In a powerful essay on being a single mum, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg opened up about the lessons in the year since her husband died.
“People become single parents for many reasons: loss of a partner, breakdown of a relationship, by choice. One year and five days ago I joined them,” Sandberg said.
Her husband, Dave Goldberg, died unexpectedly in Mexico during a trip on May 1, 2015, leaving Sandberg to care for their two children.
“In Lean In, I emphasised how critical a loving and supportive partner can be for women both professionally and personally — and how important Dave was to my career and to our children’s development. I still believe this,” Sandberg wrote. “Some people felt that I did not spend enough time writing about the difficulties women face when they have an unsupportive partner or no partner at all. They were right.”
Sandberg says before his death she didn’t “get” being a single parent. Events like a father-daughter dance or parent night only remind her and her children of what they don’t have.
“For me, this is still a new and unfamiliar world. Before, I did not quite get it. I did not really get how hard it is to succeed at work when you are overwhelmed at home. I did not understand how often I would look at my son’s or daughter’s crying face and not know how to stop the tears,” Sandberg says.
She acknowledges how lucky she is for not facing the financial burdens of many single parents, and for the support system she has from her family and friends.
“Still, Dave’s absence is part of our daily lives and, for me, has redefined what it is to be a mother. Before Dave died, I had a partner who shared both the joys and responsibilities of parenting. Then, without any warning, I was on my own,” Sandberg wrote.
Her essay is a call to action for public and corporate workplaces to expand their definition of what a family looks like and to build the communities needed to support single parents too.
“Being a mother is the most important — and most humbling — job I’ve ever had. As we rightly celebrate motherhood, we should give special thanks to the women who are raising children on their own. And let’s vow to do more to support them, every day,” Sandberg wrote.
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