Post written by single mother Jan Collins
As the mother of a twelve year old boy and having been a single mom for over 10 years, this is a question I frequently get asked by mothers who are newly single. The hardest part about answering it is having to remember that time in my life without breaking down.
By the time my son’s father and I split up, I was pretty much devoid of emotion toward him altogether. I was not angry. I was not sad. No part of me missed him at all. In short, I was exhausted and I was done carrying dead weight. The only part about it that really upset me was that my son was broken-hearted. Of course, the financial aspect of things scared the life out of me but since I was paying most of the bills at that point anyhow even though he was working, it was almost a relief to know I did not have to include his income when I went to ask for help. Previously, though he had been making very good money, he had not helped with the bills but I did not qualify for any kind of assistance because he lived in the house and I had to include his income on any application.
No part of me wanted to apply for assistance, so I felt shame when I had to, but in all reality that shame felt better than the shame of knowing that my son and I were living in an abusive situation that had I stayed, I would have had to accept responsibility for continuing with. In my case, getting assistance was the best thing I could do because my social worker helped to put me on a better path for my son and me.
At one point, I remember being terrified that there was no way I could support my son all by myself. It was only when I went to a battered women’s shelter that I had a chance to take inventory of my life and start to see where I could make some changes. Until then, the abuse and stalking had prevented me from seeing things clearly. One we were safe, I began to put the financial end of things together with some clarity.
I was embarrassed to ask for help, but I did not ask for more than I needed. I was offered an apartment that was government subsidized, but I refused because I knew I could do this on some level. In the end, I used my own skills and interests to bring things together. I hated sending my son to daycare and paying high rates for someone else to raise my child. After a few suggestions from my social worker, I opened a daycare and started college. Every single phone call I made to get started, every application I filled out, and every test or piece of homework I turned in made me feel better.
Let me just say there are tons of grants to go back to school, start a business, and even run a daycare. There is no shame in using these because you have to meet certain qualifications. But these qualifications, like the TEACH scholarship that paid for my first aid and CPR training required for the daycare which had standards that had to be met. Those standards were only that I keep the daycare open for two years, so they actually motivated me to make my business successful enough to stay open at least two years.
I was a bit angry when we broke up not because of him or the relationship, but because he told me I would fail. In fact, he and his family did everything they could to try and make me fail, including covertly following me to places where I would apply for a job and then going in to recommend they not hire me. Instead of letting this anger break me, I let it drive me.
Nothing in the world can motivate a person like telling them they can’t do something. Think about it. Even as a child when someone told you to stay out of a certain room, where did you then want to go over anywhere else? That room of course.
There is a certain mindset that expects single moms to fail. There is also a long list of financial resources out there that used properly, mean that you could never completely fail financially. If keeping the bills paid is the only thing preventing you from ending a relationship that makes you miserable, just know that there is a certain amount of liberty that comes from saying goodbye to an unhealthy part of your world. It is refreshing and can make you feel physically lighter. You can easily embrace this liberation and come up with a financial plan that works for you and your child.