To our friend, the single parent, Simply put, you are a mystery to me. I honestly don’t know how you do it, how you find the strength, how you endure both physically and emotionally, how you survive. I get glimpses into your world, when my partner travels for work or someone is taken ill but no matter how challenging things get, I know there is an end point, a time when I will be relieved. You are the strongest of us all, everything we feel, you must feel ten fold. The moments of sheer joy, the accomplishments, the tender moments, watching sleeping faces and curled up, content little bodies at night, it is all a hard-earned victory. You are old friends now with Isolation and Loneliness. You know them well and are familiar with their quirks and idiosyncratic tendencies. They can play cruel games but you bear them well. Your time is not your own, always someone else’s, always carefully measured. You are as dedicated in your work as you are at home with your children. Your two worlds depend on one another. You cannot afford to falter in either. Like a marathon runner, you keep your own pace. You’ve learned to live with Exhaustion, no longer fearing it having taught yourself how to function in spite of it. You lend perspective to my days; when I think I have it hard, I think of you and my complaint turns to gratefulness. You’re selfless; you made a decision, a grand commitment to your children and you honor that every day and even in every moment, always wanting what is best for them. You do such a good job at putting them first, that it’s many years before they’re even aware of your hardship. You are the face of love; you are driven by it, fueled by it, sustained by it. Like exercising a muscle, the more you break, with fatigue, heartache, self-doubt or guilt, the stronger you become. Don’t ever fear you’re not enough, don’t think that at your best you could only ever measure up to half of the package that is parenting. Parenting is love and giving. And you are these things in their truest form. Despite everything, you manage to give your children a childhood, full of magic and wonder and adventure and you try to keep it separate and shielded from the stress and worry that you know. The cost of toys, clothing, childcare, tuition and medical fees, the cost of parenting we all manage in the background are all looming hurdles you face alone. Like a true survivor, you are resourceful and creative and you find what you need and you make things work, make ends meet. You are the hero the rest of us read about in books. You teach your children through example what it means to be responsible, to make the most of what you have, to persevere and pick yourself up when you fall, to face things head on and fight with everything you have through the hard times and celebrate, give thanks and own the good times. No matter how you got here, whether you’re in it for the long haul, or you have a partner that is away for extended periods, the battles you face, the triumphs you earn, are yours and are testimony to your incredible strength of character.
Friend, you are doing an amazing job and I confess that there’s a part of me you cast a shadow over, a part that wonders whether I’d be capable of managing the same if I were in your position. You are like a bright light leading the way, a reminder to focus on the things that really matter and to let go of the inconsequential stuff. Thank you for the principles you teach us all, not just your kids. Thank you for all that you give, all that you do, all that you are. As you are always in the thick of things, you may feel you go unnoticed but friend, this couldn’t be further from the truth, and we need to make more of an effort to let you know this. Since I know you will not be reading this letter, being as busy as you are, I am asking your friend that does to pass on our sentiments. You are awe-inspiring and your light touches us all. Your friend, Your fellow parent.