What if the House Burns Down? – Worries of a Single Mom of 5 Boys

house burning downWhat if the house burns down? How would I get my boys out in time? How would I save us all?

I’d been hoping my school would want me full time, but despite the kind and patient explanation I was given, there was no way around it. My job was on the line. With NY’s taxes, economically devastating policies, and high cost of living, our area’s population had been steadily declining.

As last hired, I’d be first “fired.”

Not good news for a single mom of five boys.

I’d worked SO hard to obtain my teaching certification after my husband left. I’d taught myself math and tested out of classes to save time and money. I’d had a baby alone, raised five young boys by myself 26 days a month (with help from mom and some great family and friends!). I’d gone to school, worked part-time, and somehow pieced together a certification program they said couldn’t be done.

I’d worked three jobs and had five kids by myself.

I cried.

A lot.

But I’d waited and persevered.

I’d paid dues I wouldn’t have had to pay if my husband and I together had not decided I should stay home to raise our boys.

Yet, here I was, through no fault of my own, facing unemployment again.

In a few short months, I’d have two kids in college and three still at home.

And possibly no job.

What if the house burns down? How would I get my boys out in time? How would I save us all?

The question ran like a mantra in my head after my husband left. I was five months pregnant with our fifth little boy. My oldest was 11.

If there was a fire in the middle of the night…how could I possibly get everyone out?

The first winter, that fear intensified as child support was random and pending supreme court orders made collection impossible to enforce. We kept our heat in the mid 50’s during the day and turned it down at night. I had a small infant and his four young brothers in the huge, freezing house we were still building. We used a fireplace and space heaters and all (except one young son who insisted on sleeping alone in the living room) slept in my bedroom to keep warm.

What if the house burned down? How would I get my boys out in time? How would I save us all?

I was heartbroken, emotional, and hormonal. I was dealing with a new baby, sudden abandonment, unwanted and unwarranted divorce, unemployment, an unjust court system, a sketchy attorney costing tens of thousands of dollars, and losing our home with no place to go.

Worry – over things that are very real – pervaded every thought.

How could I get everything done that needed to be done? How could I clean and build our house to make it sellable so we could move somewhere else? Where would we go if I could sell our home?

It turned out I couldn’t sell the home; questions changed but worry persisted.

Who would rent to a single, unemployed mom of five young boys, a foreclosure, and failing credit? Who would care that I’d studied budgeting and finances and had saved and gotten us out of debt so my husband could build the house he’d dreamed of and then left me to finish? Who would care that we had borrowed major money from my mom and that she’d never see that loan repaid? Who would care that my A credit rating had turned into an F caused by a lack of child support and my trusting the wrong person?

What if we became homeless?

What if someone tried to hurt us?

How could I protect and defend my children?

How would I have this baby alone?

What if I had postpartum depression and did something crazy? How could I handle sleepless nights with round the clock nursing and also get four little boys out on rushed school mornings? How could I update my expired teaching license with a newborn and also work to support my family?

What if a man hit on me? What if no man ever hit on me? What if no one ever loved me again? What if I was truly unlovable? What if the annulment went through? What if it didn’t? What if I lived the rest of my life alone? What if I died alone? What if I lived to be 100, but 60 of my years were lonely?

What if I got sick and had no health insurance? What if I got hurt and couldn’t get care? What if my care devastated my family and ruined my boys’ futures? What if they couldn’t go to college because of me?

What if the boys fell prey to horrible statistics like many children of divorce do? What if their grades suffered? What if they had a hard time connecting with people, making friends, or keeping a job? What if they turned to drugs or drank to excess? What if they were sexually promiscuous? What if they turned to porn or became victims of abuse? What if they got someone pregnant and what if she chose abortion? What if they caught a disease? What if they followed in their father’s footsteps?

What if they lost their faith?

What if I died and left my kids alone?

What if I lived but they never again saw me smile with my heart?

What if the house burns down? How would I get my boys out in time? How would I save us all?

In the months after my husband left countless questions raced continuously through my mind as the boys and I faced hardships…

Two days before my husband announced he was leaving, oNE of our sons climbed a fence. I saw it happen but couldn’t move fast enough. He fell and needed emergency treatment.

The PICC line I’d had in due to pregnancy complications had recently been removed because it was causing other issues. I was still not feeling well and was worried about the baby’s health. I was scared and alone with a husband who spent the night in the city rather than come home to his injured son, pregnant wife, and young children.

I thought he was working.

Worry that he wasn’t didn’t occur to me.

I’d trusted him.

What if I never trusted again?

Just weeks after my husband left, another son was closing a curtain on a stage at his school when a 40 pound bar broke and plummeted from the high ceiling onto his little head. They wheeled him to the nurse’s office and changed him into borrowed clothes before I arrived so I wouldn’t see the blood he’d lost.

The bar had hit in just the right place to leave a nice scar but no lasting damage.

The school had handled everything beautifully and taken good care of us.

What if we weren’t so lucky next time?

About a year into single mothering, bruises showed up on the same little guy who had fallen off the fence. Black and blue marks appeared randomly and covered his face, legs, back, arms, and even his earlobes. The bruises would fade before I could get him to the doctor’s but always reappear shortly after.

I was afraid of what the bruises meant.

I was also afraid of what people would think of my mothering.

He was finally diagnosed with HSP, a reaction to a long past strep infection, and admitted to the hospital. It was a relief despite new worries about what HSP might mean.

The disease would last two years, a long time for HSP, and I’d worry about how much worse it was because of the stress my boys were under that I wasn’t protecting them from.

What if the house burned down? How would I get my boys out in time? How would I save us all?

The night the baby came, I was starting my first online class for 7-12 math certification in the desperate hope of getting a job, keeping our family home, and supporting my children. Contractions started in the darkest part of the night.

The hospital was 40 minutes away.

I couldn’t leave my little boys alone in the middle of the night.

A flash of lightening brightened the yard.

I couldn’t call a neighbor in the middle of the night in a storm like this.

I doubled over in pain and cried out quietly alone. I choked back tears of fear, confusion, sadness, overwhelm, frustration, and heartbroken agony.

I couldn’t let anyone know.

I had to be strong.

I had to protect my children.

But, I had to ask for help too.

I didn’t want to ask for help.

I was humiliated and beaten.

Defeated.

And I was bringing life into a world I didn’t understand.

A trusted neighbor arrived in record time and watched me get my things together. I tried acting casual, not showing how quickly the contractions were coming or how badly I hurt.

I tried not showing that the physical pain of childbirth was the least of my pain.

Finally my neighbor realized I was planning to leave her with my kids and drive myself to the hospital.

The stretch of road I’d need to travel would be dark and deserted on night like this. Farms lined the road and there were long stretches with no houses.

I envisioned myself giving birth in a summer thunderstorm on the side of this road and driving my baby to the hospital.

I tried to figure out where I’d put the baby during the drive.

I’d have to either drive holding that newborn on my lap or put him on the filthy floor of my minivan. The idea terrified me, but I saw no alternative.

Even with my neighbor sitting  with me, I felt alone.

There was a sense of unreality to my existence.

Things like this didn’t happen to people like us.

I worried about what else would happen.

The responsibility of caring for this little life alone was beyond overwhelming. I pictured myself as Britany Spears who had just made headlines for driving with her baby on her lap. It was something others judged but I could not.

I wondered what the heck I could possibly be thinking and also wondered what the heck I could possibly do differently that wouldn’t put anyone out.

I’d been told often enough how worthless I was.

With and without words.

I couldn’t ask someone to rescue me on a night like this.

I wasn’t worth rescuing.

Besides, it was me against the world.

Only I could protect my baby.

I despised the terrifying thought of having a roadside baby in a dark thunderstorm and then driving to the hospital alone, but I knew no other way. Rational thinking had been trampled by a broken  self-esteem which had be trampled by invasive thoughts, people I’d trusted, and life. I’d been left with all the responsibility and no good choices.

Thank God, my neighbor saw things differently. She stepped in and took charge. What came next was a story of humiliation, devastation, comedy, intense gratitude, and Grace I’ll share someday.

Why Worry When You’re a Single Mom of Five Boys???

There are so many things that can go wrong; many of them did. I had trouble in court. I had trouble with annulments. I locked my keys in the car, had a car break down, and totaled the car we’d borrowed from my Grandfather. I sought worth in places I shouldn’t have and made mistakes trusting and mistrusting, in lashing out and in holding back, in loving and in hating.

One night, I was home alone with the five boys when a terrible storm ripped through our neighborhood. Damage was worse to other homes, but the terrifying sound of a tree crashing into our house and tearing through the window in the bedroom we all stayed in intensified my worst fear.

What if the house burns down? How would I get my boys out in time? How would I save us all?

I could go on endlessly about other things that happened in those terrible early years. I had more to deal with alone than many couples ever deal with together, and yet, there was so much good in those years too!

I had people come out of the woodwork to help.

Angels disguised as strangers cared for us.

Acquaintances became friends.

Family grew stronger.

Faith became central.

The best thing that comes from losing everything you believe in, is that you learn to believe only in God.

You learn to find Joy in ALL circumstances as James 1 tells us.

You learn what it means to LOVE your enemies and why God demands that we LOVE rather than LIKE.

You learn that babies who turn your world upside down are planned by God and are sent to save not destroy.

You learn that God’s plans are always better than your own.

You learn free will is a gift that can be used as a curse.

You learn you cannot control how others use their free will but that you can control how you use yours.

You learn that you can find beauty in God’s simple and complex creation.

You learn the value of the human being.

You learn both humility and the priceless value of yourself.

You surrender yourself to God and the Church and lean not on your own understanding.

You seek opportunity to draw closer to Mary and the Trinity without understanding changes that will bring.

You find Grace as Grace breaks your addiction to sin you had downplayed for as long as you can remember.

What if the house burned down? How would I get my boys out in time? How would I save us all?

The truth is, my house was already burning down. I just hadn’t realized it.

Hell is real. I’ve glimpsed its suffering. Our houses are burning down all around us and few understand what we need to do. We remain addicted to sin, hiding its ugliness even from ourselves. We believe we have the power to get our children out in time. We believe saving them is up to us.

I have gone through some incredibly hard times, times where I wasn’t  suicidal – thank God – but times where I understood why someone would do such a thing, times where escape seemed the only option, times where I didn’t care whether I lived or died.

I didn’t live recklessly in those times. I lived like I didn’t care. I lived like my life didn’t matter. I lived like there was no beauty to be found.

I lived lukewarm.

Today, I find I also don’t care much whether I live or die. Yet, it’s totally different. I LOVE life and all it has to offer. I find Beauty in every moment and know each day is a precious gift. I trust God will protect and guide my children. As much as I’d like them to internalize today what took me 40+ years to learn so they are spared years of grief and heartache tomorrow, it is their journey and they must use that gift of free will either as a Blessing – or as a curse.

I know which I hope for them, but I know the choice is theirs. They won’t understand this, but I don’t trust them with that choice. I do trust God and trust in them because of that.

What if the house burned down? How would I get my boys out in time? How would I save us all?

My house is burning down. My job may very well end shortly. I may very well lose all my temporal goods again. I will be chained to this area because of divorce and laws of the state which overpower laws of the Church and laws of the Church which are changing to fit society.

BUT…

BUT…

BUT, God is with me in it all, and I trust in Him, that whatever hardships we face, we do not face alone.

I sat quietly listening to the news of what might happen to my job. A knot formed in my stomach.

Do I look forward to unemployment and the uncertainty that brings? Have I forgotten the words my ex said about no one wanting me? Do I look forward to the pitying looks of well meaning friends and neighbors? Do I think what has happened here is fair?

Nope!

Not even a little.

I am doing all I can now to protect myself and my children. I am doing all I can to keep the fire at bay. I am cutting back on expenses and selling things we don’t really need anyway. I cancelled a trip I’d wanted desperately to take to visit friends in the DC area and am looking for opportunities. I am working hard to build my women’s life coaching community Embracing Joy in the hopes of building an income for my boys and myself and helping women in positions similar to mine.

BUT

I know even this threat of job loss has already opened new doors. I see new sufferings others go through. I am Blessed with empathy I couldn’t have had without this opportunity.

And I am thankful for the gift of having had this position in a school I love with students, families, teachers, and staff I LOVE. I am thankful for having had the gift of this job for the last year and a half. I am reminded every time I think of losing it what a gift each day is!

I want this job more than (ALMOST) anything, but I trust God to see me through whatever hardships this takes us through. I don’t quite have the Saints’ ability to look forward to suffering, but I know when hardships strike, opportunities to reach new people and draw closer to the Lord Himself arrive.

I have no reason to worry.

I am His. He has seen me at my worst. He has broken me of my sin, fear, and doubt. He has come to me in the storms. HE will see me through.

Our houses are burning down, but only God can get our children out in time. Only He can save us all.

Our only responsibility is to believe and act in faith.

There is no need to worry!

God Bless…

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I’m participating in the CWBN hop with Allison Gingras. Check out the other great posts on this month’s theme: Worry!

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