Single Mother Reminds Others How Much “Moms Matter”
article by Kay Rector | photos by Martin G. Meyers
Laurie Payne grew up in a traditional family. Her parents were married. Her father worked and provided for their family, while her mother stayed home and cared for Payne and her two brothers. She was a cheerleader and ran track at West Monroe High School, then attended the University of Louisiana at Monroe, where she earned a degree in Marketing and Business Administration.
While her childhood and early adult life may have been idyllic, Payne says that in her mid-twenties she began to make some questionable choices and was traveling the “wrong path.” She became involved with a young man and eventually became pregnant. Her child’s father, whom she never married, had issues that prevented him from being the kind of husband and father that she had grown up with and always expected she would find. She instead found herself single, with the enormous responsibility of raising a child on her own.
“When I thought my world was falling down around me, God was actually lifting me up,” Payne says. Today, she is a single mom to a wonderful eight-year old boy, Kendall Beck Ford. “My little boy is my life,” says Payne. “In some ways, he also saved my life.” While she is lucky to have a supportive family, Payne is very much a single mom, providing for and taking care of a child all by herself.
In June of 2014, Payne and her son were on a beach trip with members of their local church. One of the nights during the trip was designated as a “couples’ night out,” with child care provided, so that couples could enjoy an adult outing. Because Payne was not part of a couple, she was not included in this event. Rather jokingly, she commented to one of the church leaders that “moms matter, too, you know.” Payne realized that there were a few other single mothers on the trip, so she organized a “single moms” outing that night. “We all went out to eat, and we talked about the fact that we needed and deserved a night out, and that we also needed to be recognized,” remembers Payne.
After returning from the trip, Payne kept thinking about that experience and about how often single mothers like herself feel excluded. She thought about the fact that so many of her friends were either married couples with children or single women with no children. “There’s nowhere for us to fit in,” she laments. The more she considered this, the more she thought about how that needed to change.
A month later, Payne invited the moms from the church trip to a gathering at her house, and they had the first meeting of what would become “Moms Matter.” The women connected and made a commitment to keep meeting and supporting each other. They invited other women to join their group. They met at Payne’s house once a month and brought their children, who also got to know each other. The group eventually grew too large for Payne’s house, so they moved their gatherings to Family Church in West Monroe, where they continue to meet once a month.
At their Moms Matter meetings, food is served, and there are activities for the kids to do while the mothers have an opportunity to share concerns and encourage and motivate each other. The group is made up of mothers who are divorced, have never been married or are widowed, with ages ranging from 20s to 40s.
“I love the friendships that are formed through Moms Matter. We do things together, we go places together and we raise our children together,” says Payne. “We have a bond that others who aren’t doing this alone can’t really understand.”
Payne points out that although the group meets at her church, Moms Matter is not formally affiliated with Family Church or any specific church or religious organization. It is a Christian faith-based group with a Biblical foundation. The group has adopted a scripture that, Payne says, speaks to who they are and what they are about. “But You, O Lord, are a shield for me, my glory and the One who lifts up my head.” Psalm 3:3 (NKJV).
Payne says this scripture serves as a reminder that they are daughters of the King and that He is with them as they do the important work of raising His children. Doing it alone can be frustrating and discouraging at times, and her goal is for women to leave Moms Matter each month feeling strong and motivated. “We have to keep our heads up, and keep going,” Payne says.
Mr. P’s Tees designed a shirt that members of Moms Matter proudly wear, with the slogan “Hold your head up, Princess. If not, the crown falls.” “It may sound silly,” Payne laughs, “but it is just a reminder that we use to lift and support each other.”
“This group is so encouraging,” says Payne. The older women mentor the younger ones, giving advice and sharing what they feel they did wrong or right in looking back over their own experiences. Payne adds that “It has also been an accountability group for me. I can’t give up when others are counting on me.”
Payne says her late father, Robert Charles Payne, always encouraged her to “use her story” and her interests and passion to help others. Her father was a great motivator, and Payne says that he still motivates her by the things that he taught her while he was alive. She also draws strength and motivation from life of her late grandmother, Dr. Delores Beck Payne. Known to Laurie as “Mimi,” Dr. Payne became the first woman to receive a doctorate degree from what is now Northwestern State University. She was the wife of football coach Howard Devone Payne, Sr. who died in 1958, leaving her with four sons to care for on her own.
The last Christmas present Laurie Payne received from her father before he died was her grandmother’s Bible. It is a gift that she cherishes. “Whenever I wonder how I am going to do this alone,” Payne says, “I just think ‘If Mimi could raise four boys alone, I can raise one.’” That is the just the kind of motivation that Moms Matter is all about.
Whitney Walker Foster of Family Solutions Counseling Center in Monroe says she has seen the positive effect of Moms Matter on women who are affiliated with the group. “Moms Matter is a supportive and encouraging environment for single moms. They can connect with people who face similar joys and challenges and who know the schedule of long days and nights short on sleep because all of the responsibility is on one person. I think it’s a group that gives dignity and respect to the role of single moms.” Foster also recommends Moms Matter to mothers looking to “form faith-based relationships with other people and with God” as they travel the road of a single mom.
For more information or to get involved with Moms Matter, contact Laurie Payne at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their Facebook page: Moms Matter.