“From where we started, things are very different now,” says Erica, a single mom of a 10 and 17 year old boys. “Now, I’m a very present parent. I’m being careful in choosing my friends and I’m focused on my goals for me and my boys.”
Erica says it’s been a difficult journey. She says she was raised in a very structured environment. “I was very sheltered growing up.” She says, “I didn’t have a lot of self-worth and hadn’t dated much, so I didn’t feel prepared for the world. So, when I got out on my own, I was exposed to a lot of things I never knew. I found myself quickly falling into a life of partying.”
Erica was in her early twenties when she met her son’s father and got pregnant. He decided to join the military soon after their son was born. “We ran off to North Carolina and got married.” She says they lived there for two years and tried to make a life together. “My parents divorced when I was 9 months old, so I didn’t really have a model for what marriage should be.” Erica says, “When things didn’t work out in my marriage, my son and I moved home.”
“I was single for about a year after the divorce when I met my second son’s father.” Erica says the relationship was rocky from the beginning. “I was in a toxic, physically abusive relationship for four years. We were on and off again. But, I kept letting him back in. When I got pregnant, we got married in Las Vegas.” She says within weeks of getting married, the old destructive patterns bubbled up again. Things became so difficult, there was a No-Contact Order against her husband while she was pregnant. “Despite everything, I let him back in the picture again.”
Erica says it wasn’t long before things got really bad. 5 weeks after her youngest son was born, Child Protective Services showed up at her door to make sure her sons were safe. “It was a blessing in disguise," she says. The investigator sat on the other side of the table from her and told her it was time to choose what’s best for her children. “I realized because I had such a deep lack of self-worth, I was seeking love and acceptance from all the wrong places.” She says that moment at the kitchen table was a defining moment for her. “I made the choice and did everything I was asked to do in order to protect my boys. I’ve not looked back since.”
She had just turned 30 and she was twice divorced. “I found myself asking, ‘Now what?’ I knew I wanted to keep improving our lives, so I decided to go to beauty college.” Erica graduated from school in 2011 and began dating someone from her past. “I was still longing for that love and acceptance.” Erica says they were on and off again. “We did that merry-go-round until finally we decided to get married.” The marriage only lasted a few months and ended in early 2015.
Since then, Erica has been working intensely on her self and her relationship with her boys. “My sons, especially my oldest, had to go through hard things. Things he never should have had to. And, I was struggling with such little self-worth and value and I just didn’t want any of that anymore for us.”
With her entrepreneurial talents, Erica had her own hair studio for five years and now has opened a new business for health and nutrition. “Being physically healthy allowed my mind and heart to be open to watch to see what God is doing in my life. I’m so blessed. My full-time job now is to help lift up others. The conversations and the people I’ve met have been amazing.” She says, “My nutrition club is a place I come and feel good and help others feel good too.”
Her biggest joy is her boys. “It’s so wonderful to see them growing up and living their own story. My sons, especially my oldest, have a story.” Erica says her oldest son spent a lot of time with her brother to work through the pain of his difficult experiences and that it was life changing for him. “To see his life turn-around and see him realize he is made for more…is something truly amazing.”
The advice she’d give other parents is stay focused on what’s best for the kids. “It’s difficult co-parenting and I didn’t do it very well at first. I used to react really big. After many years of co-parenting out of anger, I’ve found it’s so much better to forgive and co-parent with the kids totally in mind. When I stopped reacting really big, it lessened the arguments. Just breath and stay calm.”
When she thinks of Single Parent Provision, Erica thinks of “my life changing!” She says through the relationships she has with women she met at the Single Moms Christmas Dinner, “that was the starting point of my life changing. SPP really opened up the door to growing in my faith.” She says, “I realized I thought I was looking for a guy but I was looking for God.”
Thank you Erica for sharing your story with us!
Published September 2019