“Support”, this word is often used by us, but what does it really mean to you? For me, it’s being there, a listening ear, a helping hand not necessarily financial, being reliable and being honest to the person you are aiding. Yes, everyone has his or her own definition. For women in my situation, they may or may not understand, however What I have realized during this journey is the importance of having support (the right kind of support).
Prior to being a mother, I was working, had a social life, volunteering and lived a regular life. I was laid off from my job in 2010, had been given job opportunities, but nothing that offered the salary that I could make a living with. Like most people who work, I have student loans, and other responsibilities, that don’t disappear when you are unemployed. At that time, I had some savings to rely on while being unemployed and my decision was to accept the right opportunity in my last year in grad school. In 2011, while completing my last year of grad school, I learned I was pregnant (April), graduated from grad school (June), finally was hired (September), and gave birth to my daughter in December.
During my pregnancy, I was overall healthy. In my first trimester, I was always tired and falling asleep but I could eat anything. Never had morning sickness during the entire pregnancy and my energy level increased during my second trimester. Looking back, I was under a lot of emotional stress, which I did not realize until after the birth of my daughter. My daughter’s father did not want to be a parent and of course offered to pay for an abortion, however I felt at the age of 35, never ever being pregnant that was not something I was going to do nor entertain. I was going to keep my child and literally prayed to have a healthy girl. I made the decision to keep my child and I realized that my child was not going to have her father around. He did not want to be a part of her life. During this process, I made sure to think and be positive. I lessen my interaction with anyone or anything negative. I always wanted to be a mother however, only if married. I was in no rush to be a parent but, God did have another plan for me. I can honestly say, I got a lot of support from my friends both males and females. What was interesting is that all of my friends were supportive, upset at the situation and said “a real man takes care of his responsibilities” and should be legally obligated to do so. I realized culture played an important role for women in how they viewed who should be a responsible parent, legally obligated for a child and your strength is measured on this scale as well. This was very interesting to me, I was even told by a few women that the father of my daughter should not be legally obligated to be a parent since we were not married and I should not expect much from him” that’s how some men are”. I am sure most single mothers can relate. This journey of parenthood has thought me a lot about support, it’s made me stronger, wiser and made me trust my instincts even more. Overall, I have always been a spiritual person, meaning I learned to listen to my inner voice (God providing insight), when I didn’t it always ended up not good for me, which I learned during this journey.
Support can be done in many ways from babysitting or taking the child out, picking up the child from school, taking them to activities, helping with school work, cooking, cleaning, being active in raising a child, being a good listener and helping financially. For me all of the above existed, so I have been very grateful for those who stepped in and supported my daughter. Some women don’t have the support and are placed in tough situations where they have to make tough decisions. I am particular with who I allow to babysit my daughter. Therefore, I do not go out unless my child is with me (other than work). When people ask me “why don’t you go?” I tell them if it is somewhere children cannot be, I will not go. I am not in a financial situation where I can afford to hire a baby sitter, even though I work full time and part time. I am fortunate to have my family, few good friends, who can help me with my daughter, some women don’t have that, so I do feel blessed in more ways than one. This is the reason it is essential to be around positive people who can support you, for some it may mean readjusting your life. Yes, you may have to clean house, change your mentality, surround yourself with people who mean well for you and not people who do not want to see you prosper. I am a firm believer that it does take a village to raise a child, which comes back to finding reliable and positive people. Everything, I do is for the best interest of my daughter, my decisions what I decide for her, even if it means I have to forgo some things for myself. I relocated to Florida two months after the birth of my daughter to be closer to family, and realized that the job market was not as promising as it appeared to be. I was determined to get a job within 3 months and I got it, only to be laid off after a year. During my first year of motherhood it was difficult, I had a child who was not a sleeper, spent 11 days in the Neonatal Intensive Care unit (NICU) prior to coming home with me, had acid reflex, colic, allergic to milk and I did not sleep much. I was up numerous times during the night until morning and had to get up 6:00 am to begin my day, after not really sleeping. The amazing thing is that everyone expects a mother to be herself and function like everyone else, it’s difficult. I always had tunnel vision. I blocked the negativity out, but when you are tired sometimes it becomes difficult to do.
My faith is what kept me going. I dug deep within myself for what I knew and practiced the words of wisdom that have been given to me over my life time. When I began to speak about my experiences with some of my friends/family who were mothers they shared their experience. We supported one another. Some women may feel that they are not good mothers and if they share their realities or their fear they would be judge by others. I had to distance myself from some people who I felt were not supportive and negative during this journey to me. I want to be the best mother I can be for my child. I want my daughter to be the best she can be and show her that you will have struggles in life, but it does not define who you are, it’s just a temporary situation. I have built wonderful relationships with the women who helped me through my journey with my daughter. One of my friends would volunteer to watch my 1 year old daughter at the time for the weekend at least once a month, some would send me things for her, others would babysit, when I needed to work on a short notice, some listened, gave me great insight and were always available. My faith is what has gotten me through everything in my life, (keep in mind I did not say religion) but faith. Believing that there is a higher power and knowing that things will get better even when I didn’t know how I would be able to pay daycare or how I was going to get to work (Oh I forgot to say, I was also unemployed twice and was in a car accident and had to go through 4 months of physical therapy during this journey, which set me back financially and emotionally) I also lost everything I had in my storage due to unemployment). My stress level was extremely high, but I had a child to think of who deserves my best and the best. The people I choose to be around and the ones that God sent to me was how I managed. A friend of mine said to me one day, if you did not tell me what you were going through, I would have never known. According to her, I did not show it, she could not tell, but to me, I felt my struggles, I tried my best to act like everything was fine, even when it was not. The unconditional love I felt from my child was assurance that I was doing the right thing, she would come and give me hugs and kiss me on my cheeks a lot, I knew she felt my emotional pain, I had to remain calm in the midst of my chaotic life, where I could not afford to do anything. My income was not enough, my car shut down, everything that could go wrong went wrong. My child is such a happy child regardless of my situation, I see it and everyone tells me how pleasant and good she is. So “support” is key to being a successful person especially for women. Do not be afraid to move away from negative people, sometimes it is a necessity for your well -being, there is no harm in loving people from afar and wishing them the best as well as being cordial to them, it takes nothing away. Sometimes we have to let go of certain things to gain in our lives, we just have to be realistic of our situation. I know, I would have not made it this far without the right kind of “support”.