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 17 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 considered one of the nation’s leading authorities on single moms and women’s issues. She is an award-winning author and speaker who has a God-given passion to see women walking in total freedom. She is founder of The Life of a Single Mom Ministries and has been featured in countless media venues. For more information, visit http://www.jennifermaggio.com.