But another, more pragmatic and matter-of-fact, marker could well be the ability—and willingness—to lead a quiet, selfless life, and to wage a daily battle with the clock, the responsibilities, and the circumstances that life has handed you.
And in some instances, important aspects of this brand of success is a readiness to learn from the mistakes of the past and a firm determination to see that they have no place in the present and the future.
Pretty Nicole (Nicki) White may not be a roaring success according to the world’s understanding of the term, but there’s no doubt she’s an overachiever in the area that means the most to her—that of being a mother who provides nurturing and love to her three children in the face of formidable odds.
Nicki is representative of a growing demographic in America today—that of the single mother. Filling this role is never easy, and this is particularly true when finances are tight.
She and her children are on Sooner Care, and she receives food stamps to help with budgeting for groceries and certain other products. But most importantly, she works 30 to 35 hours a week at Dollar General to help keep her family afloat.
Nicki has long known what it’s like to be part of a single-parent household. Her parents separated when she was still quite small; and her mom, Vicki Jackson, almost immediately moved in with her own mother. The family received governmental assistance, but her mother held down two jobs to provide for herself and her three children.
“She was hardly ever home,” Nicki recalled. “I remember my mom worked hard to take care of us.”
BackgroundNicki was born in Marlow and has lived here most of her life. In grade school, she was a member of the cheer squad and rooted for her older brother David, who would later become a state champion in wrestling once and state runner-up three times. He now lives in Mangum.
She also has a younger sister, Brandi, who is married and a resident of Carnegie.
Nicki’s early years were characterized by a few victories.
In middle school, she attained the enviable position of first chair in the clarinet section of the MMS band. And during her grade school and middle school years, she played catcher and left field in softball.
“I was very good at softball,” she said.
But there were also some bad choices, like dropping out of school at 17 when she gave birth to her older son, Skylar. This young man is now a handsome fifth-grader at Marlow Elementary who turned 11 on Wednesday.
An older, wiser Nicki confided last week that she would like to earn her GED and even a college degree to pursue her dream of going into physical therapy or nursing. But she finds herself in the untenable position of so many other women today—wanting to better her lot and that of her family through continued education, but lacking the resources to do so.
Although Skylar’s dad and Nicki never married, he does maintain contact with his son on a sporadic basis, she said.
When Skylar was about a year old, Nicki went to work at Homeland in Duncan. Then in 2008, she married Charlie White, Jr., and had a second son, a blonde little charmer she named Nicholas. Nick is now 4 and in pre-kindergarten.
Charlie didn’t want her to work, but she hired on with Rayne Water Treatment in Duncan, and later with Jerry’s Janitorial.
Her marriage to Charlie was a stormy one, and the two separated about 2½ years ago.
Nicki’s third child, a fair-haired little beauty with her mother’s dark eyes, was born almost two years ago. Nicki went to work for Dollar General soon after her birth; and while Mommy is on the job, little Serenity is in daycare.
A smart, industrious young woman, Nicki has been a valuable addition to the Dollar General staff, as just about any regular customer can tell you.
Her boss, Johnny Wilson, also attests to this fact.
“Nicole is a hard-working, reliable employee,” he noted last week. “As a single mother of three, she does a tremendous job of juggling personal and work schedules. She is definitely an asset to Dollar General, as she would be to any business.”
From daylight to dark:30Fortunately, Nicki works only on weekdays; this way, she avoids having to hire a weekend babysitter, and this schedule gives her more time with the children.
A typical Monday begins with getting the kids ready for the day, including dressing the two younger children. Then it’s drop Nick and Serenity off at daycare (Nick is in afternoon pre-K) and Skylar at school.
She next drives to work for her 8-to-4 shift. At 4:15, she picks the kids up at daycare, prepares supper, bathes the younger two, helps Skylar (and sometimes Nick) with their homework, cleans the kitchen and does whatever other cleaning and laundry she can sandwich into her evening schedule.
“I just have to fit it in there somewhere,” she said.
Then when the children are in bed, usually by 8:30 on school nights, she bathes and falls into bed herself, exhausted.
The next day follows the same routine. And the next three. Then on the weekend, Nicki might take her brood to the Hideout, the grocery store, or if there’s enough money, to a cheap, family-oriented movie at a theatre. They also watch movies at home.
And on occasion, they attend Eastside Baptist Church.
She has little to no personal time except on Fridays, when her grandmother, Patsy Loyd, keeps the children overnight to give her a little breather. Patsy and Nicki’s mother also care for the kids when they’re sick so Nicki doesn’t have to miss work and take a “hit” on her paycheck.
Asked if she dates, she replied, “I don’t really have time.”
Besides, Skylar is very protective of his mom and doesn’t trust men because of it.
After the rent, utilities, groceries, phone bill and automobile insurance are paid, and the car is filled with gas, there’s usually little money left. Sometimes, Nicki is able to buy some new clothes for the kids, and they also receive outgrown clothing from others.
Her own wardrobe, however, is another story.
“When I have extra money, I try to spend it on them,” she noted.
Nicki is tired. . .most of the time. And she gets discouraged.
But the 115-pound dynamo is doing everything she can to ensure that her children are happy and healthy.
Moreover, she is proud, and rightly so, of the progress she’s making.
“I’ve come a long way from where I was before,” she mused. “I’m just happy to have my family.”
And there’s a footnote to that statement: her family is blessed to have her. Proof-positive of this fact is to be found in a brief testimonial penned by her firstborn:
“I love my mom,” he notes. “She is a very strong women to take care of all of us kids, and I’m happy to have a mom as cool as her.”
Or in a drawing created by 4-year-old Nick: