Name: Kristie Zinniker, 22,
and Courtland, 2
Town: Redmond, Oregon
Job: Retention Representative at T-Mobile, which means she works with the tough customers.
We met with Kristie and Courtland at the Source offices in Bend to talk about what life is like as a single mother, how she makes it work and her advice for other single moms.
the Source Weekly: So do you have a busy day in town today?
KZ: No, just a busy morning—my Explorer broke down yesterday. My bearings and my differential seized. So, I had to pay a lot to get that fixed.
SW: How much?
KZ: Like $1,200.
SW: What does that do to your life?
KZ: Thankfully my dad paid half of it and I paid the other half and I can pay him back. Thankfully, it won’t break down for awhile— we had everything checked out. And I will be getting a bonus from T-Mobile that will cover it, so I’ll have it paid back in a month.
SW: How did you end up being a single mom?
KZ: Well, I was with the dad for quite some time. We actually had triplets together but they passed away. Then when I was like five months pregnant with Courtland, he up and left.
SW: Do you guys have a legal arrangement?
KZ: No, he refused to sign the birth certificate at all. So, I don’t do any child support or anything like that at all.
SW: Your triplets, what happened?
KZ: They just think that because my body was so huge from everything that it felt like it was ready.
SW: They were early?
KZ: Yeah. I’m thankful that everything happened the way that it did. It made me a much better person than I was before. Helped me grow up. Stop acting like a little kid, which was good.
SW: How does being a single mom affect your bond with your son?
KZ: I think it makes it closer. It’s all he’s ever known. He’ll wake up in the morning and come and jump on my bed, and say, wake up, Mommy, I love you. And it helps me not be so stressed with that other person teaching him one thing and me trying to teach him the other. Then there’s the backside that, if something happens, I’m the only one to blame for it.
SW: Things must get pretty squeezed sometimes. Has that happened?
KZ: Probably right after I had him. I didn’t know how to handle a new baby, yet. I didn’t know how to handle my expenses. My mom and I actually live together now—it lets me not have to be as frugal, so that I can have just a little bit more freedom and know that all my bills are covered and that I have a little bit extra for things like my car breaking down.
SW: What other kinds of creative ways do you find to make this work?
KZ: Just being more optimistic. Not dwelling on the fact that I am doing this on my own. And I really like to focus on the fact that I don’t have to share. I get to keep him all to myself and that makes me happy.
Courtland begins to grab for a plastic cup of orange juice from McDonald’s.
KZ: Why don’t you use this? (She hands Courtland a sippy cup). Drink out of your cup, K.
SW: You are very patient with him.
KZ: I have to be, getting frustrated with him doesn’t help. He responds better to talking and threats. We have set rules and timeframes. He knows what he can and cannot do. If he pushes, he just goes into the corner and has his little meltdown and he’s fine. I tried the spanking thing for a while, but that didn’t work. He just laughed.
SW: How about dating, do you have time in your life?
KZ: I’m sure I could find time, but I haven’t really wanted to. Right now, I prefer to just hang out with him. My whole thing is, I don’t want to introduce them to Courtland until I’ve known them for a very long time and a lot of people get offended by that. They don’t understand.
SW: What does the future hold for you with the closing of the T-Mobile facility?
KZ: Thankfully until June, of course, I have a job that supports us really, really well. They pay $200 of his daycare a month. We have fantastic health care through them. They are working to help the employees pay for school or find other employment with similar pay and benefits. I’ve kind of been thinking maybe do like a culinary thing with my schooling, but psychology is really my passion. So, I haven’t really decided anything yet. ‘Cause I know that both can definitely really help me out in life, because I do have to think of the future obviously.
SW: Do you have any advice for people heading down this road themselves?
KZ: Find a support group. Someone who can be there for you. Like with me it’s my mom, my friends. You can’t let those things go, otherwise you do get yourself in a downward spiral.
SW: Have you had that happen?
KZ: For a while I just didn’t talk to anyone and then I noticed how irritable I was getting and stressed and it wasn’t healthy. So, I let myself have a night out. And I notice if I do something like that, it gets better.
The other thing was that, with my parents, they held me accountable for my bills when I was younger. So, that taught me a lot. Those types of things really did contribute to why this is so easy for me. I already did have all those skills.
And the other thing that really helped me was the triplets. When they passed away, I grew so much. I mean, I was 18. It was hard. But like I say, it’s all for the better. That right there taught me to not take stuff for granted and just respect everything that I do have.