What I Learned From Being a Broke Single Mom
Let me give you the quick back story. I was 20 when I met my son’s dad on an online dating website. We only dated for a few months when we broke up. A month later I found out I was pregnant and about 8 months after that at the age of 21 I had my amazing little boy. Going through the pregnancy and having my son was the most life changing experience I have ever had. My family and I were very close, and I felt this connection, this feeling, with my unborn baby that I hadn’t before. It was a feeling of overwhelming love and excitement to bring someone into this world that would love me and that I could pour all of my love in and they wouldn’t reject it. It gave me purpose, and a realization that my life needed to change and that things were never going to be the same.
Lesson #1: I was wasting my life on things that didn’t matter, I was being selfish.
I was living with my grandma, going out with friends all the time, not looking to grow to my full potential, no real plan for my future. But with the news of having another human to look out for, reality smacked me in the face, and took me down a few pegs. I ended up enrolling at Columbus State Community College, which was the first step to put me in the right direction. I still didn’t know what I wanted to do, or who I wanted to be, I just knew I needed to start somewhere. I knew that I had another life to think about now, not just my own, and his life was the most important.
Lesson #2: It was time to grow up. Part of growing up is being able to ask for help.
After I had my son I had changed my major several times until finally realizing I had no clue what to do and wasn’t sure how to find out. So, I went to a Career Counselor who provided a career assessment and guidance in the direction of business and marketing. This propelled me to finishing my associate’s degree a year and a half later. But I wasn’t done yet.
Lesson #3: Trials and tribulations are awful, but a necessary part of life and great motivation!
Right before I finished my associate degree my son turned two, I went through a major breakup with someone I thought I was going to marry. But unlike all of the other times before, I wasn’t devastated. I was empowered and motivated to make myself the best I could be. To focus on growing me into the mom God called me to be. I then transferred to Ohio State University to finish my bachelor’s degree. I moved out of my grandma’s house into an apartment with my son, the first place to ever live on my own. I wanted him to grow up and see that if mommy can do it, so can he. And that if you work hard enough, you can achieve your dreams. I began putting the building blocks into place for his future, and mine. I knew where I wanted to go and for the first time in my life, I began to see my purpose. But life isn’t always kind…
Lesson #4: Treasure every moment you have, because it could be the last.
The worst day of my life. I have had many bad things happen in my past, those are stories for another time, but this day is one I wish had never come. I remember waking up, getting myself and munchkin ready like any other day to go to work and school. I had some time before we had to leave, so got on my phone and opened Facebook. I saw a notification in the top corner, clicked it and it was a family member in Arkansas, he had tagged me in a post. “God has received another amazing angel today. I am so sorry for your loss” a picture of my grandma was underneath… I couldn’t believe what I was reading. I had just been with her the night before at the hospital. She was supposed to be having a small procedure that very morning and then going home in a few days! My hands shaking, trying to hold back the tears, I called my mom. As soon as she answered, the only word I could get out was, “what!?”.
What my family member hadn’t realized when he tagged me in this post was that nobody had told me yet. That my mom had sent my dad to come to my apartment to tell me in person, but he didn’t get there in time. My grandma and I were as close as a grandchild and grandparent can be. She was my second mom, my rock who I called on my way home every day, whose house I still stayed at at least twice a week even though I had my own place. The person who adored my son more than almost anyone else, who was there for me always.
It was several hours later when I was sitting at a quiet table in Bob Evans with my brother. Quietly taking in the harsh reality we found ourselves in did I start to think back to the night before. You see, my grandma was in the hospital to have a procedure done that was slightly risky, but nothing we thought she wouldn’t walk away from. But it wasn’t the procedure that killed her. The day before she passed was a Wednesday. That morning my mom called and told me that the doctors had called her and my uncle early that morning in bewilderment saying that my grandma wasn’t in good shape and they should come say their goodbyes. However, once my mom and uncle arrived, the doctors realized she had contracted hospital pneumonia and were able to treat her and get all of her vitals stable and told my mom and uncle that she was going to be just fine. However, in light of the new news, we all decided it was a good day to just come hang out with grandma at the hospital. My brother, my mom, my uncle and aunt, my two cousins, we all took the day off and spent it in my grandma’s hospital room. We all laughed together, reminisced about the past, acted goofy like always, it was a great day. I remember it getting late and everyone left, one by one. I was the last to leave. I remember walking over and giving my grandma a hug, telling her I loved her and that I would see her soon. As I was about to leave the room something stopped me in the doorway. I remember turning around and looking at her one more time, and telling her goodbye. I didn’t realize in the moment that it was God saying, it’s time to say goodbye. I didn’t realize at that very moment it would be the very last time I would see my grandma alive. It has been something I have played over and over in my mind, and as sad as it makes me, it also makes me incredibly grateful. I am so grateful to God that he gave me that very small, but very powerful last moment with my grandma. I was so grateful that her vitals had dipped that morning and scared everyone into coming, and putting aside their busy lives for just one more day with her. For making her last day a great one, surrounded by her family who she loved more than anything else. As I sat there with my brother I realized the miracle that was before my eyes and how God gave us one more moment, that we would not have had. For letting us say goodbye, even if we didn’t know that’s what we were doing.
I miss her all the time. Some days more than others. What I didn’t know was that this was just the beginning of the storm that became my life. What I didn’t know was the harsh reality of financial stress I was about to face on top of the heartbreak and pain of loss. And how the stress of loss, finances and life were going to impact my health.
Lesson #5: When it rains, it pours. So always pack an umbrella.
Up until this point I was in school full-time, working part-time, receiving food stamps, paying my rent with my excess financial aid, mostly student loans, and received assistance for daycare which reduced the out of pocket cost to only $20 a week. My grandma’s passing in October made the coming holidays hard for the whole family. Right before Christmas I had started a new job, with a small bump in pay. Then after the New Year I determined that rent was more expensive than a house payment, and at least with a house I wouldn’t be throwing my money away. So I got pre-approved for a home loan and started the search. I finally found a place to call home and closed at the end of March. I was so happy to have made this step as a single mom at the age of 25, to provide my son with a room of his own, a place to call home.
During this time I had sent all my documents in for my annual renewal for assistance. Not even two weeks into our new home did I get the notice. With my new job I now made $50 too much a month and was no longer eligible for any assistance. My son was only 4, he wasn’t to start kindergarten for another year. I called the place, went in person, trying to fight to make this right. The lady on the phone felt awful that she couldn’t do anything stating that she has seen people just pennies over the threshold lose benefits. My grocery budget just jumped from $0 to $300 a month. Daycare costs from $80 a month to $800, which was over half my monthly income. I still had a car payment, and now a brand new house to pay for. Plus, I was still in school finishing my bachelors degree. The harsh reality of what was happening started sinking in. I was determined to make things work. I knew that I didn’t want to live on welfare forever anyways, although this was a lot sooner than I had planned on losing it. The option I gave myself was to find another job to make it work. So I did. And then I found another.
So now I was working three jobs, going to school full-time and raising my son the best I could. Then the health issues started. The first time I had a flare up I thought I just had a stomach bug. It wasn’t until every possible test had been done did I get the diagnosis, anxiety induced IBS. It took over a year of nausea, shaking, bowel issues, significant weight loss to figure out the issue and how to handle it. During this time I had racked up credit card debt to pay for things that I couldn’t afford, refinanced my car to pay debt and took out a home equity loan to fix a major plumbing issue in my new home that hadn’t been caught during the inspection.
I remember the weight of that year. I remember that feeling of hopelessness. I remember crying out to God, “why is this happening? Haven’t I been through enough!”. What I didn’t know is that God was working all this time, I just couldn’t see it.
Lesson #6: I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.
After months of hardship, exhaustion, being close to losing everything, things were finally starting to change. I had a mission, I was on a mission to discover who I am, my purpose and to be the best example I could be for my son. I knew that God was calling me to something bigger than myself, so I pushed forward. I pushed through the feelings of giving up, I pushed through the feelings of shame and hopelessness. I took the steps I needed to to stay on mission. I found an amazing church, and for the first time in years I started attending regularly. I got involved in a bible study with an amazing group of women who showed me love, support, hope and what being a true Christian was all about. I knew I couldn’t do this alone, and I knew to be the person I wanted to be, and who God was calling me to be and a true Christian mom to my son, I needed a strong godly support system. I needed to surround myself with people that were how I wanted to be.
By this point I had been single for about three years (the longest since I could remember). And I was finally happy with the person in the mirror. And then I met him. The man who was to become my husband, and the step-father to my son. My past self, a girl who always had to have a boy, who got her heart broken and used time after time, who sought love and fulfillment from a relationship, who was immature and insecure in herself. That girl was gone. In her place stood a woman that God had been molding and growing. A woman who loved her son, herself and Jesus. A woman that didn’t need a relationship to be happy. A woman who was finally ready for a true godly relationship. Not long after we started dating we knew we wanted to get married. But before that could happen, another milestone occurred. I graduated with my bachelors degree. After five long years of pushing through heartache and hardship, one obstacle after the next did it finally arrive. I remember standing there with my graduating class, holding my diploma, and just being so overwhelmed with joy to have finally made it here, sadness that my grandma couldn’t be there to celebrate with me, happiness that my soon-to-be husband could be, and gratefulness that God carried me through, that he never left my side, that he was always working and pushing my forward.
Lesson #7: Never give up, the best is yet to come.
Since that time I have married the love of my life and graduated with my masters degree. I have discovered a proven plan to be in control of my finances and haven’t looked back. I went through an amazing financial coaching training by the Dave Ramsey group. Have attended some amazing conferences with powerful speakers, and am pursuing certifications in multiple areas. Have been vulnerable to my bible study group about my past demons, which I’m not quite ready to share about just yet. Have made some amazing friends, experienced some great times, and some bad. And I’ve started a business. A business that my entire past has prepared me for. A business that God has led me to so that I can change the lives of others. A business where I can live out my purpose to love and support others who are hurting, are lost, have been abused, have been destroyed by finances, relationships or careers. A business where I can feel completely fulfilled by doing what God has called me to. A business where I can provide for my family. One where I can be there for my son, I can watch him grow up and be involved in his life. Where I can step away and go outside and play tag, or ride bikes down the street. Where I can pour love into him and show him that with God all things are possible, and he will never leave you. But I know my story isn’t over yet, and neither is yours!
If you have gotten this far I am impressed and grateful. Grateful that you have allowed me to show you who I am, to show you who God has called me to be. Impressed that you stuck around this long. I started writing this as a quick synopsis of my life to inspire other single moms that if I can do it, so can they. To encourage and provide hope to people who are struggling during an unprecedented time that there is hope, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and his name is Jesus. Hold on to him with everything you have, and keep moving forward, one step at a time. For one day, you will look back and see the journey you have been on and just how far you have come. I am no longer a single mom, but the experience I had as being one I wouldn’t change for anything. It is what shaped me to be who I am today, and has created a foundation to continue to build my future self from. God bless you all, and know that there are people who care, and there are people who are there to help, and it is okay to ask.