“That was my choice, raising her outside of the spotlight,” Maples tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue. But it rendered her essentially a single mother.
“Her daddy is a good provider with education and such, but as far as time, it was just me,” Maples, 52, recalls of raising Tiffany, now 22, largely on her own. “Her father wasn’t able to be there with day-to-day skills as a parent. He loves his kids. There’s no doubt. But everything was a bit of a negotiation.”
Maples remained single after her divorce, because, she says, “I didn’t want anything to take away from my relationship with Tiffany. It was just me, so it was important that I could always be there for her.”
Maples prided herself on giving Tiffany the type of upbringing she herself had growing up in rural Georgia, complete with organic home-cooked meals five nights a week, Gilmore Girls in bed and a trampoline in the backyard.
“We loved going to the movies together. That was our big night out,” Maples says. “We were always together,” Tiffany adds. “She gave me the chance to have a normal childhood.”
Though Maples admits, “You don’t know how to [be a single mom] until you’re in it and you find a way,” she says she was never bitter about doing it on her own.
“What I’ve learned to do is to take responsibility for what’s happening in my life and not be a victim,” she says.
With that in mind, she encouraged Tiffany to forge her own relationship with her father.
“I would bring her into New York a couple times a year and let her go see her dad in the office and let her go have diner with him and [Donald’s wife] Melania,” Maples recalls. “I just said it’s important for her to form her own relationship with him, without my input. I wanted to create some consistency where she could see him.”
Now that Tiffany is at the University of Pennsylvania on the east coast, she has more chances for quality time with dad.
“We see each other as much as possible and of course we speak on the phone. I think regardless of distance, I don’t think that dictates any relationship strains,” Tiffany says. “I really have an emotional bond with him and he was always just the funniest, most loving father. I’m so lucky to have parents who are so supportive of me, of each other. That really shows the respect two people have for each other.”
And as Tiffany steps into a more public role, helping her father campaign, Maples says she thinks their close bond has helped her.
“I think being raised by a single mom helped her learn to keep calm in the eye of the storm,” says Maples.
“She was with me through every bit of my journey, through the last 22 years. I never hid anything from her. She watched me have to go through so much in the media and how I handled it,” Maples adds. “Now she is able to step in there and be her true self who loves her mother and her father and her family. I couldn’t be more proud of her.”