“I was very young and just out of college when I became a single parent. I had no idea what I was going to do. I never expected to be in this situation. I found myself flat on the ground, but I knew I had to stand up, brush off, and get going again. I couldn’t stay there, I had to get up because of my precious children.” Teri was pregnant with her second child when she became a single parent. She felt overwhelmed but knew she had to keep going for the sake of her two children. “I would be crying because there wasn’t enough. I felt I wasn’t enough. There wasn’t enough money, enough time, enough patience, and enough love for me to be the mom I wanted to be. It was difficult but I figured it out. I figured out how to have a budget, be a good employee, learn new skills to make better money, be a better parent. The burden felt heavy, but I had to keep going.”
After almost a decade, Teri felt the balance between being the best mom she could be while also trying to be the best employee she could be by working 50-60 hours at her corporate job was no longer feasible. “I couldn’t balance it all, so I decided to go part-time until the kids were grown. At the time, the corporate world didn’t allow you to be part time, so I quit. We went from having a solid, good job to not knowing where the next meal was coming from. But I knew I couldn’t get those precious years back.” Teri looks back at those years as holding some of the fondest memories of her life. “We had space. We had time. We had no money, but the heaviness was lifted.” As Teri took any part-time jobs she could to pay rent and put food on the table, they would spend family time at the park, playing Frisbee, going to the lake, and just hanging out. “I don’t regret anything. We had difficulties in a whole different way, but we had so much fun.”
When Teri’s children were in their teens, she was remarried and had her third child. “It was a weird stage having teenagers and a toddler. Our marriage had difficulties right away, and we worked hard but after 11 years, it ended. So, I was a single mom again with a 3-year-old and two young adults.” Teri again felt knocked to the ground when her marriage ended but this time something was different. “This time I had more faith and trust in God’s goodness. I had a solid foundation knowing God is with me. He would be there for my family. Life was still demanding but it was easier with faith and trust in God.”
Teri eventually rejoined the corporate world for a few years before coming on staff at Single Parent Provision for a time. She met Tony, through mutual friends and married in 2019. “It has been glorious. He’s amazing. We are stronger and closer now than I ever imagined we could be. God is good.”
Looking back, Teri can see many ways she grew because of being a single parent. “I learned to find joy in the small things. I learned to change my perception of what was precious – like my older children getting into a freshly baked tray of brownies! And I started to look for it more than ever before.” Teri also learned how harmful it was to set too high of expectations on herself. “I set myself up to fail every day when in reality, no human could have ever done what I expected myself to do. The weight of my expectations was too heavy. I had to learn to lighten my load and simplify. God works to give us fullness and we turn that around when we expect or seek after perfection. The weight of perfection is a million pounds, but the weight of God’s fullness is freedom. We have to stop striving for that ideal of what life ‘should’ look like – it’s unachievable. Rather, we need to enjoy what life looks like in the moment. God gives us everything we need and more.”
Having experienced the overwhelmingness of life as a single parent, Teri has some words of wisdom for how those who are not single parents can support those who are. “First of all, and I mean this with all my heart, give money and support to Single Parent Provision. Help them help single parents. Then give any single parents you know a break whenever you can. Take their kids and give them permission to allow themselves space because they are dying for it. And finally, invite them into relationship. Whether at church or in your neighborhood, open up a chair for them at the table. Know they won’t be able to give very much because they don’t have much margin to give. But open up that space for them, their kids, their family.”
Teri, your authenticity and beauty oozes out of you. Thank you for your transparency. Thank you for your unfiltered, heartfelt words. Thank you for being such a light and for upholding so much of what is good in this world. We love you!
Published November 2022