Back to school as a single mom

Discovering what you're made of in the educational arena outside your home.

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  • At 38, I got my first divorce. I found myself a “displaced homemaker” as defined by The Department of Social Services in Wayne County, NY. I was out of my home, with 4 children in tow, and nowhere to go. The circumstances are complicated, but that’s where things stood. Suddenly, I was in the midst of a great new adventure. At least, that’s how I tried to make it look to the kids. "Oh, boy, we get to find a new home and mom gets to have some sort of training, which is what they do when you are a 'displaced homemaker.'"

  • Sometimes, for the sake of your children, you have to accept graciously what you cannot change. Make it count

  • With the counsel of my good bishop, I gave us one year of "charity." We got a decent place to live, some food stamps, and the opportunity to be trained in something new.

  • Take advantage of every opportunity to educate yourself and think outside the box

  • My first contacts told me to pursue my education as a hairdresser or cook. Those are great professions, but you don't have to get boxed in because of your gender. When they asked me what sort of training I would like, my response was immediate. Without having to think, I blurted out, “I want to be a carpenter.” The reason for this was that I had two uncles in North Carolina who were master cabinetmakers. I would sit and gawk at the lovely pieces of furniture they would craft, and I was in complete awe. I wanted to do that. So, before I knew it, I was enrolled in the local Vo-Tech learning how to use powerful tools. I attended this class in jeans, steel-toed work boots and flannel shirts. We studied our lessons and read from books then we got to build things. I mean to tell you, real things for real people. We built an attached garage for one family. We built a wood foundation for another. (Author’s note: Did you know that 1” of wood = 12” of cinderblock as far as insulation goes? See, Mr. S? I remember.) We replaced windows, put on roofs and installed an electric garage door opener. The best part was that I was in a class with 15 16-year-old boys and one very possessive 16-year-old girl.

  • Learn in and outside of school. This can be a time of unprecedented personal growth

  • I learned that I could learn

  • I learned about so much more than wood that year. I learned about interpersonal relations. I learned about standing up for myself. I learned to look people in the eye. I learned that I could measure and make a cut within 1/64th of an inch. More importantly, I learned that I could learn. My self-esteem, which was pretty much in the toilet from 17 years in an oppressive marriage, rose like a barometer in an approaching storm. The best part? I got asked to prom!

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  • This can be a springboard for greater things in life

  • Years later, what I learned about myself in that little shop, allowed me to enter the college classroom as an older adult. There, I took a variety of classes and learned that I could retain more than water. I loved attending with the myriad of adults, a full-spectrum of ethnicities, a huge span of ages, all of us there to learn.

  • Find joy in the learning and the journey

  • I continued my education both in and out of the classroom. I learned about personal toughness, and how I can endure pain and find joy. Though, it is the toughest work around I learned how to make life work post-divorce as a single mom.

  • What began as a year of despair turned into one of the greatest years of my life. I still use my carpentry skills, both for myself and friends. I gained an unquenchable thirst for learning and take every opportunity to learn something new each day.

  • When my year was up, I marched, head up, into Social Services and declined further assistance. Because of what I learned that year, I was able to work and support my family. Because of that year, I am stronger. I am a survivor.

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Becky Lyn is an author and a 35+ year (most of the time) single mom.


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