As I do each morning, I peruse the headlines of the city’s primary newspaper, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and found the usual news about Penguins (not the cute waddling variety), football, baseball, ketchup (which on other days may be replaced with stories on fighting health care entities) , the police and the mayor (whose headlines usually invoke a sigh, an eye roll and a passing thought like “oh brother…”), and other miscellaneous Steel Town stories. This morning I was delighted to find one of the miscellaneous stories to focus on single moms – yay! One of my favorite topics!!
The article didn’t wait to go headlong into the stereotypes, which saddened me. Though initially thrilled with the focus on single mothers, I was soon disappointed by the Eeyore-esque tone that the story offered.
Let me be clear. I understand that being a single mother might be a bit harder than being a soccer-Mom from Mt Lebanon with an attorney husband, but it’s not the life-sentence of doom that this depressing article portrayed (and for the record, everything is relative – the grass is NOT always greener).
I know because I’ve been a single Mom since 1995 when I moved here with a broken-down car, 2 elementary-aged kids, a job making $5.60/hour and relatively little in terms of professional-wage job qualifications. I had more bills than date prospects (which will not be a focus of this blog) and less money than headaches. I also had a former husband who found it great sport to leave joint bills go until the creditors chased me down, never bothering to warn me. I would be lying if I told you I wasn’t overwhelmed. Initially, I was, but; I was determined NOT to become a statistic. I was determined NOT to allow my kids to become another sad story and I was certain that I would prevent my former spouse from getting the satisfaction of his prediction coming true: that I would be lying in a gutter, destitute and begging him for help (which he decreed he would never give). I knew I would overcome this, even if I wasn’t sure of the exact steps.
I did have family help. My parents live in town and my mother stepped in to help with kids when I was working, or going to school, and my father was always there to help me when the car broke down, or something went wrong in my house. They helped me keep my kids safe and loved, and while we had our misunderstandings (generations don’t always work hard enough to understand each other’s perspectives during times of stress), I knew they were in our corner. They did not, however; pay my bills, buy me a house outright, or buy me a car. My grandmother did give my father $2,500 which we used to buy a used Chevy Beretta. It wasn’t beautiful but it got us from point-A to point-B for those lean years when I was working as many retail hours as I could while attending the University on a full-time schedule.
On the other side of that now-distant time period, I now have 2 grown children who are good, solid people with kindness in their hearts for others, good heads on their shoulders and no serious altercations with the criminal justice system (not counting college stupidity,… a-HEM!). They are working and/or raising families and are contributors to society at many levels, and yes – I am very proud of them.
I am now working on my dissertation (and yes, I should be writing something different tonight, but I’ll get to that later) as I move into the home stretch on my PhD in Education after completing a Bachelor’s degree at the age of 32; a master’s degree a few years later, and paying off not only MY bills, but the bills my ex dumped on me, hoping to tip the scales against me and today, I have a terrific job – and it’s not the first terrific job I’ve had since graduating from college (twice). I graduated with my B.S. on a Sunday and went to work the next day and our family income almost quadrupled.
Were there times that I wondered how we would make it? Yes
Were there weeks when I got very little sleep? Absolutely
Did it feel like I was on a hamster-wheel, as was mentioned in the article? Indeed
So, what did I do that is so very different from the gloom and doom portrayed in the article?
While some of my success can be attributed to my family’s support, I was the one who had to get up every day and put one foot in front of the other. I had to work, and manage my money and stay focused and do homework. I also wanted to be there for my kids’ for homework, projects, ball games, concerts and plays, and with rare exception, I was, however; as important as those things are – the factor that made THE biggest difference in my life was my attitude and my vision for my future.
I knew, like nothing else, that I was not going to fail at this single Mom stuff. I knew without faltering that I would not fall into poverty, though there were a few nights that I laid awake wondering where the money would come to pay this or that. I knew without any doubt that I would finish my education, and get a job that would sustain my family and I, and more. It was this steadfast belief that kept me moving forward when I was tired. It was this vision for our future that inspired me to work hard on my assignments and not “just get by”, and it was this deep-rooted knowing that helped me focus my energy and attention on being successful to the point that it was no longer an airy-fairy dream, but was reality coming to fruition.
I now realize that I was tapping in to spiritual laws, though I was ignorant of them at the time. I now know that you can overcome anything if you’re willing to do the mental work as well as the physical work, and that you can absolutely go as far as you can dream for yourself.
Some might argue that I had some things tilting the scales in my favor, and I don’t disagree. I am doubly blessed with a good dose of common sense as well as intellect; I am healthy and through no maneuvering of my own, was born into a race and class that has historically had some advantages. Do not use that to excuse yourself from making the changes in your life that can take you to the equivalent of your perfect job and PhD. You CAN have a better life, and you CAN reach the goals you set for yourself and it’s simpler than you might think (notice I did not say easy).
I will close this blog with 2 things. 1) here’s a quick read written by a woman who struggled to accept her divorce and new status. Sometimes it helps to read about others who are facing similar circumstances. Deep Breaths & Chocolate, by Sue Baiman is a great place to start. the first steps to making these changes. You can start TODAY, RIGHT NOW in the journey toward your better life and it begins with learning to love and appreciate yourself. Here’s your first homework assignment.
Stop the critical self-talk, AND thinking.
Too many of us have “tapes” playing in our heads that reinforce our worst feelings. The core message is usually “you’re not good enough” and they take the form of beliefs that you are too fat, not pretty, have bad hair, terrible skin, can’t manage money, unlovable,… you get the picture.
Make a list of at least 10 things that are wonderful about you (there are many, many more – but start with 10)
This might take you a day or two – especially if you are not in the habit of thinking positively about yourself. Do it – write them down (or enter into a file on your computer).
- I am a good mother
- I am organized
- I am smart
- I have a great sense of humor
- I have a great smile
- I am a hard worker
- I am a strong woman
- I am a good sister
- I am reliable
- I am creative
- I am a good daughter
- I am thoughtful
- I am a good friend
- I am sensible
- I am sincere
- I am trustworthy
- I am FUN!
- I am a loving granddaughter/ niece/cousin
- I am really good at __________ (list a skill here)
- I am a talented __________ (cook, artist, etc.)
- I am a wonderful ____________________
– – – –
This is a start, only. Work on this and stay tuned for the next blog installment where we will move on to the next step around taking care of you.
Get your hands on a copy of Louise Hay’s movie,’ You Can Heal Your Life’. It’s available at most libraries, or you can view it online here for only $4.95
If you can’t find it or access this movie – email me. ((yes, it’s that important))
You are a beautiful and worthy human being – know this, believe this – it’s the first step in realizing the magnificence that is you. It helps to give yourself a big, bear hug every night before bed, too. Go ahead and try it – and say one positive thing to yourself from your list (above).