I know some of you younger moms are in situations that might feel discouraging, impossible, overwhelming. And this interview with Krishann Briscoe of His Mrs. Her Mr. -- a young mother who finished her Master's degree as a single mom before marrying the love of her (and her daughter's) life -- proves that life can work out in ways you never expected. (Suddenly I have Wilson Phillips' "Hold On" playing in my head.)
Read on for some inspiration:
1. How old were you when you first got pregnant?
I was 19 when I first found out I was pregnant.
2. Was this expected/planned?
The pregnancy was unplanned. I finally felt like I had the courage to leave an unhealthy relationship, and after having lost myself, I was ready to find me again and figure out what I truly wanted to do with my life. Weeks later I found out I was pregnant.
3. What was your reaction? What were the reactions of the people around you?
I went back. I went back to the relationship I fought so hard to get out of. When he and I first started dating, we talked about one day having children. He was already a father, but always said how he couldn’t wait for me to one day be the mother of his child. Interestingly enough, when faced with that reality, he said the complete opposite. In the beginning of my pregnancy I faced everything alone. That was until I finally got the courage to tell my mother I was pregnant. I knew she would be disappointed in me. She worked so hard to get me where I was, having been a single parent raising my brother and I, and now here I was telling her that I was going to be a mommy. She was devastated -- not only because I was pregnant, but also because she tried to encourage me to leave the relationship I had been in. She saw what was coming before I did. But when she saw that I was alone and how scared I was, the “I told you so” ceased. She held me in her arms, wiped my tears and promised to be there for me, letting me know that I was not alone and that we would get through this together.
She was still disappointed in me but she put her feelings aside so she could focus on being there for me. Everyone else did the complete opposite. I felt like a failure and so many people believed that my life was literally over, causing me to wonder if it really was.
4. I see from your blog that you spent the first few years as a single mother working towards your Master's degree. What advice do you have to other young moms working toward a degree?
I was actually still in the process of working on my Bachelor’s degree when I found out I was pregnant. It was hard. Although I was an adult, I still felt like a little girl in so many ways. I would walk around campus and feel like my professors and other students were staring at me. And although I was 19, I looked much younger. I felt like I was viewed as a statistic. My grades went down because I was so sick and exhausted from being pregnant, working part-time and going to school full-time.
I had my daughter and took off from school for a year. No one thought I would go back except my mother. She believed in me. In her eyes and mine, it really wasn’t an option; it was a must. I graduated in 2007 and in the fall returned to get my Master’s degree. I didn’t want to go through life depending on my mom and wanted to be able to make a life for my daughter. I didn’t want to depend on anything or anyone other than God.
My advice for other young moms is to keep going. When you feel like you’ve reach the end of your rope, just keep hanging until you find the strength to pull yourself up or are fortunate to have someone to help you pull yourself up. Also find out what resources are available to help you further your education.
I remember crying when it was time for me to return to school. I didn’t know where my daughter was going to go and the idea of leaving her with someone I didn’t know terrified me. I remember reading the class schedule and there was an ad for subsidized child care through the college’s children’s center. I called and put her on the list for the center and made an appointment to meet with the lady over their program that had in-home providers. Eventually it worked out. My daughter received excellent care and a year later transitioned to the center which was also where I was working. I was able to focus on school without having to worry about childcare. I declared a major and surprised myself, and even made the Dean’s list a couple of times.
5. And what advice do you have for young single moms?
Don’t isolate yourself. I spent so many days alone. I felt like I had no one to talk to other than my mom and my baby. It was hard. I watched the mommies at the children’s center form friendships with one another, and on the weekends I'd see moms out with their babies. I started spending a lot of time in the house and wouldn’t go anywhere but the doctor's office unless my mother was with me. I was blessed that a couple of my friends did reach out to me. Two of them came to see my daughter the day she was born and they would come by the house and visit us from time to time. When she got a little bigger, they would invite us places and even bought her special toys for when we would visit. So instead of hanging out with children on the weekends, my daughter was spending time with her mommy and her 20-something Tias.
When she transitioned to the children’s center, I became friends with some of the other mommies in her classroom. One had reached out to me before that. I worked in her son’s classroom and when she would come pick him up she would sit and talk to me and tell me that she admired me. She would encourage me to keep going. She didn’t know it at the time but her words meant so much. Our children have grown up together and in many ways we have too. We are still all so close and I am thankful for their friendships.
It helps to have someone you can talk to. Someone who you can share your dreams with. Someone who will listen when you are in need of listening ears and also someone who understands what you are going through. Sometimes people lack compassion for us early mommies because they feel we brought whatever we are going through on ourselves. But rather than judgment and negativity, what we need is encouragement, love and support. Because just like any other mom, we want the best life for our children and an opportunity for them to become all that they are meant to be.
6. What's your reaction to those who think they have to achieve their career -- their goals and dreams -- before becoming a mother?
You don’t. Sometimes your dreams change a little when you become a mom, only because you're dreaming for two. But if anything I learned to dream bigger! And what I loved was that my daughter was able to be a part of it all. She watched her mommy walk across the stage and graduate, and she watched as I was acknowledged for graduating from my Master’s program with Honors. And I accomplished all of this with her by my side. She will never have to feel like I put my dreams on hold because of her. If anything I learned what it meant to have my dreams come true and what it meant to strive for a goal and actually reach it. I think we have an opportunity to not only tell our children that they can reach their dreams and career goals when they grow up, but also to show them how. My daughter knows that it wasn’t easy for her mommy, but some of the greatest gifts we have in life didn’t necessarily come easy. Case and point: my child.
7. How did you transition from being a single mom in school to being a married working mother?
Ah yes. In some ways I still feel like I am transitioning. Although my Mr. and I dated for several years, we have only been married for a little over one year and I have only been a full-time working mother for a little over two years. I’ll admit I constantly question myself wondering if I am doing a good job. I actually feel a little more pressure now than when it was just me and my baby. I have more responsibilities that I didn't have before, but I am learning to take things one day at a time and to not be so hard on myself.
At the same time, it has been wonderful having the support of my husband. He has been a constant in my daughter’s life (they met when she was 1), and this summer he adopted her. My husband is always reminding me that I don’t have to do things by myself anymore. He volunteers at her school, helps with homework, and we take turns grocery shopping and cooking dinner. He also encourages me to take time for myself -- something that I still struggle with doing, but am slowly but surely getting better at.
Years ago my husband gave me a small card that his boss had given him. It read, “All you’ve got is all you can give and that will always be enough.” I carry it with me as a constant reminder that my very best is always enough. Always.
8. What's been the most challenging part of your experiencing?
When my daughter was two she would go to her nana (my mom) and say that her father (biological) didn’t like her and ask her why. She didn’t understand why her friends’ daddies would come to the class events and pick them up. She felt like something was wrong with her and would talk as if it was her fault. My heart hurt so badly for my child and I struggled with how to help her understand that it wasn’t about her. I felt like her little heart was concerned about things that it never should have been concerned about. I would beat myself up because I felt like it was my fault. felt like she was suffering because of the choices I made. She didn’t pick her father; I did. I was the one who kept trying to fix a relationship that couldn’t be fixed.
Leaving her father was difficult, only because I was afraid that she would grow up without a father and I didn’t want that for her. I had to learn that being with someone doesn’t guarantee that they will be there for their child, and that taking care of myself and my happiness was one of the best things that I could have ever done for her.
It was also hard balancing school, work, internships and parenting. I would go to bed late at night and wake up early in the morning. I knew that my reading needed to get done and my papers written, but I didn’t want to sacrifice time with my daughter. I knew that I would never get any of these moments back. But it's possible -- despite it being hard.
9. What's been the most rewarding?
I remember after my graduation ceremony in 2007, my baby ran to me and said, “They said your name! They said Krishann Wesley!” She was so excited and so proud. She kept telling everyone that “we graduated," and she was right; we did!
Another special moment in our lives was when she and I got married. She returned to school that fall telling everyone that she and her mommy married her daddy, and again she was right; we did.
It’s also been amazing getting to watch this little person grow and to be a part of it. Each day I amaze myself by loving her more than I could have ever imagined. I am so thankful that not only do I get to be a mommy, but also I get to her mommy.
10. If you could go back and tell your pregnant self one thing, what would it be?
I would tell my pregnant self – “Hold your head up.”
When I was pregnant, I walked around with my head held down. I felt ashamed and hid from people for fear of what they would say. I didn’t want to be judged. In retrospect, while I wasn’t ready for the consequences of my choice, I didn’t make a mistake -- I made a baby. A beautiful baby and that was nothing to be ashamed of. My daughter is a gift to the world; she was supposed to be here and I was the vessel used to get her here. I would also tell myself that it is ok to be excited! I felt like I was wrong for being excited about being a mommy, and although I was terrified, I became more and more excited as I got closer and closer to the big day. I couldn’t wait to meet my little earthly angel. Seeing how amazing she is, I was crazy to be anything but proud for the 40 weeks I carried her with me.
I would tell myself not to worry about others, because at the end of the day, all that matters is the two of us. Just the two of us.
For me, my life was not ending but rather in some ways it was just beginning.
Read more about Krishann and her family at His Mrs. Her Mr.