By Eden Strong
Originally published on Babble
Last year, as I sat down at my computer to write an article on the realities of what it’s like to be a single mom on welfare during the holiday season, I began to cry before I could even type my first line. Thinking of what the previous four years had meant for us — since the day that my husband had abandoned me and our two young children — a rush of words came pouring out, almost as fast as the tears were rolling down my face.
“‘Mommy, can we work on writing my letter to Santa now?’ my 7-year-old daughter asked. Looking down at her face, so full of excitement and hope, I felt myself break into a cold sweat. What was she going to ask for? I thought. How on earth am I going to help her write a letter that will only get her hopes up in receiving something that she will probably never get?
Because if I had learned anything over the previous four years, it’s that in our house, “wants” were dreams, and even needs weren’t always met.
That didn’t mean I didn’t nearly kill myself trying, but I didn’t want my children to know just how difficult life had gotten for us. As a mother, I didn’t want them to feel anything but safe. When my daughter needed new shoes, I sold my winter coat, and when my son needed an expensive therapy for a medical condition that he has — that Medicaid wouldn’t cover — I sold my living room furniture. On and on this went, until I had nearly nothing left; but my children had almost everything they needed.
So earlier this week, when I saw a post by Australian blogger Constance Hall about the fierceness of single moms, I couldn’t help but tear up.
“It’s not about material stuff, it’s about the fierce hearts of women doing it solo,” she writes. “I know that this time of year isn’t easy, but single mums get sh*t done and I think that’s really f*cking cool.”
In her post, she reflects upon a conversation she recently had with a friend and owner of a local surf and skate shop. Hall says he told her that despite his merchandise selling for upwards of several thousand dollars, his biggest customers are not the wealthy.
“You’d be surprised Con, single mums are my biggest clientele,” her friend told her. “They lay-by stuff for their kids and come in every week to pay it off.”
But she wasn’t surprised at all. In fact, she went on to explain:
“I was raised by this single mum who begged, stole and borrowed to make sure I didn’t go without, I had the best trampoline in town and always new that if I really wanted something it wasn’t out of reach.”
Because that’s what parents do. We try our best to make sure that despite our difficult circumstances, our kids are sheltered and protected in ways that make them feel safe.
Now, I personally have never stolen anything to provide for my kids, but I have sold nearly everything I owned, worked more hours than I could physically handle just to keep a roof over their heads, set aside my pride to stand in line for hours at the food pantry (and still sometimes went hungry) — all for my kids.
Most parents would do anything to take care of their kids, and single moms are no exception; but they have the added burden of needing to work twice as hard to get the job done. And I wonder, looking back on those four years of absolute exhaustion that I spent as a single mother, if my kids will ever remember the time I sacrificed myself for them in every way possible.
Constance Hall, you give me hope; and for that, I can only thank you. Your words remind us all that the real spirit of the season lies in the depth of our love for our children. It’s not about the gifts that are under the tree, but the heart and the love of the person who wrapped up the box.