Review| My Single Mom Life, by Angela Thomas
When I first left “Egypt” (as I like to call it), I washed up on my parents’ doorstep in an old minivan with three toddlers, and I’m lucky that I even had parents that could take me in — I know so many of you are abandoned by your own families when trying to escape an abusive marriage. But in my case, I had some family (four states away) that I could drive toward!
In those first few months of survival, I lived in my parents’ loft with my kids. I was moving toward being independent but I wasn’t there yet. I was still in great turmoil. From the outside I looked like I was “making it”: I had enough monthly support to cover the necessities, we were surviving, I was job hunting, my family wouldn’t let us end up living in our van down by the river — all positive things. But my heart and spirit were totally crushed. Looking back, it probably took me 2 years to start feeling like a stable person who could respond to God without screeching about all of the injustice and unmet desires. It took me two years to process the trauma, to make peace with the fact that I had never been loved by my husband, and to cry all of that out. To face the fact that I had to share my children with my ex husband and his mistress, and I had to paste a smile on my face when I handed my babies over for Christmas. Gut wrenching, I tell you. There were days when I wondered if God hated me; if I was truly a cursed woman. (Maybe you are like me, and for years it seemed the only people in the Bible that you could understand were Leah, Job, and Naomi in the opening chapters of Ruth.)
During that time, I found a book that brought me a lot of peace. It stayed on my bedside table next to my Bible. Every time I read it again, I would “hear” a new part of it — some of the chapters I couldn’t process at first. But eventually I would think: oh yeah, I get that part now.Angela Thomas’s story of her “single mom life” describes her own beginning as the day that she wandered from room to room in her house, sobbing, packing whatever clothing she could find into laundry baskets, and loading her 4 children into her car. She does not go into much detail about what led up to the divorce, but there are clues that she was in an abusive marriage. For example in one of the later chapters she describes being at peace, because she can rest in her house and “no one has said one mean thing to me all day” . . . many of her statements in the book sound exactly like the kind of things we survivors say to each other on this blog, i.e. “Thank God I finally have rest from his constant temper / violence / manipulation / control / mean words.” Angela also mentions that she is not able to co-parent with her ex-husband, and she gives advice on dealing with this reality.
My take on this book is that she is a survivor of domestic abuse, however it doesn’t appear that she fully recognized it (or was able to put it in these terms). Her masters degree was from Dallas Theological Seminary, and she seems to have a few attitudes poking through which mirror the confusion of the evangelical church regarding abuse & God’s view of divorce. She spends a great deal of time explaining that she was brought up in a Christian home and she knew all about “how not to get divorced.” At times she sounds like she is trying to justify herself to her audience, and given the way that ‘c’hurch people handle abusive marriages, this is understandable. Which is why I say the following:
A caution here (for survivors of abuse) — she encourages us to pray for our ex husbands, a little bit like the oppressive advice many of us have received to pray for blessings on the evil men who have destroyed your lives because that’s what a “good Christian” would do. You may read her thoughts on this and have a triggering moment! I just skipped over that part and reminded myself that “praying good things for my abuser” = praying that he faces some consequences here on earth, in the hope that it might change his heart before he ends up in hell. Because that is the real truth here. And I won’t further burden myself with this “law for divorced mamas”. When your regular prayers involve you begging God to protect your babies from an evil man, you don’t waste that prayer time asking God to “bless” that evil man. Amen? Don’t take on any false guilt for his choices. Let’s move on!
Her description of her life was so close to my own experience that I clung to it. There was hope in that book. Hope that didn’t revolve around finding a new husband — hope that revolved around a happy future whether we raise our kids single-handedly or not. She did spend the last couple of chapters dealing with loneliness and the longing for a partner, but she discusses it in a way that is helpful. For example, she describes how after so many lonely years pass by, we start to believe that we are simply “not worth finding”. The lies that we tell ourselves can lead us to make more mistakes. She uses real-life anecdotes and again: hope.
I will end with a quote from My Single Mom Life [*Affiliate link] and then recommend it to every Christian woman who reads this blog and needs this encouragement. 🙂
I’m just wondering if what you once thought of as awful can become the best thing that ever happened. When life takes a turn you never expected, suddenly you are on a road not marked by any map. It’s the scariest, thorniest, most treacherous road you’ve ever walked. And then, one day, around a corner, it’s the most beautiful place you’ve ever been. What if being a single mom is like that? One day the pain is covered over by love, and what has been awful turns into the best life you’ve ever known. . . . That’s the kind of thing God likes to do. He works terrible things out for good. He likes to take circumstances like ours and make breathtaking, God-glorifying good come from it. — My Single Mom Life, pp.191-192.