Most of my life I’d been on the inside. I’d always had a core group of church friends, and I could also call people from pretty much every clique a friend as well.
In an instant, when I was 21, everything changed when two faded pink lines showed up on a pregnancy test.
Growing up we moved around for my Dad’s job. I firmly believe it taught me how to make friends quickly and the value of friendship. I’d never felt isolated or insecure about my status or place in life.
And other than my parents’ divorce, there were only a few things that flipped my world upside down. While I can look back and say most of those things were temporary, being Landon’s mom was not.
Everything in my world shifted for me when I got pregnant. I quickly learned what it meant to be an outsider and what it meant to have people talk about me.
I was 21 when I cried to my supportive Mom through a bathroom door telling her I was pregnant.
I was 21 when I moved back in with her, got a new job and started thinking seriously about life.
I was 21 when my world had to stop being about me, and started being about someone else.
I was 21 when I lost most of my friends. I remember thinking about how many guy friends stopped calling. How many girl friends started to say things behind my back. It was almost as if I had a disease. It made them uncomfortable. No one asked questions, instead, only made assumptions.
I was 22 when Landon came fiercely into the world and I became a Single Mama. I remember the the good feelings. There were days when I would stare at him and think, “How will I ever be mad at you?” and “I can’t wait till you start talking so I can take you to the zoo and we can talk about the animal noises.”
I also remember feeling very secluded, isolated.
In those secluded moments I turned to the thought of, “It’s me and you against the world, Kid.” As comforting as that thought was at times. I knew that one day I was going to have to open myself back up to the world that I shut out… that shut me out.
When Landon was 18 months he started at a small church’s daycare. I remember it clearly because it was the day after he said his very first word, “Mama.” The teachers were wonderful, but I felt uncomfortable connecting with other families. I knew I was a young mom. Though I didn’t know what strangers thought of me, I could guess.
His childhood looked very different than other children’s. Landon had no kid friends; I didn’t have friends who had kids, he had no cousins and I had a hard time with other parents. He grew up around adults.
I still feel guilty about this.
I feel even more guilt watching Adeline and Oliver grow up around a tight community of children. A tribe is a powerful thing, and they’ve had theirs since before birth.
I know what Landon missed out on. I know what I failed to provide him with due to my own insecurities. I was too busy judging myself, and feeling as though others were judging me. I eventually stopped trying to connect with anyone outside my family. I used to think that it was the culture in Miami. In Miami, families are their own community due to the tightly knit latin cultures.
Don’t get me wrong, Landon had close relationships in his life. Because we lived with my mother the first 3 years of his life he had strong connections with my family. They never made us feel isolated. I was very fortunate to have a supportive, loving family. A family that came alongside us to help in any way they could.
Landon also had close relationships with the adults in my life. With my best friend, with my [now] husband, Derek, and Derek’s wonderful family. Those relationships are very special to this day. They were our life line on many occasions.
When we moved to the North Shore and families reached out to welcome us, I still felt awkward. Even as a young, married mom I still felt like I was being judged. The other parents weren’t much older than myself. They were actually around Derek’s age, only 6-8 years my senior.
But here’s the thing, I was still working through the trauma of younger years. I still am.
Not too long ago I was asked to speak as part of a mothers group at church. I don’t claim to know too much about anything, so instead of talking about one specific thing, I told my story. I spoke about the hard stuff, and I spoke about how the Lord had called me home. About my change of heart, but also about the isolation I had felt.
It is part of my story. It will always be part of my story.
Afterward, there was a woman who approached me. She was crying when she said, “I feel like you were telling my story, and I finally feel like I’ve found my place here.”
I saw her. She saw me. She was no longer isolated, and I in turn had started healing that broken piece of me. In that moment, I understood the power of honesty and vulnerability. I understood the power of embracing and telling your story. I understood that as isolated as I had felt for so long, there are so many others who feel the same way.
Here’s my call to action for you. Oh yes, I’m calling you to take action here.
If you know of a single mom, young or not, at your children’s school, on a sports team, at work or church, befriend them. Be patient with them. The possible trauma or self esteem challenges they are working through are there, and real. But you, you can be part of their healing. You can be part of them learning to love themselves again.
Being a single mom is hard. Not only because of the work and loneliness, but because of the constant mental gymnastics.
I would be lying if I said that my identity is no longer in my self-applied labels. But now, I try to daily remove those labels and put on a new one: “Child of God.” Because of all the labels, it’s the only one that matters.
Friends, it’s time to bring the outsider to the inside. Get to know them, hear their story, love them- because there is so much about them that needs to be celebrated! Victories and struggles, we all have them. We’re all children of God, let’s love each other well.