Survival Mode

The house that we are turning into a single mother’s home became officially ours last Friday!  Did you know that my church is opening up a shelter? Crazy I know, you can read my husband’s post here for all of the details.  As soon as the program planning started we were quick to decide that the wheel does not need to be completely invented, there are some really successful shelters and group homes in Phoenix that we could learn from.  So recently we’ve been touring shelters and contacting places for information, in hopes that we might learn some policies and practices we love from various homes and mold them into our own program. 

Visiting local shelters with a few of our team members!

 Let me tell you . . . My heart is heavy and my brain is spinning.  As we encounter shelter owners and hear their stories about women I am simply blown away.  The compassion and strength of the house moms and people that direct and run the homes are so admirable.  The unconditional love, encouragement and dignity that they give to women is inspiring.  On the flip side of that, the stories they share about the moms in the shelter makes my stomach turn.  The abuse they’ve experienced, the men they naturally run back to, and their daily struggles with being single and homeless are far from anything I’ve ever experienced.  

Knowing that in a few months we will be providing shelter to some single women and their children, I have recently found myself trying to keep my eyes open to the reality of what some of these moms in our community might be going through.  And that’s when my brain starting spinning. Reflecting on homeless single moms has caused me to reflect on my own life as a mother and it’s given me a reality check on the way I view some of my hard days.

Not long ago, I jumped from one baby to three kids literally overnight through foster care.  It was one of the fastest learning curves I’ve ever experienced.  Also less than a year ago I had a newborn baby along with three kids under three.  Adjusting to each new season brought some really tough days and on the days that were harder than others I often felt like I was in survival mode.  Ryan would walk in the door after work and ask how my day was; it was never good so I had two responses to choose from.  If I answered “okay” he knew it was a manageable day but the most common answer was “I survived” which communicated that I was about to cry at any moment.

I’m just surviving each day.  In my hardest times as a mom those words have come out of my mouth.  But I’m a little embarrassed because I’ve never actually had to survive. 

I live in a nice house.

I can drive my working van anywhere I need to.  I’ve never had to wait at the bus stop with my children to catch a ride somewhere.

I have food, and when I think our pantry and fridge are close to empty they are still quite overflowing.

I have support around me.  Even if my husband was not in the picture I haven’t burned any family members, they would all very much take in my children and myself if it was needed.   

I haven’t ever been fired due to staying home with a sick kid.

Even if I was fired my family has some money in savings that would last a bit.  Roughly 75% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck and could not afford a job loss.

We have health insurance and my kids are healthy.

I have used WIC in the past because it was offered through foster care and was helpful to our large family.  I have never been dependent on WIC to feed my family. 

I don’t know what it’s like to hide my children from people, adults that might be abusive or an ex that is searching for his kids.

I am healthy, I don’t have an addiction that I need to pay for that might cut into my family grocery bill. 

Never have I searched for shelters in Phoenix because I needed them myself. 

I can’t discount that having young babies and children is really hard.  It is hard, draining and tiring.  But I have to shift the language I use to explain my tough days.  When I find myself spending time with homeless single mothers I think that using the word surviving to explain my situation would be offensive.  I know that our worlds will be very different, so instead of offering advice I believe that my greatest gift will be to simply offer love.  I have a feeling that after spending time with women who have actually learned to survive, it might be easier for me to find joy in my own struggles.

So I will be changing my language to describe my chaos filled-home.  I realize that I’m in a tough season with my small army of littles, but I have a supportive husband to juggle responsibilities with and we are among the top 1% of the wealthiest people in the world.  I would hardly call that survival mode.

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