My husband and I have been together 17 years and married for seven years. We have always been told “you did it backwards.” We had our first child young. I was 18 and he was 21. We had our second child six years later at 24 and 27 years of age. We decided to get married a few years after our second (and last) child mainly because we all wanted to have the same last name. “Living together” was working for us. We were committed to one another already. However, our daughter, six at the time, was noticing and bothered by the fact that she didn’t have the same last name as her mama. We planned and executed the beautiful lakeside wedding in three weeks. It was perfect in every way.
It wasn’t easy having a baby at 18, but we made it work, and looking back I wouldn’t have it any other way. I had only graduated high school and my spouse had not even achieved that. Our lives had taken a drastic turn and our new focus was on our little family. My husband worked wherever he could to make ends meet, and I stayed at home until our daughter Kelsie was about one year old. During these times it was difficult. Rent, food, medication and transportation were all so expensive for two young kids raising a baby. I still remember counting and rolling pennies from our change jar to get enough money to pay for antibiotics to treat Kelsie’s frequent ear infections.
Once Kelsie was one I got a job at Walmart as a cashier. We had a daycare subsidy, thank goodness, otherwise work would not have been an option. Shortly after I realized that it would still be possible to go to college and get a good job. In fact we knew that if we were going to make it in this world we would both have to be working. However, for us it made sense for me to further my education because it was “a man’s world,” meaning a man could get a job with less than a high school education and make over $20 an hour—a woman could not. So together we set out our plan and I began upgrading my education and applied to nursing . I knew it was not going to be easy with a toddler, however I knew could do it with the help of my husband, who worked crazy hours as a truck driver doing long haul runs for weeks at a time to make ends meet.
I am now a registered nurse in the operating room here in North Bay, Ontario. After 11 years working in the nursing profession we do not have to struggle financially. Our plan that we set out so many years ago has been a success. We are not rich by any means. However, we no longer roll pennies to pay for anything, let alone medication for our child. Now I share a full-time job with another nurse so I can still be home with my kids as much as possible. A good hourly wage allows for this to happen. My husband works for a tow truck company here in North bay. After obtaining his high school diploma in 2005 he has been able to obtain a position that allows him to be home more. It’s not his “dream job” by any means but I remind him daily that my nursing career is “our” career. He sacrificed furthering his education for our family to make the future we now have.
All these years later we like to say we have “our million dollar family.” Today our daughter is 15 and our son is nine. We are also the very proud foster parents to many less fortunate children—up to three at any given time ranging in age from one to 15. We now have the opportunity to share what we have earned with others and we do. We enjoy all the things that come with it. Five kids in this little semi-detached house can be very busy, and I love every minute of it. It keeps me young and, together as a family, we make it work for everyone.
As for extended family, there are five kids in my family and three in my husband’s. We are very close and a big part of my siblings families as well. I love living in the same town as all my siblings. There is always someone to call when I need help with one or all of my five children. My best friend is my sister Crystal and we spend most days off together. In fact, as strange as this sounds, sleepovers are a big part of what we do together. She brings along her two small children and we watch movies, play and cuddle all our kids together. Thank goodness we own a king-size bed. It fits us all! Well, except for my husband who, after 17 years, never questions sleeping on the couch when my sister is sleeping over. I spend my days off taking my foster kids who are too young to go to school to play groups with my sister and her two kids and my sister-in-law and her two kids. In the summer we spend all our weekends up north at my parents log home which they built themselves. On their 20 acres we have a trailer equipped for our large diverse family. Of course, my sisters trailer is parked right beside mine, as she is there most weekends with her kids as well.
We don’t live a fancy life. We sold our home a few years ago and are now renting this semi that we share with our foster children. We own one vehicle, which we make work for us with so many kids and places to go. We focus on the upbringing of our children and loving and caring for other children as well. I want to make sure my kids know the importance of helping others. Luckily they have embraced the idea of helping other kids and love having them in our home. They can see that when you give a little you get a lot, which we can then use to give a little more.
After all these years, through all our struggles, my husband and I can now say we are truly living our dream.
Photo: From left to right, Melissa’s sister Crystal, husband Eric and their kids, Myles and Lilyia; Melissa’s brother Clint, wife Mallory, and their kids, Shea and baby Lexi; Melissa’s parents, Kirk and Janet; her brother Jason and wife Marta, her daughter Kelsie, husband Jason, son Kayden and herself.
This is #1000families post number 30. Do you have a family story of your own to contribute to the 1,000 Families Project? Or do you know a family that might want to do so? Learn more about how the series got started and how to get involved here. You can find all of the #1000families posts here.