In Honduras, over half of children and youth are raised in single-parent households; while single fathers certainly exist, the vast majority of these families have single mothers at the helm. Taking into account the deep inequalities women face in access to formal, full-time employment with a living wage, families headed by single mothers are much more likely to live in poverty. As if the struggle to break the generational cycle of poverty wasn’t enough of a challenge, these women face parenthood –one of life’s greatest challenges, and also one of its greatest gifts– without a supportive partner by their side. Over the last four years in Honduras, I have had the privilege of meeting so many of these strong and tenacious women who struggle and persevere day after day, acting as both mother and father to raise their children and provide them with opportunities that were never available to them.
One such woman is Glenda. I first met Glenda last year when she joined her son, Brian, a new participant in OYE’s art program Arte La Calle (and now an OYE scholar), at OYE’s 10th Anniversary Celebration. Parental engagement has always been a real challenge for OYE, so I was struck simply by her presence –not to mention her artistic ability. “Like mother, like son,” I thought. Over the last year, I have conversed with Glenda on several occasions, on anything from her economic struggles as a single mother, to her search for a new home to rent to live closer to her sons’ high school, to her love of painting, to her passing twinges of loneliness. But mostly we talk about her sons. While I have forgotten many of the details of our conversations, I will never forget the way her face softens and her eyes sparkle when she talks about them.
In her early 40s, Glenda is the proud mother of four young men ages 16, 17, 19 and 24. When her youngest son was just barely one years old, her husband, like so many young Honduran men and fathers, immigrated to the US with the intention of providing a better life for his family and saving money to build a home in Honduras.
But the distance took its toll, and infidelity ensued; within the year, Glenda’s husband and the father of her children had started a new life with a new woman, and she was left behind to pick up the pieces.
“Being a mother is not easy, especially doing it alone. But it has its rewards. I love my [four] sons. They are almost grown now, they are no longer children, but I remember the day each one of them was born like it was yesterday. There are many things in my life that I have forgotten or will forget one day, but those days–never. All four of them are so special to me and I am so proud of the men they are becoming… In some of my darkest times after their father left, their smiles and affection was what kept me going.”
I have had the opportunity to meet her sons on several occasions and I know what she says about them to be true. I also know that they have an incredible mother – strong, sensitive, compassionate, talented, and committed to her children before anyone else. On this Mother’s Day, we celebrate Glenda and all the mothers of Honduras and across the globe.