I met Candace through work several years ago. When I first met her, I thought, “Wow, she’s really cool.” Then I got to know her a little more and thought, “Oh wow, she’s amazing.”
She’s smart as whip, kind, loving, hard-working, talented, and a helluva leader. On top of all that, she’s a single mom. Her daughter/mini-me, Lincoln, is three years old, and she’s one of the cutest tiny humans I’ve ever seen.
When I decided to start writing more about motherhood, Candace was always on the forefront of my mind. She’s someone I admire in so many ways – not just as a mom who’s raising a beautiful little girl on her own, but as a woman in general. I wanted to know more about her story and get a glimpse of her heart as both a mother and young woman, so I asked her out for a ladies date over a cup of coffee. She was kind enough to share openly and honestly about her journey, and now my woman-crush for her is even bigger.
“So,” I asked. “Did you always want to be a mom?”
She laughed and shook her head emphatically. “Not at all, actually,” she said.
I knew the answer before I asked it, but I wanted to see her reaction. Candace attended a Bible college and graduated single, unlike a lot of her classmates.
“Leaving single, there’s this mark on your forehead that says if you didn’t meet your spouse in college, you’re not going to meet them ever,” she told me. “But once I entered the work world and started discovering there are careers to be had and success to be had, I loved it, especially because I grew up really poor. I realized hard work gives you these things, like I got to travel and I was making good money. I was living my best life, so I made the decision that I never wanted to be a mom because kids didn’t allow you to live that kind of successful life.”
Lincoln was a big, big surprise. Candace didn’t know she was pregnant until late in her pregnancy, and her immediate response was to give the baby up for adoption. She had just gotten a promotion at her job and said, “I didn’t want to stop what I had going for me.”
But then she delivered Lincoln.
“It’s so crazy,” she said. “ I remember them asking me if I wanted to hold her, and in my mind in that moment, I thought what was coming out of my mouth was ‘No.’ But then she ended up in my hands, and still to this day I look back and think that had to be the most divine intervention moment of my life.”
At this point I’m crying into my iced latte.
“They put her in my arms and it was so immediate,” she told me. “And it was like what you hear about with motherhood, the moment you hold that kid, the room went dark and it was just like, I knew this is what God means when He says He loves us. I’m going to take this child into my life, and I’m gonna love her like nobody else. It was a shift. It was like, okay, this is my daughter now.”
I was really interested to know what the first three months of Lincoln’s life were like for Candace, because like so many new moms, those first 90 days can be insanely difficult. Factor in not intending to be a mom in the first place, and I couldn’t even imagine.
“Those first three months were a roller coaster for me,” Candace said. “It was a journey of can I do this? I never wanted to do this, but can I? But it was also about recognizing that motherhood is such a high calling, and it’s such an honor and blessing to be able to do it. It wasn’t an ideal scenario, but I was entrusted to this, and it was overwhelming.”
She ended up leaving her career, as 80-hour work weeks weren’t going to let her be the “present mom” she wanted to be. Ultimately, leaving that work behind led Candace to embrace that thing all new moms are so bad at doing: asking for and accepting help.
“It was hard accepting help,” she said, “But also allowing people to come into my mess… and letting people see those innermost parts of my life to be able to help. I’m still stubborn in asking for help to this day, but I’ve gotten a lot better at it.”
And Candace doesn’t live near her biological family. They live a plane ride away from her and Lincoln, and Lincoln’s dad isn’t in the picture. Candace’s own father was absent in her life, leading to what she calls “father wounds.” But what is so incredible and inspiring about Candace is the family and community she has here in Austin. A couple from church have opened their hearts and their home to Candace and Lincoln, adopting them into their family.
“They came to me and said, ‘We feel like God’s saying we need to step in and be this for you. We don’t know what it looks like or what it means, but we feel God saying we need to be your parents on this earth, and we’re going to figure it out.’ And they became Mom and Dad that day,” she said.
“You really call them Mom and Dad?” I asked.
“I do. It’s so crazy to see how much I didn’t realize I needed that,” she told me. “To see how they treat my daughter, it reminds me of God saying I will take care of all those gaps for you, just let me in. It lessens my worry that she’s seeing some godly men in her life as she grows up, and they love her like she’s their own. It’s so beautiful to see. We’ve fallen into this rich community.”
But at its core, motherhood is hard. Even with the love and support of a family – biological or adopted – it’s still a difficult job, especially if you’re a single parent. That’s one of the things I most wanted to talk to Candace about – the challenge of being a mother in general, but especially being a single mother.
“There’s such pressure to feel like, am I doing it? Am I doing okay, is my kid gonna turn out okay?” she said. “You can be so fearful about all these things, and every day I ask myself if I failed my daughter today or if I did a good job. And add to that at the end of the day, the pep talk has to come from myself. Obviously as a believer I look to God for that, but to hear the verbal confirmation of you are doing a good job, and not to have that support at the end of the day when my daughter’s in bed and all that’s left is me is really difficult.”
Because she is playing both roles to her baby girl – father and mother – I wanted to know what she did to take care of herself and be the best version of herself. Maybe a girls’ night? Pedicures? Wine bar? Binge watch Netflix?
Nope. Instead, her answer raised the bar for maternal self-care and all-around beauty and holiness.
“One of the things I’m very adamant about daily saying out loud is the things I’m grateful for and thankful for. And I say those things around Lincoln because I feel like cultivating a heart of thanksgiving helps me focus on the blessings that are in front of me and not necessarily the things I don’t have. It’s really easy to focus on what I don’t have, like, oh, I wish I had a husband, or oh, I wish we were off better financially… there’s millions of things. But cultivating that heart of thankfulness points me back to being my best self,” she said.
Gah, isn’t she incredible?
“What do you want other moms to know about being a single mom?” I asked. “How can the community of mothers support you?”
“I think from the heart of a single mom, we can easily feel like such a burden,” she said. “Or we could easily feel like we’re needy, because dear lord there are needs all the time. But embracing that need could mean you just let me sit in front of you and you listen to me talk about what’s going on in my life. It’s such a gift to hear us out and let us feel comfortable enough to share. Because when you’re playing mom and dad, you’re disciplining on your own, you’re doing all this yourself, it really is taxing, and it’s a lot.”
“A lot of times relationships aren’t easy to come by for us,” she told me. “So even a text that says, ‘Hey I’m thinking about you, how can I pray for you or how can I serve you today…’ is really helpful. The end of the night is probably the most vulnerable and lonely time of the day for a single mom. So in those hours for me it’s hard. I’m thinking of when kids are in bed and a husband and wife are able to sit and talk about their day, and I don’t have that outlet at the end of the day. So that’s something to think about at the end of the day – if there’s a single mom in your life, think about her, pray for her. It could be something as simple as a note of encouragement to say, ‘Hey, you’re doing a great job.’ Something like that goes such a long, long way.”
At this point in the conversation, my heart is swelling with pride, joy, and admiration for this beautiful friend who is such an encouragement not only because she is rocking being a single mom, but because she is rocking being a mother, period. Despite the difficulties of doing it on her own, despite the long days and working a full-time and part-time job, she is giving her baby girl the very best she can. And her very best is what so many of us are aspiring to reach.
She will tell you a lot of it is her faith and her community and her adoptive family. And it is. But let me toot her own horn for her and say Candace is genuinely a spectacular human being, and a badass mother. I loved getting just a peek into what makes her who she is, and I know she will encourage mothers everywhere – single, married, and inbetween – just by continuing to do what she does.
I had one last question for her: “What’s been the greatest joy of being a mother?”
She smiled and said,” Every single day when I pick her up and she’s like, ‘Momma!’ That excitement and joy, just how she looks at me… There are times when I stop and the world stops around us and we make eye contact and it’s like I’m looking into the eyes of this little person who is a clone, a mini-me, and I get to do life with her… All those little moments make it so worth it.”
*Photos of Candace and Lincoln taken by the talented My Sweet Pea Photography