Real Mama: Valerie S.

I am so inspired by Valerie’s story. She’s one tough cookie and I think she’s doing a bang up job raising her mini-tough-cookie, Carrie. She’s been a single mama from day one and has had the help of her friends and family. Read Valerie and Carrie’s story below:

Tell us a little bit about yourself:
I am a single mom to a wonderful 4 year old, Carrie. My daughter is my greatest accomplishment and by far the thing I work the hardest for.

I found out I was pregnant a few months after my high school sweetheart and I broke up. I was 20 years old and away at college. I finally got enough courage to call my mom to tell her what happened. She was amazing; disappointed, but so very supportive and knew what I needed to hear to let me know everything was going to be okay. Telling my father on the other hand was a real problem. I refused to tell him because I knew how mad he would be. I knew he would never speak to me again. My mom finally caved and told my dad for me. I got a phone call from my dad later that night. I was ready to defend my stupidity and present reasons as to why my unplanned pregnancy was not my fault (at 20 this seemed like a great plan of action). Before I could speak, my dad told me that he was very disappointed and that he had thought that I was raised well enough to make better choices (all of which is true). Then he told me that I had learned from the best so he knew that I was going to be a wonderful mother. I still cry when I think about how wonderful my family and friends are.

I told my ex-high school sweetheart and he told his less-than-strict parents the news. They did not handle it well and his mother said we needed to get back together “for the baby’s sake.”

I know that it isn’t ideal to be a single parent but it is certainly not doomed to failure either! I knew in my heart that it wasn’t the best choice for me or for my baby and that was about the time I made some very important life choices and started growing up. I said no and that’s when things became really stressful between us. I stayed in Columbia where I was attending school and he stayed with his parents in our hometown. We really didn’t interact much again until after I had the baby. My parents even wanted me to move back home with them but I couldn’t do that either.

I knew I could be a good mom and I wasn’t going to fail. I also knew I needed to start making adult decisions and make the best of the choices I made.

A few days after finding out I was pregnant, I found out I was having a little girl. It was so scary and so exciting at the same time. My two dearest friends, Amanda and Callie, supported me through the whole pregnancy. We shopped for baby clothes together, they went to my doctors appointments and held my hand though the whole process. I moved out of the apartment I shared with three other girls a few months before my due date into a bigger apartment so that my daughter could have a nursery.

My daughter was born on August 29, 2008. Callie and my mom were in the room with me during delivery. It was a wonderful day.

A few months later, her father sued for custody. It was nasty and expensive. It was a terrible draining time —for those of you who have experienced something similar, I feel your pain. I have primary custody and he gets to see her two days a week until she starts school, then it will be every other weekend.

Working on being civil with him is by far the most challenging part of my parenting story. We live two very different lifestyles. I had to change when I found out I was pregnant and he did not. He loves her very much and she loves him and I want her to have a good relationship with her father. Balancing that aspect of my life has been very difficult, very stressful and has caused a lot of tears.

Fast forward to the present day: I still live in the same town, only now I own a home. I met the most wonderful man when my daughter was 11 months old and we have been together ever since. He moved into my house July of 2011 when Carrie was almost 3 years old. It has been so wonderful. He is an artist and a teacher at a college in our town (not my teacher though). He is so supportive and has really grounded me. Together we have both learned how to be good parents. He helps me cope with her father and gives great advice because he came from a split family home. He and his family consider Carrie a part of their family.

Where is home?
My home is now Columbia, Missouri. It has a lot to offer. I am only an hour and 
a half from my parents and two hours from my sister. There are so many activities for us 
to be involved in here.

What kind of mama do you consider yourself to be?
I am a do-er, because I had to be.

I learned to put in flooring, drywall, change
light fixtures, put up ceiling fans, etc. Most of the work that has been done on my house 
I did either with the help of my dad or by myself. My daughter sees that and I think it
 gives her grit. She wants to work and she wants to fix things herself. She is independent
 and I think that’s because I am.

I think I am a good mom and I know that I am doing a
 good job. I can tell by the way my daughter acts around me and around others.

What are your secrets to balancing your life as a mama?
Oh, I doubt there is a secret to it. I was 21 when I had Carrie and I’m a single mom.
 There would be nights that I would sit on the floor in Carrie’s nursery with my mom on 
the phone and I would just cry; Carrie would cry, I would cry, and my mom would start crying.

It was hard for my mom to see her baby upset and struggling and it was hard for me to
 see my baby upset. We got through it though it was a matter of taking one step at a time. 
I make mistakes and I learned from them. 
I had to learn to balance working full time, going to school, and being a good

If you take everything one day at a time, it can be done. I think what helps me 
now is being involved. We volunteer and do other community centric activities together.
 It keeps things in perspective. We do some volunteer work at the Food Bank. My
 daughter learned so much compassion that for her birthday, in place of presents she did a 
food drive for the food bank. She knows that we are lucky and she knows that we have a
 good stable family life. It is important for me to take a step back and realize that we are
 in a place where we can help others now and no longer the ones needing help.

Who has been your biggest inspiration?
My mom is my biggest inspiration. I love her so much. I know I put her 
through hell growing up and I am lucky she put up with me. Boy oh boy, did I need her
 throughout all of this. We are closer than ever and she is a wonderful grandmother!

My mom is the strongest person I know. She is so creative and so talented. My daughter 
looks at her the same way. She is just a special woman.

What has been the best advice you’ve received as a mama? What do you feel is the best
advice, if any, that you’ve given as a mama?

My mom gives me great advice all the time but the best advice she’s given me
 is to use zinc oxide! That will cure a diaper rash in 5 seconds flat!

Are you the kind of mama you thought you’d be?
I think so. I’m really trying to be like my mom. She was always so patient with 
my sister and me and I know that is one aspect that I can definitely work on. I have a 
wonderful little girl though.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
If I could have a superpower I would want super speed. It would be amazing to
get all of my housework done so I could have time to do other more exciting things.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?
I have no idea. With Joe’s job we don’t know what town we will be 
in or even what part of the country at any time. I just want to continue to provide a stable life for my 
daughter. If I’m doing that, I don’t care where we are in ten years. Healthy and happy is 
all I ask for.

Was your birth experience all that you hoped it would be? If you could go back and
 change anything, what would it be?
My birth was the most amazing experience of my life. I had my daughter at noon 
on her due date surrounded by friends and family. It was stress-free and fun. I was in 
hard labor for probably 30–45 minutes, but even so I really didn’t mind the pushing or 
the contractions. It really was fun.
 It is so nice to look back on that moment and smile. I had a beautiful 6 pound
 7 ounces baby girl. She was healthy and I was around so many people I loved.

How has your mothering evolved since those early newborn days? Is there anything, thus 
far, in your approach to mothering that you swore “I’d never do…” and you are?
I am learning to go with the flow and handle what comes at me. I am learning
 that I cannot control every situation. I never thought I would be flexible with bedtimes 
and schedules but sometimes it’s nice to break routine. We have movie night some
 weekends and at stay up late then we both sleep in the next morning. I never thought we 
would have fast food but some mornings we get bacon breakfast shooters from Steak n’Shake. No harm in moderation!

Do you have a mama mantra or something you find yourself repeating over and over
when times are tough?
I just repeat to myself “be like mom, be like mom, be like mom.” My mother has
 been there so much for me. My parents are wonderful people and I am lucky that I learned from the best.

Is there anything else you wish to share with the Mama Say What?! audience?
Things in my life did not go the way I had planned. But then again, they never do. Your 
life isn’t a published book with the events already down on paper. You are writing it chapter 
by chapter and you get to pick the ending.

I am so fortunate to have a daughter and I wouldn’t
 change any bit of what I’ve gone through to get where I am. Being a single mom is not a death 
sentence, it doesn’t mean something is wrong with you either. It made me who I am today and I 
think I am better for it. My daughter brings so much light into my life and she really makes every
day special. I am her mother first but I know we are going to be lifelong best friends.

One Response to Real Mama: Valerie S.

  1. I really enjoyed reading your story! Thank you for sharing. One of my best friends I met at La Leche is a single mom, and I can see how hard it is on her sometimes. I have so much respect for women who play both parental roles!

    I love that you have such a close relationship with your mom!!! It is something that I truly wish to have with my daughter (children) as she gets older!

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