(Originally published in The Huffington Post)
Being a single mother can be the best and the worst thing. But I wouldn’t know. I’m not one. But I’m a daughter of a single mother.
I remember this one night, when I was in school and was doing my homework in the living room. I finished it and went to the bedroom, where my mother was crying. That was the first time I’d seen her cry in these 12 years. I remember feeling that something was really wrong because my mother wouldn’t cry if it wasn’t shattering enough. After all these years, I can say that for a child, there’s nothing worse than seeing her parent weak and crying. As humans, all of us have that one person who epitomizes strength and force. And in the case of most children, the parent is that power. One of the parents. But in my case, I only had one. My father passed away when I was 26 days old and my mother was raising me by herself. Seeing my mother cry, because she was really lonely and in pain, my world fell apart.
We’ve been on our own all these 23 years and my mother says that I’m the only reason she has come so far. People often say, I assume to make my mom feel better, that it must be so wonderful to not share me with another person, or to take all the credit for making me this way, and a range of well-meaning, uplifting, statements infused with sympathy.
And all of it is true. My mom knows that she’s the only person I’m going to turn to, to share the best and the worst moments of my life. She doesn’t have to feel insecure of me seeking my father’s help and support before hers. And I’m sure she enjoys getting all of it. But then, there are the bad times. The worst moments, the breakdowns, the other insecurities. She always says that the world takes pride in the child when it turns out well, but always blames the parents if something is amiss. And I’ve seen that happen. She doesn’t have anyone to pile on, she doesn’t have anyone to share her mistakes and her bad days with and seek solutions.
I’ve seen her helpless because she doesn’t have someone to back her up when it comes to my life. Her advises are purely hers, her insecurities hers, her fears, her confidence, her skepticism, and distrust entirely hers. And I don’t know how she handles so much. It has been a tough ride for us financially too and it beats me how she gathers the strength to get up every time she falls, every time I fall, and every time we fall.
She chooses to look at the positive and laugh it all out, even though there’s a storm coming. Because, she doesn’t have another option. She can’t rely on anyone else to change the direction of the storm. And I think this, is where she gathers the strength from. Every man for himself, she says always. And I’ve learned that this is what is expected of every person. To fall down seven times, and get up eight. And that’s why, she isn’t my superhero. She’s just the most human a person can be.
She’s never, ever told me what to do, never told me to not make mistakes. In fact, she takes pride in my mistakes and the consequence of those, which have more often than not made me a better person. The only thing she’s ever told me is to do what makes me happy. Truly, genuinely, ‘out of the world’ kind of happy.
A 14 year-old girl today made me read her personal diary. She wrote, “It is one thing to be an author and a writer of a book. But it’s another when you get to be one of the writers of someone else’s book.” It was one of the deepest thoughts I’d read in a while and this post took an entirely different turn the moment I read it. I realized that my mom didn’t just contribute to my book, she WROTE the first chapter, and she edited the ones I asked her to and I think I’m going to make sure she feels proud of her completed work.
And I hope you meet my mom one day. Because she’s the happiest and most genuine person you’ll ever meet. If she ever had a movie made about her, this song, would be the title track. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZXLLMbJdZ4
(A lot of my understanding of my mother and our relationship has been enhanced by Gilmore Girls, the TV show that is about a single mother and her daughter. In my head, my mom and I are Lorelai and Rory, and the world, is our Stars Hollow. And as Rory says, my mom filled our house with love and fun and books and music, unflagging in her efforts to give me role models. But I don’t know if she ever realized, that the person I most wanted to be, was her.)