To struggling single moms – This is how I found my way

To: Struggling single mothers

From: Angela Dennis (As told to Lauren Brill)

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To struggling single mothers,

I used to have this recurring dream of a little girl sitting on the steps. I wondered why no one would rescue her.

Angela as a teenager with her oldest child

I would pray, telling God, “She needs help. She needs someone to come get her.”

While that dream returned for many years, in my waking life I struggled. I quit school after ninth grade. At 16 years old I had my first child. Crippled by anxiety and depression, I would look in the mirror and see a young woman who I thought was worthless. I wanted to end my life. I didn’t want that person looking back at me to exist anymore. With no education, no money, no job and parents who were drug addicts, I had no idea how I would take care of my baby.

Now, I have five amazing children. I found a way to provide for them, love them and raise them to be successful, good people.

I promise, you can do it, too, but I will admit – it’s not easy.

Sometimes I wanted to give up but then I thought, “What would happen to my children?”

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I had to do everything by myself. To stay motivated I would leave quotes in the bathroom. I saw them every morning and they reminded me that I was not a failure.

With no education, no money, no job and parents who were drug addicts, I had no idea how I would take care of my baby.

For 20 years I was on welfare but at age 29, with five children, I wanted to plant the seed for a better life. That’s when I pursued my GED. It took me seven times to get my GED. I was so determined because it was my opportunity to show my children that you can always change and improve your life.

Angela Dennis with her children

Often I felt overwhelmed. Creating a schedule and becoming very disciplined helped me. Everyone went to bed and ate meals at certain times, which gave me designated times to just mellow out.

For five years while my children grew up, I stopped dating. From sexual abuse to neglect, I needed time to heal from all the different situations from my childhood that still impacted me. I went to therapy and let go of all the anger I felt toward people who hurt me throughout my life. That doesn’t mean I excuse what they did but I released them so I could release myself, so I could move on and focus on me and my children.

I took advantage of programs that taught me lessons like budgeting, being on time and patience. People think because we are moms we already possess all these tools but I wasn’t equipped with all the knowledge needed to run a household. I realized it’s OK if I asked for help or read books relevant to me and my children.

I truly fought to give my children everything I did not have as a child, while also trying to believe that I was worthy of a good life. As I fought, I taught my children to do the same.

I wouldn’t let them quit any of their commitments. Quitting wasn’t an option. They had to find ways to get past their obstacles.

They all had their moments where they wanted to give up on something, but a lot of people talk about my son Malik Hooker and his desire to quit football his sophomore year of college.

Angela convinced her son to stay at Ohio State and play football when he wanted to come home.

Malik was a star athlete in high school but when he went to Ohio State, where he received a football scholarship, he was fourth on the depth chart. He didn’t know how to handle it. He often called me upset. I wanted to rescue my son but I knew I would ruin the journey he was meant to travel.

So, I told him, “You can do this.”

He would come home and say he didn’t want to go back to school.

I would say to him, “You can’t stay here.”

There was a lot of crime and young people dying in our neighborhood. Nothing good would have come from him moving back home. He needed to stay.

I truly fought to give my children everything I did not have as a child, while also trying to believe that I was worthy of a good life.

Ultimately, he became a starter for the Buckeyes, a first-round draft pick in the NFL and he now plays for the Indianapolis Colts. To see my son in a stadium with his name on the back of his jersey is incredible.

Angela with her five children

My children and I have broken a curse that lasted generations in my family. All five of my children went to college and I, too, am returning to school to get my degree. We are no longer eating tuna casserole just so we can get by for two days. My granddaughter is five years old and unlike my mother, me and my children, she will never live in the projects.

I am so proud of my entire family.

I wouldn’t say we made it but as a family, we are making it. We have all come so far, especially me. For the first time in my life, I am working in a position that I love. I’m a Personal Care Assistant, helping kids with learning disabilities and behavioral problems.

As single moms, we can be so hard on ourselves but I want to tell you if you need a break, take it. If you need help, ask for it. If there are resources available to you, take advantage of them. If people are telling you that you can’t make it, please know that you can. Don’t give up on your children and don’t give up on yourself.

Today, I’m proud of the woman that I see looking back at me in the mirror. That’s what I want for you. I have learned to be self-confident and an advocate for myself and my children. While I still remember dreaming of that little girl waiting on the steps for someone to rescue her, I now realize that she was waiting for me.

With strength and motherly love,

Angela Dennis
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