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As dads disappear, moms hold it down

Updated: May 12, 2013 2:12PM



I have seen her, moving with a certain determination and fearlessness in the glowing light of dawn, walking with her children in tow. Holding it down.

Come rain or shine, I have seen her, wearing that 9-to-5 face. Standing at bus stops, at train stations, or rushing to schools or nurseries early in the morning to deposit her babies then kissing them goodbye and hurrying out the door. Bartenders, baristas and businesswomen. Secretaries, schoolteachers and CEOs.

Juggling the duties of home, childrearing and work, they punch the clock. At workday’s end, they’re off to pick up the children from the sitter. Then it’s hurry home to make supper. Handle homework and the chores. Get the children bathed and tucked in. Catch a breath — and a little sleep — before morning comes. Time to start all over again.

It is a familiar routine for many a single mother — one that may vary, depending on their circumstance. And it is a scene that plays out each day, even if it is perhaps a mostly unnoticed feat performed by these everyday superwomen who themselves admit that sometimes it’s a struggle.

But what’s a mother to do? Especially after a man becomes a deadbeat dad or simply pulls the disappearing act from their children’s lives.

Apparently there are lots of invisible men these days.

According to the U.S. census, there were 10.3 million single mothers living with children younger than 18 in 2012. In fact, out of 12.2 million single-parent families, more than 80 percent were headed by single mothers. That compared with 3.4 million single mothers in 1970.

What hasn’t changed, in my humble opinion, is the value of good mothering, the worth of a mother’s gentle touch, the impact of a mother’s selfless sacrifice.

What hasn’t changed is what it can mean to a kid — even if Papa was a rolling stone, or in those times when money is tight, food low and disconnection notices in the mailbox — to know that Mama is still holding it down.

And Mama is taking care of business.

More often than not, she is, as evidenced by those single mothers we encounter in the work force every day — some of whose smiles hide the salty tears that can accompany the struggle of having to do it all. Single mothers — even with their feet sometimes weary and worn — who never cease to stand their ground in parenting, providing for and protecting their children.

Still, I can’t help but notice these days that single mothers sometimes get a bad rap, or the criticizers who are quick to blame them for the circumstance of being single mothers.

There is the image of the single mother who leaves her children home alone while going out to the club, or the mother whose children are unkempt, uncared for and unattended. This isn’t helped by news reports of children burned to death in fires while their mothers were out late-night partying.

It is a stigma acknowledged by Nikesha Sampson, 28, a single mother who works at a suburban cafe.

“A lot of people think it’s all about the clubs with the single moms,” Sampson told me. But that’s the exception, we both believe. Not the rule.

“It’s hard though, it’s definitely hard,” said Sampson, who is raising a daughter, 12, and a son, 2. “But we hold it down.

“Coming to work every day, being able to provide for them, makes me proud. I wouldn’t trade that,” she said, seeming a bit weary at the end of her shift.

And yet, she was smiling. Smiling and still holding it down.



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