“Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.” This is a line from Langston Hughes’ famous 1922 poem, ‘Mother to Son.’ In third grade at Miller Elementary School, I memorized and recited the poem for Black History Month. I never forgot the words and even adapted them to my own words: “Life Happens.” Years later, Langston’s Hughes words and my adaptation resonated with me as a struggling single mom. 

Life Happens a personal essay by Single Mom Merecedes Howze WilliamsLife Happens – The Relationship With My Children’s Father 

Young, dumb, and in love is the only way to describe my relationship with my children’s father. He was my high school sweetheart, and once I got pregnant shortly after graduation, I said, “Cool, let’s start a family.” Playing house is fun in the beginning, and then reality sets in. Three years later, I looked up, and my friends were preparing for their college graduations while I was stuck at a crossroads. Life was happening all around me.  

It wasn’t his one punch to my face. It wasn’t his infidelity. It wasn’t even his lack of parental guidance and care for our children. It was when God whispered in my ear one traumatic night, “Have you had enough yet?” It took me weeks of discernment and understanding to finally walk away and accept life as a single mother.

Life As A Single Mom

While my children’s father wasn’t much help to me when we lived together, he did even less when we parted ways. I was no longer in love. I was overwhelmed with two small children on my own. The paychecks weren’t enough. The food stamps weren’t enough. The Department of Public Welfare was paying for my books at Duquesne University, and even that wasn’t enough. I was drowning in debt and the stress of being a single mom.  

Although surrounded by an insurmountable amount of love and support from family and friends, it was still a tough time. I dropped out of college, got a full-time job, and started making decisions to better my family’s circumstances. Eventually, I started my own business and outsourced my talents to earn additional income. As for my children’s father, I never sued him for child support. I didn’t even hassle him for visitation. I was relieved to be released from a situation that stunted my growth, drained my sanity, and hindered my potential.

Yes, life for me ain’t been no crystal stair, but thank God my “Mother To Son” moment is over!  

Life Happens Even Through The Healing Process

My healing happened in four parts: prayer, fasting, writing, and committed periods of celibacy. These coping methods delivered me from a very dark place of overwhelm, debt, and stress.

Prayer & Fasting

Prayer, as simplistic as it is, really does wonders. In that dark place, my prayers turned into conversations with God about my strength, ability, and how to serve Him better. Every year for Lent, I fast from something big—pop (soda), pork, social media, alcohol, etc. And while at first, those seemed to be huge sacrifices, the 40 days and nights leading up to Easter Sunday weren’t always enough. So, when I first became a single mother, I would pray and begin a fast anytime throughout the year. I felt whole and delivered once the fast was over. It really helped me to clear my mind and grow closer to God.


My words are therapeutic, and it doesn’t matter what I write. From a daily diary entry to film reviews, the pen’s strokes have always erased some of the most unimaginable pain. I even wrote a sermon once and preached it before my Senior Pastor. My words have always been a satisfying comfort.


The hardest of all four was celibacy. Being celibate is more than not having sex. It’s a content place of solidarity where you can’t allow the opposite sex to occupy your space. Sure, I dated when I was celibate. Still, it takes a deeper level of consideration to withhold from physical, spiritual, and mental contact with another human being. Initially, my celibacy felt lonely. But, once I began to mature, I realized that my celibacy was an opportunity to be with my children more and enter into the presence of the Holy Spirit. 

Mercedes children describe her as hilarious. My Now Husband & Family

Today I am happily married, and we share five children (my two, his two, and one together). My husband, Keith, saw the worst– my baggage, scars, my bad attitude– and still loved me. When no man was taking care of my kiddos, he stepped in and said, “I got you.”

I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge my family and friends, who remained consistent despite the rocky times in my life. They always watched the kids, drove me to and from work, provided financial assistance, and, most importantly, encouraged me to stay faithful to my children.

People always ask me, “Do you have any regrets?” My answer is simple, “No, life happens!”

Read more from the Single Mom Photo Essay series.