When I started writing tonight, I started thinking about “an open letter to moms at church” but it sounded cheesy, and probably overdone… it may come later, more intentionally. What happened instead was a pouring out of what I wish people who judge me, really knew. It’s not exactly what I wanted, and I haven’t taken time to craft it in a uniquely creative way. It’s just free association.
The moms I often encounter at church look at me like I’m a joke. (Not all of them, there are a couple who are incredibly mindful of people around them, and one of my dearest friends these last six or so years has been our pastor’s wife, also a mama.) Not just my church, but most all I’ve attended. It amazes me sometimes how so many moms and dads at the ball field who toss back a few on Friday nights can show more love, compassion and respect toward me and my son than those who, in theory, are supposed to join with the community of believers to build each other up. Like… ‘who am I to even pretend to know what being a parent is.’ I mostly just smile but it never takes away the ick. And I get it that you may not know what to say, but that’s the thing, single parents, though they deal with different experiences are really no different than you.
This morning I went out of my way to speak to someone who would barely make eye contact with me as she and her daughter have done many times. One morning, I was talking with a mommy-friend and another mom approached us. She not only interrupted our conversation, but she invited the other mom to a mom’s group and completely ignored the fact that I was standing there. I often feel like a leper. I’ve sort of just resolved that for now, my son likes his Sunday school class and he’s learning, so I sit in the sanctuary and read or talk to a few passer-byers or my musician-friends who always “get” me, then go get him when it’s time for worship. I’m alone, but sometimes it doesn’t feel as alone as when I’m in a crowded room with no one to connect with.
So… who am I? I’m a 35 year old single mom. I have bachelors degrees in Music Business and Marketing from Belmont where I attended on softball and academic scholarships and a Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling that I managed to complete with a 4.0.
I didn’t ask to become pregnant, I was raped and 5 weeks later found out a baby was on the way. I struggled in the beginning trying to make a relationship work with someone I had been dating for a while that I really cared about so my son would have a dad. It became clear we were not right for each other and then began my task of accepting that I was to go it alone. Since then I have chosen not to bring anyone into the picture into that role for us. It’s hard but he is worth it. We’ve had the sex talk and he knows how he got here and hopefully all those people who say they’re praying for us really are, because without it I don’t know how we walk it together without crumbling. My son is the best gift I’ve ever been given and I wouldn’t change anything if it meant he wouldn’t be here.
During that time my father became disabled and I moved him into my home to help take care of him. The home I built when I was 22 years old right out of college. The home I built when my friends were renting and said I was crazy for making such a huge leap. I never knew back then this house would be used to shelter my new baby as he was brought into the world and a dying father as he prepared to exit.
I struggled not knowing where my place was in the world, much less the music business. I knew there were people and places I was uncomfortable revisiting. 10 hours of violent assault, in every way you can imagine, will do that to a person. I put on a ton of weight, mostly out of fear of further assault thinking if I was unattractive that no one would want to hurt me again, and the rest was from sheer exhaustion from working to provide and survive.
I’ve been on a roller coaster with my dad’s sickness, and unless you know what it’s like to watch a parent die, you can’t understand how taxing it is. For doctors to tell you he won’t make it a week, then prepare and have all the “last” conversations. To have their power of attorney signed to you and discuss machines or life support or DNRs… and then have that parent survive but be in so much pain he begs God to take him and at times when the medicine wears off have him talk out of his mind and say things that really stab through my soul. I know it’s the medicine, or lack of leading to more pain, talking but it doesn’t make it hurt less.
When my son is made fun of at school for not having a dad, I catch those tears. I hear him pray for a dad and even ask Santa or put him on his vision board. Those tears sting. I listen, I join with the hurt, I try to console or reframe. Then I consult with teachers for the bullying aspects or what we might be able to change and after everyone is in bed for the night, cry my own river.
I sit with clients, some who know first hand the emotions behind abortion, rape, divorce, assault, abuse, death, injury, abandonment, marital struggles, parenting issues… and I walk with them as their stories unfold, creating space for their tears and healing. I see broken men and women, couples, Christians and non Christians, straights and homosexuals, all races, varying ages from kid to retiree, from barely making it to 7 figures, who find strength and hope… who embrace me and have even told me I saved their life… At times like this if I’ve ever doubted, I know there is a God at work. It must be a higher power speaking through me and giving me those intuitive hunches to pursue. I often wonder as they leave when that level of healing will come for me. One thing I’ve learned is that you certainly don’t have to BE healed to help guide in the healing process for others,… you have to show up, listen and discern and still be diligent on your own journey. (And a whole lot of other things I learned in that 70 hour graduate program, 1500 clinical hours and another several hundred in training outside the classroom.)
I am an entertainer – I love to entertain and it comes naturally. Whether it’s quick witted comments, speaking, interacting and playing off others, improving 2 verses live and singing them to a packed music hall while 6 pianos alternate a blues groove, writing, singing or even doing BGVs. I love to write and write poetry. I enjoy seeing people smile. I’m an ENFP so naturally processing things out loud before I’ve thought them through comes easy… though admittedly not always beneficial. I’m very creative and naturally gifted with marketing/advertising ideas.
I am a Christian heterosexual white woman, who embraces diversity. Some of the greatest people in my life are in same sex relationships and it doesn’t make me uncomfortable, but rather it’s easy to celebrate people loving people. It baffles me at times when I hear condemnation and judgment come from folks who are called to love and receive love from folks who just show up because they enjoy my company. The other greatest people in my life are a whole plethora of labels and statuses with the common factor being love and acceptance.
I love sports. I’m highly competitive and, now that the women in our community know I’m really NOT after their husbands but that I really do love baseball and understand what I’m talking about, it’s been fun to get more involved with the teams.
And though I love getting down and dirty on the field, makeup less, making at times bra-less late night trips to the grocery store, I also adore having my hair and nails done and going to formal events. I love shoes and used to think the taller more unique the better.
I have a motorcycle and feel like a badass when I ride it. I had always thought about having one and one of my best friends sold me his a couple years ago. It needs a new tire and a battery but this spring it’s ON! I don’t do drugs, ride in a gang of bandits or weave in and out of traffic on the interstate or grab my crotch and spit. But I do love being out on the open road just me and the song I’m singing under my helmet.
The car I drive isn’t new, but I love it. I also look forward to having a smoother ride very soon. Hopefully sooner than later. I have always wanted a jeep wrangler – the kind with the extended trunk that you can take the top off of and throw the batbag in the back and head to the game. I test drove one, I think a black Rubicon, and yes, it was everything you could ever imagine. And while we’re talking cars, let’s face it, mini-vans with bucket seats in the middle, third row seating, leather (washable) seats, DVD entertainment systems and rear navigation cameras ARE really awesome. I don’t care how old it would make my single friends think I am, I would wave in style, baby!
Spiritually, I’m not sure where I am these days. When trauma happens, it can make you question things and unfortunately for me, some of that trauma came from “church people.” It’s molded much of my spiritual insecurities, doubts and fears. I know I’m a Christian, but I do struggle with the details. My focus continues to be the two greatest commandments in the bible “Love God, love others.” It’s easy to love, but often so hard to trust.
My old pastor, Jim Oliver, from Bethlehem in SC always quoted John 10:10 about the thief coming to kill, steal and destroy. He also reminded us all that there is a broken heart on every pew. I’ve been that broken heart. I’ve been blessed by some wonderful friends outside the church who love us unconditionally.
So moms in churches and playgrounds everywhere, let me beckon you to look for those around you, outside of your clique that you may be missing or intentionally avoiding and love them. Love their kids. Let your husbands be role models to the fatherless and it wouldn’t hurt them to see their mom loved on and accepted by you as well. Ask how they’re doing and genuinely want to know. They may not have the 2.5 kids, dog and minivan or fit into your mold of what makes you comfortable as far as traditional families go, but they are not lepers. I’m not a leper, I’m not contagious. You can’t “catch” being a single mom, it’s something God only calls incredible strong women to do so the struggle won’t rub off on you.
I’m not an idiot. Being single doesn’t somehow make you a less competent business person. In fact, there are many things I’ve taught myself to do because if I didn’t, it wouldn’t get done. I’ve made millions of dollars for companies in a matter of days, managed my own. And yes, in case you missed it, finished 70 hours in my graduate school program with a 4.0, while being a mom, caretaker for my dad, little league coach, friend and working. I’ve experienced more “ick” in life that I hope none of you ever come close to.
But at the end of the day, it’s not the grades that matters or the bank account or all he crazy difficult things I walk through with people on a weekly basis, 50 minutes at a time. I’m a person. I’m your neighbor. I’m a mom. We all want to be loved and accepted. My innocent and loving son is watching and your kids are too. The world is watching. It’s up to us to create a more loving and kind generation for tomorrow. Are we treating each other in such a way that if a non-believer visited and experienced us in this way that it would make them want to come back, or would they think why would I do that to myself? What used to really hurt me, I now just seek to understand, and try to make sure I don’t repeat a pattern. I’ve struggled to know if I needed to search for a new place to worship but there are more great things there that I don’t want to miss. Just wish there was a little more love.
Love God, love others. We’re commanded to and life’s too short and precious to not.