It's not just hard for a single mom to raise kids, it's tough on the kids, too. And with all the distraction that comes with being a single mom (having to work twice as hard, struggling twice as hard, kids being shuffled around for babysitting) the kids sometimes get lost in the mix, and focus isn't always on the kids...its all about survival. And trying to do enough, and be enough, so that the kids don't miss, or crave that second parent.
As a single mother, I had moved my kids into a low income project, and survived with help from the government. Granted, the place we lived was nice. It just wasn't a nice neighborhood. My children were clothed, and fed, I did what I had to do. I relied heavily on my parents to help me take care of my children. I worked odd jobs just to keep diapers on them, clothes on their backs, and to keep our clothes clean. The neighborhood I was raising them, at that time, wasn't exactly ideal for my children to grow up in forever. It was a place for stability, because we didnt have to move around (like I had before), but the people, the neighborhood, and the environment itself just wasn't the right place for them. And I worked and worked as hard as I could (waiting tables) to try and save up to get them out of there.
I will admit, back when I was alone, my parenting approach wasn't the best. It was so stressful to be both mom and dad. It was stressful working late nights at a restaurant....if you've never been a waitress, you have no idea how hard this job really is. My life was chaos. The kids were living in that. It was rough. But I can honestly say, as "poor" as we were then, my kids NEVER went without. Not once were the lights shut off, or did my kids ever go without any luxuries, either. They still had christmas, easter, birthdays, and my kids were lucky. There were lots of kids who didn't get a "real" childhood out in the projects. And if they did, they were government based. I always was able to provide my children with real childhood memories..even though our lives were full of struggle. But I did emotionally struggle. I did not have a clear mind. I was always stressed out, and my children did bear some of that. It's hard. I wasn't the parent that I knew I had the potential to be.
And then, one day, all of that changed. Out of nowhere, everything changed.
Dan came along. We made a plan to just get out of there. And within a month (technically not even a full month) from when we started dating, we moved. On a whim. My life completely changed. I had been criticized for that....and i know how crazy it probably seemed to everyone around me. How quickly I just jumped ship, and uprooted my kids. But it was for their complete benefit. We moved back to Pennsville. I knew very well how much this could fail. But I just kept it in good faith.
And when we moved here....the kids...flourished. We werent in the projects anymore. We were around people who actually respected rules. We were in a place where my kids could sleep without hearing people outside screaming til all hours of the night. We could go outside. We could go swimming in the pool. We can visit mom mom really easily now, since she's almost right around the corner.
My kids just...grew so much. And I have grown so much this past year. Dan and I got married...it gave not only me, but my kids stability as well. I'm able to provide a whole lot better for my children. I have Dan who helps me discipline, helps teach them...supports their growth. I know that in today's society, single parenthood is way more accepted, and people are more willing to date a single parent....but as crazy as Dan makes me, I am so thankful for him. He really has no idea how much he changed my life. And my kids lives, too. I don't know what i'd do without him.
My kids just surprise me anymore. Caden has really come so far. Since he's started school, he's become this sweet, respectful little boy. He's growing up, and maturing into a really good little guy. He has calmed down so much. He listens to me, he respects me, he helps me... And Riley is such a good little listener. She helps me with the dishwasher, she helps me at snack time, and she helps me put all the groceries away. They are growing up so much, and it makes me so happy that I've molded two great little people.
Just yesterday, I took them out shopping with me. I've taught them the buddy system, and how important it is. So while we are in public, I tell the two of them to hold hands, just so I know where both of them are at all times, and if needed, if I grab one of their hands, I get both. So as we were walking around, the two of them, hand in hand, they helped me pick things out. Then at the checkout line, there was this woman in front of us, and her kids were about my kids ages. And the two of them were tearing up the checkout stuff. Ripping stuff off the shelves, screaming, kicking their mom...and there were my two, just standing there, holding hands...being good. As I approached the register to pay for my items, the cashier even complimented how "sweet" my children were. She said "you look like a young mother...your children are so well behaved, you should be so proud of yourself." and i just smiled. So proud. I took them to get some french fries afterwards as a treat. :)
And then we went to the park for a picnic with friends. My kids were so well behaved, I dont even think most of the people there noticed them. They played nicely with each other. Then we took a walk to the river, and sat down. Both of them held hands all the way to the water. Caden found us a bench to sit on. We just sat and talked. Caden is great company. Very smart, and can hold a real conversation. Then on the way back, we stopped at the playground. It was busy and crowded, so I made it a "number one rule" that Caden not leave Riley. I'd see him get ahead of her, and without me having to say anything, Caden would turn around, and grab his sister by the arm, and go off and play. My heart just swelled. How could I have created such sweet children?
I'm just so proud of them. My mom even told me yesterday how much I have even grown as a parent in the last year. And that just makes me so happy. But I think that my whole happiness, comes as a reflection of my life as a whole. I'm happy. I'm stable. And it just shows in everything that I do...especially my children. <3