An Ode to My Mother, The Incredible Single Parent


There are many reasons people become a single parent. Losing a partner, the breakdown of a relationship, by choice, etc. The internet is a hostile place for single parents. Amongst handfuls of ‘well-intentioned’ articles on coping strategies; media seem to pity, patronise and sometimes entirely exclude them. There is a distinct lack of appreciation in this discourse. Where is the appreciation for the duality of their role, their life-long commitment? Where is the appreciation for their sacrifices? The world does not make life easy for single parents and we owe them recognition. I wish to carve out a space, a love letter of sorts. I want to celebrate single parents and it only makes sense, then, to write about my own mother. 

Mum became a single mother after my dad passed away. She carried her grief in a way that ensured it never overwhelmed or eclipsed my brothers' or my own. Now, having experienced grief as a child and an adult, fathoming how single parents support their children through loss is extraordinary. Sixteen years after losing my dad, it is still painful and yet, in the immediacy and confines of recent loss: my mum was there. I’m in awe of the selflessness and bravery mothers and fathers can show after losing their partner. Of course, death is not always the cause of becoming a single parent. Yet, regardless of whether it is perhaps a relationship breakdown, or by choice, single parents are brave. It’s not an easy feat, perfection is unlikely, but it highlights the strength single parents have for and because of their children. I can only and sincerely say thank you to my mum.  

Mum works three jobs. She cares for the elderly, she teaches yoga twice a week (at Christmas, she makes all of her yogi-students a bookmark, one of which I inevitably steal as my own) and she cleans. Balancing and managing time is not easy, but I appreciate that my mum makes time within her life for me, always. To single parents who feel or worry that they do not have enough time: thank you, the time you do share is cherished. 

Mum supported me through an admission to a psychiatric hospital. She held my hand through the admission process, despite the emotional implications it must have had for her. Mum visited me on my day leaves: we’d celebrate by sitting in a Costa Coffee with hot chocolate and cake, sometimes she’d even bring our dogs and a flask of tea and we’d walk along the fields opposite the hospital. Mum was there when I was discharged, and we ate flapjacks made by the hospital staff.

Mum was there during the entirety of my education, from the first days of primary school and throughout university. She’s been on the receiving end of many tearful phone calls, and some positive phone calls too. Mum is a constant stream of support, love and delight. Children of single parents learn about grit, hard-work and independence. I don’t know what I’d do without her, what I’d dream about, or what I’d aspire to. I attribute my work ethic to her: I don’t know anyone who works harder. 

Mum listens to my endless chatter. Nothing is off limits, nothing is too much information. We have an unofficial book-club. I force my favourite books on her, so we can talk about them in detail. We watch the same Netflix shows, the same films, and we message each other about how much we love them. I steal her clothes; mainly jumpers, scarves. My mum makes vegan food for me, finds vegan cheese when I’m home. The intricacies and details of the relationship I have with my mum are things I treasure. 

I worry that single parents move through the world largely unappreciated. But I see them, appreciate them, am proud of them. The world has ways of reminding you what you don’t have - there are constant reminders of losing my dad, every year. But all that I do have, I owe to my mum. There are so many daughters like me, sons too, that are ceaselessly grateful for our single parents. I only hope that we all take the time to show it.

Mum, thank you for all the sacrifices you made; putting us first, providing for us, loving us, and helping us dream. Your daily reality shaped me. The small parts of your day, the parts you gave as a mum and continue to give, they are not small. They never were.