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Dear Single Moms: Your Kids Will Be Fine. Love, A Child Of Divorce

You can do this, even when you don’t think you can.

Photo: Wendy Wisner

You can do this, even when you don’t think you can.

I won’t lie. There were times growing up that I hated my mom.

She was a single mom. She spent her days teaching emotionally disturbed children and would come home totally exhausted. Some days she was so tired that she locked herself in her room and took a nap. There were microwave dinners, burnt dinners, cold pizza dinners. There were tears and raised voices.

There were times I called her the worst possible names. There were times I cried. There were times she cried, too.

But there were also good days, and there were always reconciliations. There were always afternoons when she swept me and my sister up in the car and took us out for frozen yogurt. Sometimes she would take us out driving just to see the fancy rich people’s houses. Sometimes we’d drive through the woods just to get lost.

I always loved my mom and appreciated her in the midst of the turmoil. She was my rock. The reason I could hate her and spill my guts out to her is because I knew she loved me unconditionally. I knew she would always, without a doubt, be there for me.

And it’s the reason that despite a childhood filled with divorce, custody battles, and latch-key afternoons, my sister and I grew up to be kick-ass women. We grew up to be independent women who know how to get things done. And most importantly, we became women who know how to love with all our hearts.

I don’t think I fully appreciated all she did for us until I became a mother myself. The early years of babyhood punched me in the face. Here I was, dripping breast milk, covered in spit-up and snot, and existing on very little sleep. I was attending to the needs of these tiny little beings whose entire existence depended on me.

But the thing was, I had help. I had a husband who took equal charge of the parenting duties (except for the parts that involved my boobs, of course).

I cannot for the life of me believe how my mother did that alone. My dad was a good dad with a heart of gold. He was around when I was a baby. But when my sister was born, my mom was on her own for those endless, sleepless nights. And she had me to reckon with, too. I helped, but I was five years old, so there were definite limits.

I have no idea how she did it, but I’m incredibly indebted to her for it ALL.

I’m certainly not a single mother myself, but I have many dear friends who are, and having grown up so closely entwined with my mom, I feel deep empathy for all the single moms out there. If there’s one thing I want to tell single mamas, it’s this: YOU GOT THIS.

You’re doing great. You’re imperfect; all mothers are. But just by trying, just by showing up each long day, each long night, you’re performing magic for your children. You’re giving your all, even when you think you’re failing.

This is what all kids need: they need YOU. Your presence and love. That’s what anchors them, and keeps them whole.

Some days you don’t see it. The kids are cranky; they’re crying. I know you’re lying in bed at the end of your day crying, too. I know you’re wishing you could be two people at once. You’re wishing you had someone to bounce parenting ideas off of. You just want a nap, a few extra hours in the day.

But you’re doing it. You are. And here’s the most important thing to know: Your kids will be all right. Your kids will shine.

Thank you. Thank you for spending these years putting blood, sweat, and tears into your children’s lives. Thank you for sacrificing sleep and sanity. Your children might not thank you now, but it means everything to them.

I know it doesn’t always feel like it, but each day you’re doing the most important work on earth. So cut yourself a little slack, hold your kiddos close, and rock on.

You’re doing great.

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Comments (9)

  1. Jodie 06/01/2016 at 7:00 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I needed to hear it, and it brought tears to my eyes and comfort to my heart. I found my well-educated self pregnant and alone at 27 – fired from a church job directing music (WWJD?). My beautiful daughter is 12 now, and extremely smart, strong, driven, and happy. I got married to the wrong man to try to give her a father figure, and 6 years after having after her brother, found myself a single mother again (I decided it was better to be single than to teach my kids that it was ok for a man to treat a woman that way – it was an emotionally and verbally abusive marriage). I doubt myself everyday, and I work so very hard to be the best mom I can. I am a successful professional, but I struggle to provide for our family (teaching is a noble – but not well-paying – profession). I need to hear that I am doing enough to give my kids the foundation they need to be healthy and happy adults. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

  2. Shabana 04/02/2016 at 7:22 am

    I agree Beth and Rachel,
    I am divorced mom. I work full time and giving kids a better life. We are very happy that what really matters. I am so relaxed now that my kids don’t humiliate me, if the work is not done, kitchen is messy or dinner is not cooked. They won’t blame mom or go out and talk to their friends about me like their dad gave me a hard time. I am very blessed and kids are in much more control and listen better. It’s better to get away from husban like a asshole idiot.

  3. Barb Wendel 03/30/2016 at 11:31 am

    I divorced in 1985 with two daughters age 6 and 9. My ex became a better dad, sharing the girls as best we could. There were issues but he always kept support coming. He remarried quickly. I did not. I did marry again to a great man with two daughters. There were new issues. But we now are very blended with 9 grandkids. My girls turned to their stepfather and have a loving relationship with their stepsisters. I am blessed with a big family because I got out of a bad marriage.

  4. Joi 03/27/2016 at 9:04 pm

    Beth, I am reading this on Easter Sunday and it means a lot to me that the child of a single mom took the time out to write these words. I feel like my life is mirrored in that of your moms. I am a single mother of 4 wonderful children. I pray every day that my children will have beautiful adult lives in spite of everything. They only deserve the best and I try to give it to them every day.

  5. Erika 03/27/2016 at 8:14 pm

    Thank you!
    I very much needed this today!
    A single mom of a 7 and 9 year old…

  6. Jade 02/04/2016 at 1:04 am

    I am a child of single mother (well my sister and I) and I became a single mother myself. And although my son misses time with his father very much I know it was the best decision for both my son and I that I could have made. This was a great blog.Being a single parent is and being divorced is sometimes the hardest choices. But I appreciated the things my mother did for me and because of her I am the woman I am today. And Comfortable in my own skin. And when I look at the person my little boy (he’s 6) is turning into. Kind and considerate of other (well most days)I know he’ll be just fine. 🙂

  7. Mami2jcn 01/12/2016 at 7:29 am

    I’m a child of divorce as well, and honestly, your title rubs me the wrong way. While my mother certainly tried her best, a child needs both parents. After a very ugly divorce, my mother took me out of the country. I missed my dad terribly, and she started working lots of hours. Because I was left alone a lot, a relative took advantage of that and abused me for 2 years. None of that would have happened if my parents hadn’t divorced. This was 35 years ago, and I’m still not over it. My husband and I have our arguments, and it’s stressful to raise 4 kids (including a newborn right now), but I would rather DIE than give up on a marriage. That’s just my experience. I do have friends that had a more positive experience, mainly because their parents were mature about their divorce and continued to raise the children cooperatively. But in general, divorce is an ugly word.

    • Beth 02/05/2016 at 11:01 am

      You still could have been abused if your parents had stayed together. That’s not your mom’s fault. I am sure she has her own guilt from it.

      • Rachel 02/05/2016 at 1:31 pm

        Beth is so right!! While your mom may not have been right about keeping you from your dad divorce is not always a bad thing. I have three awesome children and I am divorced .it was the best thing I could have done for my children as we are all happy now.Life is easier when you are happy! I hope you will seek counseling so you can forgive your mom..