I grew up in a small town where people worked as ranchers, teachers and shop keepers. Most people worked hard, sent their kids to the local school, and attended the same church. When a local ranching family had a child injured in a tractor accident, the community rallied around them and put up their hay for them while the parents stayed in the hospital with their son. This work was in addition to the farmers putting up their own hay for winter. This community taught me to take care of myself and to look out for others, too.
Because the school was small, all students had an opportunity and were encouraged to participate in their choice of sports, music, and student government. My dad owned a business, leased a ranch, and served two terms as mayor. Others in the community were involved in many things, as well: town council members, school board members, water commissions, etc. Most of my friends’ moms taught me in one way in or another: in our neighborhood, at church, or by volunteering at our school. People were educated about many different aspects, not just their job or expertise. It seemed that everyone was well-rounded; partly because they had to be, but they found joy in knowing and doing.
Due to an employment opportunity, my dad moved our family two states away at the beginning of my senior year of high school. Still considered a small community, this new town was at least 20 times the size of the town we left.
I wasn’t thrilled about this move but found even more opportunities to learn, participate in activities, and meet new people. Despite these new opportunities, I didn’t have the best of attitudes. I chose to be in a relationship with a young man that ended in a pregnancy before I left for college. During that year in college, I received free individual and group counseling from LDS Social Services. My counselor helped me understand what I had to look forward to if I placed my baby for adoption or if I chose to raise him myself. She even let me know that abortion was an option. She especially helped me understand the financial aspects. As the oldest of six children, I was used to helping watch babies and children. I met with a group of young women who were planning to or had placed their baby for adoption for a few months. I thought this would be the best thing for me to do. I realized, however, that I wanted to raise my child. My counselor then introduced me to a group of young women who were planning to keep their babies or were already raising them.
The needs of these two groups were sometimes different and sometimes the same. Both groups needed love and support. Indeed, sometimes a perceived lack of love and support was what had encouraged these young women to be in the relationship in which they became pregnant. Both groups were very brave. To choose to allow someone else to raise and love your child takes no less love and courage than to raise them yourself. The burden of worry, love, and concern remains in both cases. This support from LDS Social Services and the young mothers I met was priceless.
A bit about finances: during my first year of college, I had a scholarship and grant money to help pay for tuition and books. The next two years I was able to have grants, and the final year I had to take out a student loan in addition to receiving a grant. Each summer during college, I worked on a large farm to supplement my income through the year, and by spring of year two and three I would find part-time work at a fast food place or a restaurant. During my fourth year, I worked on campus in a sandwich shop because I knew from experience that my savings wouldn’t get me through the school year. I was also fortunate that last year to find a roommate, a cousin’s sister-in-law, who helped pay rent and did the dishes. She was such a blessing to me!
During my second year in college, now that I had my son, I knew my expenses would go up and my income wouldn’t, so I applied for food stamps and help paying for childcare through Assistance for Families with Dependent Children (AFDC). I knew that the biological father of my son and I would not get married. He had yet to graduate from high school and was no better off financially than I was. I was willing to accept financial help from him, but I did not want to bind him to that help. I was also willing to let him see my son as long as I was in charge of those visits and of the decisions of raising him. I knew I wanted to eventually marry and raise a family and I didn’t want the biological father to thwart any of that. I now know what a gracious act it was for this young man to concede to my wishes and I am grateful for his choice to honor my wishes.
Because I applied for assistance from the state welfare system, they gathered all the information about both parents. I naively thought that I could explain the arrangement I had with the biological father and that they would not pursue him. I found out 6 months later (the wheels of government grind slowly) that I was wrong when he contacted me to ask why I was trying to sue him for child support. When I found out the state does that in every case, I got out of the welfare system. Financial assistance is a form of control. I was not willing to accept the arrangement the state put forward (garnished wages & visitation rights different than we had agreed on previously), so I stopped participating with three months of school left. I went to work part-time to be able to continue to afford a sitter, did all my studying at home, and was able to continue to purchase food for 2 ½ months on the residual food stamp money.
I get financial bondage. While on state assistance, I had a sitter for eight hours a day and could go to class, study, and hang out with friends between classes. On food stamps, I didn’t have to worry about food for my baby and I. I could go with friends to the canyon to barbecue because I could afford meat! I had to be willing to give that up to hold up my end of the agreement, the agreement I had made to preserve my freedom to determine how my son was raised and by whom.
Giving up food stamps meant working before class or through lunch. It meant spending more time with my son and finding a balance of work, study, and being a mom. I completed a large set of blueprints at home on my kitchen table after dinner instead of at the drafting lab. It was good to be with my son more, even if he was just sleeping, because it helped me be in tune with his needs. All this was difficult, but I feel it was worth it because my limited time and resources helped me figure out and focus on what mattered most. It helped me realize and set my priorities.
I continued to attend college and finished with an Associates of Applied Science in Drafting Technology. During the fall of my last year I met the man who would eventually become my husband. I graduated in the spring, found full time work, and we were married in the fall.
When our next baby was due, my husband, who had still been working on his degree, stopped school and took full-time work so that we could cover the costs that the insurance didn’t and I would be able to stay home for six weeks and only go back to work part time. About a year later my husband went back to school while still working to finish his degree. I found out that I would be laid off. I had recently deepened my faith and I prayed that the Lord would help us financially and help us be where we needed to be. I found full time work so my husband could focus on finishing up school. The work provided some good training on new developments in my expertise, my husband finished his degree, and he was offered a full-time job. Within 6 months, I was able to again have part-time work.
The reason I mention work so much is that I’ve learned we can’t have freedom without work. It’s also fulfilling. I feel deep down in our souls, we have a need for meaningful work, to be able to contribute for the well-being of others, to make the world a better place. This work isn’t just the kind we are paid for, either. It’s work to learn and study, to better ourselves, even when there isn’t a degree in the making. It’s work to care for children. It’s work to strengthen a relationship and to keep a marriage and family strong. Another lay-off for me and two more children in our family and our life keeps moving on. I now work full time at home, educating my children and others in our home school community and serving in my neighborhood and community.
As I learned more through study and in educating my own children, I came to realize that there are principles of freedom that just aren’t taught any more. I’ve seen a tremendous difference in my life when I align my actions with these principles as opposed to when I just go with the flow. Because the difference has been profound, I wanted to share these principles with you.
I hope you will join me in learning about these principles and then act on them. Read through the various freedom articles and join me on this path to freedom. Thank you.
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