Raising a child...or two...or three...can wear you out. It's why it's always best to tag-team, or partner up.

I was lucky to have that partner for all of my children's "formative years," a term used to describe that period where children do their very best to completely destroy their parents.

My wife was a "stay-at-home" mom and she treated that responsibility as seriously as any professional in the workplace. The difference was that she was never "off duty." She worked a 24-hour shift 365 days a year and I don't remember her ever taking a sick day. Even when the cancer was ravaging her body.

The last thing she did on the way out the door to the emergency room was hang some clothes to dry. We owned a dryer, but she felt the clothes were fresher - and smelled better - when they were dried outside.

"Come on, honey," I told her. "Those clothes will be there when we get home. I need to get you to the hospital."

"I'm not leaving them in a pile," she said. "It'll only take a few minutes."

She never made it home. Those clothes stayed hanging in the breeze for days, until I could bring myself to take them down and put them away.

My job was to support the family; to be a good dad and husband and pull my weight. Our two youngest were just 13 months apart, so there was a period when we had to divide and conquer. They were both very fast runners and it took every ounce of energy we had to keep pace.

That's why I've always had a deep appreciation for single parents and especially single mothers, since women - with or without children - generally don't have the same opportunities as men.

I know many single mothers and their stories are testimony to perseverance and determination.

One of those women is Jane. At least for the purposes of this story. Since I didn't ask if I could share her story, I can't use her real name.

From what I can recall from our conversations (I'm a good listener, but awful at remembering), Jane grew up in Wenatchee. She was one of five children and somewhere in the middle. Jane got good grades in school and would have breezed through most any college in the country, if she had the resources to do that.

She would end up instead marrying her high school sweetheart and they would have three sons together.

One day her husband decided he really didn't want to be a husband, or father and left. They had just sold their home in another part of the state and he said he'd met someone else and told Jane she and the kids were on their own.

Up until that moment, Jane was basically a stay-at-home mom. She hadn't finished college and really had no way to support her family. What she did have was a fire and a fierceness of a momma bear who would do whatever it took to protect her cubs. Anyone who goes into the woods knows you don't want to get between a mother bear and her cubs.

Jane and her sons would return to Wenatchee to be closer to her family. At one point she was receiving food stamps because it was tough to work 40 hours while raising a house full of energetic boys.

She would eventually remarry and go back to college, balancing work, family and night classes.

Her sons are successful men today and Jane is thriving, using her college degree to advance her own career. She said it's hard to really comprehend how far she has come because she was always too busy looking ahead.

My niece Sierra is another example of a single mother working hard to make ends meet. She and her son Charlie fled an abusive relationship and headed to Northern California. She literally grabbed what she could and hit the road, determined to do whatever was necessary to protect her son.

Today she is a wedding photographer and Charlie is in a wonderful school in a beautiful part of the Pacific coast. It's tough to make ends meet, but Sierra is as tough as they come.

There are thousands of similar stories all around us. I just wanted to take a few minutes this weekend to recognize all mothers and particularly those mothers who are raising their children alone.

Happy Mother's Day.

Jeff Ackerman can be reached at 665-1160 or at ackerman@wenatcheeworld.com .