I feel like I made it in motherhood. Do you know the feeling? I’ve crossed a line today on our son’s 19th birthday. This year, our son is at the University of North Dakota, beginning a new chapter of his education. I’m less sentimental than I thought I would be. He’s ready. I didn’t buy him the necessary school supplies; he’s on his own this year for the first time.
As Hunter turned 19 years old today, we gathered in his college town to celebrate as a family, in between his two-a-day football practices. I was 18 when I became his mom. We broke all the “rules” the media and mainstream mom blogs set for parenting. I left Hunter with my parents when he was three weeks old and went to college—and I didn’t go down the street and around the corner.
I was his mother, more than 1,000 miles from home, on a track and field scholarship. We saw each other once a month, except one long month I will never forget, October 1997. I recorded my voice on cassette tapes as I read books so he’d be familiar with me. There was no such thing as Skype or Facetime. I called home to my newborn using a calling card on a landline phone in my dorm room. By the following summer, at age 19, I was full-time with Hunter as his mom.
With all sorts of statistics stacked against him, my formula-fed baby, raised by a single mom with help from her parents, has thrived. I decided not to return to Georgia and enrolled at the University of North Dakota on Hunter’s second birthday, 17 years ago today. I remember bringing him with me the day I got my student identification card.
Hunter lived with me when I attended the University of North Dakota, but it was a sorority-like environment with my roommates. We rented a house my parents owned; actually it was the house I grew up in. My roommates helped out by watching Hunter when I had to take a night class, had an evening waitress shift or worked in the deli/ bakery at the neighborhood grocery store.
For a period of time, I received childcare assistance and food stamps as a college student. The hand up, not a handout, allowed me to work less while earning my college degree.
I look back at those years and realize how much I forged ahead—putting one foot in front of the other without even knowing it. Without the support of my parents, family and network of friends I couldn’t have moved forward so swiftly during that stage in my life.
We didn’t have an apartment of our own until Hunter was six years old and starting kindergarten. The next year, I bought my first home and had a long-time friend move into a basement bedroom to again help us save on expenses.
Why am I sharing all of this today?
Never before I have felt like I made it in motherhood. Hunter is enrolled in college. He starts his fall semester next week. Put aside his high school accolades and accomplishments he worked so hard to achieve, my baby boy turns 19 today and is moving on to higher education.
People might see us today as a solid family unit and never see the long journey we’ve traveled. You have your own journey. While it’s treacherous and bleak at times and you can’t see what’s ahead, you do your best to be ready for what’s to come.
These days, I feel less pressure and fewer expectations to be a certain type of mother.
Kids need love.
Kids need consistency.
Kids need structure.
Kids need accountability.
Kids need more love.
Kids need forgiveness.
Kids need listening.
Kids need more love.
I can give all of these things to my kids. I’ve made it as a mother. It took me 19 years to know it, live it and own it.
Thank you to my kids, husband, parents and family support for being the ones who love me, unconditionally. And happiest of birthdays to my first-born, Hunter. We are so proud of you.