This is the third installment of our reality series about Megan Dancisak, 27, and her son Ethan. She has the pleasure of raising him, and the hardship of doing so as a single mom. Read the first chapter of Dancisak’s story to find out how she chose life for her son when she had no idea how she could afford to raise him.
LOS ANGELES—When Megan Dancisak heads out to her part-time job at T-Mobile, she’s faced with a heartbreaking sight: 18-month-old Ethan in his PJs, arms outstretched and face scrunched up as he cries out “Oh, no! Oh, no!” Dancisak holds back tears until she’s out the door, knowing he doesn’t yet understand she needs to work to provide for them.
“Nobody prepared me for how much change and transition there would be,” Dancisak said. “Having the baby is easy. It’s everything that comes after that’s hard.”
It’s a season of transition as Ethan becomes more verbal and mobile. “Duck!” he cries as he chases the beleaguered animals around at a petting zoo. “Elmo!” he says as he reaches out to hug a donated Halloween costume of his favorite Sesame Street character. “OK!” he says into a remote control he holds up to his ear like a cell phone.
But it’s also a time of transition for 27-year-old Dancisak. Suddenly, she can’t bring him with her to all activities anymore: At Bible study in a friend’s house, he’s no longer willing to sleep in another room, but instead runs around, picking up anything within arm’s reach as Dancisak trails behind. It’s been so disruptive that she’s had to stop attending Bible study and find a babysitter to watch him during Monday night women’s group. She’s also had to cut back on hanging out with friends so she can spend more time with her son. But it’s been hard.
“I see good friends less,” Dancisak said. “I had the choice to drag my child to all this stuff but it’s not helping him grow. He needed things to change. I had to sacrifice because I want him to be healthy and stable.”
Every decision she makes now has Ethan in mind first, and as a result, she feels lonely as she spends more time alone with Ethan. Sometimes the sacrifice turns to bitterness and discontentment as she watches her single friends enjoy time together without the responsibility of a child. In those moments, Dancisak idolizes finding a husband and a father for Ethan. Attending family events at church or seeing young families at the park sends stabs of jealousy to her heart, especially as the holidays approach. She said it’s only by the grace of God that she hasn’t broken down and compromised her values to get a man in her life.
“Old Megan before Christ would just sleep around” to find that companionship, Dancisak said. “Now I’m trying to be patient and trust that God has someone better for me, but it’s really hard because I don’t believe I’m worth more than that.”
As she works through past wounds and turns to what the Bible says about her self-worth, Ethan reminds her of the higher standard she’s called to. When she looks into his face, she sees his innocence and knows she wants a man who loves the Lord and can train her son up to be a godly man. Having grown up in a single-parent household, Dancisak knows how her mother’s relationships colored her own views on dating, and she wants to model healthy Christian relationships for her son.
And if a boyfriend isn’t in the books right now, Dancisak wants to be OK with that. She’s seen God provide for her more completely than any man ever could: “The biggest lie [Satan tells] is that I’m only complete as a family if I have a husband that validates me. Everyday God preaches that the truth is I am validated through Christ.”
Yet as a Christian single mother in Los Angeles, she’s bombarded with different messages all the time. A billboard across the street from where her church meets depicts explicit images and extols the virtues of STD testing. It represents the mantra of the city: Do whatever feels good, whatever comes naturally, and try to minimize consequences.
Parenting magazines tell her to buy the best toys for her son, keep the house beautiful, and provide him with the best education. Super moms are supposed to drive their SUVs to PTA meetings, cook extravagant Thanksgiving dinners for their large families, and wrap tons of presents to put under the Christmas tree.
Often Dancisak find herself trying to stack up to the world’s standard and feels guilty that she’s not doing enough for Ethan, that she can’t provide a father for him, or even buy him a $50 Big Hugs Elmo for Christmas.
“It’s not easy to not compromise and not give in and to fight, but my favorite Scripture says ‘Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world,’” she said. “I don’t feel victorious, but Jesus Christ is victorious in my life.”
Her fears in parenting extend to how she is raising up Ethan to love God. She admits she feels like she doesn’t know what she’s doing and wonders how she can point him to Christ when she struggles with spiritual disciplines herself.
And yet despite the odds and the seemingly impossible battle she fights, she’s come to see that being the perfect mom isn’t the answer: “If I were a perfect mother, why would [Ethan] need a savior? God has me in all my weakness to show him how much he needs a savior. If Ethan sees me cry or lonely, at least I can say ‘Mommy can’t do this, but Jesus can.’”