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

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To: Struggling single mothers

From: Angela Dennis

Charity: The African American Policy Forum

Sponsor: Joe Frimpong

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?”

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

 

Written with Lauren Brill

About the author:

Angela Dennis is a single mother of five thriving young adults. Her son, Malik Hooker, is a member of the Indianapolis Colts. He played at Ohio State before being chosen by the Colts 15th overall in the 2017 NFL Draft.

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[…] enough, in the email was your letter to your late father, former NBA basketball star Anthony Mason, talking about your struggles after his death. You wrote […]

Sweet Lauren, I agree completely with the promise that Brian asked you to make. Frankly, it is the only way that I know to love; totally, completely, wholly and unconditionally. You deserve nothing less, nor does your future love.

Wow. What a truly moving and powerful story. We often take for granted the small gifts we give each other just by being present. I'm sad for the heartache. I'm glad you stayed and became. Who knows what little girl or boy will be attributing their life's purpose to some kindness you shared. Peace and Sunshine

You’re welcome Lauren looking forward to all the future stories :)

Thank you Tony. I appreciate all your support.

Thank you Tony. I appreciate all your support.

I’m sorry to hear about Brian but he was right you are too beautiful to not receive roses Lauren:)

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Thanks for this! So what movie set did you get on?

So nice Roger <3

Pat, Your letter touched me in a very profound way. It left me in tears in the middle of my work day. It made me want to share something with you. On a July morning in 2007 a police officer answered a 911 call I had made when my Mother went into cardiac arrest. Between that officer, my best friend and the fire fighters who showed up minutes later they were able to restart her heart, however at the hospital she passed away an hour later. At the end of his shift that officer stopped by my home to check on the situation and cried when I told him the unfortunate news I received only 4 hours prior. He tried to apologize to me. I looked at the anguish in his eyes and asked him directly what for? He described the ways he felt sorry. What I want to leave you with was my reply to him. I told him he had nothing to be sorry for because he answered the call in what was the darkest moment in my life. I told him that he was a hero regardless because it takes a special person to answer calls like that. You are a hero to people Pat. No one can ever take that away from you. I understand the process you're going through as I've been there myself and like you I still struggle with it when no one is looking. You aren't alone in this. I hope your healing process continues on and you can regain the happiness in this beautiful life. You'll always be a hero to those people, because you were there when the call came Best wishes Roger Chamberlain

Ruth, your letter moved me to tears. Once upon a time I was very closed off about the LGBT community but over a course of several years, I turned my fear into understanding and I actively stand with the community for their equal rights because it is the right thing to do.