Your dad should be your protector, your guide, the man who’d never let you down, never leave you astray in the moments you need him most, the only man who’d never break your heart … your ultimate superhero. Unfortunately, not all of us got to have this “fairly-tale” version of a father and, as I’ve discovered, not many of us had our fathers around at all while growing up and therefore were forced into a single-parent household.

As a young child, watching my father constantly leave for weeks at a time and come back randomly was both confusing and hard for my brother and I. Finally, after many disagreements and unsolved issues, my parents agreed that a divorce was the most suitable solution. From then on, my mother was a single parent – raising two children on her own. One of the toughest battles for anyone to fight. Not only did she do it with a smile on her face, but she made it look easy.
Some would say I am unfortunate for not having a present father but I’d say I’m lucky to have a mother who was present enough to perform both parents’ roles. Here are five ways my mother filled the role of a father without even batting an eyelash:

1. She taught me to be strong
I have always been a bubbly, happy, perky person. Not much can affect me and not much can bring me down.. but when something does, I take it harshly. Or, I used to. My mother taught me not everything in life is going to turn out as you had hoped. Not everything in life is fair; and when life hits you with a very tough reality, you have to be strong. You have to be proactive and you can’t just sit there and sulk. “When you’re facing hardships, as tough as it may be, always know that YOU are tougher” – she always says. Thanks to this woman, I have tougher skin than an alligator and when I’m going through a rough patch, I put my big girl pants on and deal with it.

2. Family first
My mother believes it’s family over everything. This notion is more like a rule of life to her and she has instilled it in both my brother and I. So much so, it sometimes worked against her. There was no reprimanding my brother while I was present and vice-versa. We’d both defend each other to the point we’d somehow both end up grounded but at least we were grounded together. Because of her, I know what’s important and what is real. I love my family more than life itself and I’d do anything to protect them.

3. My first boyfriend
I was in 9th grade (yes I was a late bloomer). I had met a boy who whispered sweet nothings into my ear and I instantly fell crazy in love. Puppy love, but love nonetheless. We were inseparable. After a couple of months, I introduced him to my mother and I must say, I have never seen her look so serious before or since then. She took the stance of a lioness protecting her cub. She was intimidating but not in an obvious way. She looked at him directly in the eyes and shook his hand firmly; Letting him know she meant business. Shit, even I was terrified. It demanded instant respect from him and he knew, even if there was no dad around, there didn’t need to be. If he hurt me, it was game over.

4. Driving
Oh, my poor mother. After numerous empty parking lots, countless parallel parking spaces and I don’t know how many missed turn signal lights, I finally got the gist of driving. Even though she wasn’t the best teacher (or I the best student) and constantly thought I was going to kill us both, she managed to survive many driving lessons with me. Granted, we’d usually end up arguing over something stupid but, secretly, I appreciated any time she spared to teach me. Working long hours and taking care of two kids on her own, I was sure that whatever time she made for me could have been spent making money to feed us instead.

5. My first heart break
My mother cries like a baby during The Notebook and Titanic. It’s almost confusing to watch such a tough lady break down in tears. Underneath that harsh exterior, there is a hopeless romantic. When I experienced my first heart break, I was a royal mess. I didn’t want to eat, get up, go to school, nothing. I was the typical cliche. My mother, patiently talked me through it. Even though she couldn’t give me a man’s prospective, she gave me an insight to a mature woman’s prospective which was even more helpful. She shared past ex-boyfriend experiences with me to help me shed some light in my juvenile dilemma – and it worked. I had been blaming myself for my shitty ex-boyfriend’s behavior when she helped me realize I had done nothing wrong. Usually, a girl would need her father to reassure her (and then beat the ex’s ass) but my mother, calm and steady – un-broke my teenage heart without a fuss.

Regardless of time, money, exhaustion, etc. this woman managed to always have rent paid, food on the table, get us to school on time, teach us morals and values, support my brother and I in every crazy idea we’ve ever had and show us the world around us to the best of her ability. I could go on, but I’m sure you get the idea. Growing up with “just” one parent is more than enough if you’re lucky enough to have a mother like we did. So, to all the tough mommas out there – you rock! We wouldn’t be here without you.