Y’all remember that television show from back in the day called ‘One Day at a Time” about a single mom raising two daughters? I used to watch that show all the time. Looking back on it I always wondered why I tortured myself every week. I really hated that show but I still watched it. I remember thinking about how I would have loved to have been as lucky as those two girls in that show. They always had nice pretty cloths and they lived in a really cool apartment. My childish brain could not distinguish between the story line that they manufactured for purely entertainment value, all I saw was that the life that this single mom and her two daughters lived was so very different from the life I lived every day.
How was your family structured when you were growing up?
I don't really have any memories of before the divorce. I have very faint memories of all of us living under the same roof but they are very fleeting and they fade in and out. Basically for as long as I can remember it was just my mom, me and my little sister.
If your parents divorced, did you go back and forth between them?
Sadly we saw very little of my father. He left when I was very young, in the second or third grade and in the years that followed we maybe saw him less than a dozen times. I have a few memories of going to visit him on a summer vacation from school, but what I remember most is that I did not want to go and my mom made us go. I remember having conversations with my mom on the phone and telling her about how nice his house was in comparison to ours and how nice his car was in comparison to the one my mom drove. I remember that the cans in the kitchen pantry had real labels on them and they had snack foods like potato chips and name brand cereal, things we NEVER had in our kitchen pantry!
Whether divorced or widowed, did your parent remarry?
My dad remarried twice. I will share that I did not like his second wife at all, I am not sure if I was predisposed to dislike her as she was the same woman that he spent time with, if ya know what I mean, while he was married to my mom! Oh yes he did!
Any way they lived in Florida and it was her house that they eventually moved into and it was there that we went to visit a few times. I just did not like her and I tried to like her but sadly we never formed more that a tolerance for each other. I don't know how long that marriage lasted but it ended in divorce and my father eventually remarried a third time. It was this third marriage that effected the biggest change. When his soon to be wife found out that he had two children that he never even spoke to she encouraged him to begin to reach out to us. I would like to say that over the years our relationship has been restored but in reality it is still is a bit tenuous. I no longer hold anger and animosity toward his abandonment of us as children but there are massive chasms in my relationship with him that I find very difficult to overcome.
My mom has remained single all these long years and I often wonder if she will ever find anyone to spend time with. She learned how to take care of herself. I think when you go for so long being the soul provider and having to do everything all by yourself you find that it is just easier to maintain that self sufficiency rather that try to adjust to sharing your life with someone else.
Was yours a multi-generational household with grandparents living with you?
My grandparent lived all the way up in Ohio, we saw very little of them as well, we did get to go to see them as often as Mom could arrange it.
Did your mom work outside the home, and if so, was it full-time or part-time?
My father was not a provider. He did not send child support nor did he contribute any anyway to our care. My mom had to work outside the home. In fact she juggles as many as three of sometimes four jobs to keep food on the table and a roof over our head.
Did your parents believe in child labor?! That is, how structured were chores?
Out of sheer necessity the wealth of the chores was spread between all three of us. I remember having a note wating for me on the kitchen table when I got home from school with instruction on what temp to pre heat the oven and then a few step by step instruction on when to do things to get supper started. As I got older I was well versed in the operation of the coin washer and dryer down at the Laundromat in our apartment complex. Many of the apartment complexes we lived in were equipped with the bare essentials so washing the dishes by hand was a nightly chore. We helped with household chores but if memory served my mom was not a neat nick so she was never obsessive about keeping the apartment clean.
Were your parents do-it-yourself-ers or did they hire people for repairs, painting, etc.?
Hiring handymen would imply that you had money to pay them to do what ever you needed to have fixed. My mom was the queen of jerry-rigging, if something broke or was in need of repair she would find some way to hold it together with glue, a bent coat hanger or duct tape.
Is your current marriage/family structure similar to the way you were raised? What do you do differently than you did then?
All I can say is “Praise Jesus!” that things in my life now are remarkably different from what I experience growing up. I saw the hardship my mom faced because of a failed marriage and I was determined not make the same mistakes. There were several times that my marriage hit a few very shaky and rough patches but with determination, love, communication, and a genuine desire to try to work things out we managed to walk through all the valleys in our marriage.
We will celebrate our 29 anniversary next May!
Of course the other huge difference is the foundation of Christ. When I think of the things that could have been different for us had we had a firm foundation all those years ago it makes me very sad. Thankfully after the birth of our first child we began the slow process of turning our lives over to Christ and the impact it has made in our lives has been remarkable.
Both of my children have been raised in a two parent home, both of my children walked through the door each afternoon from school and were welcomed by their mom, both of my children were tucked into bed by both of there parents each night and both of my children have an example of what a good marriage looks like when the begin looking for those qualities for their own husbands and wives.
I guess when all is said and done, there are many things I would have loved to have changed about my childhood. The reality is that it is life's trials that make us what we are. We can not appreciate the refiners fire until we are on the other side of it. Should children have to experience that refiners fire? Well in a perfect world the answer should be NO! But we do not live in a perfect world and we make the best of the situation we have been given or we try to make the best of them. The goal is to learn from the mistakes and to try to make the next generation better than the one before it!
Well as always Linda has asked some thought provoking questions. Sometime looking back is necessary. If we don't look back then we can’t see where we have been, nor can we learn from the mistakes made along the way.