‘An idea popped into my head which sounded CRAZY.’ ‘You are going to ruin your daughter’s life!’: Single mom builds loving home in van, ‘I want us to truly LIVE’’

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Disclaimer: This story mentions trauma and loss and may be triggering to some. 

“For the last 10 years I’ve worked 40 plus hours a week as a single mom, staying in unhealthy relationships simply because I couldn’t afford rent by myself.

Being a single mom was definitely NOT what I was planning. I met my children’s father in 2008, and the way I got pregnant with my first child wasn’t exactly a ‘consensual’ decision. Essentially, I couldn’t bring myself to abort the pregnancy, so therefore, my son Cadon was born Jan 20th, 2009.

In a nutshell, my son had a genetic disorder called IVA aka Isovaleric acidemia in which his body was unable to break down certain proteins properly. It is considered an organic acid condition because it can lead to a harmful buildup of organic acids and toxins in the body. If untreated, IVA can cause brain damage and even death.

My son passed away 8 days later.

In August of that same year I became pregnant with my daughter by the same man. Needless to say, it didn’t workout.

I not only suffered from regular depression from losing my son but had sever postpartum depression after I had my daughter. I don’t have family to help me with being a single mom except the occasional help my mom could give. My mom is disabled and, unfortunately, is an alcoholic, so she wasn’t always reliable. This kept me from being able to work more than one job. I didn’t have anyone to help in the middle of the night when my daughter would cry, so I was not sleeping very much. So, you can imagine, working full-time, being a full-time single mom, and not sleeping was not very ideal.

Courtesy of Veronica Elmore

I will say, being a single parent has made me an incredibly stronger person without a doubt. Being a relatively young mom, I am grateful I still have my youth… but my mental health has been a rollercoaster even to this day.

Then in 2015, my daughter started staying summers with her father in Utah. During those two months of each year she went, my mental health took huge hits. Alcohol was a huge vice of mine. I no longer drink now, thankfully, but forcefully becoming a mom and not having been able to live like most people in their 20’s took its toll on me.

Courtesy of Veronica Elmore

Until 2016, I could not financially take care of my daughter and myself on my own once I paid off my car. There were years I had to take advantage of the food assistance and housing assistance programs such as EBT and Section 8 / HUD housing. I left my last unhealthy relationship in 2017 and bought a townhouse for my daughter and myself. It is only 1,249 sq. ft., 2 bedrooms, 2 and a half bathrooms, single car garage, back patio, etc.

I felt it was perfect simply because it isn’t the biggest home, but it was spacious enough for my little family. I do genuinely love my townhouse, I couldn’t have asked for a better starter home for my little family of 2 (not including our kitties).

But being a single mom and maintaining the household alone is NOT an easy task. It is definitely ‘do-able,’ so don’t be discouraged if you find yourself in that position! Man, let me I tell you, being the only one cleaning, fixing, and maintaining everything, I got burnt out really fast.

Courtesy of Veronica Elmore

Also, being the only income funding the home makes things that much more stressful. Honestly, even my small townhouse is just too much for me to maintain by myself. This led me to look into tiny homes.

For the last 5 years, I have worked in the banking industry. The most I have made is around $34k a year. In November 2017, I bought my townhouse because my income alone was not enough to pay what rent was for a two-bedroom place to live. Now, with all this said, I had zero intention of buying anything in the area I currently reside because it is not where I wish to be. I then found out that I could sell it after 2 years if I wanted to. GAME CHANGER.

Courtesy of Veronica Elmore

I started cleaning up my credit. Working at a bank for the years I have has helped me tremendously with managing my money, and for that, I am extremely grateful. Within 2 months I was in my townhouse, just myself, and my daughter.

My daughter was super excited that we would have ‘our own house’ and we didn’t have to live in an apartment anymore. We lived in the same area her whole life and our townhome was still in that area so not much really changed as far as how we were going about our days. She did seem to get a bit lonely since we didn’t know any of the neighbors. But single parenting was about the same, honestly. Even though I had been in relationships and not ‘alone,’ I have always been the only one parenting my daughter in the household, so that didn’t seem to change much.

Courtesy of Veronica Elmore

Since then we have been blessed with our two fur babies; Soxy and Smokey.

Courtesy of Veronica Elmore

It is now 2020, and COVID-19 has hit the world. This pandemic has made it a possibility for me to live my dream. I will explain.

My initial reaction to the pandemic was relief, honestly. I was miserable at my job and being treated incredibly bad by the new manager that took over the branch a couple months prior to the pandemic. I was on my paid vacation when the pandemic hit, and the day I was supposed to return is the day the schools closed. Again, I was so relieved I was not forced to return to the hostile work environment I had been subject to.

Knowing that my being out of work was of no fault of my own, I personally found comfort in knowing that I wouldn’t be fired (at least not right away) for not being able to work. I also knew if I was to be fired, I had been at that job over 2 years and would qualify for unemployment. I was out of work for 4 months when they let me go, but only after I had exhausted all pay options. We were considered ‘essential workers,’ so my business was open.

As a full-time working single parent, there really is not much wiggle room in where to allocate funds aside from the occasional food outing or birthday. When the pandemic hit, I was no longer able to work because I rely and depend solely on the public school system and after school programs to have the capability to work a job at all.

However, my employer allowed me to deplete any vacation, sick, or holiday pay I had accrued to help financially. That only stretched so far. The stimulus money helped out tremendously as I had been using credit to pay bills rather than my actual money in my bank account ‘just in case.’ Having to school my daughter from home online, that left me with zero option but to stay home.

That is when I picked up the phone (or got online) and called the following: Mortgage Company – to defer my monthly payments as far out as I could. The company who I paid for my car – to defer payments. Lending Club – to defer 2 months of payments on my consolidation loan (a great option for loans if banks won’t lend). Applied for food assistance, medical, and temporary cash assistance. These programs are in place for a reason, never feel ‘bad’ for needing to utilize them!

Poof! An idea popped into my head that, to everyone I know, sounded crazy.

To backtrack just a sec, I had been looking for a van to buy since the end of 2019 that I had planned on using my tax return to pay for. From vans to RV’s, I couldn’t find a decent (running) van or RV in the tiny budget ($3000) that I had to work with.

Then in December 2019, my car (that had been paid off for years) finally decided she had enough, and her engine and transmission both needed to be replaced. This leads me to have to buy a new car, that of which caused me to then have a car payment on top of all else.

I was no longer able to pay the bills for my household. So rather than buy a van or RV with my tax return, I had to pay up bills.

That only took me into February 2020. I had a brand-new car, (I got an amazing deal on a new one), not realizing I would be getting rid of it after 4 months. After the pandemic hit, I heard that Ford was doing 0% for 72 months on new vehicles. Now, the only way I would be able to get rid of my 4-month-old car was to trade it in. As we all know, new cars depreciate as soon as you drive them off the lot, so I owed roughly $24k on my loan.

So… I took a HUGE leap of faith. I traded my car in and bought a van!

Courtesy of Veronica Elmore

Nearly everyone in my life couldn’t seem to understand why I wanted to live in a van with my daughter. My mother was probably the LEAST supportive person. That thankfully has now changed. They would say things like ‘what mother sells it all and moves her child into a van to be homeless?’ ‘You are going to ruin your daughter’s life!’ ‘I don’t think you know what you are doing.’ ‘You will regret doing this.’ I simply would start spewing off all of the benefits of the lifestyle to anyone who would hear me out. I explained that I had researched and done my due diligence. I had a plan for nearly everything that could go wrong etc. Eventually I had to just stop talking to people, until they started seeing the van looking like a tiny house.

Courtesy of Veronica Elmore

Still, I’m nervous about this decision. Buying a brand-new van comes with a big fat payment. Being that I am still (6 months later) unemployed, knowing I only have the money in my savings account makes me anxious knowing that at some point I will have to find income. The fear of the unknown makes me nervous. I’ve never been anywhere outside of Florida alone, let alone with my daughter until 2020. I am overwhelmingly excited for the adventure and the quality of life that not only I get to experience, but the quality of life my daughter will get as well!

BUT over the last decade, the one thing I never let get behind on payments was my vehicle. Rather than worry, I decided right then and there that I would make this work no matter what I had to do!

Courtesy of Veronica Elmore

Ford gave me $19k for the car and tacked the rest on the back end of my loan. With the loan having 0% interest for the life of the loan, the high monthly payment was just part of it. The payment is less than my mortgage, has no interest, and within 3 months the van will be built to a point that is livable.

My townhouse is now on the market, and I have slowly been downsizing – (that alone is an amazing feeling) – and buying what I need to properly convert my van into a home.

Courtesy of Veronica Elmore

I am hopeful, however, that I can begin my entrepreneurial dream once I finish the van and not have to work a traditional job ever again. Emiera thinks it’s ‘cool,’ and associates the whole thing with camping. She is excited to get to meet other kids in the Vanlife community as well as meeting new people. She did say she is concerned about not having a traditional toilet!

Courtesy of Veronica Elmore

Why did I choose to risk everything for a dream that I have no way of knowing if it will work?

Because… why not? As long as we are breathing, I truly believe everything will be okay. Too many of us live our whole lives without truly LIVING. That is why I am doing this!

Courtesy of Veronica Elmore

As always, I hope this inspires YOU to do something you have been dreaming of doing! We don’t have nearly enough time on this planet to just waste away our lives on what society says is the way to live.

This is just my opinion…

Good Vibes Always!”

Courtesy of Veronica Elmore

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Veronica Elmore from Florida. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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