The Atlantic: In Praise of Single Moms on Mother’s Day
May 14, 2017
As a kid, I dreamt of a magical land of two-parent families and two-story houses. A land where everyone shopped without looking at price tags and ate at restaurants with multiple forks and non-disposable napkins. I imagined that people who had two parents and two floors had no problems and many Polo shirts. I knew almost no one who had either.
Later, I attended business school with people who used “summered” as a verb, said “rother” instead of “rather” and had parents who worked in finance, not at the phone company. I had my first experiences with a cappella groups, prep school alums, and “the Vineyard.” I racked up a series of fancy titles, precious few of which meant much to people I grew up with, and I “passed” as someone who did not come from the wrong side of the class divide.
And: On a scale of major world tragedies, yours is not a three.
I am thankful to have been raised by my mother and the community of single moms of which she was a part: women frequently knocked around in public for destroying American values but who actually embody the most American of values—hard work, decency to all, generosity to those not as fortunate, perseverance, sacrifice for the next generation, and a deep understanding that nothing is easy. Watching them go each day to jobs they didn’t love without complaining while making the absolute most of the little we had—dollar movies, consignment shops, neighborhood plays, and warehouse grocery stores— I learned to never look for the lazy win, but instead seek the hard-won victory.
This Mother’s Day I want to pay tribute to my mom. She and so many other women in my neighborhood worked one, usually two jobs, with no glamour, little pay and minimal respect, and fought hard each day for their kids to have a life that was far easier, less stressful, and more stable than their own. As a beneficiary of their toil, grit, and grace, and in acknowledgment to all those single mothers out there working right now, in this moment, for the same things, I wish you all a Happy Mother’s Day.