It’s August already and this year has really thrown us all in a whirlwind due to the unfortunate outbreak of COVID-19. People have lost every sense of normalcy they’ve known in just a matter of months. In this process, mothers like myself have had to become homemakers overnight as we find our way through what seems to be our new normal. As if all things COVID hasn’t been enough, classrooms are looking a bit empty this school year with the start of online schooling. Well, after the first week of school, I wanted to share with you my insight as I navigate virtual learning during the pandemic as a single mom working from home.

Empty classroom with chalkboard on the wall

Patience is a must

Being a single parent already requires much patience, but when you throw in all of the other elements that this pandemic has brought our way, it can make things a bit more difficult to manage. Within the first few minutes into this online learning experience, I realized that nothing could have fully prepared me for the unknown. I was stressing trying to keep up with my tasks while working from home, trying to keep my ears open to hear what BOTH teachers were saying during class meeting, and also being helpful to my girls whenever they had questions or technical difficulties.

I felt myself getting anxiety often because all of this was a lot for my senses. I wanted the day to go super smooth and it just didn’t. I realized that I had to be patient with myself and not overextend myself. I’m not only working, but I’m learning, teaching, cooking, cleaning, and oh, maintaining my Type One Diabetes all at the same time. I realized that I just had to breathe and go with the flow. I also had to understand that I’m not the only parent feeling this way and it’s okay to feel overwhelmed, stressed, tired, and anxious. This is just day one and I’m only one person. Patience is definitly a requirement right now.

Ample sleep is necessary for everyone

I noticed that when my children didn’t get enough sleep, the rest of their day was pretty much trash. They would be less focused and super cranky. This would in turn, frustrate me and the whole day would spiral into a negative experience. Now I see why my mother would “train” our bodies during the last month of the summer, so we would be used to getting up early and going to bed early in preparation for school.

I thought that a nine o’clock bedtime would suffice, but I’ve learned that getting the girls in bed by eight seems to work out the best for all of us. It took some time to get use to, but with a good bedtime routine, they’ve been on board. Not only do they get an ample amount of rest, but I get to squeeze in some much needed me time before the night is over.

White alarm clock

Start a morning routine

On the first day, I woke up late with a low blood glucose reading and just barely clocked in on time for work, so getting the girls up, fed, and dressed before school started was a huge mess that day. Of course, my blood sugar being low was not something I could have predicted, but the lack of a good morning routine made the day spiral in the wrong direction.

Now, I make sure that my girls are up between an hour to an hour and a half before they need to log in. Not only does this give them enough time to get ready and to eat a meal, but it also gives them space to relax and prepare themselves for the day. They don’t feel like they have to rush through their bowl of cereal to log in for class. Now, they have time to play with toys, read a book, watch a cartoon, or just lay down for a little while before they get into work mode. I also find that I have a few stress free minutes to get some much-needed work done before I hear the chatter of both teachers and students online.

Create a comfortable learning space

Being that I live in a small apartment, I really don’t have a lot of space that I can designate for my girls to complete their school work. Instead, I give them options for different spots they can use in the house as a comfortable learning space. They can create a cozy corner in our living room with a few pillows and a blanket, sit at the kitchen table, sit on the couch, or sit on a barstool at the kitchen counter. I made sure that they knew it was okay to move around but also to be respectful of the class and their teacher by trying their best to stay in one spot.

Don’t leave kids unattended during their lessons

Letting my child sit a room by themselves with headphones is definitely a no for me. I make sure that both of my children are in eyesight and within ears reach. I need to see their screens so that I know they’re on task and not just watching YouTube or Netflix. I also listen in to their group meetings so I know what’s being discussed and what’s expected for that day to help keep them accountable. Yes, my children are responsible and can work alone, but at the end of the day, they’re still children and as their mom, I need to stay in the loop.

Adjust with the adjustments

I’ve learned to not get too comfortable with anything lately. A lot of the systems have changed along with the learning styles in just a matter of days. For example, class meetings started off with the entire class in the beginning which led to increased noise, lagging in the videos, and less learning. The school made adjustments and now the girls log in with small groups of four or five students throughout the day which allows them to ask questions and focus more without the extra distractions. This was just one of the many changes that took place. It’s important to allow space for a few hiccups and adjustments along the way until we have a system that works for the students, parents, and teachers.

As the days went by, I learned to adjust and adapt in order to make things work for us. Although there was no way to completely prepare for virtual learning, it is always possible to take note and learn from the previous day. At the end of each school day, I would analyze what went wrong and what went well and make adjustments from there. Not everyday will be smooth sailing and that’s okay.

Let them know you’re here to help

As frustrating as it may be sometimes to stop and help constantly throughout the day, I don’t want my children to feel like I’m frustrated with them. I let them know that they can always come to me with their questions and that we’re in this together. I assured them that this year will be better than the year before because they have me by their side every step of the way. They’re not alone in the classroom.

Because I have two children I’m outnumbered, so I talked to them about taking turns with my help because I’m only one person and not interrupting while I help the other. That was a big issue for me in the first few days. While I work, I let one child sit next to me at my desk for help, and then they’ll switch places if need be so they can both get their one on one time with me.

Set boundaries

Although I let my children know that I’m available for assistance, I also make sure they understand that I have a job to do as well. If there is another assignment that they’re more confident in working on independently, I’ll ask them to do that while I complete a task. I don’t jump to answer every question when it’s asked either. I’ll let the girls know that I have to finish what I’m doing first and that they need to be patient with me. I also encourage them to try to figure things out themselves first before asking me for help.

When I take my lunch break or my fifteen minute breaks, I let the kids know that it’s time for mommy to take a break without interruption unless they really need me. This is my time to recoup. I’ll take a quick nap, make lunch, read, listen to music, or watch something on TV. I use this time to step away from the chaos so that I can jump back in with energy and a smile rather than be overwhelmed and worn out.

Keep a schedule handy

I found it very helpful to print out each child’s learning plan for the day with all of their assignments listed to help all of us take charge of the day. As each of my daughters completes a task, they check off what’s been completed so they know what to do next. I also set alarms for the three times they each need to be online with their class so they’re not late or too early. Whipping out a whiteboard or chalkboard is also helpful when trying to keep a schedule of the day. Either way, they know what’s expected of them and they’ve become very familiar with what their schedule looks like which makes them more responsible for the school day.

hopscotch outside

Take breaks often and get outside

What I love about our virtual learning experience is that the school spreads out their learning schedule with lots of break times in-between to get the wiggles out, go outside, and eat. Children can only sit still for so long before boredom kicks in and after that, there’s not much learning going on. They need to take breaks often by taking a walk, stretching out, and grabbing a snack. It’s also helpful for us as parents to do the same. I try to make sure we all get out of the house to take a walk, we eat a nice lunch, and move around throughout the day to break up the monotony.

Encourage and motivate your children

If you think this whole virtual learning experience is tough, just think about how difficult it is for your children. They miss the in-person interaction with their friends and teachers, recess, and even the smell of the lunchroom. Right now, they need our encouragement and motivation more than ever. I let my girls know that they are capable of doing hard things and they are extremely intelligent. I check in with them and acknowledge all of their small wins like raising their hands to answer a question or being on task throughout the day. I’m also supportive during times of frustration when things get tough because not every day is going to be a good day. As parents, we set the standard for their day and we have to keep that in mind.

Continue to be optimistic in the mess

My goal is to do as much as I can on my part to work with my children’s teachers and not against them. I see this as an opportunity to learn more about my children’s environment in school and their learning styles. As I watch my girls interact in class or not, I’m learning more about their strengths and weaknesses and where I can help. I’ve seen how I can affirm them throughout the day and simplify what they may deem as difficult so that I can help catapult them further in their education.

I had to remind myself that I wanted to work from home at some point because I wanted to be available for my children. I wanted to be able to volunteer in their classrooms and attend field trips. I wanted to pick them up directly after school instead of them sitting in aftercare. I wanted to incorporate more learning at home and really be a solid part of their growth and development academically. I felt completely out of the loop while commuting for an hour to and from work and grabbing fast food for dinner because I didn’t have the energy to boil water.

So, instead of looking at this experience as something negative, I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity to be present and available for my children while we navigate this unknown territory together. Every day is a learning experience and there is so much to learn no matter what your perspective is.

If your children have already started schooling online, what are some of the tips you’ve learned to make this a better experience? If they haven’t, what are you doing now to prepare for their first day of online learning? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

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Besides the constant talks of maintaining our mental heal, self-care is the next topic that’s all the buzz amongst millennials these days on social media. The popular hashtag has been overused and misunderstood for a while now. When most of us think of self-care, we think of expensive pedicures, Instagram worthy vacations, and things we just can’t afford to do regularly. What I’ve realized is that self-care is not as complicated as people make out to be. It could be so simple. Self-care is so much more than bubble baths and pedicures. It’s about doing the things that bring you joy. The simple things. As I get older I’m learning that self-care is such a necessary part of my well-being. I have to be intentional about making it happen often in order to continue to pour into others. So here are a few ways that apply self-care on a daily basis.

Keep up with doctor appointments

This may not sound very hashtag worthy, but going to the doctor, dentist, and even my therapist regularly are so necessary and count as self-care for me. In years past, I’ve slacked off in this area and paid the price a few times. I always made it a priority to keep up with my children’s appointments and have always kept them up to date, but I slacked with maintaining my own health. Now, I make sure to schedule every doctor’s appointment and make room on my calendar no matter what’s going on so that I can maintain my health.

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Work out

Most days I dread going to the gym or doing any type of physical activity for that matter. But, once I get in my groove and start to break a sweat, it feels so good! I get to clear my mind, blast my music, and feel good about taking care of my body all at once. This also counts as my “me time.” You can never get enough of “me-time.” Just like going to the doctor, working out along with eating right is so good for your body.

Stream my favorite series or movie

When the kids are asleep, that’s my time to hop in bed or on the sofa and binge my favs like This Is Us or whatever Netflix original is poppin at the time. Last night I stayed up and watched Stepbrothers. I haven’t seen that movie in years and it’s definitely not kid-appropriate. I love being able to zone out for a little while and not have to think about bills or what I’m cooking for dinner. I put my phone and my laptop away and just enjoy the moment.

Woman take a shower

Take my shower before the kids

Lately, I’ve been saying that I’ve graduated in parenthood because my kids are at a good age now where I can leave them unattended for extended periods of time and know they’ll still be alive when I come back. In just a few months they’ll be 7 and 10 years old. So, I’ve been taking full advantage of that. Rather than being the last person to bathe at the end of the night, I occasionally hop in front of the line and take my time in the shower. Southern California hasn’t gotten the memo that it’s actually fall, so the whole no-shave November thing was a bust. I finally shaved my legs the other night and I feel like a brand new woman. LOL I’ll turn on a little music and strip away all of the stress of the day before I get into full “mommy mode” for the night. This gives me a little private time for myself and allows me to decompress so I can give my kids the best part of me. When I get out I’m relaxed and all cleaned up. It’s just a good feeling to be able to take care of myself for a few minutes before the storm or dinner, homework, and everything in between comes along.

Eat my favorite foods without interruption

If you’re a mom, you should know the feeling all too well of not being able to fully enjoy a meal in peace, let alone a snack. I’m down to the point where I purposely buy foods I know my daughters don’t eat, so they won’t ask me for them. The struggle is so real in my kitchen. So, being able to eat my favorite foods in peace is part of my self-care routine. I wait until the girls head to bed and sneak off to the kitchen and devour a few scoops of Talenti Gelato before going to bed myself. This is not an everyday habit, which makes it even sweeter.

Jam to my favorite music, listen to an audiobook, or podcast

I create playlists for myself that each fit for the mood I’m in. Jamming to my favorite songs at the gym, in the car, or even while cleaning the house helps me to decompress and destress while just enjoying the moment. I also love to listen to podcasts and audiobooks to pass the time. I enjoy listening to other people’s stories and perspectives and just being motivated in general. Because I’m always on the go, listening to a good podcast or audiobook is so ideal for me.

woman writing in a notebook

Write my heart out

No matter the mood I’m in, writing is always self-care. Sometimes I take my time and jot things down in my journal, while most times I’m writing on the go in a Google Doc or on my notes app on my phone. I may write about how I’m feeling that day, or write a few affirmations to keep me going through the day. Writing is a great release for me and I suggest it for anyone whether you’re a writer or not.

Affirm myself in the mirror

You ever pass by the mirror and say “Damn! I’m Fine!?” No?…just me? Cool. Well, I do this ALL the time. I look in the mirror and I tell myself just how amazing I am. I could be fully clothed heading out to work or naked only covered in my stretch marks and scars. Either way, I appreciate my body and myself for what it is and who I am. Now that’s self-care! Sometimes I’ll take a stick of red lipstick and write words of affirmation on our mirrors or jot down those words on sticky notes. I’ll place them through the house, in my car, or carry them in my purse. My girls love to join in on this too. When I affirm myself, I affirm them as well.

These are just a few, but not all of the many ways that apply self-care in my everyday life. How do you show yourself some love? If you haven’t taken time out for yourself, what’s holding you back? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

Take a listen to this week’s podcast: “Self-Care is More Than a Hashtag”

Laundry is no one’s favorite thing to do. I use to avoid it at all costs. Washing was the easy part, but folding was a whole other story. You couldn’t pay me to fold laundry…Well, maybe you could. After settling into a new apartment just one month ago, I decided to tweak my daily routine and take charge of my household chores. So, I’m here to give my 8 tips to simplify your laundry routine.

Designate specific days of the week to do your laundry

Back in the day, I would wash either every day of the week or only on Saturdays. Both options left me pressed! I’d end up with clothes all over the place and nothing folded or put away for that matter. So, recently, I created a chore chart for myself and my daughters to maintain the household and it’s been working like a charm! I chose Tuesdays and Fridays as my laundry days. So far I’ve found that I have a lot less laundry to manage when working with two days rather than doing a week’s worth all at one time. I’m a lot less overwhelmed and feel like I have more control over my laundry.

Laundry basket on a wooden floor

Separate your laundry by person

I’ve found that separating my laundry by who owns it has been a huge help when it comes to folding and putting it away at the end. I typically separate my clothes from the girls and then I do the towels last. I have to use a hypoallergenic detergent for mine due to eczema so it works out. Lazy Erin would throw all of the clothes in the wash together with some Tide and hope for the best lol. Don’t be like lazy Erin.

Wash when it’s convenient for you

I’ve found that starting a load of laundry when I first wake up in the morning really gives me a headstart on this chore. It takes about 30 minutes for the clothes to wash and 1 hour to dry. If I can wash them early enough, I have enough time to throw them in the dryer before I walk out the door. I’ll even ask my kids to throw them in the dryer if my hands are full doing something else. This way, I can fold when I get home. I’ll typically make this first load the towels. Towels are the easiest thing to fold, so I let the girls tackle this task while I’m getting dinner ready after work. They even put the towels away when they’re done too!

I usually wait until after the girls have taken their baths to wash their load of clothes so that I can catch the clothes that they wore that day. If I don’t have time to fold before I go to bed, I’ll work on folding in the morning or just wait until the next day. As long as they’re clean and dry, I’m good with that. I’m not perfect, so sometimes we’ll just pick through that load in a laundry basket for a few days or even let them sit in the dryer. Hey, it happens. The main goal is to do what I can when I can and not feel rushed or pressured to get it done. The point of washing is having clean clothes, so the goal is already met.

Lap top with Stranger Things playing

Multitask while folding

Sometimes I just don’t have the time to fold my laundry as soon as it’s done drying and it piles up quickly. It becomes this huge monster of clothes overflowing on my couch or the left side of my bed. Life happens. So I take it all in stride. I’ll turn on a good movie or a series on Netflix I love and start folding with some snacks like it’s a party for one. Before I know it, I’m done.

Fold as soon as your clothes are dry

To avoid the dreaded pile of laundry I mentioned before, I try to fold as soon as each load is dry. This is going to save a lot of time and digging through baskets of clean clothes days later. It gives me a sense of accomplishment for actually finishing the laundry all in one day.

clothes hanging in a closet

Save time and use hangers

The use of hangers has been so beneficial for me lately. Since we just moved, I haven’t purchased dressers just yet, so the laundry has been a nightmare when it comes to putting things away. It was difficult to find what I’m looking for when all of the clothes were in plastic bins. I went to Wal-Mart and grabbed a ton of cheap plastic hangers and went to town! I have pretty much all of our clothes hung up in the closets. Not only does this save time when looking for clothes in the morning, but it also cuts my laundry routine in half since I’m not obligated to fold as much. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Enlist the help of your children

Lately, I’ve been including my girls in my laundry routine and daily chores around the house. Being apart of this routine can start at almost any age. I showed Aniyah how to use the washer and dryer and how to measure out the laundry detergent. Sarai enjoys getting on her step stool to put the wet clothes in the dryer. Sometimes I’ll see them working together and Aniyah will pass the wet clothes to Sarai so she can place them in the dryer. They both separate their clothes by color and they also help out with folding and hanging up their own clothes. Of course, I oversee it all to make sure it’s done properly.

Matching socks, separating underwear, and organizing little training bras are my least favorite thing to do on laundry day. I typically give this task to the girls. I’m also deeply considering just buying plain black socks for everyone. It gets frustrating when I can’t find a match lol. We dump all of their socks, underwear, and bras on the floor and sort together while watching a movie or listening to music. Before we know it, everything is put away and we spent some quality time together as well.

I stopped using an iron

Did your jaw just drop? Or Nah? First of all, I HATE ironing and I know I cannot be the only person who does. I really think that fewer people are ironing these days and I’ve become one of them. Someone shared a Downey Wrinkle Releaser in their Instagram stories and I was shooketh! I was like where has this been all of my life?! I literally spray the item of clothing I want to wear, shake it, and hang it to dry. Within a few minutes, I’m out the door with a wrinkle-free shirt that smells great too. I even have a travel size that I keep in my car and take with me when I travel. It’s so clutch! I couldn’t even tell you when the last time I ironed even was.

Another way to avoid the wrinkles are to hang your clothes up as soon as they dry. If you leave them balled up in the dryer or in a laundry basket, there’s really no turning back. That white Tee you love now looks like a crumpled piece of paper. You can also throw your favorite pieces in the dryer with a damp washcloth for a few minutes and the wrinkles should release

I hope these tips were just as helpful to you as they are to me. How do you simplify your laundry routine at home? Leave a comment below and let me know what works best for you! If you happen to give any of these tips a try, let me know!

For the first time in what seemed like forever, my daughters were off to their first summer visitation with their dad for two whole weeks.
I searched for a while online to look for resources or even other blogs discussing this topic, but I hardly found anything. Girl, I was a complete mess! I tried to hold myself together until the week prior to their departure. My tears fell at the most random times while driving, in the shower, and even at the grocery store. I never had this amount of time to myself away from my girls and I was definitely feeling it.

two black Brown skinned girls sitting on a slide with natural hair

It’s not all sunshine and rainbows

To the naked eye, most moms seem pretty thrilled to be kid-free during summer visitation. It allows them to breathe for a moment. Although this is true, mamas don’t typically discuss the tough times they have when their kids are gone for long stretches of time.

If you really think about it, we spend every waking moment planning our day, week, and months around our children. We’re coordinating around sports practices, school, homework, and everything in between. As a single mama, my life is constantly revolving around my daughters. When my kids are gone, I can easily feel lost without them. Over time, our identities become wrapped around our children and we don’t even realize it. If you were to ask me what my favorite movie is or favorite thing to do, I’d probably say going to the park, making slime, and watching any Disney movie that’s trending.

Yes, dropping my kids off for an extended period of time can be exciting and something to look forward to, but I’m still human and I still love my children enough to miss them dearly while their gone. When they left it was like an essential organ was being ripped from my body. I didn’t know how I was going to function.

This trip brought fear and anxiety

I also had plenty of fear going into this. There was the fear of being replaced by another woman who was foreign to my girls. I feared them being told to call her mama the same way I was told to call a man Daddy as a child. My mind wandered about how they would be treated and if they would be cared for the way that I do.

Thoughts of them missing me came to mind as well as me not being there to comfort them in times of need. I even questioned their father’s parenting skills because he is not active in their lives and had been abusive toward me in the past. My children are now products of divorce and have seen so much trauma in our once happy home. I worked so hard to build our little family of now three to the strong bond it is now. I didn’t want it all blown away by one bad wolf.

Despite my fears, I trusted that God would cover us all in this process. My daughters deserved to spend time with their father no matter how much of it that may have been. The work that I have and am still doing to heal our brokenness cannot be ripped off like a bandaid during the span of two weeks. This work has been internal. My daughters will always know where their home is.

white coffee mug that reads "Be Strong"

There is strength in our weakness

As mothers, it’s easy for us to feel like we have to be strong all of the time. If we show how we feel, we can potentially be seen as weak or as if we can’t handle the situation at hand. There’s this imaginary notion that we shouldn’t allow our children to see us when we’re hurt, vulnerable, or upset. But that’s the only way they’ll learn to be able to deal with their own emotions. Our children learn from us. So IT’S OKAY to cry when you’re sad, smile when you’re happy and tell them how you feel when you’re feeling it. Show them how to express their feelings rather than bottle them up inside. This shows them that you are their safe space. In order to carry ourselves as strong women, we have to be able to process our feelings properly. There is strength in our weakness.

Processing the drop-off

I had been dreading this summer drop-off for some time but did not expect to feel so empty when I let my girls go. I held up pretty well until it was time to hand them over to their dad. Almost immediately I let the waterworks go as I squeezed them tight for the last time and told them how much I loved them.

Walking back inside of the airport alone felt strange. I didn’t have to hold a little hand or constantly look in my peripheral vision to make sure my children were always in sight. I didn’t have to worry about planning out the next meal or making sure I sit somewhere near a restroom.

For the first time in so long, it was just me that I had to worry about. No one else. This was not an easy thing to process. It was out of the norm for me. I ran to the bathroom a few times to let out what tears still remained. I then looked myself in the mirror and put on a smile. It was all going to be okay.
Although my children shed their tears as well, I knew that they were going to be okay. I knew that they were safe with their father and that’s all that mattered.

Woman laying on a bed with legs crossed in the air

My life is not solely about my children. I am my own person.

Moving forward with the rest of my day, I repeated these words to myself in order to keep my composure. I even wrote them down in my notes on my phone. “I am my own person.” Wow! Those words hit me hard. My children have their own unique identities so why don’t I? I decided to take this experience and do the work to find out who Erin was, is, and will be. This moment was necessary to allow me the breathing room that everyone speaks so highly about. I deserved to rest. So I did just that.

How did you normally feel when you’re apart from your kids? What things do you do to take advantage of that time?

The other day I took my girls with me to Target to window shop and of course, in typical Target fashion, I left with more than I intended to as well as a stomach full of a sweet caramel coffee concoction.

I ended up purchasing a couple of bras and a few pairs of underwear, which is out of the norm for me. I typically lean toward a $9.99 pack of cotton briefs from Walmart and bra from the clearance section that may or may not be my size and make it last a long as humanly possible. I’m just being honest here. I know I can’t be the only one. This time, I decided to treat myself and get some of the colorful, frilly stuff that makes you feel sexy in all the right places even though these places won’t be seeing the light of day for a while. (Hashtag single mama).

Aniyah hanging from monkey bars in a blue dress

When I got home, I decided to try on my new gear, which also leads me to realize that I’m officially an adult now to be that excited about new underwear among other things like electric toothbrushes. My youngest fell asleep after her bath, but my oldest was still up and wanted to hang out in my room.

For most of their lives, it’s been just the three of us, so I’ve always dressed in front of them with no shame. As I went in and out of the closet to try on each piece as if it was a low budget fashion show, I voiced how each made me feel and what I loved most about my body. I often speak to my girls openly about body image and loving ourselves both internally and externally.

I allowed myself to be vulnerable

Aniyah asked about my stretch marks and where they come from. I explained how I believe they’re my badge of honor for becoming her mother. I told her how my body stretched as God formed her in my womb and I was left with my “tiger stripes” as evidence of the most amazing experience that led to my initiation into motherhood. I told her how much I loved my thick thighs and how they’d always been that way even at her age. I even did a little shimmy to show her how they jiggle. She laughed and jiggled hers too.

The short conversation left a big impact

After pointing out my flaws and explaining how I love them anyway, I told Aniyah just how beautiful I believe she is and that we are a lot alike in so many ways. She ended the conversation by telling me that she loves her body just the way it is and that she loves her thighs too. I couldn’t stop smiling from ear to ear and held her so tight. She didn’t realize it, but that short conversation we had while I stood in front of a mirror in my underwear exposing my love handles and stretch marks was one of the most powerful conversations we’ve ever had.

I didn’t want history to repeat itself

I suffered from issues with body image my entire life until recently. I covered up as much as I could and was ashamed for what I looked like. I wanted to look like the other girls I went to school with. I envied their thigh gap, flat stomachs, and skinny arms. I’ve always had a small waist, thick thighs, and arms that jiggled.

I remember going to the doctor at thirteen for a checkup and hearing my mother and the doctor whisper about my being overweight while I sat on the table holding back tears of frustration, embarrassment, and anger. I felt like I was built wrong and shamed for it. My stepfather would make jokes about my size and ask me if I was pregnant. My weight fluctuated from being overweight to being extremely small through my high school years.

I chose to break the cycle

It took a few years and a few wrong turns to learn to love myself just the way I am not reliant on the opinions of others. It also took me to go through these experiences to learn how to mother my children in areas that I’ve never experienced in my own childhood. Because of the hurt that I experienced at a young age and the lack of support and encouragement, I was able to give these things to my own daughter who doesn’t quite fit the mold according to society. I see myself in my little nine-year-old melanin beauty. I tell her that God just gave me more of her to love and that’s a fact.