A little over a year after Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg lost her husband Dave Goldberg, she's coming clean about the fact that she did not fully understand how hard it is to be a single parent.
Over Mother's Day weekend, she took to Facebook (where else?) to write a long, honest, and heartbreaking post as a way to honor the many mothers all over the world who are raising children on their own.
"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," she began. "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."
Before her husband died, she continued, she didn't realize how often the world would remind her and her family of what they didn't have—from father-daughter dances to Parent Night at school. "Dave's absence is part of our daily lives and, for me, has redefined what it is to be a mother," she explained. "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. For many single mothers, this is the only world they know. Each and every day they make sacrifices, push through barriers, and nurture beautiful families despite the demands on their time and energy."
The experience has been both a life-changing and eye-opening one for Sandberg, who emphasized in her controversial 2013 book Lean In how critical a supportive partner is for women both professionally and personally, and was taken to task for it. "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," she wrote. "They were right. Single moms have been leaning in for a long time—out of necessity and a desire to provide the best possible opportunities for their children."
And Sandberg didn't stop with simply fessing up—she then went on to issue a call to action. "The United States is the only developed economy in the world that does not provide paid maternity leave," she wrote. "I think we all owe it to single mothers to recognize that the world does not make it easy for them, especially for those who struggle to make ends meet. We need to rethink our public and corporate workforce policies and broaden our understanding of what a family is and looks like. We need to build a world where families are embraced and supported and loved no matter how they fit together. We need to understand that it takes a community to raise children and that so many of our single mothers need and deserve a much more supportive community than we give them. We owe it to them and to their children to do better."
Pretty powerful stuff.
It takes a big person to admit when they're wrong, and an even bigger one to do so in such a huge, public way. Kudos to Sandberg for not only taking full ownership of her oversight, but then using it as an opportunity to both teach and help others. That, right there, is the very definition of being a mom.