In 1980, my mother tells me, she made the decision to divorce my father. She believed her decision was the right one for her and her girls.
Her mother, Mamoo, was supportive. She offered to clear her tenant out of her duplex in Columbus, Ga., so we could move in, but my mother declined.
We would be fine, she said, and we were. My mom, sister and I moved from outside Washington, D.C., to Carrollton, Ga. Mom got a job at a small business; my sister and I went on to graduate from high school and then college. I continued my education in graduate school; my sister became an entrepreneur -- her form of graduate education.
Last year in the United States, single mothers led 9.9 million families with children under the age of 18. As was the case with my mother, some of those women are educated and can count on supportive family and friends and an involved father of their children.
But those without resources, family or education might find themselves in dire situations. When this happens, their choices -- as Rabbi Alvin Sugarman, rabbi emeritus at The Temple (Reform) in Atlanta, puts it -- might consist of a car or a kudzu cave.
Fifteen years ago, Sugarman helped found an interfaith project called Genesis -- A New Life. Since then, the nonprofit homeless shelter for newborn babies and their families has transformed the lives of over 2,900 people.
My husband and I had our second child on July 29, 2001. His birth, which started out normally, ended with an emergency C-section due to a prolapsed cord. Chances are if I had not been in the hospital, our son likely would have died. Almost losing a child reinforces one's appreciation for the miracle of birth and life.
Our first child had been a great sleeper as an infant, but not this one. He barely slept for the first five months.
I remember rocking him in the middle of the night for hours at a time. Both of us were exhausted -- he would cry, I would cry. After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, I could hear planes from Dobbins Air Reserve Base near our home in Atlanta over our heads while I rocked and worried. What would become of this world, his world? Eventually, he would go back to sleep, and I would pray for his safety.
Sometime during that long fall, one of my best friends and godmother to my son asked me to join the board of Genesis. With two children under the age of 2, I thought about excusing myself. Some days I did not do such a good job with the two children God have given us -- after all, I could barely handle what was on my plate.
Then I thought: If this is hard for me, with a great husband, family, friends and a home, it must be almost impossible to take care of a child while homeless. My imagination ran rabbit trails around what might happen to babies and their families without homes. I had to help.
Genesis provides more than shelter. It provides for the health of mother and baby, education and-or job training, job placement, assistance with living arrangements, financial education, parent education and an accredited child-care center. Genesis transforms families by providing them a hand up, while teaching them life skills. While at the shelter, the families save 80 percent of their wages to prepare them to move out on their own.
When a family moves out, Genesis helps out with aftercare, Christmas presents and counseling as needed. It sees its job as doing whatever is needed to ensure that the family stays together and that the children are supported and parented.
My father and his wife helped Genesis celebrate its 10-year anniversary. Dad spoke at Ebenezer Baptist Church -- he headlined a fundraiser for Genesis for my birthday that same year. This year, my mother and my mother-in-law gave a gift in my honor to Genesis. I honored them as well with a gift to Genesis.
Families helping other families -- sounds like a perfect way to celebrate and honor mothers.
When my mother was young, Mamoo told her, "You don't take time -- you're all involved in yourself." Mamoo was not sure my mother would be a good mother.
A different perspective provides a change in opinion. Mamoo viewed my mother as a child, and I viewed her as my mother. Mom has always done the best she could with what she had at the time. My mother has always given me her time and is continually involved in our lives.
She is a good mother.
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