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Motherhood: Leading by example

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By Corea Parks – Collegiate Staff

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Courtesy Corea Parks

While setting many goals throughout my life, some being accomplished and others not, my most rewarding moment came unplanned. While facing nine months of uncomfortable expanding, 17 hours of intense labor and what seemed like a record time of 20 minutes of pushing, I came face to face with happiness in its purest form.

After my last push I heard the doctor say, “You have to get this on camera, this almost never happens!”
Jayden came out face first with his eyes wide open and lips puckered in the form of a kiss, almost instantly I had 7 pounds, 5 ounces of unconditional love lying across my chest.

The bond was so intense, it was as if our hearts were beating to the same rhythm. He was so alert. He gazed at me like he had been impatiently waiting to look into my eyes and find meaning.

I kissed his forehead first, his hands and then his toes. My first words were, “Oh my God,” then after the tears exploded, I whispered to my sweet baby boy, “I love you.”

It is hard to find words to express how I felt at that moment, on May 12, 2009, but what I can say is that my heart was completely surrendered to my son. All of a sudden life became so much more than living for me, from that moment forward I would be living for my son.

It is interesting how motherly instinct comes so naturally, it did for me at least. I could smell my sons dirty diapers three rooms away and could change a diaper in a split second.

I knew what to pack, when to pack it and I was always prepared to feed. I could carry a car seat, a large diaper bag and several accessories all at one time. I mastered holding a pacifier in Jayden’s mouth while driving without taking my eyes off the road. Yes, it sounds dangerous but it’s a great skill to have. I was all in, full mother mode, so after six weeks of maternity leave and a shortage in money, it was time for mommy to provide.

If there was one thing my mother taught me, it was to work hard to provide for your family no matter the situation. With my father incarcerated and my mother left to scramble on her own with two kids, I grew up with a clear understanding that most things don’t come easy, you must work hard for the things you need and harder for the things you want.

Growing up, my mother often had two jobs, which in many ways separated her physically and emotionally from my brother and me. The constant work involving long hours and never ending babysitters was required by my mother in order to pay the bills. While most households consist of two incomes, ours was being held together by one overworked, underpaid person.

So with her strength imbedded within me, I began doing what I had to do to make sure my son and I lived comfortably. Fortunate for me, my newfound motherhood gave me something I didn’t have much of in the past, a strong relationship with my mother. So she was there for me as much as she could be.

However, it was my responsibility to take care of my son and me. I started working full-time. Full-time work with an infant is a lot to take on alone, and after thinking it over and having encouragement from my mother, I decided I should try and make things work with my son’s father so that my son didn’t have to experience a broken home the way I did growing up.

This analogy came with good and bad consequences. A little over a year after Jayden was born I became pregnant with his brother. Though this was my second time experiencing bringing a child into this world, it wasn’t any less empowering.

I shed just as many tears and experienced just as much happiness with the birth of my second child as I did with my first. What made this time a little more special was having Jayden there with me and seeing his interaction with his new born brother. August 24, 2010 birthed what was an amazing product of “making things work.” However, very soon after Braylin’s birth, I would take single parenting on full-force.

After being in a relationship and still being the only provider as well as dealing with cheating and physical abuse I decided to move on. I learned quickly that staying in a relationship that I didn’t belong in would only hurt my children and I in the long run. I am grateful that I got out before my boys were old enough to grasp the damage being done. From here on out I became my mother, overworked, underpaid and barely making it.

I was making between $10-$12 an hour, but paid $700 in rent plus utilities and $1,200 a month on daycare which left me a hundred dollars for gas and groceries. I applied and was denied assisstance because I made just over the required amount to qualify. It got to the point where I felt defeated and all I could think about was what I needed to do for my kids.

While writing in my journal one day I thought to myself, “What do I have to do to make sure that my children have the best future possible.”

At that moment I realized I am their foundation, everything I do as a parent will influence them as adults. Just as my mother’s natural instinct to shift into survival mode influenced me as a mother. I began brainstorming the things I wanted for my children growing up.

I want my boys to have great resources, I want to be able to provide them with all the things necessary to be the best men they can. Most of all I don’t want them to ever think twice about pursuing their dreams. At that moment I decided there is no better way to influence them than by example.

I had embraced my passion for writing in the years leading up to that moment. Writing served as a release from the pain that I experienced. From poetry to journal entries, I loved mimicking the metaphoric flow of my favorite authors. I began to wonder how I could pursue a career that embraces my full interest, what could I do that would make me happy and not feel like I am a slave to my work. I knew I wanted to write, but what?

I then took myself back through the past few years and with parenting comes a lack of any form of a social life. Most of my friends were still single with no kids, still in the party scene. While I was at work for 8 hours, 6 days out of the week and home taking care of my family for the remaining 16 hours.

I began picking up magazines and reading them front to back. Something about the stories and the pictures brought me to this magical world where I was informed and in tune with what was going on or what the next hot trend was. I did the exercises that they suggested, I tried the creams that famous people swore by, mimicked the fashion styles I saw. This made me feel good about myself – especially articles about women I could relate to, even in the smallest ways.

Reading about relationship problems made me feel less alone. I decided that it was my dream to write for a magazine, with my own column, kind of like Carrie from “Sex in the City,” but a lot less promiscuous.

I decided that was what I would do, I’d become a columnist. Next thing I knew I was at Grand Rapids Community College speaking with an academic adviser and planning out my academic calendar. I would enroll in the MACRO program set up to transfer to the Grand Valley State University journalism program after two years at GRCC.

Being a single parent, I received a grant that takes care of tuition and gives me a little extra money to help take care of living expenses. On top of being a fulltime student I work part time to make ends meet. It is a big struggle at times but knowing that I am working toward something great makes it all worth it. I am now days away from graduating from GRCC and will be attending Grand Valley this fall to pursue my bachelor’s degree in journalism thanks to the inspiration of my now 4 and 5-year-old boys.