Being a single mother is a very tough job.
Not only are you mother (which is a huge responsibility all by itself!), but you are also provider and protector while parenting solo. Being a single mother can be very daunting. You work hard all day and into most of the night to make sure your kids are fed, your bills are paid, and your home is secure. Even as you give out your very best, sometimes you feel like you aren’t going to make it.
I was terrified and very much a resentful single mom when Ron first went to prison. I resented the fact that I was alone and everything rested on my shoulders. It wasn’t fair, I had not signed up for this, and this is not at all what I had imagined my life would be like five years after saying, “I do.” I was struggling to keep afloat in almost every area of my life.
I had bills I couldn’t afford to pay.
I could barely afford food and clothes for my 2 boys. Anything extra – like sports or lessons – wasn’t even an option in our lives. I was overwhelmed and feeling more inadequate than ever. Like any mother, I wanted to give my children the things they needed and some things they wanted, but I just couldn’t. I knew I had to find help, or we would be homeless and starving.
"Although I was desperate, I resented having to go through the processes to get the help I needed."
I began to investigate what help was available for me to leverage until I could build a better life for my sons and myself. Desperately, I applied for food-stamps, Medicaid, and housing assistance, and I went looking for a support group. It was an incredibly humbling time in my life. I hated to ask for help, and I was so humiliated that I needed so much help to hold my family together. Although I was desperate, I also totally resented having to go through the processes to get the help I needed. I filled out application after application and went through interview after interview to get approved for help. I was embarrassed, but I was so relieved and immensely grateful for the help.
One of my biggest concerns was housing.
I didn’t know how I was going to pay my own rent, and I didn’t want to have to add moving in with family to my children’s list of shocking life changes. HUD Section 8 housing assistance relieved a ton of pressure for me! I was able to continue living in the home I was in, because I received assistance that covered most of my rent. When we were finally accepted into the program, it was a miracle for us! I wept for joy! We didn’t have to worry about where we would live. Whew. That was a huge burden lifted off me. If you have never been in that situation—Praise God! You cannot imagine the attack of gratefulness that came over my small family.
The biggest hole in services was a support group.
There was none to be found. They didn’t exist. There were no Facebook groups, Reddit groups, forums, or meetings to be found at that time. I was astounded because I saw so many families affected. I soon came to realize that society shunned us. Our families were not considered worth saving – probably not considered at all by local communities. That is when I started my own support group. Many times, it was only one other mom that came to meet. But I started getting a lot of phone calls. So many moms needing an understanding ear, some compassion, and a lot of encouragement.
My support came from a couple of moms who were raising their kids alone
But not because their husbands were in prison.We got together frequently and shared our troubles, joys, and triumphs. That is where I found the most support. We all knew the struggle of trying to make the ends meet while also trying to provide the best opportunities we could to the innocent little children in our care. During tough times, we walked together, cried together and celebrated victories together. We also ate a lot of chips and salsa while our children played together. But most importantly, we all challenged each other to become better.
There are so many resources available to help, but it requires a little effort, patience, and persistence. I know it is really hard to ask for help, but you cannot do this alone! You need encouragement, and you need some resources. ASK FOR HELP. ACCEPT HELP. Keep in mind that this is an event in your life. It is just a season, not a lifestyle. As you work your way through the challenges and define what your goals are, you will become more and more independent and interdependent. Keep moving forward. Before you know it, you will be the one who is providing the help instead of the one who always needs the help.
If you are struggling, here are some resources you need to check out:
- CONNECT TO A SUPPORT SYSTEM! (Find people who challenge you to become better, walk with you through this journey, and care for and accept you right where you are.)
- Food Stamps (Job and Family Services – JFS)
- Medicaid (JFS)
- Section 8 Housing (HUD, Metropolitan Housing Authority)
- Rural Development Housing loans (If you live in certain areas, you can get a very low interest home loan, even with a lower credit score.)
- Weatherization (Check with your local JFS to find out who is providing this. It will save you a TON on heating costs.)
- PIP for utilities (Percentage of Income Plan. This will help you keep your utilities on while you work toward employment and higher income.)
- WIC (A MUST if you have small children. This will help cover the cost of formula and healthy foods for your little one.)
- Childcare assistance (It helps pay for childcare while you get job training or go to work.)
- HEAP (This is a program that assist with heating costs. Check with JFS or your local Community Action.)
It is never easy to accept help.
And it is also not easy to STOP accepting help after you start getting it. It is scary to carry the whole load of financial responsibility, but it is also part of living as a responsible citizen. When we began getting assistance, I was moved by all of the compassion and assistance I received. But it also came with a price – my pride and my reputation. I felt so empowered as I navigated off all the assistance. The respect I earned was so much better than the sympathy I had been shown. Get help to get on your feet. It took me over 8 years to get off assistance. It was so scary, but that is another blog post.
You can do this! I am rooting for you!