A love letter to single moms
Single mothers some of the most resilient and hard-working individuals in society. Yet, they often face a multitude of challenges and stigmas. Despite the obstacles they encounter, these women provide for their families, often going above and beyond for their children. A.V. Rockwell’s new film, A Thousand And One, spotlights single motherhood and the various ways women come to raise children. Rockwell’s portrayal of his protagonist’s struggles are resonant because they’re a shared reality of countless other single mothers—and grandmas, aunties, sisters and godmothers who step into motherly, caregiving roles. it becomes evident that the importance of single mothers cannot be overstated and instead of being stigmatized they should in fact be celebrated.
Five L.A. women share their stories of perseverance and growth as single mothers in their own words.
Responses lightly edited for clarity. Photos provided by contributors.
Tammi Mosley, 51
School resource specialist
Kirah (24), Khari (22) and Khamari (15)
“Being a mother is a big responsibility. It’s more than what I anticipated because there isn’t a book that [tells you] how to be a mother. Being a mother is having a part of your heart in a human form. It’s taking care of somebody else before you take care of yourself and giving the best of yourself to them.
“After I completed my B.A. and master’s degrees, I was like, OK, what’s next in life? I ended up getting married and having three children. It was funny because I’m an only child and ended up getting married to a man who was an only child as well. Some people stay because of the kids, but I chose to leave because of my kids. I wanted my kids to have better. I didn’t want them to see the drama and conflict that we were going through. So, I got a divorce and moved from Atlanta to California.
“I wanted my kids to experience the world so I enforced things like getting a passport once they got to high school. My daughter was into the arts so I sent her to Cuba. My son is into design and he expresses that a lot of his inspiration comes from Japan, so I sent him to Japan. I want to give them the best experiences so they can soar and be their best.
“As a society, we need to provide actual support to single mothers. A lot of people say that it takes a village. But, oftentimes when you go out there, the village is not there.
“After I got divorced and moved to California, I was working full-time, working on my credentials to be a teacher and having to pick up three kids. It was a lot, but that’s all I had at the time, and I just had to do what I had to do.
“We often hear, ‘Oh, you’re just trying to be a superwoman. You’re trying to be a superhero.’ It’s not that I want to be this superhero or that person, but those are the only options I have.”
Itzhel Coronel, 34
Robert (9) and Tony (7)
“I have been a single mom for the past two years, since I left a toxic relationship. I give so much props to single parents. Being a parent is very hard, but it’s really rewarding. It’s even more rewarding being a single parent.
“Once I became a single mom, I started realizing a lot of myths and stigmas that people [have about us]. Something I need more people to understand is that many of us don’t choose to be single moms. We always want the best for our kids and sometimes being in a family isn’t it. Sometimes it’s better to be a single mom. Just because we aren’t in a relationship doesn’t mean we failed. We’re giving our kids a second chance at a better and healthier environment, and that’s what’s most important.”
Tisha Janigan, 55
Nicholas (18) and Alexander (16)
“I got divorced in 2012 and was left with no money, no credit and no assets. While I was married, I left everything I was doing to help my ex with his business. When I left [the marriage], I lost everything, and I lost myself in the process. For someone who has a business degree and has had her own business, shame on me for not preparing.
“So many women stay stuck in an unhealthy relationship because they don’t have the money to advance. If you don’t have credit, like I didn’t have credit, you need more money to put down on renting an apartment. I was fortunate enough to have someone take a chance on me and let my dad co-sign, but most [landlords] don’t allow co-signers anymore.
“The next issue that arises is work. I started looking for full-time work, but I couldn’t afford childcare. Once I was finally able to get a job for a couple hours a week, the little I was making affected my food stamp benefits. It dropped from $200 a month to $10 a month. I thought I would’ve made more staying home.
“I recognized I needed more help. So I took a leap of faith and shared my story with the folks at the elementary school my kids were attending. They all gave me a hand up instead of a handout. They gave me babysitting jobs, pet sitting jobs and told me about focus groups.
“I always tell the women I work with to share their story, because there’s so much power in doing so. When I share my own story, they feel relieved, but they also see that beacon of hope. Eleven years ago, I was almost homeless. Then, I had a one bedroom apartment and slept in the living room. We just bought a house in November. I still walk around the house and can’t believe we did this.
“I started the nonprofit SHE IS HOPE LA in 2019 because I wanted to help other single mothers experiencing the same [things I did]. The name stands for Single moms Housing and Empowerment, Inspiring Self-confidence through Hope, Opportunity, Perseverance and Education in Los Angeles.
“The advice I offer moms who are just starting their single motherhood journey is to just reach out. A lot of moms are in survival mode and don’t know where to look. So, we’ve been putting together resource guides that can help them, including e-books that cover eating healthy on a budget to tips to repair your credit.
“Don’t be ashamed to ask for help, share your story and reach out to nonprofit organizations. If you can’t get the help and the stuff that you need, keep looking because all you need is that one person to take a chance on you.”
Mirage Thrams, 30s
Director, comedian, activist, digital cinematographer
Jaclyn (teen), Jayda (teen) and Jordynn (12)
“I think that mothers are just people who infuse the future. We can talk about nurturing, protecting, feeding and, caring for and teaching. But, I think that as a whole, we are the ones who prepare the world for what it’s going to be. I became a single mom because I was in an unsafe environment. I was married, and it was an emotionally and physically abusive relationship. When I decided to separate myself from that situation, I thought that it was going to be a freeing experience.
“Before we were [legally] divorced, I got into a car accident. I was going to be losing his health insurance so I got a full medical rundown after the accident. They found two lumps in my breast. I was told it was nothing, but after the biopsy, they discovered [it was cancer].
“All of a sudden, I was a single parent that had no transportation and was just diagnosed with cancer. I didn’t have family support and was very alone. But, I had to push through for my three girls.
“It was like a whole rebirth, a whole re-understanding of myself and what I could possibly do. It seemed impossible, but it made me grow as a person and made my girls feel safe. They felt safe because they saw me resolving problems. There was a lot that I wanted to shield them from that I couldn’t anymore.
“I didn’t even have the luxury of being able to die. I had just been diagnosed with cancer and I remember thinking, ‘I can’t let this happen.’ I was able to show my girls what overcoming obstacles looked like without even knowing it. As a single parent, I’ve noticed that that’s what a lot of single moms do. They feel that they’re not doing enough. They feel like they’re failing. But, by waking up and being there for your kids, you realize that you’re all they really need. And, that’s enough.
“I want people to know how much more single mothers wish they could do. Every one of us feels like we’re failing in some way. Anytime that you’re judging us or looking at us in a certain way, we’ve already done it to ourselves 30 times. We feel like we’re not contributing to the world when we’re making the biggest contribution to the world.
“Build up mothers, especially single mothers. Single mothers sacrifice everything. All their hopes and dreams go into every single person that they make. Recognize that they’re doing an impossible job, a job that they don’t even know is impossible while they’re doing it. Afterward, they’re going to look back and say, ‘I didn’t know I could fly. This whole time, I didn’t know I could fly.’”
Charlotte Laws, 63
Author, anti-revenge porn activist, former Los Angeles politician
“I was very excited to be a mom and to be a single mom. I was never sad or depressed about it. Even though everybody wanted me to have an abortion, I never considered it. To me, being a mother means nurturing and giving unconditional love. It means helping a little one become a successful, happy adult.
“Society tends to say that it’s gonna be hard and single motherhood is often painted in a negative light. I feel like in many respects that can be a self-fulfilling prophecy.
“I think that people should probably go into [single motherhood] with more of an open mind because there are a lot of great things about it. I was very lucky because one of the things that really helped me was the babysitting co-op. It was a group of about 30 families, and I would say at least three-quarters of them were single moms.
“We traded off babysitting on a point system so I never had to pay any money for a babysitter my daughter’s entire life. It was really a win-win because it also gave my daughter other little kids to play with all the time.
“I do think that if you are creative, you can find ways to make single motherhood easier. I inherited these little silver dessert plates from my grandparents and I bartered them with my daughter’s doctor for physical exams. I would get her clothes at garage sales when she was just a baby so I never paid any money for clothing for her until she got older.
“I hardly had any money when I started out. But, the government offered no qualifying loans back then, and I was able to get a property with 25% down. In order to afford the 25% down payment, I opened an antique shop and sold furniture I inherited from my mother.
“Society loves to perpetuate single motherhood as a bad thing. I saw it as a positive. I guess I’m kind of a contrarian. When society says, ‘Oh, this is terrible and negative.’ My view is, ‘Oh really? Let’s see about that.’
“I think it can be a really fulfilling experience and you end up very close to your child. I’m very close to my daughter, and I wouldn’t change a single thing.”