"I Got It From My Momma" honors mothers and mother figures of every stripe, with one new essay appearing each day until Mother's Day.  

Credit: Courtesy of Lindsay Dolak

I remember being grateful early on to grow up in an all female household. Living with only my single mom and sister made things like announcing my first period and introducing my first boyfriend significantly less awkward. Other benefits included two extra closets to steal clothes from, shame-free Housewives marathon viewings, and the security of never being without Olay moisturizer ... like ever. But perhaps the greatest advantage of having a single mother is that from my earliest days I’ve always been acutely aware of just how powerful one woman can be.

My first memory of anyone publicly announcing to me that my father wasn’t really in the picture was an obnoxious boy in my second-grade class. “But Lindsay doesn’t even have a dad,” he exclaimed in front of my peers and teacher for some arbitrary reason. You might imagine this as a particularly scarring moment for me, but it wasn’t. “Of course I do,” I responded coolly. And it was true. My parents divorced when I was just a baby and, up until I was about 15 years old, my sister and I alternated holidays and some summer weeks between my parents’ homes. But we lived with and were primarily raised by our mom. And I never considered that strange.

The first thing I learned about my mom as I got older and she started sharing more about her experience was that she worked diligently to make sure my sister and I never felt victimized by our family dynamic. It wasn’t a weird or bad thing to live with only your mom. That’s just how our family was. I don’t have a single memory of my parents fighting or ever displaying any kind of tumultuous relationship in front of my sister and me. Not, I’m sure, because they never did, but because my mom was committed to preserving normalcy in the house.

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The second thing I learned about my mom is, in order to achieve normalcy, she put us before herself every single day. She juggled two daughters with a challenging law career that required a decent amount of travel and, save for a few babysitters along the way, did it entirely by herself. And she didn’t just do well for a single mom, she did well for any mom. She made us separate dinners when we didn’t both want the same thing, overindulged our adoration for grossly expensive American Girl doll accessories, kept up with the high school trends, like when Vera Bradley was out and Longchamp was suddenly in, and traveled with us all over the world. But still, all of that pales in comparison to the best things my mom gifted my sister and me: an unwavering sense of independence and truly unconditional love.

The older I get, the more I realize my mom made it all work because of how much she absolutely adores us. She worked tirelessly and still came home and comforted me when I thought I was fat in middle school. She forgave me every time my high school teachers called home to complain about my bad behavior (after I took full responsibility). And she once answered the phone in the middle of the night and listened to her 25-year-old daughter cry about missing an ex-boyfriend.

I don’t think I’ll ever understand how she did and continues to do it. It exhausts me to imagine one day in her shoes, let alone a full life. But I don’t think she minds. My mom gifted my sister and me with an unparalleled combination of strong work ethic and immense emotional support, and as a result, we move through life confidently, knowing that anything we will ever need– whether it’s a kid’s college tuition or genuine love–is within our own reach. And I know that brings her an immense amount of joy and comfort. “I never have to worry about you guys,” she often says. As for us, we’re running out of ways to say “it’s all because of you.”