Tell me about your kids.
My son who is a pastor, he preached his first sermon on father’s day, and he’s up there in the pulpit, and he’s saying that he had the best father. I’m sitting there thinking, what? Who’s child is that? He finished up by saying, my mom was my dad. She was the best dad and mom. One time I was following my kids’ football practice bus, and my son is waving at me, and another boy was back there. My son told me later that his friend asked if I came to all of the games? He said, “I don’t think my mom even knows if I have a game tonight.” My son said, “It’s ok, my mom has enough heart for the both of us.” That’s the kind of stuff that makes it all worthwhile. I would say just this one thing. It makes such a difference for just one person to come alongside you and put their arm around you and say, let me help, that can make a big difference to any mom, and especially a single mom.
What about your childhood?
I came from a very dysfunctional family where we were all sexually and physically abused. I have four sisters and two brothers. My sisters and one brother and I were split up and put in foster homes. I joined the army, and got married, but my husband forgot to mention he had two wives already, and he married another one when my daughter was three weeks old. I did a very poor job at that. But I was determined that my children would not live like I did. My children were going to know that their mom was there for them no matter what, and they do. My daughter worked with autistic kids, and one of my sons works with computers, and another is a pastor. They’ve turned out pretty good. It’s really about what you make a priority. My kids were always my priority. I worked three jobs their whole lives, but every job knew my kids were my priority. I had to be there if my kids had a football game. I never even missed a football practice. I never missed a choir concert. If my kids called, and if my job told them I was too busy, then I was done.
What was your job when your kids came along?
I was in the Army during the Vietnam war. I would have loved to stay in forever, but I got pregnant, and in those days I had to get out of the Army if that happened. I just read an article today about another lady from back then who had to leave the Army because she got pregnant. She got pregnant through rape, but she still had to leave. That was the policy back then. It was the Women’s Army Corp. They folded that into the regular Army in 1976. Women were treated entirely different then.
Isn’t military rape culture a huge problem even now?
Absolutely, but we didn’t say anything. It’s just like with me and my siblings. We had so many people we could tell, but we didn’t. It was a family secret.
Did you tell each other?
I just found out a few years ago that my sister had tried to commit suicide. We all lived in the same house, but we didn’t know. The goal of the abuser is to separate everyone, and make sure that you feel like you’re all by yourself. I tried to protect the younger ones, and sometimes I was able to, and sometimes not. I took on a lot of guilt because I felt like I should have been able to protect them more. The fact that I was a child too didn’t even sink in. It’s quite a process healing from something like that. But God has been so good to me, I can honestly say that I am one of the most blessed individuals. I have an incredible family.
When did you you all go into foster care?
I was 11 when we were finally taken away from home. I took the two siblings with me that I felt needed me the most, and the other three went with my older sister. We went to live with my real father, but that didn’t work, but I stayed with him because I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. But my siblings went to live with another family. I didn’t see or hear from my siblings until I was about 25.
Did you have support raising your kids?
My daughter had the hardest time letting go of the idea of us getting back together, but they all eventually realized it wouldn’t happen. Because of what happened, my mother moved, and was closer to me, but she and I were not friends. God let her live long enough for me to be able to say that I loved her, but she was absolutely no support. My ex-husband paid nothing for child support for ten years, and then he paid $50 a week for three kids. So he still paid nothing. He came by once in a blue moon. It was hard for my daughter, who always wanted us to get back together. I had great babysitters. I couldn’t have done it without my great babysitters.
It must have been so hard being a single mom with three kids.
I’ve told people many times, that if I missed anything, there were days that it would have been nice if someone would have came alongside me and said, why don’t you just go grocery shopping, and I’ll watch your kids. When the boys were young, we didn’t have transportation. I would put my daughter on my shoulders, and a baby on each hip. And then I carried the bagged groceries. We walked everywhere. When my daughter got to an age where she couldn't sit on my shoulders, she would walk and hold onto my pant leg. It was not an easy time. I love my kids dearly. The only thing I would change is that I should have picked a better father for them. But my kids are amazing. Some people glorify single parenthood. They say, well, you don’t have a man telling you what to do, and that’s true, but you also don’t have what all you need. Parenthood is hard with two parents. Parenthood is EXTRA hard with one parent. Sure, you can do it by yourself, but it is hard.
I think everyone would say that they needed help sometimes?
I used to get up at five in the morning just so that I could have one hour to myself. That was the only hour that was mine. I didn't drink coffee but I would drink Coca Cola with peanuts - southern style. Down in Texas we would do that all the time. For that one hour I could read the newspaper - that was only hour that I had to myself. After that, I fed the kids breakfast and we were out the door by seven. After the kids went down, I would do the laundry. I didn’t have a washing machine, so I hand washed all their clothes and their diapers, in the tub. It progressed, it did get better. Would I do it again as a single parent? I hope not, but if I had to, in a heartbeat.