Thursday, October 25th, 2012
Imagine being a woman who’s endured sexual abuse, addiction, depression, and a suicide attempt. Hard to imagine, right? Now imagine being a woman who’s weathered all that and single motherhood—and parented one of the biggest pop stars of our time. That, friends, is Pattie Mallette, Justin Bieber’s mom. “She’s the strongest woman I’ve ever met,” Justin says in the introduction to her recently-released memoir Nowhere But Up: The Story of Justin Bieber’s Mom, co-written with A.J. Gregory.
As the parent of a kid with special needs, I found myself relating to Mallette’s drive to keep forging ahead in life, doing anything she possibly could to help her son succeed in this world—and help herself, too. As she says, “I survived single motherhood by sheer willpower and a ton of prayer.” I draw strength for raising Max—who has cerebral palsy—from other strong women I meet, and Mallette is made of super-strong stuff. The book is well written, and hard to put down, especially because Mallette is so open about her travails. On the phone, she’s incredibly eager to inspire; you can tell this is a woman who wants others to learn from what she’s been through.
Yes, the book has good Justin juice, too. One fun tidbit: the real reason Mallette put those early videos of Justin videos on YouTube—the ones that catapulted him to fame—was for one reason: to share with his granny.
Here’s what Pattie Mallette had to say about keeping it together—and being a good mom—no matter what challenges life throws your way.
Don’t be too proud to accept help. When Justin was a toddler and Mallette was struggling to raise him as a single mom, she let a neighbor pay for Justin’s daycare. She also accepted help from food banks; once, friends organize a fundraiser to pay for a set of drums. “I think there can be stigma with not being able to provide or needing help, but if the help is available, it takes more strength to receive it than to stick it out and suffer,” Mallette says. “I saw someone speak last week who served in our armed forces. She said she served with integrity and honor, and when a bunch of stuff happened to her and years later she ended up on a food line, she stood there with the same dignity and honor. If help is available, take it.”
Find a few minutes every day to center yourself. As a young mom, Mallette dealt with debilitating anxiety and depression. Still, she writes, “I knew where my priorities lay. I provided. I still showed up. I was there for Justin when he needed me. I cleaned. I cooked (OK, Kraft mac and cheese counts, right?). I took whatever little energy I had and poured it into caring for Justin.” So what kept her going? “A lot of it was a blur—I’d take him to school, get to work, get him to soccer practice,” says Mallette. “As a single mom, you don’t have a lot of time and energy. But one thing I did was pray, often at night after Justin went to sleep, lying on the couch—a form of meditation. I would just sit, be still, and ‘know I am with God.’”
Don’t throw yourself a constant pity party. “I could probably talk all day on crying and tears,” says Mallette. “It’s definitely a relief, there’s something chemical to it. A friend of mine calls them ‘liquid prayers.’ But there is also a balance and not being too indulgent with tears. There comes a time when you have to grieve and be sad, and then there’s a time when you stay there and it’s unhealthy and you’re a victim. It’s a hard balance. I would never want to discourage someone from feeling sad, but when it becomes drawn out, it’s about finding that blanace. If you have a counselor or therapist, they can help validate that and where you are.”
Be willing to get therapy if you need it. “That’s one of the biggest things I advocate for,” says Mallette. “I would not be here without having someone to help me through it. It’s just so important that you not stuff everything inside and think you can handle and deal—it comes out in other ways, including physical sickness. Your emotional health is just as, if not more important, than your physical health. If it cost me every last cent to get my heart healed, I would have agreed to it.”
Find comfort in a faith community. “When things are out of control and you can’t change the situation, it’s good to know God hasn’t fallen off the throne—and so he must have a reason or purpose,” says Mallette. “For me, if I’m not in control, I can trust that God is.”
Pay it forward. A portion of proceeds from Mallette’s book will go toward charities that support young women with similar backgrounds, including her newly-formed foundation Nowhere But Up. “It’s so fulfilling and satisfying to give,” she says. “It’s a neat way of life when you can do something for someone—and not expect anything in return. It’s empowering, too.”
Pattie’s final words of inspiration: “Never give up.”
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