I’m watching a single mother right now. She’s young. Her rebellious toddler is refusing to eat coleslaw. He screams. Everyone in the barbecue joint watches while the boy flings a spoonful onto her blouse. She’s embarrassed.
And I can tell, just by her face, this child will never walk on two legs again.
I have a soft spot for single mothers.
If you want to know what it’s like to be one, try this: imagine you haven’t slept in ten years, your washing machine explodes, your car breaks down, and now you have coleslaw running down your neck.
That’s a good day.
On a bad day, it’s frozen pizza.
Listen, it’s hard as hell in this world. I can’t think of anything more difficult than navigating through it. But for a single mother, it’s like trying to balance the Titanic on your nose.
These ladies survive on coffee and bad habits. They work until their fingerprints wear off. They spin and grind until they can’t do anymore—and then they do more. And right around five in the afternoon, they cry in the bathroom with the door locked.
They wonder if they’re doing it right. They wonder why God doesn’t treat everyone fair? Doesn’t life get easier?
Then comes the knock. “Mama, you in there?”
So, she’ll dry her eyes, head to the stove to make fried chicken and mashed potatoes—she knows it’s your favorite. She’ll put in another load of laundry, wipe your sister’s hindparts, vacuum, pay bills, and fall asleep before she has time to shower.
I once knew a woman who worked the hospital nightshift. After her husband passed, she worked as a maid, a fast-food cashier, a caterer, a waitress, a newspaper carrier. The money never seemed to be enough. Just getting out of bed felt a whole lot like losing at a poker game.
Then, one day, her kids left home. She’d given them her whole life. And what did she get in return?
If I could say one thing to single mothers around the world, I’d say this:
You deserve it all. And then some. And when you watch your children, you deserve to feel a special kind of pride which no other human has ever felt. The kind that’s stronger than run-of-the-mill pride. After all, you’re everything wrapped into one. You can bandage scraped knees, stretch two dollars for ten miles, and mend broken hearts with biscuits and gravy.
One day, your child will write about you, and he’ll cry while he does it. Not only because he’s grateful.
But because I love you.
jane - December 13, 2016 4:52 pm
as I once told my husband…when he had spent the day watching the kids and later on that day he said..”hey! aren’t you going to thank me?” I replied softly…”It’s a thankless job isn’t it?” I saw reality skit across his face. Forty five years later he still brags about what a great wife and mom I am. 🙂
Leah - December 14, 2016 2:49 am
Sean, laughter and crying is the best emotion… I think Truvy said that in “Steel Magnolias.” And that’s exactly what I did tonight, hidden away from my daughters, whom I’ve raised alone for most of their lives. You truly see us single mothers and recognize what we alone face every day – the hardships and fears, Lord yes, but also the ferocious love that bonds us to our precious children. I needed this tonight, especially at this time of year when it’s easy to feel alone. Thank you and best wishes for happy holidays.
Stevie - February 7, 2017 1:56 pm
From age 13, my younger brother and I were raised by a single Mom. Our father went to get groceries and the next time I saw him, . I was 43. Every year until she died, I got her a Father’s Day card! And when he said he was sorry on his death bed, dying of cancer, I said “no problem”, because I knew that Mom had made sure it wasn’t a problem. My Senior year, Mom, after working at least 2 jobs to support us, enrolled in college. She and I both graduated in 1974. She raised us without government assistance or 1 dime from our deadbeat dad all those years. When he died, she qualified for his social security benefits. She didn’t need his money, she earned her own. However, when she passed, she had saved every penny of that social security money – over a hundred thousand dollars for us. Trust me, as a single Mom, she knew how to save money! She had finally made him pay for his kids. Being loved by a Single Mom is amazing!
Lynn - February 7, 2017 9:55 pm
I LOVE that you got your mom a Father’s Day card every year! You sound like my daughter. She makes sure that my Christmas stocking has some special things in it every year since my husband died. I tell my boys that there is no way I can be the dad too, I can only be the mom. I just have the extra load to accomplish as well as being the mom.
Gale Nivens - February 9, 2017 5:39 am
There are many unsung heroes. “Single Moms who did all they could”
marsha - February 7, 2017 2:47 pm
My daughter is 24, raised by me. Your stories are so full of truth and love. I love you and your stories. I wish i would of had them (your stories) earlier in life. But blessings they are today. By the way, my daughter has her own home, works full time, and no children yet. But I can’t wait for the day she does have her own child. Her love for me outshines all the rough times. Thank you Sean.
Lynn - February 7, 2017 10:04 pm
Wow! Thank you SO much for writing this! I just got done with work and saw that my friend sent me this on fb. It just made me cry because its all so true! And then how you say: ” What did she get for all this? Arthritis” Ya, true. Not the answer we want to hear, but its true. My daughter has already thanked me many times, but I’m waiting for the day when my sons realize what I am doing and thank me. I wasn’t a strong woman but because I’ve had to do this alone, I’m becoming one. I asked a male friend for help the other day and then a little while later I texted back and said, “Actually, I don’t need help, I’ve got this!” I figured it out on my own. That’s so much of what I have been learning because no matter if I ask for help and get it or not, I’m still the one person that is responsible for the ultimate decision and making sure everything gets accomplished. I don’t need fancy gifts or trips as a thank you, just something written like this would do. 🙂
Kim - February 7, 2017 11:09 pm
Thank you for this. I put myself through nursing school after my son’s father left me holding the diaper bag. I graduated nursing school the same week my son graduated kindergarten. It was he and I on many great adventures. Falling in love with the ocean together, learning to ski together….it’s a list that I wouldn’t trade for anything. Those moments it was just us. I often asked God why do you think I can do this on my own. As my son is a grown, educated man, now a husband and going to be a father, I can say that God picked me. Of all the people, he chose me to be his mom. And I look at him with pride and say he is the best thing I’ve ever done.
Nancy - February 7, 2017 11:17 pm
Thank you for this one, Sean. Thanks for recognizing that there are so many super-moms out there, working themselves to death for their kids.