May 22, 2012

How I Picked up the Pieces

On October 27, 2006 I made the biggest decision of my life.  For so long, I had thought it would be impossible for me to walk away.  But on that day, I knew I had no other choice.  For the sake of my sanity and safety, I had to go. 

I had been married for a little over 4 years.  During that time, I had changed into a person I didn't even recognize.  My family knew something was wrong but didn't know how to help because I always put on a pretense like everything was fine.  But on that day, I had finally reached my breaking point.  And like R. Kelly says, when a woman's fed up...well, you know the rest...

After a particularly abusive night, though not the worst, I made up in my mind that I was leaving the next day.  I had no idea where I was going to go or how I would deal with the aftermath.  All I could think was I needed to get out of that house before it was too late.  The next day while he was at work and my innocent little babies were at daycare oblivious as to what was about to go down, I went to the courthouse downtown and applied for an order of protection.  This is a legal document that would be served on him and prohibit him from contacting me or hurting me in any way.  If, after being served, he made an attempt to contact me, I could call the police and he would be immediately arrested. 

Once the order of protection was in place, I raced back home and picked up some clothes for myself and my kids.  A friend of mine had offered to let me stay with her and her family until I was able to get a place of my own.  Such a huge sacrifice they made to allow us to interrupt their family life and take care of us like we were a part of their family.  I am eternally grateful to them for all that they did.

I stayed with them for 3 weeks until I found a place of my own.  Having our own little space felt so good! My children and I were free to do as we pleased as long as we didn't disturb the neighbors!  Over time I regained my confidence, independence and self-esteem.  I found my voice once again and learned that it's ok to stand up for what is right for myself and my children.  I realized that my opinion does mean something and is worth being heard and I was no longer afraid or ashamed to voice it when appropriate.

I'd be lying if I said it was easy.  But I'm being completely truthful when I say it is possible to leave an unhealthy relationship and start over.  It pains me to see and hear of women who stay in unhealthy relationships because they feel they can't make it on their own.  I was there once and it is a sad, dark and lonely place.  I want to hold their hand, whisper in their ear of God's love for them, tell my story and inspire hope for a brighter future.  By writing this blog and sharing a little of my story, it is my hope that i will touch someone, somewhere and help them to take that first step toward better days.  So if you know someone who is going through a tough time right now and maybe needs to hear some encouraging words, feel free to pass this post along to them.  It might just be what they're looking for.

Charlotte

May 12, 2012

Random thought...

Are you still a single mom if you have a boyfriend who is not the father of your children?  I've been with my wonderful boyfriend JI for almost 2 years.  Yet I still consider myself a "single" mom, in the sense that I am no longer with my children's father.  But I'm not really single, because JI is around.  So am I a "dating mom"?  That just doesn't sound right.  Does it even matter?  It's not like I need a title to understand who I am!  Just a random thought...

Happy (Single) Mother's Day!

Did you know the celebration of mothers on the second Sunday in May was created by Anna Jarvis in Grafton, WV, following earlier attempts by Julia Ward Howe in 1870?  With the help of a wealthy Philadelphia merchant named John Wanamaker, she promoted the holiday until President Woodrow Wilson made it an official national holiday in 1914.  Interestingly, she later opposed the holiday because it had become so commercialized.  Her dream was to make it a celebration of all mothers, not a "Hallmark holiday" (It's amazing what you can learn on Wikipedia!).

Having been both a married mother and now a single mother, I can testify there's a big difference between mothers day celebrations for the 2.  As a married mother, you'll most likely receive a card from your husband and kids saying how wonderful you are.  You might even receive breakfast in bed.  Flowers, chocolates and a nice dinner at your favorite restaurant.  How lovely.

On my first Mothers' Day as a single mom, my children's father bought me a card signed by my children and gave me some money to go out to eat.  I hesitated before accepting, but since it was presented as coming from my children I said thank you and my kids and I had a great time.  When Fathers Day rolled around, I chose not to buy him anything, whether from me or my kids.  Just like Mothers Day, Fathers Day is a day to celebrate fathers who play an active role in supporting and nurturing their children emotionally, spritually and financially.  At that time, and to an extent now, I did not feel he met that criteria and so I chose not to celebrate him.  My kids made cards at school and I felt that was more than enough.  Needless to say, he was not a happy camper that his kindness had not been reciprocated and I received several text messages to the effect of "I bought you a Mothers Day gift so you should have bought me a Fathers Day gift".  I explained my logic, of course he disagreed, and the next Mothers' Day, guess what I got?  An already burned candle that literally smelled like poop.  Very mature.  On Mothers' Days since then I haven't received anything from him.  I like it better that way.

As a single mom, Mothers Day can easily be just like any other day, especially if you have younger kids.  I encourage all single moms to take the time to enjoy and spend time with their kids even more on Mothers' Day than on any other day.  Make breakfast together, go see a movie, take a walk in the park and let the kids play at the playground longer than usual.  You might not receive the stereotypical Mothers Day gifts, but you have the best gift of all - your beautiful children.

Happy Mothers Day!

How did I get here??

I've always been an impulsive person.  I'll get an idea in my head and run with it, only to lose interest shortly thereafter.  Over the years, I've learned to tame my impulsiveness some, but I still have my moments.  Like starting this blog, for example.  I've wanted to start a blog for years, but couldn't think what I could write about that could be of interest to others, or maybe even help provide some sort of guidance as we travel on this bumpy road called "Life".  I believe that everything happens for a reason.  The challenges we face do not come by coincidence.  Instead, they are an opportunity for growth, and teachable moments we can use to strengthen others.  So when I think about the experiences I've had in my thirty-something years on this Earth, it might actually be possible that I can share something that might be of interest to others, or even help someone along the way!  I guess we shall see...

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 9.9 million single mothers living with children under the age of 18 in 2010.  I was one of them.  So how did I get here?  It's a really long story, so here's the shortened version...

I was born and raised in Birmingham, England and moved to Tennessee in June 2002.  I married an American man, but the marriage only lasted 4 years.  I chose to leave because I did not want to tolerate his controlling behavior, adultery and physical abuse anymore.  I finally realized and accepted that I would rather be alone and happy than married and miserable, so I left him and filed for a divorce.  Today actually marks 4 years since the divorce became official.  Congratulations to me!

On the bright side, the marriage produced my beautiful children: my daughter K who will be 9 in a couple of weeks, and my son J who will be 8 in a couple of weeks...yes, they are exactly 12 months and 2 days apart... but that's another story for another blog post :)  I'm not sure I want to identify them by name or put their photos on here yet.  I'm sure in the beginning most of the people reading this blog will already know them anyway.  I guess I can decide later on.

What I do know is that I want this blog to be uplifting, inspiring and humorous.  I want it to be thought-provoking and addictive so you'll be on the edge of your seat waiting for the next post.  Well maybe not the edge of your seat, but you know what I mean!  That being said, I doubt I will talk much about my actual experiences of abuse.  Going there reminds me of who I used to be and then I get angry with him all over again for treating me that way, and at myself for not taking more of a stand for myself then as I would now if faced with the same situation.  Instead, I'll talk about how I picked up the pieces after leaving, how I (try to) handle co-parenting with my children's father, and how starting a new relationship makes things even more interesting!  I hope in some way I am able to empower other women in the process!