Guest Blog #3- Casey Burk

What doesn’t kill me makes me….


Struggling to make ends meet day to day isn’t something new to me. I have been on my own for a long time and there hasn’t been a day since then that I haven’t struggled. Emotionally, financially, sometimes even physically. It’s no surprise to me that the upcoming arrival of my second child is causing more stress than most pregnant women experience. I am a single mother of almost 2 children, no job, and no promise of hope in the near future. All I have are my children, some scattered family members for some support, and a back bone that gets stronger every day.

I started working when I was 15. Not because my family was poor and I had to but because I wanted to. I wanted my own money and my freedom. I liked work back then. I wasn’t forced to be there, I didn’t have rent to pay or food to buy. Working gave me a new sense of responsibility and made me feel independent. It wasn’t like I was working in some special career that would last a lifetime, but I felt good about myself. I had no idea that one day working would feel forced and I would be so unhappy doing something just to keep a roof over my head.

I chose not to go to college right out of high school. I got into some trouble in my senior year and barely finished school as it was. College seemed like the last thing I should be doing. I didn’t think it would have an effect on my life. I had worked many jobs by then, creating a buffet of skills that employers would be pleased to see. I figured I could get a great job and start my lifelong career with no training at all. I had no idea what that career would be, but that didn’t worry me. Besides, soon I would meet my husband and could stay at home with my children, right?

When I was 18, I met “the man of my dreams”. I moved out of my mom’s house to be with him (at the exact time my mommy moved thousands of miles away for her Mr. Right). Things seemed to be going in the direction I always thought they would. We were poor and I had to continue to work, but I knew that one day he would step up and be able to take care of us while I started a family. We struggled with money for a long time, and I started to get worried that my fantasy of the perfect life was just that; a fantasy. I questioned whether or not this was the right man for me and came close to leaving that life behind. Until I got pregnant. We got married. All of a sudden my fantasy was back on track and I was getting the family I always wanted. Except I was still working. I didn’t get to stay at home and raise my son the way I had pictured. Most of the time I was the one who had the job while daddy got to stay home with the baby. Something was seriously wrong with that picture.

I can’t pinpoint just one reason as to why that marriage didn’t work out, but that’s not really important. Just as fast as I had fallen in love with him and started a life with him, it was over. I was broke and alone with a confused three year old little boy. We couched surfed for a little bit until I found a permanent place for us to live. We had to split time between myself and his father while I held down a full time job, hoping to make enough money to get a place for the two of us and to make some sort of life for us. This was all wrong. This was not what I signed up for.

After some unfortunate events, I ended up with primary custody of my son and had to move away from my job and my life to live with my sister. I remember waking up in a panic sometimes, wondering when my life would settle down and I would have at least some piece of that fantasy back. Stress from worrying about making ends meet began to wear my body down. I was emotionally and physically deteriorating. All the while I had a bright eyed little boy looking at me and forcing me to stay strong. If I couldn’t do it for me, I had to do it for him.

I managed to make it through that time in my life relatively sane, but not nearly as physically strong as I once was. My body slowly started to give out on me and I found myself in and out of doctors’ visits and even in surgery. A new relationship helped get me through that, and I had some hope that maybe that fantasy wasn’t too far off. But once again, I was the one working while he sat at home. I was supporting us, even when I was too sick to do anything else. How had I managed to put myself in the same kind of relationship as before? To make a long story short, I ended up pregnant and alone (who cheats on their pregnant girlfriend and then expects them to stick around?)

I sit here today, 8 months pregnant, with all the stress and fear that I had before, except now I have TWO bright eyed children that I am responsible for. I lost my job when I got pregnant and have been unable to work since then due to having a high risk pregnancy (having surgery while pregnant isn’t the best idea.) I once again live with my sister and her family. I wake up in the middle of the night with that same panic feeling, wondering how I got myself in this same situation. I figured I would learn my lesson the first time, I figured I would have grown at least smarter, if not stronger. I have that voice in the back of my head reprimanding me for letting it happen again.

I feel that way until my son looks at me and says things like “You are the best mommy in the world” or “I love you more than any kid loves his mommy ever”. Coming from a five year old who has been through his share of emotional letdown that has to mean I’m doing something right. Comments like that are what keep me pushing forward. His hugs and kisses keep me from completely melting and hiding under the covers every day. The love that he has for his unborn little sister gives me all the hope in the world that not only can I make it as a single mother, but I can give my children the life and love that they deserve. I may not ever have someone to take care of me and give me the things that I need, but I have a feeling I may be strong enough to do it on my own.