How do I get through working, studying and raising 2 teenagers alone?

MJ - posted on 08/20/2012 ( 15 moms have responded )

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I'm new to this site and here because I figured there has to be (at least I hope) someone who has been through what I'm going through and can offer some advice, encouragement, insight, anything really. :)



I am in school almost fulltime (3/4), I work about 35 hours a week and have 2 daughters, 14 and 12 that I'm raising on my own. Their dad sees them a couple times a year, but lives out of state and does little to help. I managed to take him to court and have his wages garnished a couple years back so that has been helpful, but sometimes I feel like I am going to just drop dead one day because it's just too much.



I guess I'm looking for hope. Hope that there have been others that have gone through this and that I too can make it. I have to be in school because I know that's the only way to provide a better life for my daughters and myself. I do take out school loans to help subsidize my income, and I try to ignore the fact that I will graduate with a lot of student loan debt. I'm 32, didn't have a great example of a mom to teach me how to be a good mother, but I do know that I give my heart and soul to my girls and they are number one to me.



Has anyone else been through this?

Feeling lost, lonely, sad and overwhelmed tonight.



MJ

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Angela - posted on 09/16/2012

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@ Bobbie Hodges - I agree with your idea of MJ taking a weekend off to spend time with her daughters. That's a good idea - and maybe she could try and do that about once a month?



The rest of your post is extremely judgemental - this isn't a married mother with her husband's support - this is a single parent! Single parents have a tough time generally - it's very easy to slip into a life living on welfare benefits. One of the very best ways to be a role model to your children is to show them it's "normal" to work for a living and also to achieve a few educational attainments that prove you're striving for better career success and personal growth.



My own parents were married and stable, and my mother was a stay-at-home mother until I was 14 or 15. She got a part-time job and then, when I was 16, she went to College for a one-year full time course which was followed by employment from the age of 41 until retirement. Her youngest child was 9 when she went to work full-time. Her choice to move from stay-at-home mother to professionally employed woman is one that I admired her for - far more than just about anything else she did!



I was a single parent and struggled with finding employment - I stayed at home with my kids because I HAD to, not because I had some cosy mother image of myself, I got myself into further education and eventually got my degree. Also found permanent, full-time work. My son said he really loved and respected me for being a worker!



Being better qualified and better-paid isn't about being able to afford "things" - I'm still pretty frugal with my money. It's about self esteem, and the perception other people have of you - not least your own children!



You sold a car and used the bus for a few years? In the UK, it's by no means the "norm" to even possess a car! I've only had one since I married my second husband at the age of 50! Even now there are certain journeys I always take by bus or train. I accept that raising the money for a downpayment on a house is good - but in the UK there are restrictions on single parents (and other persons who rely on welfare benefits for their main income) having their mortgage paid from their benefits. They will pay a rent of (for example) £90 per week happily out of taxpayers' money but refuse to pay a mortgage of £50 a week!



I got my bachelor's degree over 6 years, part-time. I graduated without student debts because in the UK system, it's free to go to University if you go part-time and are on benefits. You still have to pay for text books though. I can still remember a neighbour criticising me to my son because I'd refused to buy him some expensive shoes (the less expensive ones I did buy him were quite adequate and were pretty much the same as most kids his age were wearing). She made a point of telling me off in front of my son about the purchase of text books which were around the same price as his preferred shoes. She was not in further or higher education herself and had got the more expensive shoes for her own son who was the same age as my own child!



Furthermore it's MANDATORY in the UK for fulltime undergraduate students to take on student loans - this is to create a level playing field. Students in the UK used to get "grants" - non-refundable bursaries which were based (to my mind unfairly) on the financial position of parents! Students from wealthier homes got a far lower grant on the premise that Mommy & Daddy would top-up their monies! Many parents didn't do this and as a result, students from more impoverished circumstances were better off at University than their counterparts from more "comfortable" backgrounds. It was decided that neither parents nor the State should fund an undergraduate's time in University and student loans were introduced a few years ago for all. These are repayable over a long period with very low rates of interest. Graduates may choose to pay off their loans faster, if they wish. The student debt is taken directly from their salaries along with tax etc ... so it's like money they never had!



Don't discourage vision and progress - especially when the person doing all this is a single parent.



I do like your idea of a free weekend for MJ to spend with her daughters though!

Amber - posted on 08/27/2012

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MJ yes you can do it. I am glad what I said helped you because I mean it. Your daughters will be fine, yes time away sucks and you will feel like you are missing too much. Do not get down and be proud. Hold your head high and do what is right for you. My daughter is 15 now and she sees the difference between before and after. She is in her freshman year of HS and because I have more options I can pay her to babysit her brother and I am able to buy her a car. Education is first and foremost in our house. You can do this and do not let anyone tell you different. It took me 13 years to get my bachelors and I will graduate next summer with my masters so it can be done. And like I said before NO ONE can take this from you. Keep pushing forward I promise the end is worth it. :)

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Bridgette - posted on 09/21/2012

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I was raising two boys alone, school fulltime, internship and two jobs with no child support. It did not kill me and to be honest my boys and I got closer through it all. I'm now with an 18 year old in college, a 17 year old senior and a 6 month old daughter while working two jobs IT IS a lot. You will get through it and be even more amazing when it cals down. You are teaching your girls so much by example. Try to make sure there are moments where you just breath:) Also, I know time is tight, but exercise was and is key (even 20 min yoga at home)

Don't forget: YOU ARE AMAZING!!! Even when you dont' feel it:):)

BB

Kim - posted on 09/04/2012

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You can do this MJ. Like Amber Mills, it took me several years to get my Bachelor's degree. I am currently making my payments on my student loans but because I have a good paying job I am able to pay the loans AND provide for my kids and live comfortably. Sure, your kids do come first but you have to take care of yourself as well. You are a strong person for doing what you're doing. Not everyone can do it. It will pay off in the long run. And don't forget to pray a lot. That's how I got through it. God bless.

Bobbie - posted on 08/29/2012

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my apologizes MJ. I was looking at this through the eyes of your children. I by no means feel school isn't extremely important but going to school more hours than you work and requiring school loans that make you try to ignore that you will graduate with a lot of debt both show an imbalance to me. Amber stated it took her 13 years to get her degree and as mother that slow pace shows a balance. That is what I was looking to convey. I am sorry if I came across as to harsh.

MJ - posted on 08/26/2012

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Amber Mills, THANK YOU!

Your response/comment resonates with me. I have worried about how long school is taking me, but I know I can't quit. I feel like you know how I feel, and seeing that you have made it through gives me hope. I'm tougher on myself than anyone else could ever be, so women trying to give me "tough love" advice is counter productive to me.

The only reason I came on this site at all was to find hope and others that have done it before me and made it through. I know if other mothers made it through, I can do it also.

Christy - posted on 08/26/2012

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Heres my quick idea list:



#1 God/ Prayer/ Quiet Time (find a quiet time you can do every morning or night)

#2 Plan away time (the 14 year old is old enough to be responsible for a little while while you do something without the girls)

#3 Take a walk to the mailbox (it worked for me) When i was a single mom and i felt like i was on overload an NEVER got a break....yep..i walked to the mailbox and the children knew that was moms alone time.

#4 Go to a gym or start walking if you don't have access to a gym. The body thinks and feels healthier when you exercise. Talk about stress relief!!!



I hope these few ideas help...I'm no pro but these things worked me for. Good Luck!

christy

Amber - posted on 08/26/2012

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First and foremost, be proud about being in school. You have made a huge leap and shown your children that education is important. Also you are showing them that hard work and dedication, while not simple, does pay off. Your children will know early that nothing comes from being lazy. As to hope it is there in you eveytime you look to the future and see yourself walking across a stage to receive your degree. I am in my Masters program, I am 35 and it took me 14 years to get my bachelors degree. I am also a single mother with 2 children, 15 and 5. My daughter saw me walk across the stage and receive my bachelors degree and every since that day she knows without a doubt she wants to go to college. That in itself makes me very proud of her and I know that my example had a part in it. Your children will see this too. Also now that my son is in school we do homework together, the 3 of us, and he is funny because he "feels smart just like mommy and sissy." (His words). Again be proud and keep your goal in your heart. You can do it, I promise. Plus once you finish you can look back and say I did this no one else and no one can take it away.

Bobbie - posted on 08/25/2012

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Okay, here is the fix :)) A little tough love is in order here.

You have lost your way with your girls. They must always come first. You say you didn't have a strong mother role model. Then what did you do to remedy that? If you did nothing and expected good results your children will have just as many issues with you as you did with your mother! Already at such a young age they don't talk to you and walk away? That is a clear sign of learning not to need you because you won't be there. I tried to tell my sister this! We were raised in chaos and abuse. Our mother was always off doing something. She worked and also went to school. She got an education and a better job but at our expense. We never saw her. She was shut down thinking of how tired she was or how she had to get us out of her hair to study. Now, she found time to drink and party as well. She also bought great clothes, drove a good car and had a fabulous shoe collection. She was raising three kids and still she put herself first. My sister did the same thing. Her daughter came home pregnant at 13. My sister was shocked and worried. She too had her first child at 13. I tried to tell her. It doesn't matter to your child what you are doing when you aren't home. They only care that you aren't there for them. They feel less and less important because kids take everything personally. If you are overworked they feel bad, if you tell them you can't afford something for them they really need and you say the money isn't there but you smoke or drink or buy yourself nice clothes, then they take it personally.

*PRIORITIZE!

You stated you are subsidizing your income with school loans! That just means you are living beyond your means currently. Going to school can not take place over your daughters when there is no one to be there for them when you are gone. Sure, education will get you a better paying job but life isn't all about things. Easy for me to say? Well, as a mother who didn't raise her children on her own I can tell you that I still sacrificed greatly putting their needs above my own. I sold a car and took a bus for two years so that I could put a down payment on a house and not pay some one elses mortgage by renting from them. I packed lunch every day never eating out so that they could have cute clothes and school supplies and school extras. I had the same coat for 4 years, same jeans and tops for just as long and went to hair cuttery for cheap hair cuts. All mothers sacrifice. But you have to ensure that what you sacrifice ISN'T THEIR CHILDHOOD OR HAVING A MOTHER.

Stop going to school so much. 3/4 of the time is ridiculous for a mother without emotional and physical support at home for her children in her absence. Stop taking out school loans! You aren't getting an education for your children, you are playing the shell game with your finances. Even when you graduate and make more money you are still right where you are now because the student loans will soak up the extra income!

If I were you I would take two days in a row immediately to take your girls by surprise. When they don't have school, like a Friday night announce that the weekend is all theirs. Then bond with them. Curl up the couch with rented movies that they picked out. DON'T BE TEXTING OR CALLING ANYONE! Those girls need to feel connected to you. Be prepared for them not to trust it or get all cuddly with you right away. Don't give up. They have been the ones going with out you, the least you can do is stand up and take the blame for not being there and apologize to them, THEN CHANGE YOUR SCHEDULE to always put them first. It has been my experience that women who say "my kids are my heart and soul" are different than the women that say "my kids are my world" When they are your heart and soul you feel deeply but don't live it. When they are your world you feel just as deeply but demonstrate it through action.

MJ - posted on 08/24/2012

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I wish so badly I could get to that place with my girls. They will barely talk me though. Everything I say is embarrassing or nothing close to what they want to hear. They just somehow find a way to walk away. I feel I am failing miserably, but don't know how to get that line of communication open. I don't what I did to get to where we are now. I feel so so lost.

Patricia - posted on 08/24/2012

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Dear MJ:



Your girls need YOU NOW! Take them out for yogurt, take a walk, share how YOU felt when you were 12 and 14. They really need to know you now in a very personal and, sometimes for us Moms, rather vulnerable way.

I have a 13 year old daughter that I am raising on my own, too, although I only work. I would never have the time to go back to school. I respect the fact that you are deciding to do that, though.

My daughter is moody, disrespectful and often just angry at the world, and then 20 minutes later she is helping me make dinner or she offers to take the dogs out for their walk; go figure, right?

I often tell her stories of my youth and the good and bad decisions I made, and we laugh and she says "thanks, Mom. That makes me feel better than you shared that with me.". Those talks are sometimes hard for me. She asked me the other day "how old were you when you lost your virginity, Mom"? I was shocked at the question, but I was SO GLAD we were talking real issues. One of her friends is "experimenting with a boy" at the moment, and I held her face in my hands and said "if you EVER get to know a boy, start liking him, we meet is family, etc.,etc., and you are even thinking of making that big decision to have sex, please promise me right now you will come to me and I will take you to my doctor and we will get you on the Pill.". Now, did I want to go there with her? Of course, not, but she feels closer to me now and we have an open relationship. Your girls need the "real you"- my daughter even asked me to talk to her girlfriend about he situation, and I did, because the other girl could not talk to her own Mom.

You are probably trying to do too much, and I think you know that now. I give you credit for trying, though. Maybe your daughters could babysit, dog walk, dog sit or get creative in helping you out financially a little bit; just a thought. Keep them very busy when you not home.

Another thing; watch the boys that might be around your 14 year old. All of their hormones are raging, and don't leave your daughters unsupervised ever with boys around. Maybe a neighbor or friend could help you with them so they are not unsupervised too often.

Surprise your daughters; ask them to ask their two best friends over to your house, make pizzas and salads and ask both of their friends to bring over their favorite movie; be in the background, watch, listen, love, support and most of all hugs them often!

MJ - posted on 08/23/2012

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Thank you gals. The encouraging words mean more than you could imagine. My class load is heavy, I'm taking 11 units (on campus), difficult classes. I look back every semester and wonder how I survived.

As for my teenage girls, I am at my wits end. I spend as much time as they will possibly let me, but asking them to do anything with mom these days is basically punishment. So I have a bit more time on my hands. That being said, they have begun behaving like monsters. If it's not one, it's the other. I don't think I've heard anything as mean as the things they say to me.

I ground them, take away privileges, try to spend time alone with, play Mr. Niceguy, play the opposite of that, but nothing seems to work.

It's disheartening when I basically give up having a life, friends (and really no time to spend with them anyway) and yet they are never happy with anything I do. I kill myself for my kids and that means nothing to them.

Today I could not stop silently crying as I cooked dinner for them, after hearing all the horrible things they think I am. I know some days are just worse than others. Hopefully tomorrow will be better.

Kim - posted on 08/23/2012

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Hang in there MJ. You can do this. I don't know what kind of classes you are taking but maybe they offer some online courses? I was going to school too with 2 kids and it was a hassle going to school at night and missing soccer games, etc. So I started taking online courses which gave me the opportunity to spend more time at home. But if that isn't possible just know that school is just temporary and when you finish it will be rewarding and will set a good example for your girls and they will be proud of you. You're doing a great thing.

Roohi - posted on 08/23/2012

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I went through this when my son was 12. I went back for my MBA. I was also living with my fiance who helped with him. It was easier. I worked, went to school and took care of my son. My fiance and I eventually broke up. My ex husband doesnt give me any support financially and morally or with my son. He sees my son once every few months and he lives 10 mins away. If your kids arent giving you trouble, you should be ok. Take a smaller class load. I could never do it at this time. My son is almost 17 and is a monster! I cannot even go away on vacation now for fear my place will be wrecked!

Megan - posted on 08/21/2012

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My situation isn't exactly the same but I will say, it get's better and it does get easier. That doesn't help you now but it is light at the end of the tunnel. :)
You can do it girl! The fact that you have set goals for yourself and are showing your girls that they too can over come any obstacle in life to achieve what they want, is a life lesson that can only be taught by example.
Maybe taking some time to recharge your batteries will give you that breath of fresh air you need to keep pushing forward. As mother's we often forget about our needs and how important our emotional/physical well being affects EVERYONE. Go have some coffee with friends, have some 'girl time' with your daughters. A little goes a long way. Have your daughter's help you study, or make dinner... this quality time will make them feel like a contributing member of the household, not to mention the benefits of them picking up good study/work habits.
Whenever you get down or think you can't go any longer take a break. Take a moment to reflect on how far you've come, how hard you've worked and what you've accomplished instead of thinking how much further you have to go.
Hope this help and GOOD LUCK!

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