You didn’t expect to fill this role. You didn’t expect any of this, to be honest. But you did it. For almost thirty years, you’ve filled the roles of mother and father for me, and eventually my little brother as well. We haven’t done a good job of expressing just how much that really means, but now that I’ve got two small children of my own, I get it. I finally understand how hard it is to care for another being that is entirely dependent on you. I can’t imagine doing it all on my own like you did. This post is to you, my mother, on Father’s Day.
First — you never let me feel like I was missing anything at all. There was no empty hole in our lives because I didn’t have a father around. We existed as we were, the two of us, and that was enough. You made it enough. Even when other men came into and out of your life, there was no attempt to make them “my dad.” They were additions, not replacements. We didn’t need them, did we? You were strong on your own. You were enough, and more.
You showed me that women can — and do! — fill traditionally male roles. You did it all: cooked dinner, but also took out the trash, cut the lawn, dealt with fixing things, and more! You not only taught me about my period, but taught my little brother how to pee standing up (sorry, Bill!), and down the road, how to shave. As I grew up, seeing you as a strong and completely independent woman shaped who I became, and I’m sure it’s part of the reason why my little family doesn’t subscribe to the usual family dynamics. I’m a working mother, a leader in my field, and my husband is raising our boys at home. Much of that I attribute to having strong female role models in my life, like you and my grandmother. I can’t begin to thank you enough for that.
I hope that when you look back on my childhood, you feel accomplishment, not regret. You did so much, and not once did I feel like I was without a thing. So on Father’s Day this year, I want to recognize you. Not the men in my life, the ones who might’ve briefly filled that idealistic “father figure” role. YOU. You were always there for me, not them.
To all the other single parents and caregivers filling the roles of both mother and father: I see you. I respect the important work you’re doing. Stepparents, fostering or adopted parents, grandparents, and all the others filling nontraditional roles: thank you. Too often, you are left out of Father’s Day in favor of the traditional nuclear family unit. But that “one mother, one father” unit is changing. About a third of children are living with a single parent. Families look different, and I couldn’t be happier to see my childhood finally represented.
Thank you, Mama. I love you.