This mother’s day I felt an enormous amount of love for the special holiday. The past few mother’s days I focused more on my own mother, and didn’t quite feel the position our little ones were honoring. This year was different, and I felt an overwhelming sense of joy and pride. All mothers should be proud of themselves. The sacrifice it takes to devote your every waking moment to care for another human being. We all have that common bond of unconditional love and awe of our offspring. I felt accomplished because cleaning, cooking, making doctor appointments, sports practices, worrying about financial situations, nutrition and employment is not for the weak of heart. I am proud of myself, because motherhood is wonderful, and most fulfilling job on the planet, but it is also hard and exhausting. To be single, and a young mother… Well dammit.. odds are against you… More than half of single mothers in the US live in extreme poverty, and the rest aren’t doing much better. I was looking on the internet for more young single moms who may be living the life I’m living. To be honest it was quite depressing. Articles saying, “Don’t worry.. It’ll get better.” “Don’t even think about dating.” People accusing Single moms of playing part in the economic downturn, and statistics prove children from one parent households are more likely to commit a crime and end up in jail. My position is merely this…Being a young, single, independent mother is insanely difficult…but not impossible.
The world is not set up for single moms. To their grueling schedule, to meeting the numbers to pay your bills. Rent, utilities, child care, phone, car payment, car insurance… it is hard to pay these bills when you don’t have an education, or high paying job to meet the demand. So you have to be creative, young single moms. You have to meet the numbers and be flexible with your schedule. You have to be multi-tasking wonder woman. A double jointed damsel in distress. You will have to sacrifice some relationships and dating may go on the back burner, but don’t worry. It won’t be long until you can balance a career, a relationship, your finances and most importantly a healthy and thriving relationship with your child.
Here is some of the advice, I can give to younger single moms, from what I’ve learned. Know that I am not an expert, and my unorthodox practices may not be for you, and that’s fine. But this is how I managed without breaking the bank, losing my mind, and how I kept my shit together through the rollercoaster.
Be the Parent that you are.
Of course it is good to keep up on articles and books on good parenting but take it with a grain of salt, and be the mother you inherently know how to be. I had my son at 21 (pregnant at 20) we are very close. To an outsider it may look like a heavily themed brother-sister relationship. We play together all the time. If it’s kicking the soccer ball, throwing footballs, taking apart the dishwasher, throwing rocks and drawing. We tickle, tease, and chase each other. We battle with swords and sometimes we fight. I still implement rules in my house, and he is not allowed to curse or be disrespectful, but ultimately felt closer to my son, just being myself. If that’s a kid, then so be it. I am the older kid mother who runs the household. But don’t forget I am still the boss. This works for us, do whatever works for you.
Have smart relationships
You can date, you just have to choose who you’re dating wisely. He has to be good for you, but he also has to be the right match for your child. I have made dating and relationships work throughout my single motherhood by keeping my boyfriends at bay, for a while. If my partner builds enough trust, I will slowly bring him in to meet my son as a friend. At this point, I let this person teach and show my son some of his best qualities. If it’s hardworking, I let him show him some work ethic skills, if he’s a fisher man I let him show my son how to string a line. It could be shooting a basket, building a robot or skipping the best stones. Find the best people to date, and let them teach your son their best qualities. Keep in mind, if your child does not have a father figure in his life, you should find strong father figures they can look up to. Be it good friends, uncles, grandparents, or priests. (Use extreme caution with the priests) If he is right for you, it will organically grow from there, and he will fit right into your little family.
Now don’t me wrong, we all fuck up sometimes and things do not work out. Hopefully you figured that out in the “distance” stage and he can fade out. Just proceed with care and caution.
Friendships. Lucky for you, your true friends show their colors when you have a child. All the fake friends fade away and the people who were meant to stay will continue to do so. How lucky you are to have this natural straining process.
Get your education, utilize your inner circle
Sister, it is going to be the hardest thing you will ever have to do. I was pregnant with my son my first semester at a Junior college. I was literally dumping quarters out of my piggy bank to pay for credits. I was bartending nights at a local bar. All of my money was going to utility bills, child care and college. (Thankfully my mother allowed me to live in her upstairs apartment, while he was a baby. My mother was my magical life saver, and I can never repay her or thank her for her kindness.) I hope that you too, have a mother like mine, or at least a close friend and family member you can lean on when you’re in a bind.
Get your education in something girlfriend. Be it a certification, a license, anything to put you over the minimal wage or long nights on your feet waiting tables, wishing you were home with your baby. Apply for every grant, scholarship, and try to get the best deals on your loan. Yes, it seems enticing to go to that elite private college, but more often than not, it wasn’t worth the astronomical student debt you will face after graduation. You are not through the tunnel just because you graduated college..hell you’re not through the tunnel until your child graduates college. So keep your focus, your drive and see the whole forest, don’t get stuck with your face against a tree.
While banging out my 18 credit semesters which I somehow managed to do in 3 ½ years. ( I have to give myself a little credit here, because I nearly didn’t graduate high school.) In the fall, I realized my son had grown out of all his clothes, his pants were too short, his shirts too tight. Horrified, I didn’t have enough money in my account to buy him new ones. My credit cards were maxed out, and the child support of (just under) $200 a month hadn’t been deposited since the winter before. I jumped in my car, drove to the nearest city and found a higher paying night club job. You do whatever you have to do to survive, young, single moms. Sometimes you have to make sacrifices… of your time, your social life, your relationships, and of yourself.. To better your own life, but more importantly the life of your child. When your plan is falling short, you have to make a new plan and adapt to your needs.
Find your mentors, build your network.
When I finished college, I got my real estate license and understudied under a fabulous sales woman of 30 years. I can not over emphasize the importance of finding strong, solid, successful women to learn from in your career. They will be a rock in your life, and they will guide you and teach you. My mentor Ann, was a saving grace, and pulled me back to my calling of real estate every time I through my hands up, and felt I couldn’t go on anymore. I am forever grateful to her, and am lucky to have worked by her side. Find as many mentors as you can, and build a network you can rely on.
Grow, and move on to the next step.
I continued to work in the night club, until I found a partner who could help me with some of my finances. Again, this man has been instrumental in my success and wellbeing, and I am blessed to have him come into my life. I could sleep a little easier, without the exhaustion, and weight of my finances and worries on my head.
To me life has been a series of stepping stones that appeared on my path. You have to see the stone and jump on it to the next. Don’t rest on one, it might get weary and crack. Keep your eye out, and keep moving forward. So far it has taken me into a city, with higher paying properties to sell, and a more dependable steady relationship. Higher income, better schools, nicer apartments, more culture and opportunities to pursue.
In the words of Maya Angelou, “When you know better, you do better.” Just because something worked for you in the past, doesn’t mean it will work for you presently or in the future. My night club gig paid my bills for a period, but it turned wreck less and left me exhausted mentally, physically and emotionally after a while. I used it in a pinch and evolved onto my next stone. Which meant moving away. You have to evolve and adapt to your life.
And as Tennessee Williams puts it, “ I rely on the kindness of strangers. Young, single, moms I will tell you. Life is hard, but we face even more obstacles. Sometimes you have to ask for help, even if it means asking strangers. But if you work hard, stay focused, pray, laugh, be kind and keep your fingers crossed, you will get lucky, and people will help you. The world will simply be in your favor. And remember.. Fortune favors the bold.. so be daring, be creative, take leaps of faith. The world deserves too see you and your baby succeed… and you guys deserve the world.