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The story of a single mother in college

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Photo by Rachael Yadlowsky

By Samantha Baker

I became a single mother in the fall of 2016. It was fast, unexpected, unplanned, and very emotional. It happened late one night in that fall, and I had just worked a stressful 12-hour shift at my new job. My boyfriend at the time (and father of my daughter), was angry at me again for having come home late from work for the “millionth” time. We had a fight that night when I got home. We had many fights in the four years we were together, and each fight was more petty than the last. But unlike all my past fights, where I had raised my voice and defended myself unnecessarily. This time though, I was calm and collected, and I never once raised my voice or “fought” back. I guess you could say I had finally given up on this relationship ever working.

I left him that night with my soon-to-be 3-year-old, and a van full of our things. I stayed the night with my daughter on a thin mattress full of springs, at my sister’s house with her and her ex. I was very grateful that we at least have a place to stay until we could get our own place. Thinking I had gone backward in life instead of forward. I was mentally freaking out, but on the outside, I looked serene. I had no idea what I was going to do, but I needed to figure something out fast for the sake of my daughter and myself. I never had being a single mother as my plan in life, but I guess no one ever does. I considered dropping my classes I had not yet started, and picking up extras hours on top of the extra shifts I had just picked up. I was also stressing out about who was going to care for my daughter while I worked. I went to bed that night crying quietly next to my sleeping daughter and scared that I would not be able to figure this out.

I stayed with my sister for about a month and a half (practically living out of my van), worked as much as I could, and saved up enough money to move my daughter and I into an apartment. I continued to go to work, and tried to not wear my stress and worry on my face. I pretended to be happy and well with a smile, all the while mentally screaming for help. For the sake of my daughter, I had to appear in control and unphased by my struggles. I knew it would affect her negatively if I did not. So I took one day at a time, and continued to tell myself that “I can do this,” “I only have to get through today,” and “I’ve been through worse, and this was nothing compared to that”. I realized if I didn’t look too far ahead, that my end goal did not seem overwhelming and impossible. It seemed more manageable if I did not think of it at all.

The day I moved my daughter and me into our new apartment, it rained but of course, it only rained when I was actually moving stuff inside. I moved most of our belongings (three vans worth, packed full) up two flights of stairs. Getting the much-needed exercise I did not know I needed and testing my strength limits with my determination to get all it done that day.

My sister and my best friend, Jennifer, helped me so much in the following months. There were many days that I just wanted to give up -like the day my van blew a head gasket, a month after I moved into my apartment. No bus line went out to where my work was located. I had just gotten a new job, new apartment, and decided to join a gym as well.

The day I found out I was going to be without a car, I was scheduled to workout with my new trainer. I was crying before I left for the gym, walking there with tears in my eyes, but still determined not to let this hold me back. I figured I could use my frustration as motivation at the gym. When I left the gym, I was smiling and in a better mood. I was still stressed, but I had a little more hope. I felt less like the world was weighing down on my shoulders, and more like there was still hope for this messed up situation.

I tried applying for a loan through Lake Michigan Credit Union, but because I did not have that great of credit I was denied. I am not sure why, but I felt I needed to explain to the lady from the bank that I was not a bad person.

I told her about how I had just recently become a single mother, that fall classes had just started, how I had finally got an apartment for my daughter and me, and how my van had blown a head gasket.

In my head, I was wondering why in the world was I telling some lady I didn’t know all of my business.

She apologized a few times for not being able to help me with the personal loan, but she offered to see if she could help get me qualified for a credit card through the bank. I was a bit hesitant about having a credit card. I had never had one, and I did not want to get sucked into a credit card scheme.

I had highly doubted that I was going to qualify for a credit card, but I let her try anyway. A few hours later, the lady called me back. The first thing she said was, the lady she spoke to about getting a credit card said that I did not qualify for the card, because of past credit history. This came as no surprise to me, but I had hoped a little that I had been approved. Then she went on to explain how she had convinced the lady to approve me for a $500 limited credit card.

I was beyond shocked at this news and sat in silence for a moment, which for anyone who knows me knows that is a bit impossible.

That same day my friend Jennifer told me that she would let me borrow her car for a few months until I could save up for my own vehicle.

A few days passed after receiving all of this good news when I received a letter in the mail from an unknown sender. The letter ended up being from the lady from the bank.

She wrote,

“Samantha,

First off you are Super Mom! Working, going to school, and being a full-time mom is something not everyone can do but you are doing a Great Job!(LMCU and myself would like you to enjoy this $50 Gift Card! Thank you for choosing LMCU as your credit union and have a great Thanksgiving!

-Chelsey”

I reread the letter a few times, almost feeling guilty for the gift, and even contemplated returning the gift cards she had mailed me. I came to the conclusion that it would be considered rude to return the gift and decided to split the rewards with my sister (who was also a newly single mother herself).

I wrote and rewrote a letter I never sent to her, as well as bought her a gift in return for all she had done for me. But life got busy and complicated, and time got away from me. Perhaps this story will be the push I need to return the kindness that Chelsey had once shown my daughter and me. She showed me that there really were still good people in the world. She also gave me hope as a single mother.

There were (and are) so many times in the past year and a half, that I have seriously considered giving up on school, and finding a way to pick up even more hours. But I have always been a bit stubborn, and very ambitious in life and continued to push forward. I also feel like I have missed so much time I could have spent with my daughter. I have put so much time and energy into getting my degree, and I did not want to just give up because life was getting complicated.

I have never been the type to ask for help in my life, and I have asked for so much as a single mother that it almost makes me sick. I almost feel like I have exhausted all of my resources for help.

My daughter has always been the reason for finally making the initiative to go back to college. For one, with the things kids are learning in schools these days, I wanted to be able to help her with her homework if she ever needed it. I also did not want to try to encourage her to continue her education and go to college, if I had not gone myself.

This fall has been the hardest point, so far as a single mother in college.

One thing has led to another, putting me so far in debt that I am at the point of drowning. There have been so many times in the past month that I have considered dropping my classes. I have only had half my heart on my education, and only out of sheer determination (and stubbornness) I have chosen to push through to the end. I have brought up my need to drop my classes to others, and have had many people encouraging me to get through to the end.

So, in my determination to stay afloat, I picked up a ton of hours at work. Giving myself no days of rest for two and a half weeks. I picked up work on every day I did not have class, and still attempted to keep a smile on my face.

I am still pushing through my classes (not pleased with not having the heart to put my full 100 into them), and am just trying to make it until classes end for the fall. I have laid out a plan for my winter, and my many plans for our future.

I have planned to finish out college and go on to get my masters. I want to be a famous author, and publish some novels to inspire others. I plan to write a book about my life, and the struggles I have faced.

I want to show the world that anything is possible, no matter where life takes you. You just have to set your mind on it, believe it, and charge head on to the next phases of life.