things, to make a difference in someone else’s lives, to want to change the world.
When I was 15 years old, I started dating your dad. We were young and naïve, each of us on our own journey to find ourselves, but that never really happened; for me anyways. We just knew what it was like to be with each other. Though, I don’t regret loving and marrying my high school sweetheart (your father) or what we went through together, the good or the bad; I am beyond thankful that journey was ours and not yours.
You have learned to love yourself first. You have learned what priorities are. You are compassionate, kind, funny and intelligent beyond words. You are a team player and a passionate leader who sees the best in everyone.
Dear 15 year old, you are going to go so far in life. Don’t apologize for being you. Live your best life and LOVE it. Live each day as a testament to others that things don’t have to be perfect for you to be your best self. Always be kind and never give up. Pray every day and thank God for your blessings.
I will always be right beside you for the next step in your journey.
You’re number one fan and biggest cheerleader, MOM
As a parent to an autistic child, you know all too well the difficulty that bedtime can bring, but you aren’t alone. According to research, at least half of all autistic children have problems falling and staying asleep, and often wake up more frequently. This lack of sleep translates into intensified autism symptoms such as excitement, repetitive behavior, and communication issues. The constant waking in the night can have an effect on you and other members of your household too. So, how can you design a bedroom for your child to help them have a more positive bedtime experience?
Be Picky with Bedding
Many children with autism find certain textures or accessories (zippers, buttons, snaps) distracting and uncomfortable, so bedding needs to be chosen carefully. Take cues from your child and examine their favorite clothing, as this is what they find most comfortable and therefore should be incorporated into their bedding. Perhaps your child prefers smooth cotton sheets or something a little fuzzier such as flannel. Make sure their pajamas match their comfort preferences, as well as some fabrics, are itchy and hot, and zippers/buttons can make sleep uncomfortable. Consider incorporating additional bed accessories such as comfort items or even a weighted blanket. A weighted blanket can offer several bedtime benefits for your child, as the extra pressure and compression can calm the nervous system, making it easier to fall asleep.
Get Rid of All Distractions
Distractions are an everyday occurrence for autistic children, but they can wreak havoc on bedtime. It is best to minimize bedroom distractions including light and noise. Face the bed away from the door to avoid light creeping in from under the door, or place a rolled up towel on the floor to block the light. As for windows, blackout curtains are helpful, especially if light streams in the window. This can also be beneficial when the time changes to avoid disrupting the sleep-wake cycle. Noise can also be an issue, so find ways to block it out such as headphones, relaxing music or a sound machine.
One distraction you might not think of is the air in the room. Not only should you adjust the thermostat based on your child’s preferences, but you should also consider hidden culprits in the air that could keep your child awake sniffling and sneezing, particularly if anyone in the home is a smoker. Keep allergens and smoke particles out of the air with an air purifier that contains a True HEPA filter and a carbon filter, but make sure it’s quiet.
Reduce Clutter with Storage
Your child’s room might be their favorite place to play, but heaps of toys in the corner and various knickknacks can cause sensory overload. Use storage cubes or under-bed storage bins to keep the room neat and organized, and consider setting up a toy room/corner in another area of the home. Remove any décor or items that are unnecessary including posters and wall art/photos. Your child might find it helpful if you remove everything but the necessities, leaving them with just a bed, dresser, nightstand and desk. Make sure you have removed color clutter as well by sticking with neutral and relaxing color palettes such as greens, blues, and pastels.
Incorporate Relaxing Activities
In addition to adjusting the bedroom itself, it’s important that you incorporate relaxing activities to help your child wind down. Perhaps you could play some soft music, read a book together, or participate in a breathing exercise. Find what works and roll with it, but be sure to stick with a routine. Keep the routine simple with pre-bedtime tasks such as take a bath, put on pajamas, brush teeth, listen to music and go to sleep. If your child has trouble understanding, use visual supports to communicate with your child and help them communicate with you. These visuals can also be helpful to reduce anxiety about what is happening, as the cues will show your child exactly what to expect and what comes next.
If bedtime is difficult, it’s time to revamp your child’s bedroom to ensure it is conducive to a happy, healthy sleep environment. To appeal to your child’s unique sensory processing issues, switch up the bedding, minimize distractions, declutter and create a relaxing bedtime routine. Adjust and readjust until you find that sleep sweet spot.
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 ☺