Mother’s Day can be a wonderful day to celebrate mum, grandmas and all the other leading ladies in our lives. It can also be a pretty hard day for some of us (those struggling with infertility or loss) to swallow.
But as Sheryl Sandberg pointed out recently, it can be an especially tough reminder for single moms that they’re doing this parenting thing solo. And that’s no easy feat.
Sandberg, who happens to be the chief operating officer of Facebook, got pretty personal with a post on Mother’s Day, opening up about the death of her husband and how that forced her into a world where being a single mother was her only option.
“Some people felt that I did not spend enough time writing about the difficulties women face when they have an unsupportive partner or no partner at all. They were right.”
“For many single mothers, this is the only world they know. Each and every day they make sacrifices, push through barriers, and nurture beautiful families despite the demands on their time and energy,” Sandberg wrote of her ongoing learnings. “Before Dave died, I had a partner who shared both the joys and responsibilities of parenting. Then, without any warning, I was on my own.
“In Lean In, I emphasized how critical a loving and supportive partner can be for women both professionally and personally—and how important Dave was to my career and to our children’s development. I still believe this. Some people felt that I did not spend enough time writing about the difficulties women face when they have an unsupportive partner or no partner at all. They were right.”
Despite the sad circumstances that brought on the post, there’s an empowering message here. For a woman with such a successful title to speak up for single moms—and dads—everywhere is a step in the right direction of helping society stop looking at families solely in the traditional and often outdated sense.
“I will never experience and understand all of the challenges most single moms face, but I understand a lot more than I did a year ago. Our widespread cultural assumption that every child lives with a two-parent heterosexual married couple is out of date,” she wrote. “Since the early 1970s, the number of single mothers in the United States has nearly doubled. Today, almost 30 percent of families with children are headed by a single parent, and 84 percent of those are led by a single mother. And yet our attitudes and our policies do not reflect this shift.”
Sandberg then goes on to mention Connie Sparks, a woman who raised four daughters on her own after getting out of an abusive relationship. Sparks began the Lean In Circle ‘Single Moms Rock’ group, and between raising her kids, getting her college degree and encouraging her daughters to do the same, she also started her own company that helps other women start their own businesses.
“On Mother’s Day, I want to celebrate women like Connie. I think we all owe it to single mothers to recognize that the world does not make it easy for them, especially for those who struggle to make ends meet,” Sandberg said. “Being a mother is the most important—and most humbling—job I’ve ever had. As we rightly celebrate motherhood, we should give special thanks to the women who are raising children on their own. And let’s vow to do more to support them, every day.”
Amen to that.