Growing up, we lived in a two-bedroom, one bath, 700 square foot duplex. It wasn’t situated in the nicest part of town, but with a few picture frames and fake plants, we called it home until I was 13. Our carpet was a goldish-yellow shag that, in retrospect, should have never been a trend. We sat on the famous floral-patterned couch set until it caved in. The neighborhood had high crime, run-down homes, and was crawling with stray cats and dogs.

I didn’t know any better at the time as all my friends lived in the same area with the same homes, but we were extremely poor.

RELATED: If Other Kids Call You ‘Poor’

We weren’t poor the way I think of poor nowwe were far worse off than that.

My mom was a school crossing guard, and my dad worked in tech distribution full time. We were scraping by to make ends meet. My mom mastered the art of couponing and making hand-me-downs and consignment items seem new. I didn’t get to go shopping, to movies, or out to eat. Sometimes we walked to Checkers for a burger and friesthat was a real treat. Most of the time our family all shared $5 pizzas, or we split one Hamburger Helper box several ways. My husband can eat two of these on his own, so remembering how my dad gave me the heartiest portion and the last slice of food only for him to go to bed hungry fills my heart with gratitude I could never fully express.

Somehow, my family still made Christmas magical with presents to unwrap. My parents told me they saved $10-$15 each month so I could have the Christmas every child deserves. And I did. I got new clothes, toys, bath products, hair accessories, and dolls. I can’t remember my parents ever exchanging gifts with one another, but they sure sacrificed for me. Life was hard for them at the time, but through it all, we still had each other.

We didn’t have a lot of money, but we had a lot of heart.

Our walks to Checkers were full of laughs, and our barefoot days on the cul-de-sac were some of my fonder memories. All we needed was a water hose, a bicycle, and a couple of quarters for a shared occasional ice-cream-truck treat. We gathered in church every week to pray in thanks, not in desire.

RELATED: I Was the Angel on the Tree and This is What My Family Really Needed

Life without rose-colored glasses meant we weren’t image-focused, we were family-focused. For fun instead of TV and movies, we played Clue for hours on end. Our friends loved us just the way we wereno frills. Our conditions exposed to me a childhood that proved I don’t need money to be happy. There was constant togetherness in our minimalistic home which drew us to be creative.

As a teenager, I wasn’t sure we would ever climb out of the hole or if I’d ever shop at Limited Too and Old Navy, but I also didn’t care. It was the life I knew and cherished. We did escape our humble beginnings, and my parents now own a 5,000-square-foot home and they sit on far more comfortable reclining sofas than our busted kitchen chairs and stained floral couches.

RELATED: Kids Remember the Memories, Not the Mess

Growing up poor didn’t impair us. We remained optimistic in every circumstance. We learned to be thankful for the little things like a roof over our heads and our health. All the finest gadgets and gizmos don’t hold a candle to the love shared in our household.

The life of being poor taught me to push back and fight to become something great. It taught me to work hard but above alllove harder.

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available now!

Order Now

Check out our new Keepsake Companion Journal that pairs with our So God Made a Mother book!

Order Now
So God Made a Mother's Story Keepsake Journal

Jennifer Bailey

Stay at home mom enjoying one little boy and navigating parenting one trip to Target at a time.

Here’s to the Friends Who Don’t Hide Their Messy Parts

In: Friendship, Motherhood
Two women sit in a field with arms around each other

To the friend who invited me over without picking her house up beforehand . . . thank you.  You had no way of knowing, but I’ve been especially weighed down by the feeling of “I can’t keep up” lately—and when I walked into your beautiful home and saw dishes in the sink and laundry scattered here and there, I let out the deepest exhale I didn’t even realize I was holding in.  Because seeing your mess? Your less-than-perfect? It didn’t make me think any differently of you, but it did allow me to give myself the grace I desperately needed....

Keep Reading

This Is a Mom’s Brain in the Middle of the Night

In: Living, Motherhood
Woman looking at smartphone in the middle of the night

Dear husband, let me introduce you to your wife, insomnia edition. You see me not sleeping. You see me “playing” on my phone. Here’s what my brain is actually doing . . .  It’s 2 a.m., I wake up thinking, “I need to make an appointment” (it can be as mundane and stupid as a haircut or more importantly, a specialist appointment for one of the kids). I try to go back to sleep, promising myself I will remember. Lying there, I tell myself I won’t forget. I will remember, don’t worry. Fifteen minutes go by . . . On...

Keep Reading

It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye

In: Grief, Living, Loss
Small dog with head hanging out car window, color photo

Our dog Carlos has slowed down considerably within the last few months. He’s always been outspoken and opinionated–a typical firstborn trait–and to hear him snoring most of the day and tolerating things he normally wouldn’t tolerate (i.e. being carried from place to place by my son, forklift-style) put me on notice that he’s in the fourth quarter. Carlos looks and acts like an Ewok from the Star Wars franchise. According to Wikipedia, Ewoks are clever, inquisitive, and inventive. Carlos checks all three boxes. As a puppy, we tried crate training, but it never took. It wasn’t for lack of trying....

Keep Reading

Her Future Will Not Be My Broken Past

In: Living, Motherhood
Mother and daughter hold hands by water, silhouette photo

Forty years ago, you were an innocent child. You were brought into this world for a purpose. Your innocence is robbed before kindergarten by a trusted relative. You are broken and bruised by those entrusted to protect you. You are extremely emotional in your childhood, but no one listens to understand. As you grow into your teenage years, emotions are bottled up out of fear. You lean into promiscuous behavior because that is the only way you know how to get men to love you. Because of abuse that no one took you out of, you stay around those who...

Keep Reading

Mom’s Special Recipe Means More This Year

In: Grown Children, Living
Bowl full of breadcrumbs and celery, color photo

Three weeks before Easter, my family and I stood in the hallway talking to a team of doctors whom we had flagged down. We were anxiously inquiring about my mom, who was in the ICU on life support. We hadn’t been able to connect with the doctors for over 48 hours, so it was important for us to check in and see what was going on. The head doctor began discussing everything they had observed in the scans and what it meant for my mom’s quality of life. Every word made our hearts break. The doctor continued to talk about...

Keep Reading

I’m a Mom Who Reads and is Raising Readers

In: Living, Motherhood
Mom with infant daughter on bed, reading a book, color photo

Since childhood, I’ve been lost in a world of books. My first true memory of falling in love with a book was when my mom read aloud Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. With each voice she used, I fell deep into the world of imagination, and I’ve never seemed to come up for air. My reading journey has ebbed and flowed as my life has gone through different seasons, but I’ve always seemed to carry a book with me wherever I went. When I entered motherhood and gave my whole life over to my kids, I needed something that...

Keep Reading

You Have to Feel before You Can Heal

In: Living
Depressed woman in bed

“Nobody will protect you from your suffering. You can’t cry it away or eat it away or starve it away or walk it away or punch it away or even therapy it away. You have to endure it. You have to live through it and love it and move on and be better for it and run as far as you can in the direction of your best and happiest dreams across the bridge that was built by your own desire to heal.” -Cheryl Strayed How do you heal? You let the pain pass through you. You feel your feelings....

Keep Reading

I Didn’t Know How Much I Needed Other Mothers

In: Friendship, Living, Motherhood
Two mom friends smiling at each other

I read somewhere the other day that when a child is born, a parent is too. In my first few months being a mother, I’m learning just how odd that sentiment is. In an instant, I became someone new. Not only that, but I became part of a group I didn’t realize existed. That sounds wrong. Of course, mothers existed. But this community of mothers? I had no idea. It took us a long time to get where we are today. Throughout our journey with infertility, I knew in my heart I was meant to be a mother. I knew that...

Keep Reading

To the Extended Family That Shows Up: We Couldn’t Do This Without You

In: Kids, Living, Motherhood
Family visiting new baby in a hospital room

This picture—my heart all but bursts every time I see it.  It was taken five years ago on the day our daughter was born. In it, my husband is giving her her very first bath while our proud extended family looks on. It was a sweet moment on a hugely special day, but gosh–what was captured in this photo is so much more than that. This photo represents everything I could have ever hoped for my kids: That they would have an extended family who shows up in their lives and loves them so deeply.  That they would have grandparents,...

Keep Reading

Please Don’t Tell a Couple Trying to Conceive to Just Relax

In: Friendship, Living, Motherhood
Black-and-white photo of medical supplies

This is a plea. A plea to those who know someone who is struggling with infertility. So, if you’re reading this, this is directed right to you. Please, for the love of everything, when someone tells you they are struggling to conceive, do not tell them to “just relax.” I know it’s the cliche, default term most blurt out because they don’t know what else to say. It’s awkward to discuss for some. I’m 10000% positive it is coming from a good place and is meant to be calming and reassuring, and you really do believe it’s true because a...

Keep Reading