I had a conversation recently regarding my 9-year stint as a single Mom. Eric and I have been married for 16 years so it seems long ago and far away…and yet some of my fondest memories are from that time. I believe that those years gave me the foundation to have a true compassion for my students. Those years were hard…and yet amazing. They were full of struggles…and yet, so much laughter. They were filled with fear…and yet…so many friendships. They truly were…the best of times and the worst of times. But mostly…the best.
I moved back to San Diego during my divorce with two boys-Chris was 3 and Tommy was 1. I had a job as a contractor at an inventory company set up- no insurance but would get me by as I was looking for something more stable. Ahhh…but life would take a strange turn when I realized that insurance was not going to be optional…since…I was pregnant. FYI…no matter what the MD tells you, it is not harder to become pregnant with a tilted uterus. Apparently, in my case, it not only made it easier and but actually made my uterus impervious to birth control. This, however, led to a lifetime of blessings, so I can’t complain.
The last year of my marriage was pretty crazy. David and I were very different with very different goals. At our first split, I had been living with a cousin, a friend from work and my brother at one point. David spent some time living in his truck. The boys and I spent some time sleeping in our car. We got back together for six months again mainly because we were both homeless. We had not changed, however, and it was obvious pretty quickly that it was never going to work. When we split up the second time, we both knew it was for good. I took the boys and the TV. The TV would later become the bane of my brother’s existence since it was a huge console and went with me on not one…not two…but three moves – two of which required navigating stairs. I think he threw it out personally on the last move.
When the realization hit that I needed more than my job offered, I had limited options. Who was going to hire a pregnant single mother with limited job skills? I had worked in a craft store, managed a gas station and could strap a calculator to my leg and do inventory – none of which were great choices to feed a family. When I went to Social Services, I literally had 50 cents in my pocket. The week earlier, I had driven there with $20.00 and had never made it inside the building. This is not where I expected to end up. I knew that I needed prenatal care and that the boys would eventually need food (crazy kids!)…and I was broke. I was living with a good friend and her husband. We took over their living room in a one bedroom apartment. At that point, I had a working car and they were having car problems so we came together as a blended family – everyone pooling resources to make it work. Thank you, Cheri Lazos – I’m glad we had each other!
So here I was – a 28-year-old single mother, on welfare, with three kids. Someone once asked me “Did you figure out how you kept getting pregnant?” I answered, “no…I just kept waking up this way!” We moved into a three bedroom apartment with Cheri and her husband Ron as soon as I could afford rent. Afford is a term I use loosely since I was receiving a check of about $1000.00 a month from the state. We were living off of $12,000.00 a year. This always makes me wonder about my budget now – I should have WAY more money sitting around!
My car was repossessed when I couldn’t make the payments. I felt for the poor man that came to take it. I showed him the car’s location while holding a newborn as two toddlers followed behind me. He couldn’t make eye contact. I think the boys even waved to him when he drove off…most likely to have a very large drink on his way home. I didn’t blame him. I just remember being grateful and fascinated that the bus was free for kids under five – which all of mine were. SCORE!
I started the Grossmont College Nursing Program when Matthew was 6 months old and graduated when he was starting Kindergarten. Tommy was in second grade and Christopher was in fourth. One of my best days of my life taking my nursing license to Social Services and ending my welfare. It was a wonderful hand up when I needed it – one I am truly grateful for but definitely not a desirable lifestyle choice. Nursing afforded me the ability to take care of my boys and offered some redemption on feeling like a failure. I attended my 10-year high school reunion – divorced, pregnant and on welfare. This cemented my decision to attend the 20-year just to show that I was no longer a mess. Here, however, is the lesson. I don’t think anyone actually looked at me as a mess. The people in my life were very supportive and never looked down on me. I was the only one labeling myself as “less than”. I hope that helps anyone doing the same thing. Life throws curves. We don’t always take the path that we planned. Sometimes God has another path for us – and from experience, I can tell you – it tends to turn out better than the path we chose for ourselves.
So much more to tell but I think this is where I’ll stop tonight. I’m grateful for the life I have – and the life I had. I’m grateful that if you ask my boys – they don’t seem to remember being “poor”. They remember being together. I’m grateful for my big teddy bear of a husband that made our lives even better – although I’m sure he’s had his own “how did I get here” moments over the past sixteen years! But in the end…don’t we all?