Thank You, Single Moms

Nick, Ollie and Don McNay on Easter of ‘92.

Nick, Ollie and Don McNay on Easter of ‘92.

Mother’s Day has normally been melancholy for me. My mother and sister died in 2006, the same year my marriage ended. After they died, my nephew moved to Kentucky to live with me while he attended college at Eastern Kentucky University.

My mother and his mother were single mothers. We weren’t the Brady Bunch or the Waltons; our moms were all we had.

On 2007, Mother’s Day hit on my sister’s birthday, which also happened to be the anniversary of my crumbled marriage.

My nephew is an über macho guy but suddenly started crying. When he started, I joined him for the rest of the day.

No tears this year. I used  the day to reflect on what a terrific role model my single mother was.

And why Mother’s Day is a 365 day a year position for single mothers.

I’m surrounded by a lot of terrific single mothers. I am marrying one in a few weeks.

In the past ten years, she raised three children, became a highly acclaimed school principal and obtained a series of advance degrees and education honors.

I figured that after all that, she can tolerate my egocentric traits, or at least some of them.

My youngest daughter is currently engaged but has raised my 11-year-old grandson as a solo act. A key staff member is doing her first Mother’s Day as a single mom.

None of them complain about how hard it is, they just do it. The way my mother, Ollie McNay, did.

I was too young to appreciate the sacrifices my mother made. She went from being a homemaker in a comfortable suburb to loading boxes at night in a potato chip factory.

During the day, she went to nursing school.

Once she became an operating room nurse, she had the steady income and steady career to raise us. It also meant that she worked insane hours and normally missed major holidays.

Mom wasn’t a “soccer mom.” I didn’t play soccer and if I had, she didn’t have time to attend. She was lucky to catch a football game now and then.

Her focus was to keep us in our house, in a nice neighborhood, and to pay for me to attend a terrific Catholic high school.

The tuition was about 10 percent of her net income. I suspect she did it by juggling credit cards and all the things I tell you not to do in my book, Wealth Without Wall Street, but it put me in a position to receive a high powered education and successful career.

Thank you, Mom. I wish I had been mature enough to thank you then.

It’s easy to bash on the next generation as being self-absorbed, unable to communicate and happier interacting with technology than people.

Then I see the children of the single mothers who touch me.

My fiancée’s children spent the weekend fixing things around her house, doing yard work and gave her a big mother’s day celebration. They truly adore her.

My daughter posted on Facebook that her 11-year-old son made her breakfast in bed. I never thought about doing something that sweet and meaningful.

My staff member and her near teenage son did a mother-son outing where he did a number of things to make his mom feel special. I would have never dreamed of spending a day, or an out-of-town trip, with my mom  during my teen years.

Being the son of a single mother, I spent time feeling like I missed out.

I felt particularly isolated as one of the very few children of a divorced family in my neighborhood and schools.

I was lucky that my dad remained a strong part of my life, but divorce was a stigma that I felt every day.

Along the way, I embraced the idea that being “different” was one of the keys to my success and happiness.

It’s no accident that I fell in love with a single mother. They know how to give unconditional love in a way the average person can’t. Being a single mom was not really a choice. It was a decision made motivated by leaving an intolerable situation, losing most of her money and material possessions, and seeking a better life for herself and her children.

Just like my mother, it showed her that she had unique and special talents. It let her understand that she was smart, resourceful and has a work ethic that stuns and amazes people.

Like Nietzsche said, “That which does not kill us makes me stronger.”’

What I know is that single mothers are stronger than I am. They draw upon strengths they didn’t know they had.

It’s easy to say that I missed  my mother on Mother’s Day. Then I realize that she is part of me and always will be. Every day of every year.

Thank you, Mom.

Don McNay, who lives in Richmond, Ky., is an award-winning financial columnist for Huffington Post Contributor. You can learn more about him at