By Lisa Sugarman
Father’s Day is always an interesting day for me. As it approaches every year, I’m always a little funky in my head and in my heart as I anticipate the day. That’s because I lost my dad back in the late 70s when I was only ten. So, naturally, Father’s Day always feels a little awkward to me.
Now I’m not telling you this intimate detail about my past to make you feel bad. Like, Oh, poor Lisa. I’m telling you for one simple reason, and that’s to clarify that I was raised by my mom, which is an important detail in terms of what I want to talk about.
See, from the time I was in the fifth grade, my mom was both mother and father to me, 24/7, 365 days a year. Whatever needed to be done, wherever we needed to go, whatever challenges we had to face, my mom was the one to handle it because, obviously, she was flying solo. Every single aspect of our life—from earning and paying the mortgage to food shopping to housework to entertaining me and everything in between—rested on her shoulders. And it wasn’t until I became a mom myself that I truly understood the real enormity of that load.
It didn’t matter if my mother was sick or tired or heartbroken or frustrated, or maybe just overcome with grief, because she snapped into action every time I needed her without so much as blinking twice. And the thing is, now that I have my own family, I know, very intimately, what it takes to keep all your balls in the air without ever letting even one of them drop. The only difference is, my kids have a dad and I have a husband. We’re fortunate. But I have the perspective of growing up without one, so that gives me a unique vantage point from which to reflect on the enormous load my mom always had to carry as a single mother. Both physically and emotionally.
I did what I had to do. What any mother would do. It’s as simple as that, my mom would always say. Still says. But what I’ve come to realize in my adult life is that it’s most definitely not as simple as that. What she did to pick up all those miles and miles of extra slack was beyond my comprehension. It was a true, bonafide, authentic labor of love in its rawest form.
The truth is, I could easily reverse this entire monologue and acknowledge that the very same thing applies to millions of dads out there. Because it does. But that’s not what I’m focusing on today. Today, I’m turning the spotlight on all the unsung-hero moms who wear two hats every single solitary day. The moms who put themselves dead last because their crosshairs need to be squarely focused on their kids at all times. The moms with heightened peripheral vision and super-human hearing and endless amounts of energy and resolve that hoists them out of bed every day.
And while there are plenty of reasons why a mom may be raising her family alone—maybe her husband died or left or she’s separated or there was never a dad in the picture to begin with—but the bottom line is always the same. It means she’s a one-woman show.
Now as a mother of two with a great husband as my wingman, I know exactly how fortunate I am. First and foremost, that obviously means my daughters have a dad. It also means there’s someone around, who I love and trust, to share the responsibilities of being a parent. Someone to cover me when I’m sick. Someone to cover him when he’s sick. Someone to be the Bad Cop once in a while so I’m not always the one with the bad rep. So believe me, on Father’s Day we celebrate him fully and completely. And because of him, Father’s Day has a renewed appeal to me.
This year, though, I feel like saying Happy Father’s Day to all the single moms out there who’ve been pulling double duty, including and especially my own. I’m not at all sure how you did it all by yourself, but somehow you managed to be both mom and dad. Oh yeah, and you also took care of grandma for ten years.
Somehow you learned how to throw a decent slider with your tomboy daughter and learned how to ride a bike when you were 40 and entertained the whole family for every holiday and milestone and never seemed to break a sweat.
Somehow you filled a big part of the void of growing up without a dad. And you did it without ever tucking your fingers into the top of your pants every time we watched Star Trek. Bravo, mom. Bravo. And Happy Father’s Day.
Lisa Sugarman lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at facebook.com/ItIsWhatItIsColumn. She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is available on Amazon.com and at select Whole Foods Market stores.