I grew up without a mother. Well…let me rephrase that. I grew up without my mother. My dad married a total of six times and had plenty of girlfriends and mistresses in between and during his marriages, so there was never a shortage of mothers in my life. Yet, none of them were my mother. My mother was killed when I was only a year old. Consequently, I was left to be raised by my dad and a string of less-than-desirable mother figures. Through the years I convinced myself that if my mom had been alive, my life would have been completely different. You see, no one else on earth loves you quite like your mom.
When I found myself pregnant at only seventeen years old, I was determined to be a great mom. I had no idea what that looked like (or how I would do it), but my children would never have the hurt, lack, and disappointment that I had experienced. I can’t even remember ever having held a baby before giving birth to my first-born. Twenty-one hours of labor and a few parenting books doesn’t quite prepare you for the challenges of parenthood, and certainly not single parenthood!
The next several years brought great struggle. I moved into government housing, worked a full-time job, and attended college full-time at night. I added a second child to the mix (because I wasn’t busy or overwhelmed enough) and many nights, wondered how I would ever make it. The exhaustion, disappointment of a failed relationship, and financial burden became too much to bear. At only four years old, I found myself slapping my sweet, innocent boy across his little face in a moment of parenting frustration.
It was in that moment that I realized almost everything I had vowed my children would never experience, I had duplicated in my home. They weren’t getting a great mom. They were getting an exhausted, overwhelmed, overworked, faithless mom who was struggling just to get up every morning. I made a decision that night that I had to fully surrender to the King of Kings and stop “dating” Him.
Although raised in church, I had fallen away from regular attendance years earlier. I just didn’t feel like I belonged. I had two children outside of marriage. My sin was public, and my heart was devastatingly private. I did not see others who were like me, so I just stopped going. Sure, I would attend on special occasions. I still proclaimed my Christianity, when asked. But nothing in my life bore fruit – and my precious little ones suffered.
However, the moment I decided to begin walking out a new life for me – for my children – God radically transformed my life. Through hard work and faithful tithing, the Lord brought me out of the projects, off government assistance, and into financial freedom. He showed me his grace and his love in a new way. He taught me patience with my children. He removed bitterness and offense and filled my heart with forgiveness and peace. My love for Him grew and my desire to be a great mom grew.
That was many years ago. My son will be 18 in a few months. And although I dare not tell you that I have “arrived” on my parenting journey, I know that the abounding grace of my Heavenly Father has grown me into the mother I always wished I had. His love for me covered a multitude of sins and failures. Understanding his love for me has helped me parent my children well and allowed my children to thrive, in spite of my own inadequacies. My Christian growth has translated into my parenting growth. And I would like to extend some parenting advice your way:
Seek the Kingdom of God, above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. Matthew 6:33 NLT
Jennifer Maggio is the mother of 3 children and founder of The Life of a Single Mom Ministries. She is an author and speaker who considers herself a regular girl who loves an extraordinary God. For more information, visit http://www.jennifermaggio.com.
The Life of a Single Mom is a national, faith-based, nonprofit that exists to see that no single mom walks alone. To date, we have worked with more than 1,500 churches & community groups to start or improve a single mom’s support group in cities throughout the U.S. and beyond. We have a large array of books, curriculum, training materials, and online instructional videos to support ministry leaders who lead single moms. Our single mom programs focus on empowering single moms to grow spiritually, emotionally, financially, and parentally through a number of projects including: Single Mom University, Single Moms Across America, the National TLSM Single Moms Conference, and a variety of programs throughout the U.S. For more information, visit www.thelifeofasinglemom.com