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 that 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.
Will your divorce affect your kids? While it certainly can, 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.
Wendy Wisner is a mom, writer, and lactation consultant. Her writing has appeared in The Washington Post, Brain, Child Magazine, Scary Mommy, The Mid, xoJane, Huffington Post, Role Reboot, and elsewhere. She lives with her husband and two sons in New York. Connect with her on Facebook.