Warning: Contains content not suitable for all ages or readers.
When baby boy was 5 months old, we made the decision to drive cross country to live with my middle sister in Arizona. She had made the trip a few months earlier, had grabbed a two bedroom apartment already, and said we could come out and share the larger bedroom. For whatever reason, we thought it was a good idea…maybe it was to try and give our baby boy a better life…I like to think that’s where our heads and hearts were. My son’s father had recently gotten his license, as well as an old BMW. So my Aunt rented us a small U-Haul trailer that we attached to that little car, and we drove from Philly to Phoenix in about a week. We hated each other by Ohio, barely spoke through miles and miles of farmland, became indifferent through the gorgeous views of the Rocky Mountains, and were semi friends again as we slowly made it up the steep inclines of New Mexico. By the time we pulled into Phoenix, we were broke, and holding on to each other by a string.
My son’s father couldn’t find work, and we were relying on my poor sister and a older cousin for bills to be paid, and for food. Things went from bad to worse as each week passed. My sweet grandmother passed away. My sister went to live with her boyfriend. My baby sister and mom were in a shelter. I didn’t know how we made it through…but I do know I started working at a burger place for a few weeks so we could have some money. By the time my son’s father found work as mall security, we had broken up again. So I moved my son and I into a storage room basically, behind my cousin’s converted garage. It barely had room for a twin bed and the crib, but I made it work. No air conditioning in Arizona during the summer was insane…and there’s insects out there that are scary as hell. One weekend my father came to visit, but tell me why my cousin waited for him to leave before saying I had to move out since I couldn’t find a job. I remember screaming at her that she could have told me BEFORE he left, and that I will NEVER talk to her again. And I never have. My sister hasn’t spoken to her since either.
My Aunt in Philly wound up sending a plane ticket for my son and I to come to her home. She had set up a used crib and everything in one of her bedrooms for us, and I had never been so grateful to her, even when I was a kid. I finally felt some sort of security after months of uncertainty and heartache. My baby boy wasn’t even a year old yet, and I had moved him around to 5 different places already. I felt just like my mother at that point. And that was such a horrible feeling to have. I started working nights at the mall while my Aunt watched my son…we did things that way for about 3 months before my son’s father made it back to Philly, and to this day I don’t know why she did it, but my Aunt let him move in. A few months after that, the 3 of us moved only a few blocks away from her to a nice 2 bedroom apartment that was a short walk to a playground, and a supermarket. I worked various part time retail jobs, with my mom watching my son for a fee when his dad happened to have work at the same time. As a car salesman, he worked a lot…or said he did, and I tried to work on his early days, or one day off. We lived in that apartment for 4 years. That was the longest I had lived in one place my entire life at that point
My son’s father and I broke up for good when he was 5 years old. By then we had been together for almost 8 years, but there aren’t many options out there for a single mom that didn’t graduate college. My Uncle offered us a room in his house, just outside of Philly. My Aunt offered me a car since she said she couldn’t let us live with her again. I took both. I went on welfare and showed up every day to their career and life program. My son started kindergarten as I finally started part time jobs in the area, and he was in the 2nd grade by the time I landed my first full time job, with benefits. It was a 7 minute drive from where we lived, and my son was growing up in the same home and school district, something I never had. I paid my Uncle rent, and my Aunt paid for drywall to be put up downstairs in the den for me to have my own room. I was able to get my own car. And we never saw or heard from my son’s father again.
I stayed at that job for almost 7 years, and my son made it through his elementary and middle school years in the same district with kids he got to grow up with. During that time I took online classes to be a Pharmacy Technician, but the hours offered didn’t match the child care hours I had available to me. So I waited a couple years, saved up again, and took online classes for Medical Administrative Assistant. I had also moved up in the job I was already at, and was able to add some impressive things to my resume. I got to accumulate sick and vacation time, get raises, start a savings. All of these things were motivation to do better, be better, and make a better life for my son. 9 years were spent at my Uncle’s…9 years of still depending, in some form, on someone else. My rent was much cheaper than it would have been on my own somewhere else, and I didn’t have to pay for utilities, so I was getting a break in that regard. But I still had all of my other bills to pay on my own. And of course take care of my son. My Aunt stopped talking to me along the way, as well as everyone else in the family, but I am the only one that didn’t chase her. We still don’t talk to this day.
I left the job of 7 years in large part due to sexual harassment. There was one guy that took the extra creepy step of following me to the super market, among other inappropriate things over the years, and another guy that attempted rape after a BBQ. There wasn’t anything that could be done by the company since both men did the extreme Off of company property. I still had to show up every day and face them. So I said forget it and found a temp agency that got my foot in the door at a Distribution Center, offering a different skill set to add to my Inventory background. I was able to get a better understanding of how Order Processing and Vendor relations work within a Supply Chain. It was a good opportunity, but not enough pay. I had to start looking for something else, especially since I had to move to an area with better schools…my Uncle’s district had a crappy high school, and my kid is so smart that I didn’t want him to waste away. It was time to finally be out on my own.
Fate made something happen in my life to make me apply for jobs in the area we are now. It was a long shot, and I didn’t think I would hear anything back, but I was offered a Procurement position to start last July, and I accepted. They had rave reviews about me, so I made a huge leap and got an apartment in the area within two months, just in time to enroll my son for 9th grade at an amazing high school. Everything happened so fast, and lined up so perfectly, that I know it was meant to be. I also got a second job, to make sure I would have extra money for anything that came up. But now I am back to square one a year later…I had to leave that job because of extreme under staffing and no raise. They kept asking for more, and I had nothing else I was able to give. I went back to a temp agency, and am now in Procurement for a pharmaceutical company, with zero job security. I am also back in school for a degree. But it’s online, and only when I have extra money.
I have big hopes and dreams for my son, so I’m just pushing through, same as I have been all these years. I don’t know what the future holds, but there has to be more than this struggle in life. My day trips with my son help me step away from the stress of adulting. Our weekends away enable me to recharge for the struggle that seems to always be there waiting. And my little craft projects are a way to keep my mind from all that still has to be accomplished. I can’t focus on my past though, or on the bad aspects of today’s challenges. I have to focus on the good, and be grateful for what I have accomplished…for what I have right in front of me now. And I know I am not the only one with a story like this…I know that there are those that have had it so much worse…so I’m not telling my story for sympathy. I’m telling my story for those that need to also know they aren’t alone in their mediocre life. That great success, or deep tragedy, aren’t the only descriptors of a life worth connecting to. We all have a story.