Growing Up With A Single Mom Made Me A Bada**

by Wendy Wisner
Originally Published: 
Matthew Henry/Burst

My mom was over at our house the other day and we were talking about chores. My husband and I had recently been trying to get our boys to do more chores, and we were talking about how it was going. In essence, getting these boys to do chores is like trying to get a rhinoceros into a medicine cabinet. The struggle is real.

My mom laughed at us and told the story of how, when I was nine, she started making me do my own laundry.

“I was an exhausted single mom and I decided one day that I was done doing laundry. I told you, ‘If you want clean clothes, you’ll need to wash them yourself.’ And that was that.”

Yep, that certainly was that. I know for a fact that I protested the day I had to start doing my own laundry. Same went for the day I was told I needed to wash the dishes every night after dinner (back when we had no dishwasher). Or the mornings I had to make my own lunch. Or the afternoons I had to prep for dinner.

But I also know that there was no choice in the matter. My mom was a single mom, and our sole caretaker for much of my childhood. She also worked full time as a teacher. There simply were not enough hours in the day or adults in our home to give me or my sister any kind of free pass when it came to chores.

I don’t think I fully appreciated the stress my mother must have been under until I became a mother myself. When my children were little, even having a dedicated and available spouse around did not seem like enough to manage everything. My kids are older now, and there still is barely a moment to breathe.

Courtesy of Wendy Wisner

I have no clue how my mother managed to do it all and still provide us with unwavering support and love. But she did. Because she was a badass. And guess what? That badassery rubbed off on me. Big time.

I often think about what it was like when I left home for college. It was clear to me right away that, unlike my peers, I had no trouble easing into adult responsibilities. Whereas some of my friends had never done a load of laundry themselves, I was a pro. I could cook, clean, organize my life and responsibilities, all on my own, without constant prompting from my parents.

I was independent AF from the beginning, getting my first job at 18, supporting myself, and managing my college applications and student loans all on my own. I wasn’t perfect at any of this, and I made plenty of mistakes along the way, but I had no trouble taking the reins of my life when I needed to.

It was in my bones, with much credit to my tough, resilient single mom.

They don’t just do it because they have no other choice. They do it because they love their kids more than anything. They do it because they have been through hell and back and they came out fucking fierce.

I know that sometimes (often), my mom worried and fretted about the life she provided us as a single mom. She wished we had more money, more time, more help. She wished things had been easier for her, and for us. The guilt was strong—and I see and hear that among many of my friends who are single moms too.

Although I did experience some pain growing up—from my parents’ divorce, custody battles, and other messed up shit—being raised by a single mom wasn’t the problem. In fact, the life my mom provided us was the most stable and loving aspect of my life.

It was chaotic at times, for sure, and I definitely begrudged those chores, but my mom was my rock. And my role model.

Seriously, single moms are superheroes. Most of the time, the situation they find themselves in raising their kids on their own is not what they would have chosen. But they don’t let that stop them from being an incredible parent, from waking up each day and getting it done, despite their exhaustion, despite their doubts, despite those private moments when they think they can’t go on.

They don’t just do it because they have no other choice. They do it because they love their kids more than anything. They do it because they have been through hell and back and they came out fucking fierce.

I see my mom’s strong spirit in the way I pick myself up even after my most crushing moments. I thought of my mom in the years after the recession when our young family was living off unemployment and food stamps. I think of my mom as I struggle to work and raise my kids and keep my home organized and I wonder how the heck I’m going to do it all.

And then I do it. Each and every day. Because that’s how my mama raised me.

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