Nicole S. Daniel
In a room of single mothers like herself, Shatoria Peavy was left in tears when a young woman, whose husband recently passed, and her children, arrived for a meeting in West End.
“She and her kids were very emotional but me and the other mothers were understanding, loving and acceptable,” recalled Peavy, founder and Executive Director of Mommy’s Lounge Inspires (MLI), a nonprofit she began in 2018 dedicated to empowering single mothers and providing support they need.
Peavy remembers doing a lot of crying during the meeting after the youngest son looked at his mother and said “mama I know you love me, I love you too but, at the same time, I miss my dad.
The mother recently joined MLI and Peavy said that child has become a lot happier and smiles a lot more since that initial visit.
“This is a safe place for not just his mother but him too. It’s for all of the mothers and their kids. When a father is not in [the child’s life] it affects them emotionally. At times they will see other kids with their fathers, and it makes them feel like they are missing something,” Peavy said.
The focus of the group is on single mothers because they often feel counted out, Peavy said. “Society makes you feel like if you have a child and you’re not married you’re nothing. Some people praise [only] married mothers, I would say. But when the single mother’s come in here, they get support, love and a welcoming atmosphere.”
Every second and third Tuesday at the West End Library, Peavy welcomes single mothers and their children for an evening of enrichment and encouragement.
The children are in one room, and the mothers are in another. The mothers share what’s on their minds but also receive motivational and educational messages on everything from finances to childcare.
On the fourth Tuesdays from 4:45 to 5:45 p.m., Peavy hosts a Resource Day at the library. Mothers pre-register for the event, and they pick up personal hygiene items, baby items, diapers, wipes and clothing.
“As a single mother, when you get paid, you pay your bills, buy groceries or take care of the kids’ needs, pay for their extracurricular activities, and you probably can’t buy yourself anything. So on Resource Days they get to come in and shop. Some items are brand new and some are used,” said Peavy, who was one of 31 women honored during the City of Birmingham’s #StrongHER campaign which highlights some of the unsung “sheroes’’ living, working, volunteering or inspiring others in the city.
Once homeless and a divorcee from an unhealthy marriage, Peavy recognized the power of positivity and speaking things into existence. She kept moving forward to make change.
“I’m helping people, but it helps me,” said Peavy, 36
During each MLI session she makes sure to check on the moms.
“When you have kids, it’s like people forget about the mother,” said Peavy who has three daughters (15, 11, 7) That’s why I always ask ‘how are you?’ Of course they will say they are fine so that’s when I ask on the scale of what? Some may say, ‘I’m a five or a four? but, when they leave they are on ten.”
It’s important to check on the mental health, especially for women of color, she said. “I just feel like a lot of times we suffer in silence because we’re afraid if I tell you ‘I have anxiety, or depression’, or I had a suicide attempt, you’re going to judge me.”
Checking on her members allows them to know she really cares “because I get discouraged sometimes therefore I know the feelings. And if you’re not at your best how can you take care of your kids? How can you be compassionate and loving to your children?”
Peavy said she often speaks from experience. At 20 years old, she became pregnant with her first daughter Morgan, who is now 15).
Prior to the pregnancy, Peavy said she was in a relationship with her daughter’s father and things seemed to be going well and she really thought they would be a happy family. At five months pregnant “he just disappeared,” she said.
“I didn’t know where he was, his family didn’t know where he was he was just gone but, he ended up moving on with someone else. But in that moment, I had to grow up,” said Peavy.
Peavy knew she had to find a place to stay and get reliable transportation because she didn’t have a car.
The first-time mom soon met a guy who became her husband. She was 23.
“I told myself I am going to get married first then have my second child. So when I got married I felt I was doing it right then boom it became an abusive relationship.”
As time progressed the relationship continued to become unhealthy for Peavy and her daughters.
“I told myself, I have two children and I don’t want them to go through what I am going through therefore we separated” in 2013.
After being married for three years Peavy left her then husband and tried going back to family members houses.
“They were like, we can’t take you in. I said ‘okay’. I got myself in this situation and I got my kids so I’m going go to a shelter.”
Peavy and her then four-year-old and two-week-old daughters lived at Jessie’s Place, a shelter located in downtown Birmingham and soon a place in public housing.
Peavy remembers the shelter director as someone who really wanted to help, and she did.
“She said, ‘I’m going to get beds for you and your children. She also went and purchased pots, pans, utensils, and a Christmas tree, because it was November. She even got presents for my kids.”
“From there, I said, ‘God when I get my stuff together, I’m going to help people. I’m going to help single mothers. I tear up just thinking about it.”
When Peavy left her husband, she only packed her daughters’ clothes.
“I had to start all over but, I kept going. You never know what life is going to throw at you. So do you fold or keep pushing?”
Life Before Children
Peavy grew up in the West End community on the west side of Birmingham.
She was raised by her great-grandparents Vivian and Earline Peavy in a strict household.
“We spent a lot of time in church. We were there every other day. I remember having my 13th birthday party at church,” she laughed.
If she went outside to play with the neighborhood kids, she and her sisters had to be near the home and her grandmother had to see them.
“If we went too far down the street she would yell for us to come back.”
While in a strict yet loving household, Peavy got to see first-hand of what love looked like.
“My great grandmother stayed at home and took care of the kids while my great grandfather worked. He was the breadwinner” and made sure his wife was financially, mentally and emotionally taken care of.
“He would always ask her great grandmother) ‘how are you feeling?’ and ‘no don’t pick that up I’ll get it.’ He made sure she knew I will take care of you while you take care of these kids. They taught me how to love and most importantly to want more for myself.”
When she became a senior at Homewood High School in 2005, she dropped out and worked a number of retail jobs.
A New Beginning
In 2012, while assisting her oldest daughter with her homework, Peavy went to the nearest Books A Million and purchased a book that would prepare her for the General Educational Development Test (GED).
“I’m helping my kids do their schoolwork and I don’t even have an education.”
Peavy received her GED from Lawson State Community College in 2012 at the Birmingham campus and later enrolled at Fortis Institute and received an associate’s degree in Health Information Technology.
“I always knew I wanted to be in a hospital setting. I took on a lot of customer service jobs but I desperately wanted to be in a hospital.”
After graduating, Peavy didn’t get a job in a hospital setting until years later working at Cahaba Medical Care in Ensley in 2018.
“I was applying but couldn’t land a job because employers would tell me I didn’t have experience and that was discouraging.”
But none of that stopped Peavy. She has continued to grow as well as MLI. In addition to being the Executive Director, Peavy wrote Mommy’s Lounge Inspires presents 21 Days of Insight and Journaling two or three years ago.
“Outside of our mom’s support groups and our resource days, and conferences I want them [single moms] to have something where they could hold and be able to read and journal for themselves. This organization is all about empowerment, unity, bringing women together, to uplift them.”
For more about Mommy Lounge Inspires, Inc., visit www.mommyloungeinspires.com. The West End Library is located at 1348 Tuscaloosa Ave.