I Was Raised by a Single Mom, and I'll Always Be Grateful For Everything She Sacrificed

To my single mom:

Thank you for your sacrifices, both the ones I've seen and the ones you've kept private. You raised two children — one whom you birthed and one whom you adopted out of love — while working multiple jobs to give us what we needed. Our home was humble, our time together was limited, and looking back on it now, I can see that you were tired. But you did it all with a smile on your face, without any trace of despair. If there were ever a time when you felt broken and exclaimed to the world, "I just can't do it anymore!" I never heard it. And now, as I turn the same age as you when you first assumed the title of "Mommy," I've come to realize that there were so many times that you sacrificed your happiness to ensure ours. While no amount of thank yous could repay you for the work you did to raise us, I want you to know that everything you gave up for us did not go unnoticed. So, to you, my beautiful single mom, I say thank you.

Ashley Ortiz

As a child, you made our limited time together feel valuable. Even though our mornings started so early as a result of your work schedule and we would often be the first ones to arrive at the school — making a game out of waiting for our beloved janitor to open the school's doors — you always made it a priority to read me my favorite story (sometimes two or three times) before saying goodbye. I know now that on days when I would protest your departure, not being able to stay would hurt you more than it hurt me. I was often sick as a child, spending my school days split between the classroom and the nurse's office. On the days that you would come to pick me up, I would listen excitedly for the click-clack of your kitten heels down the school's hallway, not understanding that your very presence at school meant that you had made a difficult decision between caring for your child and working to put a roof over her head. And whether my time after school was spent at a friend's house with their understanding parents, in an after-care program, or on my own at home, I know now that any displeasure I expressed about not being able to see you until after dinnertime was felt by you tenfold. Then you would come home, finish out your nightly duties as a parent, and subsequently fall on the pillow until bright and early the next day, when you would wake up to do it all again. For this, I thank you.

I could only imagine that there were times when you felt inadequate, unsure, or defeated as a parent. As you raised me, you were selective about who you brought into our lives, which worked mostly in our favor as you built a village to raise us. But unfortunately, some people would disappoint us. When your heart was severely broken once by an unfaithful love, you shared as much as you could with me to honor my growing mind and because I was your best friend. I helped dry your tears, though I know there were many more that went un-wiped. What I remember most is watching you rise from that dark, sullen time an even stronger woman. My warrior. There were times when our housing was at risk and favors had to be called into relatives to ensure that we had a roof over our heads, light in our home, and food in our fridge — but, even in the face of anxious uncertainty, your relaxing nighttime routine of ironing while wearing your pajamas and watching your shows kept me calm with the understanding that we would always be okay as long as we have each other. And on special occasions when you would surprise us with gifts — luxury items that only our friends could afford — your gentle smile would send a message that read: "It's nothing, honey, you deserve it," without revealing the true sacrifice it took to acquire them for us.

Ashley Ortiz

As I got older, you allowed me the distance I needed to grow, while remaining loyally by my side in case I ever needed a lap to fall back on. When I moved away from home to attend college, you began a sweet ritual of sending daily morning texts to wish me a happy day and evening texts to send me off on a restful night's sleep. Even on days when I would forget to text you back, you'd follow up with a loving goodnight message, or a hopeful text to start the next day. When I confided in you one night that I identified as one of the letters in the LGBTQ+ acronym, you smiled in utmost support and said, "You know what I always say, honey. Just follow your heart." And when I decided to pack up my life and move 2,000 miles away to another country, you hid your sorrow and your fear behind warm eyes, supporting hugs, and unwavering encouragement that continues to remind me to chase my biggest dreams.

Today, I am almost 27 years old: old enough to take care of myself and a little one, as you once did at my age. But my journey is different than yours. Whereas you had been married for quite some time at my age, I am not yet ready to settle down. Whereas you spent your days dedicated to caring for your precious baby, I spend my days dedicated to improving my craft in hopes of fulfilling my dreams. And while our lives at 26 bear striking differences, the lessons you have taught me through the sacrifices you made to raise me continue to influence me and the decisions I make today. From your sacrifices, I learned that taking care of our loved ones is our most important task above all. I learned that in the face of darkness I am strong enough to prevail, and in the presence of my wildest dreams I have what it takes to reach out and grab them. I know that your work as a single mother has been a mostly thankless job, but I want you to know that the impact you've had on me is undeniably priceless.

So, here's to you, my sweet single mom. Thank you for all that you have done — and all that you've given up — to give me a life as beautiful as you. Your sacrifices mean more to me than you know, and prove that real-life heroes walk among us — sometimes closer than we think.