Motherly Collective

When my son was 2 years old, my then-husband was arrested on suspicion of drinking and driving. It wasn’t the first time, but it was the last straw for me. Without hesitation, I packed up all our belongings, and we left.

As a new mother, your identity changes but, as a single mother, your identity disappears altogether. My life became a series of hours to survive. I lost my dreams and goals to the demands of my daily routine. I had to focus on caring for my son. My sense of self became intertwined with my role as his sole caregiver. Being a single mom brought feelings of shame, depression and inadequacy—-all of which were intensified by my diagnosis of anorexia and anxiety. I felt broken.

After we left, I vividly remember my son sleeping in his shoes every night and crying that he wanted to go home. When we finally settled into our own place, I was determined to provide him solace. I spent hours designing his bedroom with his favorite colors and toys. That first night in our new home, he finally slept alone in his bed for the first time saying, “This is my cozy space.” It was then that I started to regain my confidence, and I recognized the importance of having a home that feels safe and secure.

Through my personal journey, I have gained a profound appreciation for the impactful work undertaken by the organization I am privileged to lead. I currently serve as the Executive Director of Dwell with Dignity, a nonprofit dedicated to helping families with children, particularly single mothers, who have escaped poverty, homelessness and domestic abuse—remarkable women who have overcome the most difficult situations and have pulled themselves out of adversity. We achieve this by designing and installing complete home interiors free of cost.

The consequences and trauma of homelessness among young children are devastating and long-lasting. Half of school-age homeless children experience anxiety, depression, or withdrawal compared to 18% of non-homeless children. However, through our work, we’ve experienced how transformational design can break the generational cycle of poverty. Our approach, focused on creating beautiful and calming designs, has proven successful.One-hundred percent of the families we served in 2022 maintained employment, secured independent housing and achieved self-sufficiency. Additionally, 100% of our families in 2022 saw positive changes in their children’s overall behavior and academic performance.

A stable home is essential for the emotional and mental well-being of single mothers. Having a space to call my own allowed me to feel whole again. It provided routine, structure and security. I felt empowered to build a brighter future for myself and my child. 

How to create a safe space at home for your child

  • Designate a cozy space for your child. Regardless of budget, you can always create a space in your home that is exclusively for your child. It can be a cozy corner in the living room, a mini-library or as simple as  a wall with your child’s artwork. Having a designated space for their activities and interests can help them feel confident and secure.
  • Let your child have input on their space. Children have opinions and would love to share them with you. Take them with you to pick out art, a blanket or some dishes for your meals so they feel bought in and listened to.
  • Create a predictable routine. Kids thrive on predictable routines. They feel safe and secure when they know what’s coming next. Create a schedule that works for you and your child and stick to it as much as possible. For example, try establishing a regular bedtime, mealtime and playtime.
  • Foster open communication. Communication is the key to creating a stable home. Encourage your child to share their feelings and thoughts with you, and listen actively when they are speaking. If your child feels heard and validated, they are more likely to feel secure and confident.
  • Spend quality time together at home. It is important to carve out quality time with your child, whether it is playing a game together, cooking together or just spending time chatting and catching up. Doing activities together can help build trust between you and your child.

As a former single mother, I understand the struggle of rebuilding your life and providing a safe and stable home for your child. I’ve since come to realize that having a shelter that is more than just four walls and a roof can be life-changing. It needs to be a place of comfort, love and security. 

Dwell with Dignity has discovered that by designing and installing complete home interiors, we can help families overcome the obstacles they face and provide a sense of hope for families in need. By providing a meaningful and beautiful home, we can empower single mothers and their children to achieve self-sufficiency and build a brighter future.

This story is a part of The Motherly Collective contributor network where we showcase the stories, experiences and advice from brands, writers and experts who want to share their perspective with our community. We believe that there is no single story of motherhood, and that every mother's journey is unique. By amplifying each mother's experience and offering expert-driven content, we can support, inform and inspire each other on this incredible journey. If you're interested in contributing to The Motherly Collective please click here.