WHY WE LOVE HER: She’s bouncing back from teen motherhood by building community for single moms.
When Megan Stevens decided she wanted to start Single Mothers Unite, a support group for solo moms in and around her hometown of Bedford, Virginia, she faced a little resistance, and a little snark.
“Could I start something where women could come together and support one another?” she wondered. A proposal to her church went nowhere. And there were, ahem, remarks. “When you’re trying to do something to make a difference, people are not ready for change,” she says. And then she decided: “With or without you, I’m gonna make this happen.”
Stevens learned about unconditional love from her parents, her father in particular. He always worked 2 jobs, but still found time to bathe her and do her hair when she was little. Later they’d shoot hoops.
It couldn’t have been easy, because while both her parents were white, Stevens was mixed, conceived out of the marriage. But the marriage survived, and her father raised Stevens from birth as his own. “This is Bedford, Virginia. So here is this set of white parents, raising this little brown girl. He was so proud of me. I am sure he caught flack from his family,” Stevens says. “I credit a lot of who I am and the woman I am becoming today to him.”
But Stevens’ parents were progressive about race, sex was more taboo. “Mom never had the sex talk with me,” she says. Instead, there were vague warnings that sex would lead to pregnancy, and then to an unwed mothers home. The scare tactics didn’t work. She got pregnant with her high school sweetheart her senior year.
“I didn’t know what I was going to do,” says Stevens. “We both agreed that we were going to have a baby and get married and have a picture perfect life. We got a house, had our second baby, were on the road to getting married. And we found out we just didn’t get along. Two loving parents, but who can’t get along and argue about everything.”
Stevens and her first love still have a strong co-parenting partnership. There have been other relationships, and Stevens has a third child. But at 31 she’s blossoming as a single mom. And with not much of a net: Both of her parents died in the last ten years. She lost her only brother when she was only 10. She has no immediate family except her kids.
Single Mothers Unite was about helping others, but she needed the support too, especially after her dad died. “It was trial after trial after trial,” she says. “Making $10 an hour to support 2 kids. There were times I went to bed hungry to make it happen for my family. I had no one to turn to.”
All this time she kept thinking: “I can’t be the only one.” And so she finally launched Single Mothers Unite in May of 2012. They organize on Facebook and meet once a month, 15 or 20 women building each other up. Conversations run the gamut from relationships, professionalism, and time management to cooking on a budget and picking up the pieces.
Sometimes they have presentations on health and wellness. “You have to take care of yourself,” reinforces Stevens. “If you don’t take care of you, who’s gonna take care of your children. Another recent gathering featured a a man and a women both raised by single parents. “I wasn’t raised in a single parent household,” says Stevens. “The information was amazing.”
The group helped launch her towards the future. She’d been an office manager for a decade. “ I asked myself, what is the next step, because this is not it. I asked myself: What do I want to do and be in this life? And start walking towards that.”
Stevens is now building a beauty consultancy with Mary Kay Cosmetics. And she’s working on becoming a motivational speaker, doing media work both behind the scenes and in front of the camera. She’s even completing a memoir. “I’m working on building the life that I want to live.”
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