Sheryl Sandberg on Being a Single Mother: 'I Did Not Really Get How Hard It Is'

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In a Mother’s Day Facebook post, Facebook COO and woman behind the Lean In empire Sheryl Sandberg examined what she had learned in the year since her husband’s death. Most of all: how difficult it is to be a single parent, even with her nearly unlimited resources.


“I did not really get how hard it is to succeed at work when you are overwhelmed at home,” she wrote. “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. How often situations would come up that Dave and I had never talked about and that I did not know how to handle on my own.”

Sandberg went on to clarify that she has the enormous privilege of wealth that most single mothers lack. This perspective, she wrote, should have been included in Lean In:

In Lean In, I emphasized how critical a loving and supportive partner can be for women both professionally and personally—and how important Dave was to my career and to our children’s development. I still believe this. 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. They were right.

I will never experience and understand all of the challenges most single moms face, but I understand a lot more than I did a year ago. Our widespread cultural assumption that every child lives with a two-parent heterosexual married couple is out of date. Since the early 1970s, the number of single mothers in the United States has nearly doubled. Today, almost 30 percent of families with children are headed by a single parent, and 84 percent of those are led by a single mother. And yet our attitudes and our policies do not reflect this shift.

“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,” she continued, going on to advocate for paid maternity leave. Currently, Facebook offers four months of paid parental leave to all employees internationally.

“As we rightly celebrate motherhood, we should give special thanks to the women who are raising children on their own,” Sandberg concluded. “And let’s vow to do more to support them, every day.”


Read the whole post here.

Image via Getty.



I appreciated this when I saw it shared this weekend. Single working mom of 3 - my husband died 3 years ago so there’s no dad to take the kids on weekends or to pick up the slack. It’s incredibly hard and sometimes I just am desperate for someone - anyone - to actually understand. There’s no fix or real help that anyone can give. I just want someone to get it.

In my social group I am one of the very few single moms and the only widow and that’s a tough space to be in. My friends don’t always understand why I can’t out all the time or why it’s not that easy to just schedule something on the weekends with them. It’s incredibly hard but the value of someone actually understanding is huge.