“I was washing dishes, which is no easy task for someone like me that stands at 6 foot 2. The center of my spine was aching, the top of my back was burning as I arched over the dirty dishes scrubbing off the grime from dinner and prep. My mind was wandering, and my ‘mom guilt’ started to set in. I already felt guilty having my son play in his room while I cleaned. Between working two jobs, taking care of my son and giving him the attention he needs proves difficult.
After the dishes I helped my son shower and brush his teeth, I tucked him in bed. We did our nighttime prayers and kisses. He turned over and pulled his blanket, tucked it under his chin and closed his eyes. He sighed and said, ‘I love you sooooo much mommy.’
‘I love you too, baby.’
Right then is where I realized where I struggled the most as a single mother. Guilt.
When I met my son’s father I was going through a rough time. I was renting a room and trying to figure out this whole life situation at 21. I already had a scrambled brain on what love really was because of my past. I wasn’t attracted to his father, but I thought ,‘He seems nice, I should just give him a shot,’ after his persistence to take me on a date. The date was horrible and I later found out he had a girlfriend in Colorado named Amber as well. I cut ties with him after he said, ‘She’s going to die soon, I’m just dating her out of pity.’
That should have been my absolute one hundred and ten percent sign (along with the cheating!) that he was a horrible man at heart.
Fast forwards some months. I was driving and running a shuttle for the fairgrounds. I was on 5th street and All American Way in Westminster, California. It’s funny, I can always remember the place and the faces of the people behind me, but not much more. A man came on my bus threatening to kill everyone – including myself – if I didn’t follow his orders.
I wish this was a heroic story but really I just stayed strong and reassured the passengers to stay calm. Most of them didn’t even realize the battle that was happening at the front. I was able to call the cops discretely. I had the phone propped, hidden on the side and was telling cross streets to my hijacker. ‘We are on Warner and Slater, where do I turn?,’ is an example of what I would say, but honestly, I don’t remember much. I do remember praying to God that he protect the children on board. Shortly after, the hijacker realized there was police tailing us and got spooked. Instead of reacting more aggressively he got spooked and was slamming on the door asking to be released. I opened the door and he jumped out and ran away.
Fast forward. I was a mess after this terrifying experience. I slept at my parent’s house and refused to drive. Then, at my vulnerable moment, here is my son’s father. We went out to eat and catch up. He took me to his favorite bar, and we drank too much.
I woke up the next morning in a shock. I did not remember consenting to anything. I didn’t remember anything at all. I was too afraid to admit I was scared. I was too afraid to admit I didn’t remember anything. I honestly think I was afraid to offend him – I don’t know.
We found out I was pregnant and I was terrified. My parents love me, but the last thing I wanted to do was go tell my dad I was pregnant. He’d ask how it happened and I didn’t know how to respond. He’d lose all respect for me. Everything inside me was saying to just detach from my son’s father and do things on my own. Instead we did ‘The right thing’ and got married.
I remember the man officiating asking me, ‘Are you here on your own free will?’ My eyes burned and I wanted to leave. But I got married to this man I was terrified of. Now I am no weak woman, but I was afraid of what he could do to take my child away from me. I felt alone and afraid.
March 17, 2014, we were married. In 2015, we were pretending. In 2016, he moved all his stuff into the spare bedroom and I knew he was seeking other women. When I finally tried talking to him about the night our son was conceived, needing some kind of explanation or closure years later – instead of comforting, me he got angry and yelled at me.
‘So you’re calling me a rapist?’
It was all building up and I needed to talk about it. He only shut me down and made me feel bad for needing my husband to comfort me. Our marriage declined more.
The moment I realized it was time to get out of this home wasn’t when I had to take a shot of hard liquor to even be remotely interested in being physical with my husband. It wasn’t during our fights about his pornography or him never helping with our son. It’s the moment I was so unhappy, that my son’s energy level was low. I was declining into a deeper depression and he felt it. I remember hugging my son and apologizing because I was depressed. I wasn’t mentally present and trying to move or get things done hurt. My head would throb and my bones would ache. This was not the life I wanted for my son.
I called my family for help with my son and a place to stay. I went to get legal advice the next day after leaving my home. I got a job as a photographer and worked my butt off. I joined welfare for help since my son’s father left $100 to us and emptied the rest out of my bank account, since he couldn’t have his own because he was so far in debt. But he made sure to not have his checks transferred to my account. He never asked to help with diapers or food. He just expected everyone else to help. He never stepped up for our son.
I went from spending every day with my son, honestly going insane some days, to being exhausted going job to job to keep afloat. I started to hate myself for putting my son through a divorce. But something started to change in me. My family started to realize I was getting happier and going out more with my son. We’d go to our favorite park with ducks and feed them berries.
A few years later after working on myself and healing, I met a man. He was a Christian and seemed sweet, with a beautiful daughter. I trusted him because he was a worship leader and seemed to have strong family values.
But I was wrong. He often lead me in the opposite direction of my faith. He was angry and judgmental. I had just spent years pulling myself together from my bitter, angry, and sad mindset, and felt myself falling into a depression again. I was putting my needs to the side again to help him with his depression and to make sure I kept him afloat. My heart and mind were being drained. I felt like I was failing as a mother trying to be there for him. I wanted a Man of God. Not just someone that identified as a Christian. His heart was so bitter towards the world. He went to church on Sundays and worshiped God but every other day he was spewing hate, self- loathing and caring more about playing the bass in his hard-core band.
I started to see him snap at his own child. I started to see he would completely ignore my son and his daughter when he didn’t feel be was being ‘talked to’ or ‘treated correctly.’ He would say we meant the world to him, but in reality, we all only meant the world to him if we were exactly as picture-perfect as he wanted us to be. He proposed to me in front of a large crowd in a sushi restaurant in Hollywood on February 1, 2019. A day before my birthday. The ring was perfect, the proposal was perfect – but my heart wasn’t. My heart was beating out of my chest because I wanted to say ‘wait’ or ‘no.’ But instead, I looked up and remember glancing at a woman with her hands on her face, so excited about the moment, maybe more excited than me. I choked on my word – ‘yes.’
I remember looking at him one day and thinking to myself, ‘I can do this. I can marry him,’ trying to convince myself. I was open with my doubts, but he thought we could ‘fix them in marriage.’ But we all know, just like a baby doesn’t fix a relationship, neither does marriage. If anything, it puts more stress on stress you’re already not handling well together.
He wanted us to get married in July. But we picked the date October 5th, 2019. I thought we should wait longer, but he would say, ‘if you know, why wait?,’ so we could move in together.
I found myself scrolling through Facebook and seeing all these posts that said, ‘I asked God for a sign if this is where I should be.’ I saw another post that said something along the lines, ‘If it has to be forced, then it’s not meant to be,’ ‘If it hurts more than it helps then it’s not meant to be.’ I kept seeing things like this pop up that I kept trying to turn my head from.
‘Am I forcing this?’
‘Am I really happy?’
Then the real questions started to appear: ‘If I ended the wedding now, will they be mad?”
‘Will my son hate me?’
‘Will I never meet anyone else that can deal with my quirks, who could love me?’
I realized as much as we all needed to work on ourselves, he needed to work on himself alone before he could be in a relationship or another marriage. Although he was controlling, and manipulative, and sometimes the way he spoke down to me was emotionally abusive, I knew he was a good man. Just lost. I wanted to postpone the wedding and work on the foundation of our relationship. I wanted to work on making sure we were making the right decision for the sake of our children. He gave me an ultimatum. That I either marry him ON October 5th, 2019, or we do not be together at all. We cease to exist. That didn’t seem right to me. Not just because he gave our relationship an ultimatum, but because it showed me immediately he just wanted to be in control. He wanted what he wanted. Not what is best for us as a whole unit. He didn’t love me or care about what I needed to feel safe. He just cared about his own security and how we looked. I couldn’t put my son through another divorce.
Let me tell you now – I guarantee us single mom’s ask ourselves those questions I asked above at least 20 times per day. About going to work, or not being able to afford something fun on a weekend, or not being able to do what the ‘Disneyland Dad’ can do with his new fiancé. It makes you look at yourself and wonder why you were in put here to be your kid’s mother.
Stop. I’m writing my story today because I have failed, and cried, and overcome more than what you have read today. I want to give some advice to my other single moms.
STOP comparing yourself to other mothers.
STOP comparing yourself to Pinterest.
STOP judging yourself by your journey.
STOP putting words in your kids’ mouths.
STOP hating yourself.
My marriage with my ex-husband was Facebook perfect. My relationship with my ex- fiancé was Facebook perfect. We seemed happy. Nothing is ever what it seems, I promise. Everyone was in shock when my relationships ended, both times. But both times I walked away, I was thinking about what I needed. I thought about what my son needed. He needed to not be surrounded by more negativity, more depression, more confusion. There’s enough of that in the world. He needed to see his mom be happy and thriving.
But let me tell you something too, our kids need to see us fail and be able to talk about it. Our kids need to see us admit mistakes, and watch how we rise above them. They need to know their parents won’t hide from their mistakes. We teach them how to cope with these things by being an example. My son is 4, going on 5 in October. My son views me and life through an innocent set of eyes, and honestly that’s what we need sometimes. We need to trust one day our kids will see and understand we did these things, no matter how hard, for them.
I sat my son down and talked to him about why he was not going to see this man anymore. I told him, ‘Mommy made a mistake, I am sorry.’ I explained that I should have taken my time more and waited to introduce them. I told him, ‘If this hurts your heart, mommy is so sorry and I promise this is temporary.’ My son looked at me and said, ‘So we will just be friends? Not live together?’
I told him, ‘Yes baby, if he lets us be friends still, we will only see each other every once in a while, but we will just be friends.’
He was okay with that.
As time went on my son made a comment that made me realize and confirm further that I made the right decision. He said, ‘Mommy, I love the time I have had with you.’ My eyes swelled with tears.
‘Me too, baby. I love the time I get with you always!’
He smiled and told me, ‘We’re always busy at Daddy’s. I like to just be safe with mommy.’
I work two jobs, two exhausting and draining jobs. I work as a direct support professional providing support for adults and children with developmental disabilities. Some days I come home drained and put my last bit of energy into loving on my son, making dinner, getting him ready for bed, and kissing him goodnight then ending with our goodnight prayers. Then I have no energy to take care of myself.
Every morning I wake up I experience ‘mom guilt’ because I have to wake my son up, get him ready and take him to daycare. I want to be with him, but the reality of the matter is that I have to work.
After beating myself up all day I go pick up my son. His arms are open running towards me exclaiming, ‘Mommy!,’ super excited. He played with friends and learned to trace his name. He did some homework with his teacher and he was so excited to tell me all about it. He raved about his friends and how good he is doing.
They will be okay, moms. Our kids and intelligent, resilient, and they are watching. They see that you care. They SEE you fighting for them. One day they will stand up at a graduation and say, ‘My mom fought for me to get here, thank you mom.’ They’ll be hugging you after a negative event that’s tearing them down and say, ‘Thank you for showing me what strength is.’ They will be in a situation where they are unsure of what to do, and they will ask you what to do because they watched you make decisions for them their whole life.
I often have days where I wonder why I am here. Why do I have to struggle? Why do I have to be away from my son? Why does my ex get it so easy when he cheated, lied, stole, and gets away with it?
My son doesn’t want that bitterness in my heart. He is the happiest when I am unbothered. I put my trust in God, do what I have to do; and that includes blowing bubbles outside, playing at the park, making flashcards, cleaning berries, doing all the things he needs me to do to be present and happy. Including making hard decisions that will do better for our lives in the long run.
Just remember you are a mother. You will not back down, and you will come out stronger and wiser from your struggles and trials. You will succeed, and your day will come. Until that day, remember to teach your kids to appreciate the rain, because without rain, there wouldn’t be any growth.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Cailyn Murray. 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, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
Read more empowering stories from single mothers:
‘I want to live!,’ I was screaming. The cops were on their way. I was trying to get out of the bathroom, trying to get my boyfriend off me, trying to hide in the tub.’: Single mom’s empowering story of surviving domestic abuse with infant daughter
‘At 7 months pregnant, I found messages online to a dozen women, telling them he hated me, wished I was dead. He was my best friend, and had promised we could co-parent.’
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