Mr. Mayor: “You should have been a lawyer, Miss March.”
Jo March: “I should have been a great many things, Mr. Mayor.
— Little Women

I think Jo March’s response is the mantra of many single moms.

My mom was a single mother for most of our childhood. As of late, I’ve been wondering what type of woman she could’ve been had she not been consigned to this fate, the great things she could’ve done had she not sacrificed all to raise her children, and what she could’ve accomplished had she had a loving, supportive spouse to bear the burden of life and children.

The reality is, my mom is already a great many things. She’s a brilliant nurse, a caring and compassionate wife, a loyal friend, a dedicated worker, a supportive sister, and above all, an affectionate, devoted, compassionate mother.

Like many single moms though, she’s cut from different cloth. She’s also fierce, independent, driven, and possesses an unrivaled tenacity for life. She’s a survivor, not by choice, but necessity. Circumstances, whether chosen or not, haven’t always been kind, and thus, life has refined her in a different way. There were times when she buckled under the magnitude of her lot, but more often than not, she steeled herself for what needed to be done.

She worked three jobs, put herself through nursing school, and still had time to pack our lunches (and leave love notes in them), play Aggravation with us, ride bikes, bake cupcakes (the ones with the gummy bears on top) for us to take to class on our birthdays, teach us how to play softball, run us to sports practices, take us to Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, and attend our awards ceremonies.

She had help. Our aunts, uncles, and grandparents were integral to our upbringing. Nonetheless, single motherhood was a lonely and solitary journey.

It’s no surprise then that dreaming was a luxury. It was impractical. It was a waste of time and emotional energy. It’s not something my mom ever thought of doing.

However, in light of my own dreaming journey, I asked my mom about her own dreams, about the great things she wanted to, and still wants to, accomplish.

Here’s what I discovered:

  • As a kid she wanted to own a Camaro. She bought one with her own money when she was 16.
  • She wanted to be a mom. She became one at 19.
  • She wanted to have six children and stay home and raise them. She only had two and didn’t get to stay home very long. After her divorce, like many single moms, she was prematurely forced into the work world.
  • She never had a dream career. Nursing wasn’t her dream job. It was the practical choice. It would pay the bills and provide a decent living for her and her children. She’s still searching for a dream job.
  • She wanted her kids to have a better life than she did. We do.
  • She wanted her kids to go to college, since this wasn’t really an option for her because of the generation and household in which she grew up. Thanks to her, we did go to college.
  • More than anything, she dreamed of raising her children well. She wanted them to be responsible, successful, good, people. She did well. She raised two valedictorians, one of which is a transplant surgeon, the other a theology professor. We love our lives. We are good people. We’re the product of her dream.

Here are her current dreams:

  • She’d like to go to Israel.
  • She’d like to go back to Hawaii.
  • She’d like to live near her children.
  • She wants to get a 4 year degree (maybe).
  • She wants to stay healthy.
  • She wants to be more service-oriented like Jesus and volunteer in a local pregnancy crisis center.
  • She wants her marriage to continue to be joyful and happy.
  • She wants her children to be married, loved, and cherished.
  • She wants to be a grandma.

Mom, my prayer for you this Mother’s Day is that you continue to do, and be, a great many things. In verbalizing your story and dreams, I hope you recognize what you’ve accomplished, and how much more you still have to achieve. You’ve had a hand in making our dreams comes true, perhaps we can have a hand in bringing yours about. You now have the luxury to dream, so please do so (despite how impractical it may seem).

Thank you for your sacrifice.

We love you.

*Title adapted from Beyonce’s “All My Single Ladies.”