Looking back at my life let me tell you from experience; when I spent months on NAU assistance (the Cayman Islands version of “welfare”) after escaping my abusive marriage I really appreciated the ability to stay at home with my kids, but did not appreciate having Government water the seeds I had planted.
I only left the house in the days if I had to get groceries and while my daughters were at school and the baby was sleeping I cooked, cleaned and prepared hand-written, home-made lessons for my school-aged daughters to supplement their learning.
When food ran low before our next voucher, I sat with my older girls (then about 7 and 6 yrs old) and apologized to them for our struggles, I held them and cried and made them promise not to make my mistakes – I told them they would only go hungry with me a few times but if they concentrate on their education alone now, when they become women like mommy they will never be hungry again and they had the opportunity to learn from my mistakes and never have to make them.
I gave God thanks that my life was the sacrifice for them to see what happens if you don’t take your future seriously and commit to walking right. Despite the constant sadness and depression I faced then I committed to finding my smile through it all and saved my break-downs for moments when the children could not see or hear me, I committed to being happy around them and being patient with our lives at that time.
My focus remained making them top academic leaders; I stayed tough and reminded them daily that their freedom lied with knowledge. I spoke to them ‘woman-to-growing-women’ and was not afraid to criticize myself and beg for their forgiveness – I never made myself feel that as an adult my children were not worthy of my humble admittance to the wrongs in my life that were affecting them.
I apologized for not choosing a better father, for not being able to afford to buy them new clothes, for not having $2 for dress-down days and that their friends knew they were on welfare…
… when I was alone at home – I cried, I screamed, I pulled my hair and trembled with shame and regret – I refused to accept what I had allowed to happen in my children’s lives through my own stupidity and I refused to become comfortable with the dependent existence I had forged for our family at that time – I prayed and made a commitment to NEVER stand in line at NAU again when it was over because it was too easy, too simple and my kids deserved my sweat, my blood and my hard work.
I applied to jobs everyday, ensured my kids were comfortable, I put ads up on classified websites and did people’s hair, lash extensions, sold mail order clothes and products to make a few hundred dollars a month extra to supplement our welfare benefits and so my kids could at least have cash for field trips, dress down days and so we could take the public bus to the beach… I knew that majority B’s and C’s weren’t going to good enough and I knew my kids are just as capable as any others to be at the top… I knew they deserved more, deserved the best and deserved even more than I could give – I was willing to give all I had although at that time I never felt it would ever be enough. It took rock bottom for me to figure it all out and to take my own success and growth more seriously.
There is NO EXCUSE to remain flat on your ass… NO EXCUSE to not persevere through hard times… NO EXCUSE to not overcome trials and NO EXCUSE to not put your children first.
Even if you cannot feed them for the 18 yrs they are your babies, set them up with knowledge and education so that they can feed themselves!!!
Fast forward these years later and my daughters hardly remember those days, but my eldest will sometimes hug me and has said “mommy, you are doing better now with seven children than when you only had the four of us!” or she has said “mommy, is has been years since we had to use lunch assistance at school” – they notice, they know and they appreciate the struggles they’ve witness me go through and the tears I shed.
I am not proud of myself entirely yet, I still live with the scars and terrible memories of my past and the decisions I made that put me in to those mind-crushing situations; but my confidence is boosted when I know that even if I still cannot come to terms with myself, my children are proud of their mom and where she has come from.
No matter what you are facing right now, just know there is somebody else out there that has already been through it and gained from it in some way! It is all about mindset and dedication, and believing that there is more to get and that you CAN make a better life for yourself. Especially as a parent, we do not have the choice to give up! We MUST keeping moving and keep trying, no matter what!