When I was twenty-two years old, I was a bridesmaid in one of my friends’ weddings. I was sitting at the wedding party table with a perfect seat for the father-daughter dance. It was only a few bars into the song, as I watched my friend and her daddy melt towards eachother, dancing to the song that I remembered he had picked out especially for her, the song they had listened to together and cried together because it was the perfect song for them – a song about things like finally letting her go after being there for every moment, every good time and every hard time – that I realized tears were pooling at the bottom of my eyes. It wasn’t long before I couldn’t really see anymore, and they spilled, hot and wet onto my cheeks. After the dance was over, I felt tired, I felt older. I felt like 22 years of things I never thought about came pouring out and it was too exhausting to explain. So I hugged my friend and told her it was beautiful and then went on the dance floor and pretended it never happened.
Without getting into all the messy details, I will just leave it at this: in my life, there were days, months, and years where my mom had to do it alone. Financially, emotionally, physically, there were parts of my life where she was all she had. Where she was all I had.
My intention in writing this is not to man-bash. Not at all. My intention is to speak to the mamas out there who are doing it alone right now. I have something I want to say to you.
Are you worried that one day your daughter will wonder why she doesn’t get to brag that she is a “daddy’s girl” like her best friend? Are you worried someday your daughter will look at you and say, “I just don’t understand why”, where the why refers to why she wasn’t enough to deserve her daddy’s love or time or presence? Are you worried that your little one will grow up broken and that she will look back and say it was because her daddy wasn’t there? Because you left or he left or he was never there or any combination of those reasons?
I wish I could hold your hand and promise you that these things will never happen. But they might.
When I became a mom, something shifted in my whole being. I suddenly was unable to comprehend the possibility of a legitimate excuse for a parent being away from their child. I suddenly felt all the things I had never stopped to question before, because I always assumed there was a valid reason. When I became a mom, I realized there is no such thing as logistics, as poor circumstances, there is no excuse that is valid for your child not getting absolutely everything she deserves.
But sometimes, no matter how much we desperately want to, we can’t give our babies everything they deserve.
I know my story, and the details around it may be different from yours. But I want to offer you hope. Hope that YOU ARE ENOUGH. Hope that your little girl will grow up knowing exactly what strong means. That she will grow up knowing that she was loved fiercely. I want to offer you hope that your daughter is paying attention, and that YOU will teach her how she deserves to be loved. And she will learn and she will love and she will fall down and you will be able to be there and say, I know, sweetheart. I have been there. You are going to be ok.
And then she will be ok. Because you believe she will be and she believes you. And one day she may meet a boy who is everything you hoped she would find, and they will fall in love and you will know she isn’t going to have to worry about the things you were worried about. And one day she will become a mother too and you will get to watch them be a family, and watch your granddaughter grow up absolutely adored and loved on by her mommy and daddy and all the wonderful grandparents in her life.
Hope because one day, your daughter may pause and look to you and say “thank you”. Thank you for loving me, for making me feel like I was the moon and stars even when you had nobody to come relieve you when I screamed through an entire night as a baby and you still had to go to work the next morning. Thank you for taking care of me when you were sick, when you were exhausted, when your heart was hurting, when you had absolutely nobody else to lean on, no one else to come relieve you, to say “you know, you have been working so hard. Why don’t you relax for a little bit and I will watch her.” No, you didn’t get that luxury. You had to power through those long days, those tough days, those days where you cried alone in your bathroom and said a silent prayer of “please” because you were too tired to say anything else. Thank you for never making me feel like a burden, for being the one who dried my tears and gave me pep talks and took me shopping and taught me what was important and what was not.
And one day you may look at your daughter and say “I’m sorry”. Sorry you couldn’t make it work with her daddy or that you weren’t a good “picker” of men or that you weren’t able to show her what a perfect marriage looked like.
And your daughter will look at you and wonder how you can be so smart but still not see that you gave her the biggest gift of her life, the gift of being unconditionally loved. And when you were making those “mistakes”, she WAS paying attention. And that is how she knew. That is how she knew that is was ok to be brave and know when you deserve better. That is how she knew that she could make it on her own if she needed to because she watched you. She didn’t have to be afraid of being alone. She didn’t have to be afraid of making mistakes. Because you showed her that in the end, it would be ok.
And when she meets that man she chooses to spend her life with, she will say her prayer of “thank you, thank you” to God, to the Universe, to you. Because YOU were the one who taught her what real love is, and she recognized it, and she accepted that she deserved every ounce of it.
So mama who is doing it on her own, I know you are probably afraid, and brave. You probably feel guilt and pride. You may be afraid that you are not enough, that you can’t be everything to that little life you were trusted with. I want to tell you this truth:
“Even the darkest night
and the sun