Overwhelmed: The Life of a Single Mom

Jennifer Barnes Maggio survived multiple tragedies as a child. Her mother was killed when she was a baby. Throughout her childhood, she and her twin sister were in the charge of a series of abusive stepmothers who raised the girls while their dad was working offshore.

Instead of unfolding into a Cinderella story, Maggio’s young adulthood was marked by instability and unprepared-for responsibility.

By the time Maggio was 23, she’d had two kids out of wedlock. Ever resourceful, she’d cobbled together a life, but she was poor. Though she worked full-time, she required food stamps, welfare and charity to support herself and her kids. The decision that changed her path was to start going to church.

“My life did not change instantly, but I began to find more comfort in church than I ever had,” she wrote in her autobiography, Overwhelmed.

In church, Maggio found healing. And where there was healing, there was room for happily ever after. She eventually launched a successful career, got married and gave birth to another daughter. Her children thrived. She realized, then, that her story might light the way for other single mothers who are searching for solace.

“I had no idea what I was doing,” she says about writing Overwhelmed. “I just knew I wanted to get this story out there.”

The book, published in 2010, led to a single-mothers’ ministry and a magazine.

At Baton Rouge’s Healing Place Church, Maggio helped build one of the nation’s strongest single-mothers’ support groups. Last year, Maggio released The Church and the Single Mom, a guidebook that helps local churches minister to single mothers.Shows like MTV’s 16 and Pregnant reveal that there are many young women who, much like Maggio, are swept into single motherhood ill-equipped and aching. Through ministry and writing, Maggio hopes to raise awareness and, God willing, change the future.

“My passion was birthed out of my own journey,” she says.