This post is the first in a series from DeVonna on her experience as a single mother and the joys and challenges of starting a nonprofit.
In the summer of 2002, I discovered that I was pregnant. My child’s father made it very clear that he would take care of his responsibilities but he did not want to be in an exclusive relationship.
Talking about somebody crushed! I was devastated! It felt like my whole world was coming to an end!
Never in a million years would I think that I would be somebody’s “baby mother.” I yearned for a family setting and had dreams of being married with a white picket fence, a dog and one or two kids!
The thought of not having the life I envisioned didn’t sit with me too well. I also felt that I was taking the easy way out because there were preconceived notions by many people that I wouldn’t amount to anything. I can remember so vividly certain things that my family would say to me. For example, you are going to be just like your mother–a drug addict–or you are going to be pregnant before you graduate from high school.
But I used words like that as my motivation to break the cycles of dysfunctional families.
On January 6, 2003, I gave birth to my daughter. I loved my child, but being a mother felt like a chore instead of parenting. I had sleepless nights, moments that I would forget to eat and moments that I felt as if my life was over.
I had nothing and the little bit of self-esteem I had left slowly drifted away. The day my daughter turned three months I looked her in her eyes and said “I promise that we will be in our own place for your first Christmas!”
From that day forth, I channeled all of my pain into determination. I started to set goals and never looked back. It’s amazing because the goals that were so major to me back then seem so small right now. I had goals such as:
I will have a job by the time my daughter turns 6 months
I will pay off my credit card debt within the first 2 months of working
I will be in my own apartment by my daughter’s first Christmas
I will have furnished my apartment within the first two months
I will have my driver’s license by my 21st Birthday
I will save 10 percent of my income for a rainy day
I will save my income taxes to purchase a reliable car
I will go back to school
I put copies of my goals on the kitchen refrigerator, bathroom door, my daughter’s crib and more.
I accomplished each goal, but two accomplishments stand out the most: obtaining my first real corporate job and moving into my first apartment.
When I got my first job through a temp agency, as soon as I hung up the phone, I jumped and screamed at the top of my lungs! I already had a sitter lined up. I just didn’t know how I was going to get the money to get to work. My aunt gave me her last $10.00 and said, “DeVonna I am very proud of you.”
I did my work with pride and was like a sponge. I wanted to learn everything!
I used my first few paychecks to pay off my credit card debt so I wouldn’t have a problem getting approved for my apartment. On October 1, 2003, I moved into my first apartment.
It wasn’t the best neighborhood, but it was something that I could afford and call my own. I decorated and tried my best to make it feel like a home. I didn’t have a car so it was very difficult to get acclimated to catching the bus with my child. I would get up 5:30 in the morning. I would catch a bus to the metro and another bus from the metro to get to the baby sitter’s house. The same bus that took me to the corner of the sitter’s house turned around within six minutes to take me back to the metro so I could catch the train to work.
Though I was able to accomplish each one of my goals, it still wasn’t appeasing to me!
When I would pray to God, He would say, "I would like for you to make a difference in this world…give back to your community.”
This marinated in my heart for approximately a year. One night, I couldn’t sleep. I tossed and turned all night long.
I felt this strange feeling in my heart, so I closed my eyes gently and slowly, tilted my head back and recalled all that I’ve known. I began to dream, while imagining things unseen.
I figured out my life’s mission: to restore positive attributes into the lives of low-income, single mothers and at-risk youth! I called the organization Tyunin’s Breakthrough, Inc. after my mother, who is striving to overcome her drug addiction. I believe that this organization is her breakthrough to positively impact the lives of women and girls!
DeVonna Petree is CEO of Tyunin’s Breakthrough, which focuses on restoring joy, strength, and growth opportunities into the lives of low income single mothers and at-risk youth located in the D.C. metropolitan area. Tyunin’s Breakthrough is not a Grantee Partner of The Women’s Foundation, and is not officially associated with The Women’s Foundation.