Co-written by Alana Hutchins, Momivate's Director of Energy, and Candace Briles, age 38 and mother to a 3 year old little girl
Alana speaking: Since I have seven children myself, many people want to know if I grew up in a large family, and the answer is, no. I grew up in what is now a “typical” single-parent American household. Well, technically I still had two parents though, so two single-parent households? My sister and I were the product of my mom’s second marriage and my parents divorced when I was four years old, after they had been married for just seven years. My sister Amber, my very favorite and only sister in all the world, was born when my mom was thirty-nine years old and I came along eighteen months later when our mother was forty. That was as big as our immediate family was destined to be.
I spent much of my childhood under the care of my maternal grandfather James Story, since my mother worked nights at the hospital as a medical technologist. When I was younger I missed her while she was at work. I usually saw her in the mornings before I went to school, but that was it. I wrote little diary entries in my seven-year-old print that expressed my tender feelings of missing mommy until one day I stopped. I stopped writing it and at some point, I stopped missing her as much. Kids are pliable and they have a way of adapting to the situation they are placed in. I remember thinking that divorce not only took one parent out of the home, but two. It is not fair nor, sadly, is it unusual, but there are many things in life that fall into those two categories.
By the time I was eleven my grandfather had remarried and moved out of our home so Amber and I became latch-key kids, essentially running our own lives from afterschool until bedtime every day. I spent many hours in front of the television that, in retrospect, I wish I had not. Making wise time-use decisions was not a priority when I was in middle school. I also ate a lot of leftovers as a kid. Our mother would make a big pot of spaghetti or tacos on Monday and Amber and I would be expected to eat it for the next five days or so. To this day I cringe slightly if I need to eat leftovers more than once.
I always maintained a good relationship with my father. That reaches into the present tense as well. When we were together, my father tried to make it quality time the best way he knew how. Hiking, going out to eat, spitting cherry seeds, taking trips to the beach, etc. My relationship with my mother is good, but there will always be a “what-if” in my mind as to whether it could have been great had we spent more time together. Hey, it is not too late. But that is for another blog post.
Growing up in this sort of situation taught me a great deal of independence. I also saw firsthand the importance of women needing an education so that they can support a family if need be. My mother exemplified hard work both at home and her job and I my psyche absorbed much of that mentality over the years. At turns I have seen her rage and weep at the unfairness of her heavy burden, but with the grace of God and support of her father, she successfully raised two daughters and found a place for forgiveness in her heart for my own father. There have been times when I wish my situation could have been something other than what it was, but I’m not complaining, it could have been much worse. I had the love of two wonderful parents, even if those parents didn’t love each other.
Just down the street from us I had a childhood playmate named Candace Briles who was raised in a very similar situation living with her single mom. Maybe you can relate as well, either growing up in a single-parent home or currently raising your own children without a spouse. Through life’s unexpected twists and turns, Candace is now raising her daughter as a single mother and I’d like to share a small excerpt of her personal journey:
Candace speaking: I am a single mother of an incredibly smart and sweet little girl. Single motherhood was not something that I had on my ‘to-do’ list, and for most of my adult life, I did not think that I would even be a mother. I certainly remember as a little girl wanting to have a baby and playing ‘mommy’ and having lots of fun. Being a mother has been one of the absolute best gifts the Lord has entrusted to me. She is a living, breathing, and heart-beating little person to be responsible for! Almost every moment together has been imprinted in my mind as something special and remarkable.
I was married to my daughter’s biological father, yet not anymore. My healing from divorce with a beautiful infant is only attributed to the Lord’s overwhelming love and the unconditional support that I have received from my family.
Along with being a single mother, and a full time pre-school teacher, I help care for my aging parents. They are both still independent, yet they have experienced some health issues this past year that have required both of them to make major life adjustments.
My daughter and I live in the home I myself grew up in. My mother still lives there as well. I left this home at eighteen years old and came back eighteen years later with an eighteen-month old. While I was still pregnant, I lived with my father at the beach where I stayed for the first eighteen months of my daughter’s life. I was given the gift of being able to be at home with her and nurse her and love her for that time. I think the most fun part of being a single mother is that I have such a close relationship with my daughter. I pray that will continue as she grows.
When my daughter was eighteen months old, I began full-time work again. I am a teacher at the early childhood center where she attends. My day consists of caring for fourteen vibrant and active three and four-year-olds. Their exuberance can exhaust me at times, but at other times their energy enlivens me. It is wonderful to be teaching in my classroom and simultaneously watching my daughter out my window on the playground.
I am tired most of the time, yet I give thanks to the Lord for the energy that I do have to do all that I do. I feel lonely sometimes because I do not have an intimate partner to share in all the joys of what I am experiencing. I have friends that are loyal and kind who I can ask for help, and they help when I ask, but it isn’t quite the same thing as having a spouse.
The most challenging part for me, and I try not to think about it too much, is that all the responsibilities fall on me. If I do start thinking about that fact, I can get overwhelmed. My best advice is to just take it one day at a time. Another aspect of being a single mother that is difficult is the stigma attached to it. Maybe this stigma is internal and maybe it is external, and maybe it is a combination of both. Regardless, it is something that I am aware of. I know my story because I have lived it, and there are people in my close circle who know my story as well. Of all the other single mothers I know, everyone has an individual story of how their life’s events unfolded too. The Lord works all things together for our good.
I would encourage mothers to be compassionate with each other and willing to listen and befriend each other no matter their situation. As Mothers, we are all women and our lives are woven into one another. We are caregivers of children and those children grow up to be leaders in our world and mothers themselves.
In my life, it has been about caring for others. Before I had a child, my professional life was dedicated to caring for others as a counselor. Now my personal life is about caring for others, which has a deeper meaning, as it is my family I am caring for. For eighteen years I was gone from the place where I grew up. I was traveling the world, living in different parts of the country, gaining an education and a lot of life experience. Now I am home with my daughter where I grew up, and with the Lord’s help, raising a healthy child surrounded with the love and hope of Jesus.
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