Being a single parent is very difficult, but with the right attitude and the help of the right people, raising kids can be a little less stressful. In this episode, Delane, shares her inspiring story about her struggles as a single parent to her kids, how she managed to overcome the challenges she faced, and what she's doing now to help others.
Delane. She was formerly a single mom with 4 children. She was on her way to a middle-class lifestyle with her then-husband, who'd previously been in the military. They were looking for a home, her husband was starting a new job, and she was was a stay-at-home mom. Life was pretty good for them. One day, in the course of him taking the classes he needed for his promotion, he just simply did not come home. Her world turned upside down. Delane called everywhere including hospitals and morgue. She discovered that he got addicted to cocaine and was deeply involved in that lifestyle. At that time, she was just 24 years old with 4 children under the age of 10.
Delane's life changed in an instant. She spiraled into a deep level of poverty. She didn't have a car and didn't have a way to maneuver around in terms of being able to sort everything out and figure out how to land on her feet in the midst of everything.
"It felt like I was in the ocean, I was a turtle with 4 little babies on my back and I have my head above water and paddle as quickly as I could beneath the surface to make sure I stay afloat so I could be there for my children. And I did."
She took classes and do everything she could to enrich herself. She also got involved in various community resources. Delane worked temporary jobs because it was hard for her to find employment with 4 children and she gets paid weekly. She had to find programs where her children could stay. She also found resources from Berkeley Parents Network, a network designed for UC Berkeley parents and those who live in the community who graduated from Berkeley.
Finding a job back in the 80's was not too difficult because there was a great need for temporary workers. She became the number one worker of Kelly Services. Delane made herself invaluable to the company by becoming an expert at knowing about phone systems. She also showed up to work early, gave 110%, and stepped up and took the initiative to do something outside of her work responsibilities. She even received several awards from the agency because of the many positive reviews she got from their customers. So in return, if she needed to take care of something for her family, the agency would send someone in to replace her if needed.
"When you literally have to be responsible for making sure that your children are eating, I didn't think too intently on day-to-day other than putting one foot in front of the other."
Family First. Delane made sure that her children are her priority. She made sure that she was involved with their school activities and that she would go to PTA meetings. By making them her priority, it meant that she would have to go to the food bank, wash her clothes by hand, and forego some things in terms of comfort in order to make sure that she was present for her children. She worked extra hours so she could provide for special occasions like birthdays and holidays. She also got some housing and food voucher assistance from social services.
"It was challenging. It was a balancing act. But the baseline priorityalways was my children and making sure that I was present for them. Using social services and making myself invaluable and doing all those things was certainly worth it to make sure that I had 3 boys and 1 girl. I knew I needed to be present for them."
As the kids got older, Delane was able to start working a full-time job. She was able to start her own business, a nail salon. She started in that industry because she felt that the nail salons in the community were not giving back to the community it belongs to. Also, she felt that there were no good sanitary conditions in the nail salons. After her own research, she found out that she loved providing manicure and pedicure services.
"I never thought, a day in my life, that I would love not only providing pedicures but transforming feet."
She attended a manicure program at Country Cross College while working a full-time job. She was laid off from her job right when she received her license but she was able to collect names of people who expressed their support her if she was to start her own business. Delane got remarried to his partner whom she calls her soulmate. Her husband knew that she wanted to start a business so he painted a room in their house that had a separate entrance and bathroom and set it up to be her salon. Within 2 weeks, Delane started calling those people who said they'll support her and she was able to obtain her license. In order to get through the process quickly, she called her salon Delane's Natural Nail Care (DNNC).
Giving back to the community. She opened up another branch near a seminary in Oakland and then, she moved to San Leandro. That's when she decided to start a program to give back to the community. She told the membership director of the Chamber of Commerce that she wanted to help seniors, especially those that are home-bound and disabled. That started her program called Senior Moments. It aimed to connect seniors to all of the services that they needed. They've been able to save the lives of many hundreds of seniors over the years. 2-3 years after starting the program, they received the Jefferson Award.
Even though the program is very successful, Delane thought that it still wasn't enough. She wanted to have other community-based works. She went back to school at Berkeley City College while working as the death penalty outreach coordinator for ACLU of Northern California. While she was attending school, she had to slow down on taking clients. At that time, she was running the salon by herself so she had the autonomy to do what she wanted. Delane discovered that she has ADD/ADHD. She shares that she is somewhat wired to take on a lot that's why she's able to do a lot of things.
"Some people are ashamed that they have learning disabilities. I talk about it openly because I want people to seek the help that they need and to know that they have nothing to be ashamed of because some of the most brilliant people in the world have learning disabilities. It doesn't mean that it's a problem, it just means that you need to know what your tools are that you need in order to be successful."
As a death penalty outreach coordinator, she was able to interact with the prisoners. Delane noticed a common denominator among the prisoners - a single-parent upbringing complicated with the weight of poverty. She believes that being a single parent is not a pathology so they are trying to find another way to coin what it means to be a single parent. In fact, there are many amazing people who are products of single-parent households.
"It's just when you have the weight of poverty, a lack of a healthy community, there's just so many other things that when missing, then it can lead to that parent not having the bandwidth and understanding to know what to do to better care for their children."
She wanted to get to the front-end of things, the systemic cause of the problems. Then, she realized that she has been doing the work that she's been longing to do all along. She's been inviting single moms to join her as manicurists.
DNNC Steps to Success
There are currently 8 women who are part of the program. Their goal is to connect women to resources, and create a community that would help women in countless ways. It has only been in existence for 1 year officially. Delane started the program in 1999 and it really blessed the women who were part of the program so she decided to find a sponsor and make it official last year.
One of the women she invited is a single mom, had an awful upbringing, didn't have a clue as to how to raise children, and didn't have a healthy community. They worked closely together and Delane shared everything, from recipes to places to go to shop and even how to maintain a budget. She also shared with her some parenting tips - how to create the right mood at home, turning off the television, not relying on fast food for dinner every night, and to sit down and have a meal at the table with her family.
Delane helped this young lady change their lives. She also encouraged her to consider going back to school. At first, she was hesitant because she didn't graduate from high school. But after hearing Delane's personal experience, she decided to attend school and was able to graduate from UC Berkeley City College. She now has her own business which is the number 1 business in her community.
Delane thought that other women could enjoy the same thing. She invited all the women in their community but since she couldn't do all the work by herself, she prayed for help. She met a lady who wanted to be involved in businesses in the beauty industry. Myeshia became her business partner, part-owner of her nail salon and assistant director of the DNNC Steps to Success program.
"One of the gifts that my biological mother gave me was that sense of community and how vital it was to have."
Delane's mother was diagnosed with schizophrenia. But she was able to do very well for herself because she was able to create a community by referring to people in as family. She did the same thing; she created a community for herself and her children. Delane found a church and there she learned a lot about order and discipline of oneself. She felt wonderful to be part of the church community because she learned a lot from different kinds of people.
"I still make sure that I am grounded in community. I have to keep the oxygen mask on myself before I can help anyone else. These programs have also created new community for me. You can't give without receiving."
Today, the program is moving forward. They are looking forward to getting more support physically and financially. Every time someone supports their business, Delane's Natural Nail Care, they are supporting the women in the program.
"Right now I can say that I'm living the dream to be able to give back to the community. The community I care about so passionately when it comes to single moms, when it comes to elders. To have a great partner in my friend Myeshia Jefferson. To have a partner in life, my husband, Gerry Sims. And to have my family."
Delane's children are now adults. Her only daughter is a celebrity hairstylist. She also went through the program and now she is one of their donors. Currently, Delane is a Health and Safety Adviser to the Board of Cosmetology in California. Health and safety is still a big issue as much as when she started her salon a few years ago. She wants to expand the program so there can be DNNC Steps to Success in many nail salons throughout the US.
Words of Wisdom.
"It is really important to connect and reach out. It is really good to go out and research what you want and what you need through the internet. Often times, a lot of single moms get stuck as they cannot afford certain things. A lot of scholarships are available for single moms who can meet the income requirement. Do the research as much as you possibly can. Research everything and anything that you have a question about. Create a community. It's just so important to reach out to those who are successfully doing the things that you want to do. Ask them if they could mentor you, if they can talk to you, or ask them questions from time to time. It can make a world of difference."
How to learn more about Delane.