Raising My Two Sons In Fast Food Restaurants

Making the best of precious time with my boys.

Mother with her two sons ready made, quavondo, lekcej | Canva 

Losing custody of my boys caused me excruciating pain every single day, and I blamed myself for all of it. It was no secret that I was unstable. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t take care of my kids on my own due to severe anxiety and depression that had knocked me down on a regular basis for years.

I loved my boys more than anything in the world. It was the only thing I had to offer them. Their father gave them the stability they needed, and they never had to worry about eating three meals a day or when they might have to move again.


I was very grateful knowing he was taking good care of them. At the same time, I tried hard not to be angry that he took them away in the first place.

In addition to my mental health, there was one other reason why I signed over custody. He came in the form of my new husband, who was an abusive alcoholic and a complete monster. I mistakenly thought he was a good guy until he moved in with me and the boys and started terrorizing us. He also started feeding me pain pills, leaving me high and unaware of things he was doing in the house.

"Those are your husband’s boys," he often told me when I said I missed my sons. "Why can’t you focus on your new family?"


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I vowed that my kids would never have to see that man again after their dad took them. However, I wasn’t quite as lucky. I’d tried everything to get him to leave me alone, even offering him money to move out of my townhouse. He refused, forcing me to move out instead. After that, he followed me and pushed his way into my new place, breaking in at all hours of the day and night.

Even though I couldn’t seem to get away from him, I made sure that my boys could. Unfortunately, that meant my kids couldn’t spend the night with me or even visit me in my apartment. It was their father’s rule, but I was in agreement since I never knew when the monster was going to show up.

It hurt me that my ex’s new girlfriend was the one reading books with my boys and tucking them in at night, but it also made me happy that somebody was doing it. As a Mama Bear, those thoughts also made me seethe with jealousy. It was my job to do those things, not other women. Sadly, I hadn’t been able to get my own life in order yet, so there was no use in complaining.


My ex-husband said I could take the boys out for lunch or to the park near his house. Most of the time, we ended up at McDonald’s because I couldn’t afford anything else.

I tried not to order anything for myself to save money, but my 8-year-old caught me. "Mom, eat food," he would insist. I’d order a hamburger to appease him, knowing that it would leave me broke. At that age, he was already smarter than me. He knew I had to take care of myself, too.

Eating at McDonald’s was always too quick. We didn’t have much time to get caught up, but I listened intently as the boys told me about their school and their friends and even Pokémon. I wanted to hear everything about their lives, no matter how much it might hurt my heart. They both said they really liked their dad’s new girlfriend.

"But you’re my mom," my younger one said.


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When Christmas came around that year, the boys and I brought our presents to the park even though the weather was bad. After we opened them, they ran off to play in the playground. I followed them and sat down on a bench. Sadness overwhelmed me as I thought about our previous holidays and spending the whole day together instead of just 20 minutes in the park.

When both boys noticed me looking miserable, they approached me on the bench and sat on either side of me. I looked at them helplessly.

"I’m so sorry," I told them. "I wish there was more than this."

My sons looked uncomfortable like they didn’t know what to say. I mustered a smile for each of them.


"It’s okay," I promised. "Let’s play more before we have to leave."

After every outing, I cried all the way home, letting out the pain I normally had to keep hidden. There was never enough time to make us a real family again.

Meanwhile, the monster was still squatting in my apartment and doling out pills. I justified taking them because the pain inside was too much for me to bear. It was my escape for a few hours when I didn’t have to think about being such a loser and horrible mother.

Before too long, I was dependent on both the pills and the man who gave them to me. Sometimes, I even wished for an accidental overdose or for the monster to end my life some other way. I stupidly thought it would have been much better than the way I lived, missing my boys every second with no hope of them ever coming home.


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A few years passed before I was able to truly free myself of the monster. I moved out of the apartment one day while he was at work, taking only what could fit in my car. Then, I moved into a halfway house for nine months to deal with my drug addiction. I lived in a house with five other women, and we taught each other how to take back our lives.

I remembered what it was like to be responsible by doing chores, going to meetings every day, and being perfect about paying my rent on time to live in the house. Over time, I began to believe that maybe I could live a stable life no matter what anyone said. Managing my life would bring me closer to the boys, I just knew it. I also filed for divorce, which was granted when I was the only one who showed up for the hearing.

Their dad was more lenient about letting them come to visit me and spend the night when I got a new place to live. Finally, we could read books together, and I could tuck them in and ask them about their favorite thing for the day like I did when they were little. We fell into being a family again, and it was almost like no time had passed apart from each other.


Now, the boys and I have all grown up. My older son is 25, and my younger son is 21. They have moved away and gotten on with their own independent lives, but they still come to visit and stay with me a few times a year. Everything worked out to be such a huge blessing, and I’m grateful every single day.

Last Christmas at my house was just what I’ve always dreamed of. I had both kids with me, one of whom brought his fiancée to visit. We made a huge dinner, exchanged presents, played games and even lit a cozy fire. It couldn’t have been more perfect. It was something I had imagined doing with them every day when we were apart, and my wish finally came true.

I’ve also stayed clean and sober since the halfway house, which is another great gift that I’ve received. Knowing what power those little pills had over me, there is no reason why I would touch one ever again. It’s just too dangerous.


I will probably always struggle with my mental health, but I’ve accepted that and don’t blame myself anymore. Still, it doesn’t have to rule my life. As long as I keep up with therapy and medication, it’s not as devastating as it used to be. I’m probably the closest now than I’ve ever been to stable, and I plan to keep it that way.

I think of everything that happened as a lesson for all of us. My sons and I cherish our time together even more because of the years we were apart. I don’t believe we would be as close as we are now had we not gone through so much hardship. Every minute with them is a joy I never expected to have. I still love my boys more than anything in the world, but today I can back it up with my actions and words.

I feel like the luckiest mom in the world.

If you or someone you know is suffering from addiction, there are resources to get help.


The process of recovery is not linear, but the first step to getting better is asking for help. For more information, referrals to local treatment facilities and support groups, and relevant links, visit SAMHSA’s website. If you’d like to join a recovery support group, you can locate the nearest Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meetings near you. Or you can call SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-799-7233, which is a free 24/7 confidential information service in both English and Spanish. For TTY, or if you’re unable to speak safely, call 1-800-487-4889.

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Glenna Gill is a writer and blogger from Charlotte, North Carolina. Her articles have been featured in Scary Mommy and P.S. I Love You. When I Was Lost is her first full-length book, a memoir of love, loss, and hope.