Single Mothers Playbook – Raising Sons
There’s a myth that pervades our society and it goes something like this –
“It’s not possible for a single mother to raise a boy into a man; especially, when the biological father is not involved.”
I’ve heard this since I was a child and I accepted it as truth until I was able to have enough adult, husband, and fatherhood experiences to make my own observations and do my own research. We do such a great job at breaking each other down and this is belief about single mothers is one of the most damaging out there.
This can be a no win situation for women who subscribe to popular cultural beliefs about what defines family and parenthood. Let’s not discuss how a woman ends up raising a child on her own because that’s a three volume book set that I don’t want to address right now. Let’s start from where she is right now – at home with at least one son. And before I continue, please suspend judgments of these women long enough to finish the article. All of the, “Well, she shouldn’t have this or that.” or “That’s what she gets blah, blah, blah.” should be put on pause because judgment of people won’t help anything.
We’re all familiar with the African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Do me a favor and don’t just gloss over that statement. It says it takes a VILLAGE of people – adults, teenagers, elders, and children to raise a child. Who? A bunch of different people form various backgrounds, ages, experiences, and with differing perspectives living in close proximity who love and support each other. The proverb doesn’t say, “It takes a mother and father to raise a child.” No it doesn’t. It says, a VILLAGE.
Why did our ancestors say VILLAGE? Why not the focus on the nuclear family like here in the States? Because the nuclear family is incapable of raising a child – PERIOD. Just because an intact nuclear family makes you look good from society’s point of view doesn’t mean it’s actually the most effective family structure. Slavery used to look good by societies standards and so did physical violence against one’s wife – two thumb rule.
The nuclear family is one of the biggest problems when comes to relationship dysfunction and the current marriage failure rate. I’ll put money on that. You leave two inexperienced adults without proper support, with unresolved insecurity issues stemming from their youth, alone with brand new responsibilities for raising children, maintaining finances, staying connected and loving one another, while still finding personal fulfillment in life and the failure rate will be high. It’s a tough scenario for any two human beings if we were to be honest. It has nothing to do with people not getting along. It has everything to do with entering an arrangement that puts you at a disadvantage to begin with because you don’t have the required support system in place.
I think it’s great when the biological father and mother are in the home with the children. It’s a great start, but it’s not enough. You need a real community (village) to have the best chance at success in raising your children. For example, I would trade in a nuclear family setup where the mother, father, and two children live together, separated from extended family, in exchange for a small community setup where the two children live with the mother, aunt, grandmother, and two uncles, all in the house with additional family living on the same street or close by. That’s an infinitely better setup for the children AND the adults in my opinion. The children will receive consistent care where the adults are not under all of the pressure to do everything themselves. The extra help takes everyone’s stress level down a million and makes each interaction with the children more rich.
I used to live in community when I lived in Washington, D.C. and I remember loving having children back then. We lived in an house with eighteen people – four other families and things were so much more balanced. The adults had a social outlet, the children kept each other busy and happy, and all of my time wasn’t chasing children around the house. They children were on self-check for most of the time. When my wife and I moved to a nuclear structure (by ourselves) things changed drastically. She could no longer home school our children because it was too much. I was making a ton of money, but it didn’t help support us emotionally without the communal structure. Money can’t replace people who are family and who love you. Money can’t replace social harmony. Money couldn’t replace how the older children would teach the younger children and answer all their questions.
Was it a perfect set up? No. There was plenty of drama, but there’s a ton of drama in the nuclear set up as well as we can see by the statistics and blatant dysfunction.
I know I’ve gone around in a circle, so let’s get back to single mothers.
It’s your responsibility as a mother to find or build your community.
I’m not saying you have to live with a bunch of people – I know that’s hard based on being brought up in a society that promotes independence and individualism. However, single mothers should build a network of caring adults, both males and females, as well as a variety of children of different ages who regularly interact with the family. Is that an easy task? Probably not, but no one said raising children was easy
Take responsibility for finding multiple men to assist with their sons.
If you make that your mission, you’ll succeed. Do this not only for your sons, but your daughters too because they need to experience nurturing, care, and guidance from a variety of adults and children. Yes, you can provide what your sons need, but you have to think outside of the nuclear box and if the children’s father is not there you have to move on. You can’t get lost in finding that one special guy who’s worthy of being around your children because for many women that day never comes. Instead start to build your community.
Family and community are governed by a feminine principle and protected by the masculine; meaning, it’s in most women’s DNA to build family. If you’re raising a child (or children) on your own, you must immediately get help, in the house preferably. It’s takes multiple people; otherwise, you’ll be short with your children and be hitting the wine bottle every night. It’s difficult to show love and support when you’re under stress from having to do EVERYTHING yourself plus take care of your own needs.
Now for the kicker.
Even if the biological father IS there, you need additional men around your sons, interacting with them.
Who you choose is your choice, but being squeamish about having men in your close circle will only delay your son getting what he needs. I’ve observed in women this instinct where they feel a particular person or activity would be good for their child. That’s a natural motherly instinct and intuition that should be followed most of the time, but women tend to ignore it because they feel they will be judged for bringing their son around another man or maybe the biological father will have a problem even though he’s not there. Stop for second – you’re the mother. Your job is to find whatever your son needs so he can develop into a man and that NEVER only comes from one man – biological or not. NEVER! It takes a village for real.
Feel free to start with the low hanging fruit – uncles, grandfathers, brothers, cousins, and other male blood relatives, if you feel some hesitation around this. But be aware, you can’t just choose a person based on them being blood family because a child’s development goes beyond blood. As a matter a fact, we often learn our greatest lessons and are usually influenced greatest by people who aren’t related to us. It’s just something to think about. I happen to be one who believes family and community are made of people who show up in your life, not just blood relatives.
You have to relate to men and allow these men to be around your children.
Just relax for a second. Calm down and hear me out. What I’m saying is if you’re wiling to share your body with a man, he should be quality enough to bring around your son. If not, rethink what you’re doing. Going your entire life as a single mother who’s son never sees her date or interact with other men is a questionable move. Once you have children and your single, you should only be with father, husband material type of men for the most part. Game time is over pretty much, but I realize all we can do is our best. It’s just something to think about and may require some relationship training before you get started. It may require a change in perspective.
Whatever you choose to do for your family, just know it is possible for a mother to provide everything her son needs. You just have to take the necessary steps.
(Carl E. Stevens, Jr.)