July 4, 2017

Don’t Be Sorry for the Struggle

It was the struggle that made me.

“You’re spoiling that child! She’s going to grow up thinking the world revolves around her!”

From the time I was a small child, friends and family warned my mom that her parenting would ruin me. They said I would grow up selfish—that I would expect everything handed to me on a silver platter.

It’s true that I didn’t suffer many consequences when I misbehaved. They were right that my mom rarely told me “no” when I wanted a new toy or outfit.

That’s because my mom, like many single mothers, often operated out of a sense of guilt that my dad wasn’t in the picture. For me, this led to more freedom and fewer consequences.

But all of those well-meaning family and friends didn’t consider this:

I watched my mother struggle.

I was with her at 2 a.m. when she began the baking at her small cake shop. I was with her when we arrived at the shop one day to find it had been broken into the night before. I was by her side when the pipes froze in the winter, when we got locked out of the house, and when we had a flat tire on the side of the road.

I watched her struggle.

Many parents try to insulate their kids from any type of struggle. And if their kids happen to see it, they feel guilty. Maybe it’s because we want to protect our children, or maybe it’s because we live in a world where the standard is to be Pinterest-perfect. This pressure to keep our kids from any type of struggle, imperfection or inconvenience is all around us.

But I can tell you from experience—it’s the struggle that made me.

I watched my mom struggle and overcome. I watched her work hard, and I saw her hard work pay off. I watched her hope when situations seemed hopeless. I watched her persevere with an absurd level of persistence. I watched her do the right thing, even when it cost her.

I watched the way she treated every single person with kindness. I watched how she went above and beyond for her customers. I watched how she always paused and talked to homeless people—even in the middle of the night when we were downtown unloading bags of powdered sugar and flour.


I watched her.

She worked harder than anyone I’d ever seen, gave generously of her time and money, and loved every person without limits.

And that’s what I learned growing up. I learned values, integrity and character. I developed resilience, persistence and self-esteem. I am who I am today because of everything she and I overcame together.

So what if she gave in every time I wanted a new coloring book at the grocery store checkout line?

Watching her—in the exciting times and in the struggle—is what created the very best parts of me.

So whether you’re a single parent or just an exhausted one, don’t be sorry for the struggle. Who you are is more than enough.

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  • My mom was a single mother, too. My sister and I watched her struggle and work hard to provide for us. We were never without what we needed and always had her love, protection, and support. I really enjoyed your story about your mom and what an influence she has in your life. Here’s to your mom!! I know you will follow in her footsteps with your precious one. Congratulations!!

  • In my world, we got a lot of love and seldom (except Christmas) got to have things when shopping with either Mom or dad. I got to say the Pledge of Allegiance, the Lord’s Prayer and we sang the Doxology at our noon meal in school. Going to church was a requirement as children. To make matters worse, if we misbehaved we were switched and we had to fetch our own switch. I think I was mistreated by parents that enforced Rules, Boundaries and limitations. But Mom would always give us a hug in the end if we needed it. If you want to know what is wrong with the Baby Boomers, Here it is.

  • Natalie says:

    I am that single mom in the midst of her struggle. My kids are getting away with more than they should.. but they are also watching me. They are great kids, and they have big hearts. I love who they are. I am putting myself through nursing school and I know they are learning from it. Thank you for sharing your side. Brought me to tears this morning.

  • Meredith says:

    Thank you Christy for this story and thank you Dave for sharing it. I am a single parent who works full time and goes to school full time. I often let my son pick something out at the store and have wondered if this would ruin him in the future. Needed to read this today!

  • Mary says:

    Thanks for sharing your amazing story. Being you a single parent of two children I could relate to many of the scernario’s you referred to in your story.

    I’ve always tried to protect my children from the harsh reality of my struggling in my attempt to keep our heads above water.

    It takes so my enegy and time to conceive the truth trying to protect your children.

    Recently – they have seen my life as a single parent , the struggles my tenacity and focus to improve our lives.

    Thank you for reassuring me that it’s ok to let your children see the trouble, as helps to shape who they are.

  • Karen Moos says:

    This story is so awesome and true for so many of us. My mom wasn’t a single parent but being one of six kids we certainly watched mom struggle. We didn’t get a lot of extra things because we didn’t have the money but we certainly had everything we needed. She worked at the hospital all night, came home and got 6 kids off to school and started making beds and cleaning house. Yes she made all our beds for us and cooked all our meals. She didn’t get much sleep some days because as 6 kids come home from school someone always needed something from her. We did watch her struggle and we learned so much from her. She gave up so much for all of us and never complained. Thanks so much for posting this.

  • Debora says:

    I can’t relate to much of your story. I was raised by both parents in a comfortable middle class home. I never wanted for much (except a pony, but even I knew that was asking too much! lol!) I never saw my parents struggle. I probably got away with a lot more than I should have though, and like you, did get a “prize” for basically no good reason every time I went to the store with my mom. But all of that was not the only influence in my life.

    I did see my friends, and their families, struggling. And I always wished they could be as “fortunate” as I was. I learned through empathy, which is definitely something I learned from my parents, and I hope that is something I’m teaching my children, who, like me, don’t want for much (except a pony!)

    I guess my point is that one doesn’t have to live a hard life to appreciate the good life. Not all “spoiled” kids grow up to be selfish or expect the world to revolve around them. We can all have values, integrity, and character. We can all learn the lessons on how resilience, persistence and self-esteem will serve us well as adults. We just need good role models, like you had, and like I had.

  • Vicki says:

    My daughter just forwarded this article to me, with the comment “this reminds me of you”! I have never been so honored in my life.

    Your article was beautiful.

    Thank you,

  • I think it’s so great you grew up with such a loving, generous and hard working mother. It’s great you have learnt to have an amazing work ethic.
    I do agree. To an extent.
    I just think that there is a line between what struggles are necessary for your kids to understand and which ones need to be something an adult worries about.
    I don’t cry poor to my kids but I tell them we can’t go around buying certain things like toys because food and a roof over our heads is more important.

  • Sasha Taylor says:

    Thank you Christy for thus article. It brought me to tears. I’m a single mom of three and God knows that they have watched me struggle. I’m currently in school full time finishing up my Bachelors degree in Sociology. My ultimate goal is to become a doctor. There have been times when I have been extremely lenient with my kids but I also take the time to teach them about life. They are amazing kids and in two very short years, my oldest will be going to college. I will admit that I’m tired of struggling with my kids and I pray that God can put a great man in our lives. Thank you so much for your post! God bless you!!!

  • Sasha Taylor says:

    I forgot to add that I too was raised by a single mom and I watched my mother bust her behind for my brother and I. It’s because of her that I now have a stron work ethic amongst so many other things that she taught me!!

  • Karen says:

    Wow, amazing timing! I was just reading this post as I was laying here feeling exhausted discouraged and guilty. I am a single mom of a 4 year old, just working on launching my new business. I have been feeling guilty that I had to work at home on my business instead of taking my daughter somewhere more fun and exciting today. She is with me so much and definitely sees me.. I pray she also learns values, integrity and character and that she will be forever changed by seeing God help us overcome together. I went to your business boutique in Nashville and your mom’s story was so encouraging to me!

  • Stephanie says:

    Wow……just wow. What an incredible testament to your mother. I admit I’ve had similar opinions of mothers whom I’ve seen give their kids “whatever they asked for”. But you’ve reminded me that I don’t know their whole story. And sure, I heard the word “no” a lot in my upbringing, but I’ll bet that my parents wanted to say yes. I was the oldest of four children who were all brought into the world within 3 years and 11 months (yikes!) And my mother chose to give up her teaching career to stay home and raise us. So in a single income situation like ours, getting everything we asked for wasn’t really feasible.
    Anyways, I digress. Your mother sounds like a truly remarkable woman. Now that I’m a mother I have so much respect for moms of all situations:) Thank you for posting this. I’m humbled and encouraged at the same time

  • Michelle Coard says:

    Great blog post! I feel comfort in the fact my children see the struggle as well was the good times. I have finally stopped giving out of guilt but I give based on what they earn. But I do threw in a little extra because they are going through the struggle with me.