Single Mother Bravado

27 Feb

I have to write about it, otherwise it threatens to riddle up my insides. I have ignored the crippling feeling of it, soothed the ache of it with assurances that must come from the heavens because I have none. I play the game of avoidance well and it’s never found its way into my writing (except for once) because I am strong-willed, stubborn, and I fear that it will make me appear weaker somehow.

Ah yes, the single mother bravado. One must always facing the world with a united strong front and a public dismissal of challenges as if they didn’t cause a shiver down weary spines. Yet when it’s just you behind closed doors, only accompanied by four sparsely decorated walls, you can cry and the fear threatens to crawl up on you like a blanket that may never unwrap itself. If you give your weaknesses an inch, will it take a mile out of you?

I’m talking about poverty. Being broke. Not having two nickles to rub together in hopes you might see the light. Okay, so I have two nickles but there is no redemptive light shining from them yet. I’m not the first single mother to be broke, to feel the continuous stress of meeting bills, pulling wonders out of cupboards to fill lunch boxes. I’m not the first, and sadly, I will not be the last.

54% of single mothers live beneath the poverty line. At least that was the statistic when I first started my post secondary education. I posted that stat in the front of every of my binders to remind me why it was necessary to pay attention, to work hard, to fight to be someone and have something for my son.

I’m in my third year of studies with another to go for my Bachelors and a Master’s degree somewhere in the distance. Somewhere. I don’t mind living hand to mouth as a student, that’s a sacrifice I can make. What pains me is having my son pay for this too. He’s young yet, so one day all of this will be a distant memory and we will have something, but we aren’t there yet.

I read one of my old journals the other day and it was dated 10 days before my sons second birthday. I was frustrated and sad because I had only 23 dollars in my bank account and I couldn’t do anything for his special day. I remember that moment, I cried hard in the room we shared together while he was with his grandmother. I swore that this would never happen again, that poverty would not consume me.

It hasn’t consumed me, but it hasn’t stopped trying yet either.

We shield our children from the truth. Make games of distraction up, change subjects, and artfully ignore questions. “Why can’t I go to so and so’s birthday party?”

Because we don’t have money to buy your lunch stuff, let alone buy a gift.

“Here, let’s colour together.”

Distraction.

Bills pile up easier than they can be taken down and the deep sigh that the end of a month is near is stifled by the beginning of a new one. Children’s health is knowingly neglected due to the understanding of costs associated with such services. You just have to hold it together, keep your composure, and keep facing the world.

A few years ago I asked my auntie how I could keep doing it when it gets so hard and it feels like my chest wants to cave from the inside.

She said to me, “You do it, because you have too.”

That’s it. No words of encouragement but just straight truth aimed like a vertical arrow shot up my spine forcing me to stand a little taller.

That’s what it all comes down to, all the coupon clipping, meal stretching, dancing around the subjects, and carrying about your daily business with the payment due dates stamped in the back of your skull.

I can do it, and I will do it, because I have to.

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