I have been raised by a single mother since the age of four. Although my two older siblings and I saw my dad once a week and every other weekend, my mom is the one who single-handedly raised us. She fed us, bought our clothes, helped with homework, ran the household – she literally did everything. She played the part of two parents all my life. And it’s shocking to me that people are still a bit surprised when they hear of a woman successfully running a household on her own. And not just cooking, cleaning, doing laundry. I mean hands-on projects around the house that men are always assumed to handle.
I was shown from any early age that women can do anything. I was shown that a woman absolutely does not need a man to get by. A woman is not completely lost when issues arise that are not “in her gender field.” All of the things I should’ve been doing with my dad, I did with my mom. And she proved to be even better than a male in every single situation.
I had a friend come over when I was young, and my mom was sawing down a tree branch. It was getting dangerously close to our roof, so she climbed a ladder with a saw and got rid of it. That simple. My friend was stunned, and commented that her mom would never be caught dead doing something like that. She said her stepdad would do it, or one of her brothers, or her mom would hire someone. Even at a young age, I asked, why would she get someone else to do it if she’s perfectly capable of doing it herself?
Fast forward many years later, I was at work one morning after a really bad snowstorm and a middle-aged male coworker asked if my dad shoveled the driveway this morning. “No,” I replied, “my mom and I did.” He didn’t even try to mask his surprise. How could a young woman and her mother shovel a driveway?! The horror! It’s as if he assumed our delicate little wrists would break trying to lift a shovel of snow.
People don’t need to pity women for being on their own. As if painting a living room is a much harder task for a woman than for a man. It’s painting – anyone can do it. People will act as though they feel bad for my mom, because of the fact that she mows her own lawn every other week. That there isn’t a man to do it for her. But my mom likes taking care of her own yard, and she says it’s a great workout. She’s not helpless; she’s independent. And that’s exactly how I was raised.
My mom handled everything with strength and grace. She never let us see her sweat. And she never insinuated that we couldn’t handle anything by ourselves. She would never make comments like, “Oh, if only a guy were here!” Never once in my life did I think we were helpless. I knew whatever came our way, we would handle it. So as I got older it surprised me that people assume a household can’t function unless a guy is there to do manly things like chop wood or clean the gutter. There shouldn’t be a gender attached to each chore.
I was never raised to be a “feminist” either. I was never told by my mom that girls can do anything just as well as boys. She didn’t need to – I saw it for myself. It was a simple and straightforward fact. I saw men hiring landscapers while my mom mowed our steep hill of a lawn and I weed-whacked. I saw men hiring painters while my mom and I taped up and painted every room in our house ourselves. I saw men hiring guys to stain their deck, cut limbs off trees, move furniture out of their garage… while we did this all ourselves. I never had to be told women could do anything men could do – it was obvious. We didn’t only do everything men do in a household, we did more.
My mom was the only one there when I moved three different times during college. We did all the heavy lifting, just us two. When one of my rooms was missing a closet, we went to Home Depot (a store we regularly go to), bought wall mounts and a pole to hang my clothes, and installed a closet type system all by ourselves using power tools. The other dads were impressed – this offended me. We put together furniture. We set up the cable and internet. During moving time, usually the wife is quiet, timid, off to the side while the husband asks all the necessary questions. My mom was standing with the landlord the whole time with the dads listening, bemused. Asking about rent, parking, laundry, bills, maintenance, everything. When wives chuckle and comment, “Oh, my husband handles that,” my mom responds to those women with a look mixed with pity and repugnance.
She doesn’t take any shit, so I was raised the same way. I have never been one of those girls who thinks I should win over a guy by giggling and batting my eyelashes and pretending to be dumb. I don’t think it’s adorable to be an idiot. I don’t allow myself to be disrespected by men just because it seems unladylike to stand up for myself or have a strong opinion.
I just moved into an apartment by myself. I was very keen on living alone. Besides the fact that I genuinely enjoy my own company, I wanted to prove that I could do it, that I could get by perfectly fine on my own. I grew up with the most sovereign woman I’ve ever known in my life; it’s time to show that I can fill those shoes.
Even though I’ve never lived on my own, my mom has prepared me. I know how to cook and clean and do laundry, but I also know how to tape up and paint a room, how to assemble furniture, how to walk into Home Depot and find exactly what I’m looking for without asking for help. I know how to deal with installing services, how to set up my Xbox, how to shovel the driveway and salt the front steps in the winter. I also know how to throw a perfect spiral and open beer without a bottle opener and not get screwed over at a mechanic’s shop.
And regardless if I’m raising my kids alone or with a husband, they’re going to learn those skills. From me.