The Audacity to Be Ambitious: Raising a Child Without My Mother
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At 18, I found myself a single parent of a 1-year-old, a college student and struggling to deal with the death of my mom.

The year or two after my mom’s death remains a complete blur because my sole goal was to simply survive. Now, 12 years later, I have two masters degrees under my belt and a pre-teen who effortlessly has the confidence that took me decades to have. 

Motherhood has been a forever evolving journey for me with trials and errors at nearly every turn. 

Every time my daughter turns another year older, I am in awe because there were days that I could not see past the next hour due to the weight of being a mom with no guidance and seldom any hope. I navigated undergrad while working full time without a mother or grandmother to assist me with childcare or to give me tips on how to manage all of the roles that I was juggling, which left me feeling very defeated. 

Looking back at the times that I screamed sitting in my parked car and the nights that I cried myself to sleep, I now know that I was in a dark hole of depression.

However, I slapped on a smile to hide it every day. I was so good at acting that my classmates had no clue that my mom had passed and my family didn’t know that I was sleeping on my friend’s couch for six months because I had nowhere to go after my daughter’s dad and I parted ways. My world always felt heavy and I channeled my anger, despair and disappointment into my career and my academics, which I knew would at the minimum put me in a position to be a better provider for my daughter. 

When I had to go to class, my friends watched my kid in the common areas at the university. When I worked overnight as a correctional officer, my daughter’s dad’s side of the family watched her, which put me in the position to finish college, but all of the time that I had to be a part from her left me feeling guilty. 

Closeup of blogger Shantell Lee with a crisp white shirt and dreads falling just past her shoulder
Shantell Lee overcame the painful loss of her mother in order to be there for her own daughter. Photo: Shantell Lee

I had the audacity to be ambitious and a burning desire to not settle, which propelled me towards my goals. One of the things that was highlighted for me during that time in my life is that so many women sacrificed their goals to be mothers and I was attempting to do something that a lot of the mothers around me may have not considered. I was pushing through my pain, paving my own way through life and chasing fast after my goals while showing up as somebody’s momma every single day. I refused to ignore what I needed to feel successful at my career and in college for motherhood. 

I pride myself on the perseverance and strength that I embodied at such a young age. I also look back on those dark days and find comfort in knowing that the rainbow really did come out after the rain. 

The loss of my mother is something that I still struggle with, and I have accepted that it is not something that you simply get over. While my mom is not physically here any more, I find peace in knowing that I have an overflow of memories of how she graciously handled being momma to a rebel like me.