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The chief operating officer of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, listens at the Clinton Global Initiative 2013.
Reuters/Lucas Jackson
Eye on equality.
NEW EMPATHY

What single mom Sheryl Sandberg is doing this Mother’s Day

In advance of Mother’s Day (May 8), Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has written a heartfelt message to celebrate single moms, while detailing her own story of adjusting to single parenthood after the unexpected death last year of her husband, Dave Goldberg.

“On Mother’s Day, we celebrate all moms. This year I am thinking especially of the many mothers across the country and the world who are raising children on their own,” Sandberg wrote in a May 6 post on her Facebook page. “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.”

In her 2013 book Lean In, Sandberg discussed how crucial a supportive partner is to a woman’s career—a piece of advice that only highlights the challenges of women who parent on their own, many of whom have “no safety net.” It earned her some criticism, which Sandberg responds to in her post:

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.

The challenges she refers to here no doubt include those of a financial nature. In 2014, Sandberg became one of the youngest female billionaires in the world, according to Forbes. This is not the experience of most single mothers, as Sandberg acknowledges.

“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 writes. “Thirty-five percent of single mothers experience food insecurity, and many single mothers have more than one job—and that does not count the job of taking care of their children.”

Her writing suggests that her campaign to improve the working lives of women has taken on a new shade of empathy and urgency.

“We need to rethink our public and corporate workforce policies and broaden our understanding of what a family is and looks like,” she writes. “… We must do more as leaders, as coworkers, as neighbors, and as friends.”

On Mother’s Day, she urges, “we should give special thanks to the women who are raising children on their own. And let’s vow to do more to support them, every day.”

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