Brenda Siegel: Sending out a warm greeting this Mother's Day

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I want to give a special shout out to all of the single moms, only parents and people struggling to create the best life possible for their children. I want to send warmth to the women who are alone with children. The women for whom, this Mother's Day will make all the meals, change all the diapers and no one will think to help your child make or buy you a card or a gift. I have been there. When my son was very little, I would often feel very alone on this day. I would show up to celebrate my mom, but, feeling really run down and wish that I could even just go for a walk alone or have friends to be around.

I was sitting at a solo brunch in my hometown of Newfane last week doing some writing. I looked across the room and a child was telling an animated story to her mom. As I was watching this joyful moment between a mother and child, a thought washed across my mind - this will be the last Mother's Day that Ajna will be a minor. By the time I celebrate Mother's Day next year, he will be an adult. I don't quite know how we made it from there to here, but, we did.

I still remember vividly a time when Ajna became aware that other people were taken to purchase or make gifts for their mom's. I picked him up that day and he said with tears in his eyes, "Mom, who is going to bring me to get you a present?" That year, I encouraged my little 3-year-old to "make me breakfast," a bowl of yogurt. I helped him and then went back to bed and let him bring me breakfast. Another year, he asked someone to help him get food to make me breakfast and a few minutes later, snuggled up into my arms in tears because the person refused to help him. My burden was heavier, not lighter in those years because my child was in pain and when our children are in pain, so are we. In future years, I would arrange one of my parents to take him to make or purchase a gift. I would make sure whatever food he wanted to make was in the fridge and ensure that he would be part of this celebration.

So today, 17 years into my journey as a single mom and an only parent, as we near my last Mother's Day as the parent of a minor, I reflect. In my house there has been pain, there has been joy. There has been love, there has been grief. In my house there has been loud music and NPR. In my house there has been break dance battles, binge watching of Netflix, tears, yelling, passion, illness, tragedy, loss, creativity. In my house, my power has been shut off, there has not been enough, many times. I'm my house, there has been abundance, many times too. I have had more support than some and less support than others. We have made do. We have gone on mini vacations. We have taken day trips to the ocean. We have made the best of hard times and enjoyed in the good. There have been elaborate birthday adventures and magical Christmas mornings. We have sat by the light of the menorah candles and read so many books aloud. In my house there has been lots and lots of laughter. There has been lots and lots of love.

Raising my son alone has not been easy, it still is not. Single moms often look exhausted and sometimes miss paperwork or can't get the required equipment for their kids. They can be late for pick up and drop off. Sometimes they can't get out of work to make it to an important event. You don't know from looking at them, that yesterday they worked from 6 a.m. until midnight or that they have applied for many jobs and not gotten any because employers were concerned that they would not be able to meet the requirements because there is not another parent. You can't tell that already that day, people have felt completely comfortable judging choices that she has made as a parent, even friends or parents of your child's friends. You can't tell from looking at them, the courage that it takes them to face the world, the judgement and enormous required work of doing it alone.

You also can't tell the incredible power of the connection a single mom has to her children, despite the long hours and inadequate resources, or maybe you can. My son calls me when he needs advice. At 17 he talks to me about his life. We laugh at ourselves, we make the best of where we are. We make due. I feel blessed to have this connection to my child, and I credit that in part to my being a single mom.

So today, turn to a single mom you know and thank them for being the super heros of our time. Help to take the load off of them for a few minutes this Mother's Day. Offer to take their child to make or purchase a gift for that mom. Praise them with the full knowledge that unless you have experienced it, you just don't know it. Let go of any judgement you have and ask what you can do to help. Look at these women for the powerhouses and leaders that they are. If you are another single mom, do what I eventually did, invite a few friends to have a brunch together. Also, know that you are not alone. Many of us have been there, are there. What you feel on this Mother's Day is real, is hard and is painful. I am thinking of you today and the incredible work that I know you did to raise your children in the last year. To all of you single moms out there, this weekend, I say, Happy Mother's Day and kudos on the immeasurable task of raising your children alone.

Brenda Siegel is a former Democratic candidate for governor, founder and director of the Southern Vermont Dance Festival, vice chair of the Newfane Democratic Committee and delegate to the Windham County Democratic Committee. She is an anti-poverty activist and single mom from Newfane. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Brattleboro Reformer.

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