Frantic and anxious, Marilyn* paced back and forth in the foyer of the Families Moving Forward Program Center for nearly a half an hour on a usually lazy Saturday, cell phone glued to her ear. I can hear her side of the conversation; she sounds consumed with worry, fear and questions, lots and lots of questions. The past week had been filled with doctor visits, case worker appointments, and housing searches. All had resulted in less than positive news.
Marilyn is a single mother of two adorable little boys, a two-year-old and a nine-month-old. Having heard rumors that the Twin Cities have resources to help her two-year-old with his mental health condition, she made the decision to pack all her belongings and move to Minneapolis. Yet as many new beginnings go, it was a struggle to establish her small family of three, and she found herself at Families Moving Forward within two months.
Determined to minimize her shelter stay, Marilyn has worked non-stop to make sure her kids are taken care of with their medical and school appointments. She has been continuously house searching with little success. On this frantic Saturday morning, I pulled her aside and asked her a simple question: “How are you?”
Her eyes welled up with tears and the walls crumbled quickly to reveal an overwhelmed, anxious, and scared woman unsure of what steps to take from here. But on this particular Saturday, as her phone calls were being answered by voicemails from closed offices and her folders and binders were overstuffed with applications and paperwork, I suggested she stop. I could see that taking a Saturday morning break from job searches and appointment-setting was exactly what she needed. I told her it was okay to sit for a moment, play with her boys and give herself some time. In the quiet of my office, I let her cry.
On Monday there would be time enough to return to the resources, referrals and paperwork. On Saturday, it was important for Marilyn to take some time for herself, to let herself breathe and acknowledge the small yet important steps she is taking for her family. To have some space to stop, breathe and cry. Sometimes being able to offer that space and time is very important part of my job.
*This is not her real name.