I Was Raised By A Strong Single Mom, And This Is What I Learned

by Mary Katherine
Originally Published: 
Single mom spending time with her two daughters in the kitchen while making lunch
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My mom was the kind of parent who literally kept everything.

Every footprint Christmas ornament, every handmade Mother’s Day card — everything. I didn’t realize this until I got married and inherited a ginormous chest full of those nostalgic little treasures. It weighed a ton, and was chock-full of memories from every phase of my life.

One such treasure I discovered was a picture drawn in 1990. I would’ve been six at the time. It was captioned “MK’s Future Family” at the top, followed by a drawing of a mother, 4 children, a dog, and two horses. Completely absent from the family setup? A dad.

Back then, the school counselors used to worry about my art work. They believed that, because I was a child of divorce, the lack of father figures in my art work was indicative of deeply-rooted relationship insecurity.

It’s kind of funny to me now, because the truth was quite the contrary. I didn’t draw a picture of a husband in my future for the same reason I didn’t add a whale or a cat. I just figured I wouldn’t need one.

I’m a mom now, and although I decided against whales and cats, I do have a husband who is very much the love of my life. But I also know that if I had to make our home without him, God forbid, I could. You see, I inherited far more from my strong, single mother than I could ever cram into that clunky ass trunk. And the life lessons she imparted in me are just as treasured.

Money doesn’t buy happiness, but it does matter.

They say the best things in life are free, but really, shelter and food are pretty awesome and those things cost money. Growing up in my household, things were pretty tight. Only money could have relieved the pressure my mother was shouldering at the time. There is no stress quite like financial insecurity. My strong, single mother taught me that while money doesn’t buy happiness, it does matter. And remembering that truth has compelled me to work my tail off and make certain I could provide for my kids independently if it ever became necessary.

Gender roles are a joke.

Believe me when I say, I am grateful for the man that is in my house. I get stumped by the occasional pickle jar, and he’s happy to step up and handle the more physically demanding tasks in our home. (Also, I love him. So there’s that.) But, my mother didn’t have the luxury of a live-in handy man. And yet, I still remember eating pickles. The grass got mowed, the oil in our minivan was changed, and more than once I remember seeing my mother with a hammer in one hand, a nail between her teeth, and determination painted on her face. My mother got shit done, and she managed to do it without a husband. She was a walking middle finger to societal gender roles, and her example is one I intend to follow.

Parenting requires sacrifice.

Parenting is hard as hell. My husband and I often feel we are near a breaking point, and that’s in a two-parent household. My mother managed that load by herself. The amount of self-sacrifice that it required for her to bring us up in a loving home, while simultaneously providing for our care still blows my mind. Single mothers are deserving of all the applause (and absolutely zero of the stigma).

I can be enough.

I imagine my mother was pretty damn terrified when she realized the burden of raising three children fell squarely on her shoulders. But she rose to the occasion without hesitating. Watching my mother work full time, finish her degree, and put food on our table taught me that, if it ever became necessary, I could be enough for my children. It might be hard as hell, and I might sacrifice some years of my life, but I could do it. The truth is, our little family struggled a great deal, financially. But even in those hard times, we knew we had one another — and as we discovered, that was enough.

My mother taught me all of these things and more. Being raised by a strong mama made me who I am today, and I will forever be grateful.

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