My Testimony as a Single Mom
By: Shun Jackson
I decided to write my NWNW piece in the form of a personal testimony. Currently, I am a part of the Celebrate Recovery program at my church (although I havenâ€™t been active this year due to being overwhelmed with other activities). This is a Christian-based program modeled after the Alcoholics Anonymous 12 Step program. One of the hardest tasks I am still trying to complete is taking a personal inventory of myself and tying these items back to any major event that has happened in my life. This journey has been both rewarding and fearful. I will share some of my personal inventory as it directly relates to my experience as a single mother. I will let you know that I see that the majority of my inventory could be tied to the events leading to me becoming a single parent. However, it would take several articles for me to explain this list. In the following sections, I will discuss â€œThe Old Meâ€, â€œThe New Meâ€, â€œOverwhelmed with Responsibilitiesâ€, and â€œInternal Strugglesâ€.
Before I begin, here are few basics about me: I have 2 children (a girl and a boy) which I conceived with my ex-husband. We got married when I was 5 months pregnant with our 2nd child. My 3rd child (a girl) is with a man that I was briefly engaged to. She is 3 years old. I have a BBA in Management Information Systems and a Masterâ€™s in Organizational Management and Professional Development. I am an Executive Assistant to a Vice President making a good enough salaryâ€¦would be better if I made double that amount ;o). I also write in my spare time and manage a side financial services business to pull in some extra cash for the extra things we do as a family and to build my savings.
The Old Me
As I stated before, I had to determine my personal inventory to fully understand what made me tick. What are some of the factors leading up to my behavior and responses to life and circumstances? When identifying my personal inventory, I had to answer the following questions: 1) Who is the object of my resentment of fear?, 2) What specific action did that person take that hurt me?, 3) What effect did that action have on my life?, 4) What damage did that action do to my basic social, security, and/or sexual instincts, and 5) What part of the resentment am I responsible for? I will only list two items from my inventory that I feel are direct influences to me becoming a single parent:
Low Self-Worth â€“ Without realizing it, I would always put myself down either physically by saying, â€œYouâ€™re fat!â€ or â€œYouâ€™re ugly!â€ while looking in the mirror. These were things that I thought were harmless and didnâ€™t realize how negatively it impacted my mind. I found that growing up without my biological father made me feel excluded from his family which consequently made me feel rejected. I developed low self-esteem and poor self image. I was extremely shy as a child and still am to a certain extent. I was a push-over and often did things that I didnâ€™t want to do but did it because someone else wanted to do it. Iâ€™ve never been in a healthy relationship with a man. It took me time to find myself because I didnâ€™t know where Iâ€™d come from (i.e. family, roots). The rejection from my father manifested in me getting into unhealthy relationships with men which brought on even more issues. My ex-husband was a physically and verbally abusive man. I wonâ€™t go into too much detail, but after him, in addition to low-self worth, I developed a form of depression and hatred for him. Also, my finances were destroyed. After him, I got into a relationship with a man that I really fell in love with. He used me for sex and I blindly allowed him to do it. I thought that he would change and fall for me. He ended up marrying someone else. My last relationship was with a man who was just wrong. Â There is so much dysfunction in him that I donâ€™t even have enough patience and time to explain it. I believe that the relationships with all of these men were directly related to my low self worth issues and the fact that I didnâ€™t have standards.
Fear of Rejection â€“ This is also related to not being raised by my father. Iâ€™ve realized that due to this fear, I often unknowingly sabotage myself by not completing projects, not following through, not eating right and maintaining a healthy life style, and procrastinating.
The New Me
My epiphany came in my last relationship and when I turned 30 years old back in 2008. I remember my mother calling me at midnight when I had just turned 30 to wish me a â€œHappy Birthdayâ€. My youngest child was only 6 weeks old, so there may have been some post-partum mixed up in my emotionsâ€¦but upon my mother saying â€œHappy Birthdayâ€ I burst into tears and cried for a minute. My mother asked me what was wrong and I told her that I had turned 30 and had barely done anything I had planned to do when I was younger and felt very unaccomplished. The following day, I said â€œNO MORE!â€ I started searching and trying to find ways to change so I could better me and my kidsâ€™ lives. I was simply tired of the bullshyte and tired of being in my OWN way. I wanted EVERYTHING to change. I left my church of 11 years and joined a church that was totally different in organization and worship style. I joined Dave Ramseyâ€™s Financial Peace University to help get my finances back intact. I joined Celebrate Recovery through my church so that I could start stripping away all of the dysfunction and chaos that I seemed to attract and dwell in.
Today, I am excited to say that I a new person! I still struggle in a lot of areas, but now, I am addressing those issues and not letting my life pass me by. People see the difference in me, especially my mother and 2 close friends. My bond with my 2 friends has become so much tighter. I see things through a different perspective now. I donâ€™t wallow in my pain or claim the victim status anymore. I REFUSE to be a victim. Iâ€™ve realized that I have much more power than I thought. Iâ€™ve learned so much about myself. It has been a freeing experience.
Overwhelmed with Responsibilities
Even with my epiphany and new behavior, my actions still caused me to be a single parent which caused a whole new list of issues in my life. When you are a single parent, EVERYTHING that is done in a normal household (with 2 parents) is on the shoulders of the 1 parent. To manage a successful household with children, there is child rearing and development, managing family relationships, cooking, cleaning, financial management, and more. I have to be both the provider and the nurturer. I can tell you right now that I have a hard time with all of these areas mostly because of so little time.
Not only do I have to nurture my children, I also have to do whatever it takes to take care of a household, finances, and my own personal health. I often go to bed well past midnight only to get back up at 5 a.m. Even still, I run out of time and sometimes, things go undone. For example, driving on bald tires because I either donâ€™t have the money to get them fix or I donâ€™t have the time to get them fixed. Bills often get paid late because I have so little time to pay them. There is just a laundry list of things that go undone due to little time or no money to pay someone to do them. I often feel like I am crashing and burning because I get so overwhelmed with â€œstuff to doâ€. I feel tugged in so many different directions. Iâ€™ve often fallen asleep while driving. There have been times when Iâ€™ve had to pull over just to get myself together. Even writing this article is taking time that I donâ€™t have. It is 4 a.m. But I feel that it is worth it because I may help someone.
Iâ€™m constantly fighting with who I want to be with who I am today. People around me call me a â€œstrong womanâ€.Â They tell me that Iâ€™m pretty, intelligent, inspirational and a great example for my children. They think they are complementing me. What they donâ€™t realize is that I donâ€™t want to be strong. I just want to be a woman that is enjoying the fruits of her passion and if Iâ€™m so intelligent and pretty, then why am I doing this alone? And how am I an example to my children? I donâ€™t want my children to have to go through something like this. I want them in a healthy and happy home and itâ€™s hard to provide this for my children when Iâ€™m irritable and canâ€™t get any rest or do the simple things like file my nails and give myself a pedicure. Or leave the house with my makeup on looking flawless. Or iron my pants and not leave the house looking like I just rolled out of the bed. Iâ€™ve developed a heart murmur due to lack of sleep, weight gain, and stress. I have shortness of breath because of this.
Iâ€™m usually a â€œWhat if I had done thisâ€ type of person. Iâ€™ve struggled for the 10+ years thinking about my â€œshoulda coulda wouldaâ€™sâ€. Believe me, it has gotten me nowhere. Whatâ€™s done is done and you canâ€™t change the past no matter how much you daydream about it. A lot of mothers would be horrified at this notionâ€¦.some may even be just afraid to admit it because of the public out lash they may suffer for even saying soâ€¦Before I explain, letâ€™s get one thing straight: I absolutely love my beautiful children and canâ€™t imagine life without them.Â Anybody that knows me will tell you that I would lay down my life for them.Â As much as I enjoy my children and share some very great moments that will become wonderful memories one day, I donâ€™t necessarily enjoy motherhood. I donâ€™t necessarily enjoy being a mom. I guess I should say, I donâ€™t enjoy SINGLE motherhood or being a single mom. Motherhood has somewhat been ruined for me because it is difficult to enjoy it when youâ€™re doing it alone. Iâ€™m always in â€œrush-modeâ€ and end up being so tired and beat down at the end of the day. If I had gotten a glimpse of my future 10+ years ago, I wouldnâ€™t have let their fathers touch me with even a 9 inch pole or even have the pleasure of looking my way. There, I said it! Iâ€™m sure there will be some that say, â€œHow could you say that? You have beautiful children? Donâ€™t you think this will hurt them?â€ Youâ€™re probably right, because in a way, I am also saying that I wouldnâ€™t have had my children had things gone differently in the past or if I â€œknown betterâ€. But Iâ€™m being honest in saying that this is not the life I would have chosen for myself or for my children. I am currently living the consequences of not vetting men well and having children with men who shouldnâ€™t be fathers.
You see, I had plans. I had dreams. I had passion and drive. I was full of life. I wanted to travel the world and speak several other languages. But my plans and my dreams, come second to the needs of my children and with raising 3 children alone, there isnâ€™t much time to take a long hot and relaxing bath or focus on any personal plans or dreams. My passion, my drive, me being full of life, was practically non-existent for a while because I was overwhelmed with being a mom. There is this intensely creative woman screaming to get out of meâ€¦but I canâ€™t focus on that creativity because Iâ€™m too busy hearing my older 2 children fight and argue about the mostly meaningless things kids fight about. Iâ€™m too busy losing sleep at night because my 3 year old, who is allergic to almost everything, has managed to scratch until her arms are raw and bleeding and too sensitive to touch.
What (Were) Are My Passions?
When I graduated High School, I had plans onâ€¦.
- Completing my Bachelors, Masters, and eventually Doctoral degrees.
- Travel, live, and study internationally after completing my Bachelors.
- Do Christian missionary work overseas.
- Be fluent in 3 or more other languages other than English (Italian, French, or more)
- Start my own business and have the benefit of having my own schedule.
- Explore my joy of writing fiction and blogging in my spare time.
- Eventually settle down by age 30 and begin a family and be mostly out of debt before then with significant amount in my savings account.
I may still get to realize some of these passions. However, being a single parent, I have had to come to terms that I may not make it to some of them.
I will close by giving you some tips to recover or not travel down the road I have:
1)Â Â Â Educate yourself. Iâ€™ve read the following books to keep me on the right track:
- â€œBlack Women Deserve Betterâ€ by Cherilyn Smith
- â€œLady in Waitingâ€ by Debby Jones and Jackie Kendall
- â€œThe Purpose Driven Lifeâ€ by Rick Warren
- â€œDonâ€™t Bring Home a White Boyâ€ by Karyn Folan
- â€œThe Rulesâ€ by Ellen Fein and Sharon Schneider
I also keep up with various BW empowerment blogs on a daily basis as well as many other
2)Â Â Â Know yourself before you allow a man in your life. Try being alone and engaging yourself in activities by yourself. Travel the world and step outside of the box. Meet people outside of your inner circle. Discover your passion. What would make you happy? What are your talents?
3)Â Â Â Vet men well. Create a list of qualities that you want in a man that are non-negotiable and do not compromise them for anyone or feel guilty for having high standards.
4)Â Â Â Donâ€™t put yourself down. Always think positively of yourself and donâ€™t allow poisonous people in your circle, if you can help it. If you canâ€™t help it, seek support outside of your circle that will aid in keeping you encouraged and realizing your worth.
5)Â Â Â Donâ€™t sleep with a man before really knowing him. Let a man earn your attention. Can you really see yourself marrying and having children with him?
6)Â Â Â Get help. There is someone that will help you. Find a way. Tap into your resources.
7)Â Â Â If you are already a single mom, be RESILIENT! Many BW single moms feel as though they do not have any support. They give up, donâ€™t expand their education, accept living off government assistance or working minimum wage. It will be difficult, but it is detrimental for you to MAKE a way. Take online courses to expand your mind. Donâ€™t settle for less than what you are worth and KNOW that you are worth a lot. Take care of yourself and realize that you canâ€™t do everything. Lastly, work HARD to get your children OUT of the hood.