When Kathy Beer Napolitano became pregnant, she made the difficult decision to leave the Air Force.
The father did not.
Left alone, Kathy charted a new course as a single mother, accepting the challenge of raising a child, Julie Beer, without the companionship, help and guidance of a father.
It wasn’t easy.
For the untold number of single mothers, spanning generations, it rarely ever is.
Every day is Mother’s Day, whether they like it or not.
Julie’s early recollections of her mother sound almost scripted. In an informal survey of children raised by single mothers, the Bulletin found that most single-mother stories follow a familiar plot, one rife with challenges and a profound sense of perseverance and family.
Tell me, does this sound familiar?
Kathy worked long days, sometimes multiple jobs, to provide even the basics for her daughter. Along the way, she missed out on touchstone moments, such as school activities, because of work … or a long commute to the Bay Area … or sleep.
“She would be so exhausted that she would crawl to the shower some mornings,” Julie said.
As a result, Julie developed a closer relationship with the family members who watched her. That kinship with other relatives was juxtaposed with feelings of abandonment and resentment for her mother.
Dad was gone, and now, so was Mom.
“At the time I didn’t understand why I didn’t see my mom,” Julie said. Or “why she missed my school activities, why she couldn’t afford to take me places, even as simple as the movies.”
If she could, Kathy would have given Julie the moon and the stars. If she could, she would have spent less time away from the home.
Those are regrets she lives with to this day.
“I loved my little girl with all my heart. I never would have traded her for anything, but I sure would have liked to have been there for her more,” Kathy said. “I would have liked to be the super mom that could bake cupcakes for her classroom, and show up at all her special things.”
Julie gets it now.
In one of life’s cruel twists, history has repeated itself. Like her mother, Julie is a single mother of two.
She understands the sacrifice and difficult decisions her mother made to simply maintain the status quo around the house.
“My boss (at the time) was completely unable to understand that as a single parent you do what you have to do,” Kathy said, “and there are only 24 hours in a day.”
The yard work. The laundry. The dishes. The meals. The bills and homework. All of those chores fall onto a single parent’s shoulders.
“There’s no one else in the house to give you a hug and tell you not to worry,” Julie said, “or to give you a good talking to and tell you to pull your big girl pants on and suck it up. As a single mom you feel alone in the world.”
Only she’s not alone.
Julie counts her mother as her best friend, and though they are separated by thousands of miles, the two remain in close contact.
Kathy is remarried now and living in Ireland – a just reward after navigating parenthood alone for so many years.
She has bestowed Julie with a unique set of guidelines, empowering her as single mother.
Julie is cognizant of those gifts and uses them as tools to get through whatever the challenge of the day might be.
Julie understands there is nothing weak about crying; that it can be therapy for the stressed and over-burdened. Shoulders provide stability and a platform for the head – even if it’s someone else’s it cradles.
She’s learned how to stretch a dollar. “I receive no help from the kids’ fathers. She didn’t either, but neither one of us ever asked for help from the state,” Julie said. “We just made ends meet, even if it means getting the $1 burger instead of the $6 burger.”
More importantly, she’s OK with asking for help. In many ways, Julie has replaced a husband and father with a larger support network made up of friends and family.
Julie’s closest friends are also single moms, and together they serve as pillars in each other’s lives.
“We also agree that friends are the best thing to have,” Julie said. “Her best friend was a Navy wife. My two best friends are single moms. We support each other, instead of having the kids’ fathers around.”
While the world celebrates Mother’s Day on Sunday, Julie said that single mothers look forward to two days of pampering and love.
Every day is Mother’s Day … even Father’s Day. “Because I am the bike fixer, the car fixer, the fort builder, the hair dresser, the manicurist, the prank puller, as well as the cook, the nurse, the main, the butler, the CEO, CFO, chauffeur, the gardener, the activities director, and even at one point the girl scout leader of a large troop.”