The job that matters most

The best gifts come unadorned and completely unexpected.

As a divorced mom of two sons, I’ve probably aged more rapidly in the years since my divorce than I did during the years my marriage was failing. The stress I left behind in the form of what had become an unhealthy relationship was replaced with the stress of financially supporting my family without child support.

This will be no “poor me” story, I promise. Instead, hopefully a bit of bright light in your day.

My boys are not full of flowery speeches and pep talks. They’re—well—boys. They’ve been raised by a mother who works long hours and isn’t a fan of complaining or belly-aching. And they like to banter with and tease me more often than not.

My sisters used to tell me, when I worried about the kind of men they’d grow up to be, that my example would stick. I doubted that and told them so. “You don’t even realize what you’re building right now,” one sister told me. “In hindsight, they’ll see who you were and that will color who they become.”

While I fervently wished for her to be right, I really did doubt it. Boys tend to take after their fathers. And if that meant mine were math whizzes I was all for it but some of the other traits—not so much. I had learned the hard way and didn’t want them to make some woman do the same years into the future.

As we approach National Single Parents Day this weekend, I feel like my boys have given me the uplift every single parent needs. They did it without knowing about this “holiday.” And they did it from the heart, without fanfare. If you’re raising kids on your own and you’re doubting that they see you or learn from you, I’m living proof—they do.

My eldest is primarily a man of action but he does love to talk to me at length sometimes—as if he’s making up for lost time. We were talking about myriad things when the conversation came around to his intolerance for people who make excuses. And then out it came, a beautiful nugget I’ll treasure forever. “Look at you, Mom. You were in a bad situation. But you didn’t make excuses. You did what you had to do and got out of a marriage to save all of us.” I reminded him that I had done so at great cost, financially, emotionally, and otherwise. And that he’d been horrible to me for a period of time during my divorce. Basically, I reminded him that it’s not easy and we should cut people some slack on whatever they’re going through.

“Yeah,” he said, “I get that. But you did the hard thing. You figured it out even though you were scared. I don’t know many moms who could have done that.”

And then he went on to tease me mercilessly about using my mobile phone’s microphone to text and listening to ‘80s music. Back to normalcy. But for a brief blip, I caught a glimpse. I saw that he had taken in more than I realized—and come to his own conclusions. That while he loves both of his parents, he admired what I did and realized it had to be done. This is the boy who proudly displays a sticker on his laptop emblazoned with, “No weak shit.” While I’m not crazy about the profanity, it’s a mantra that suits him.

As if they were channeling the same vibe (which rarely happens), my youngest approached me in the kitchen during his lunch break from virtual classes. From the time he was quite young, he has always spoken like a wise old man. This was no exception. “I heard you on your call this morning, Mom. And I know you’re trying not to work this weekend. Do you see that you’re a rare breed of woman? I don’t think I always knew that. I thought most moms were like you, but most of my friends’ moms aren’t. You own your own business. You financially support a family without help. And you still were always a mom. You’re pretty amazing, Mom. I just wanted you to know.”

And then he wrapped me in a big hug, having to bend down to do it because my former little boy is now so much taller than I am.

Wow. Just, wow. He had recently told me he remembered being a little guy. I would read to him and tuck him in—and then he’d see my office light go on as his bedroom light went off. He copped to sneaking to the window sometimes to see the moon and peer at the light from my window cascading into the yard below. He said he always felt safe. Never worried we wouldn’t have enough. Always felt loved.

Jesus. It’s enough to bring a single mom to her knees in thanks. Somehow, they didn’t feel my anxiety about finances or the cookies for the class party or how to teach them to be a better man even though I’m a woman.

I don’t know what prompted both of them to pay me the highest compliment, but I’ll take it. Whatever it was.

All parents deserve credit for what can the hardest—and most rewarding—job on earth. But if you’re doing this while running your own household, working, raising young humans to be decent and kind—I am sending you the largest virtual hug you can stand this weekend. Doing it solo can be oh so lonely. Keep going. Just keep going. And be good to yourself along the way.

They may not tell you. You may not see it in their eyes. But your example—your beautiful, gorgeous strength and love and persistence and stamina—all of this is shining through. I hope someday that you, like me, get to hear it from them.

Single parenting is a job that truly changes the world because it changes the people in it. If we get it right, in the very best way.

44 Comments Add yours

  1. “Single parenting is a job that truly changes the world because it changes the people in it.” So much truth in this. I am forever grateful for my mom’s sacrifices. Amen to this. You did the brave thing.

    1. candidkay says:

      I am sure you have let your mother know, but it can’t hurt to let her know again :-). Knowing that your kids “get it“ means the world. Thank you for the kind words.❤️

  2. You brought me to tears, always love a love story! You can feel very proud Kristine to have brought up 2 thoughtful boys! AND it’s probably doing what you love and are great at… writing… that helps you be that great single mum! Sending love to you x barbara

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you, Barbara❤️. It’s been an odyssey for sure.

  3. Annika Perry says:

    Kristine, two such precious conversations with your sons and hugs galore as well! 😀These are moments to treasure forever and the validation if you ever needed it that you’ve done right. They sound so mature and full of emotional intelligence. I feel we often under-appreciate how much our children see and understand the lives of us parents. A beautiful and thoughtful post!

    1. candidkay says:

      Thanks so much, Annika! I love seeing them grow into who they will be as adults. It’s been a journey . . .

  4. Today I was thinking about how we have to be ourselves wherever we go. And coincidentally I found myself wanting to read your blog. I have had not been here in a while. My father recently passed on and I have had quite a bit going on. As I was reading I was reminded of how you share your true self with us and how wonderful a read it makes. I have recently divorced and my ex-wife often berates me about feeling like God and the Universe told me leave the marriage, saying God does not tell a man such a thing. It was truly the best thing for my son. I wanted him to have more peace, and he does now, living and seeing each of us equally in more peaceful environments. It can be a bit scary and great sacrafice, but sometimes divorce is the best move. I thank you for reminding me of this.

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh, Craig. Can I be sorry and excited for you all at the same time? Sorry because I know how very painful it is when a relationship you thought would last forever needs to end and excited because even though there may be difficult times ahead, there is also hope for peace and true happiness again. I’m also so sorry about your father. My parents also passed away near the time of my marriage ending and it just felt like so much grief at one time. Take it a day at a time. I know you know this because you’re right about that all the time. And thank you for the kind words about my blog. I have not been feeling inspired to write lately. And was wondering if it was time to move on to other things. But people keep encouraging me to write and it makes me feel good when they want comfort or to think about something differently or to be inspired—and they go to my blog. Your words were meant for my ears today. Thank you and be good to yourself🙏🏻.

  5. Roy McCarthy says:

    Ah, “You saved all of us.” It must make you feel like Flash Gordon {or maybe Giordana). It must be great affirmation for you Kristine, even though you weren’t seeking it. You seem to have raised two fine young men. I was far from a natural or devoted Dad, but still it’s good to report that Eoin and Emma have grown up to be a credit to us.

    1. candidkay says:

      I have no doubt that your children are a credit to you! You’re just such a decent person that I can’t imagine it not rubbing off on them😀. Flash Gordon, eh? How about Wonder Woman? I’d like some golden cuffs😉.

  6. G'amma-D says:

    Parenting is hard, single or otherwise. I’ve had to ask my kids for forgiveness many a time because of mistakes I made. One of the most touching compliments I’ve received was in a journal my daughter gave me one year for Christmas when she was pregnant with her first child. She had written a letter to me in the first couple of pages. She closed it by saying, “Mom, thanks for allowing me to make mistakes. I hope I’m as good a mom as you have been.” And I thought I had not made an impression.

    Good job Kay! You keep on being that mom you are. Sounds like your boys are going into fine young men.

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh, what a touching letter! Were you boo-hooing? I’m sure I would’ve been. Yes, single or otherwise, it’s years and years of work and effort and mistakes and small triumphs. And when they recognize any of it, we jump for joy :-).

  7. As always Kay, your power of the emotive… lawdy.

    But.

    It is the wisdom of our children… as they become adults that is so humbling, realizing that our “perceived faults” served a beacon to them is a gift beyond measure.

    My son humbles me everytime he pays a visit.

    I appreciate this piece… so much!

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh, Shun P, talk about power. You manage to put beautiful writing in a comment.☺️ I love that your son humbles you. We raise them to Best us, don’t we? And it’s such a wonderful feeling when they do.

      1. No words for it my friend.

  8. What a beautiful post! Obviously you are raising/have raised those boys well, Kristine.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you! Like any family, we have our good and bad days:). But considering all the things I was worried about, our story is turning out to have an ending I can live with!

  9. Wow, what brilliant feedback. I was moved reading this Kristine, I’m so glad they have the humility to tell you this – particularly when there’s no special reason to do so.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thanks, Andrea. That’s what made it mean so much–there was no special reason. Wishing you a wonderful start to spring . . .

  10. I have so much respect for solo parents. Doing it on your own is tough – my sister did it for many years, and then her daughter did it. Eventually, they both found their “Mr Right”, but the hard years shaped them and their children. Your boys are more perceptive than you think – as they have proved to you. Take the compliments, and relish their admiration. You deserve it, Kristine!

    1. candidkay says:

      I love that you saw their experience and supported them. I have friendships that I have so changed because these friends were myopic enough not to see the gaping chasm between their situation and mine. Most of us don’t complain. We just do what we need to do. But we soon tire of people who don’t get it. Family members and friends who are supportive and understanding mean the world. I am sure your sister and her daughter both appreciate you immensely! And I love to hear that they both found Mr. Right. That would be really nice some day :-). Thank you, as always, for your kind words! They mean a lot.

  11. Masha says:

    Awwww what a beautiful precious gift, your sisters were so right, they do see and they do learn and all the good you put into them does show one day. You’re amazing and your sons know it!!! Thank you xoxo

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you for the kind words, Masha! It certainly has been a journey. But as my eldest sat in the yard today telling me all about his new job, I was able to exhale and enjoy his company. I love seeing the people they are becoming . . .

  12. Karen Perry says:

    I’m not a single mom but I’m homeschooling my 10 & 12 year olds, originally because of the pandemic but now we’re going to make it permanent. The terror and pressure of having their education in my hands is sometimes overwhelming. A friend once told me that we all mess our kids up but probably not in the way we expect. That was actually comforting! 🤣 What your sons see in you gives me hope. I don’t need my kids to put me on a pedestal. I just want them to see what resilience looks like.

    1. candidkay says:

      Amen. I am so nowhere near perfection. I know my boys see it. I know they see my faults and foibles. And I feel like it has made them better human beings because they do see that. They see that it is possible to have a good life and love and be good to the ones you love while also failing at things. That life is not as black-and-white as any of us want to make it. Kudos to you for making a brave decision for your family’s life. I will be applauding from afar👏😃.

  13. mydangblog says:

    I love being a mom–first to a boy and now to a girl. I remember when she first got taller than me, kissed me on the top of the head and called me “Little Mom”–such a moment. Regardless of gender, she’s the best thing that ever happened to me.

    1. candidkay says:

      I love that! We raise our children to best us and it is an amazing feeling when they do :-).

  14. markbialczak says:

    May this weekend continue to swell you with these feelings of love and accomplishment you earned and deserve, Kay. Congratulations and Happy Single Parents Day to you.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you, Mark!😀

  15. Dale says:

    Awww Kristine… I am so happy you were given this gift. The way I see it, is they know. Even when they act like little shits (and don’t even try to convince me otherwise) deep down there is admiration and love.
    I’ll get little (puny) glimpses of such from them. Mostly in teasing form but I’ve come to understand their code.
    On those day when I think I royally f&*%! up with them, there comes a message somewhere to price me into reality and see that no, I’m doing okay. (I’ve yet to be told point blank that they see what I’ve done. I’ll now keep that hope alive that maybe, just maybe, one day…)

    1. candidkay says:

      I have a feeling that someday you will be told point-blank that you’ve been a great mom. Honestly, I didn’t think that they would come for me. But I think they were somehow thanking me without saying thank you. And you’re right. They can be little shits even when they’re big grown men :-). But I guess our job is to try to help them rise beyond that more often than not. A huge hug to you, Dale. You are doing a fabulous job and don’t you forget it!

      1. Dale says:

        Who knows? Mind you, there are days where they say little things and you think, well now… Maybe I’m not so bad after all 😉
        Yeah, the “joy” of having boys is knowing you won’t necessarily know until you know!
        Thank you, my friend. As are you! 💞

  16. marlene frankel says:

    Two out of two. You did something right. I only have a 50% rate of approval from my two adult kids. I have one boy and one girl. Can you guess which one appreciates me?

    1. candidkay says:

      I couldn’t even begin to guess. But I’m sorry to hear it. There have definitely been ups and downs and no family is perfect. I am hoping that your situation doesn’t cause you too much pain. It can be so hard when a grown child is estranged.

  17. So beautifully said and absolutely heartfelt. Proof positive that you’re doing an awesome job! Whenever you begin to doubt yourself, reread this post. Those moments when children begin to appreciate their parents are gold.

    When my son was in about fourth or fifth grade, he was buddied up with either a kindergartener or first grader who had to read to him. One day when my son came home from school, he said he finally knew what it felt like to be me because his young charge wanted nothing to do with reading that day. My son worked hard to coax him, telling him all he had to do was make it through the little booklet twice (just a few sentences each read through), but the kid was having none of it. Pure gold.

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh, I love that story. And knowing how much hard work you’ve put into helping your son and nourishing that relationship, I bet it meant a lot to you!

      1. It absolutely did!

  18. I think your boys are the best and must take after you.

    1. candidkay says:

      Aw, John, thank you 😊! A very sweet thing to say.

  19. How wonderful to be acknowledged by your sons Kristine. Clearly, you have two caring young men who value you and the example you set. Cheers & hugs to you!

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you! A good start to my weekend😃

  20. Jane Fritz says:

    Whoops, my autocorrecter messed up my mistyping of your name, Kristine. Can you edit my first comment and delete this one?!

  21. Jane Fritz says:

    Oh my goodness, how special. It doesn’t get any better than this, Kristine’. These are life’s rewards! ❤️

    1. candidkay says:

      Thanks, Jane😀. You’re so right. Nothing better I could hear from my boys!

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