There are times in life when the same song gets replayed in a different key. If a person isn’t familiar with the original song, then they probably won’t understand the remix. Single motherhood, and being product of it, is the same way.
I acknowledge that being a single mother isn’t easy. It’s usually just Mom and child. When the kid’s sick, Mommy has to be the nurse, and everything else. If she has to take off work, there’s no Daddy to pick up the slack. Single mothers are the end all, be all of their households. Sure, they may have a support system (hopefully), but the main responsibility of the child falls on them. I grew up seeing it all first hand.
Up until I was 14, it was my mother and I; me and Moms. She got married when I was 14, so there was a semi abrupt stop to the “Mom and Me” ideal. Yes, I knew/know my father, and have a pretty good relationship with him. But, day to day living circled around Toots (my mother’s nickname from me), and I. We were the proverbial “two peas in a pod”. Growing up like this shaped my views of just about everything; society, relationships, even fatherhood.
As with some males who grow up from boys to men in this environment, I made a vow to myself the older I got. While I loved my father, I wasn’t going to have any of my children grow up without me in the house. I tended to forget that there was always another partner/parent in the mix who could make or break that decision. When I began to remember this small, but vitally important fact, it gave me a different perspective in terms of not living with my father. He was human, as was my mother. They both played a part in there not being a “nuclear” familial unit. However, I turned out okay.
Sure, I think about what society says family life is supposed to be like. But then I think about some of my friends growing up. I feel like I had it better than some of them. Just about my whole family was always present for the important programs and functions. Hell, they even showed up to the more mundane events as well. All out of love for me.
By no means am I saying it was easy; especially for my mother. However, she persevered and, through the provisions of God, and her own sheer determination, she got us through. It’s one of the many, many things I admire about my mother. She set a standard about what women were able to do when they *had* to. I didn’t fully grasp how much until I entered my 20’s.
On the one hand, her actions became my frame of reference for women, period. On the other hand, I compared all the women I was involved with to my mother, both before she got married and after. I also compared myself to my father. Needless to say l, everyone (the women and myself) came up wanting. In my eyes at least. All of this was simply a result of beginning my life as the child of a single mother. And I helped create another one when my first child was born.
I don’t look back at the relationship wistfully. Quite the contrary. It was a learning experience.
What I deemed to be my failures as a man were on full display, in my alone moments. The most glaring one, in my mind anyway, was that I had failed my child, and myself. The “I’ll never have my child grow up without me” statement was out the door. I also learned about the strain that not being in a relationship with a good foundation can cause, especially when bringing a child into the world. I also learned that what appeared to be love, could turn to animosity quickly. Through time and reflection, a myriad of things dawned on me.
Regardless of how things turned out between my child’s mother and I, I hadn’t failed at anything. It wasn’t about us anymore. We were two grown people who made decisions that resulted in a child being born. Taking all the responsibility for her being a single mother wasn’t fair to me, or her.
The best we could do was set up happy and healthy environments for our child. It took a while (over a year), but we eventually did. The same way my father was “there” and present in my life, I’ve tried to do that for my oldest child. Ultimately, that’s all that has mattered. It hasn’t always been easy, admittedly. Yet, we’ve done what’s necessary. That includes me sometimes having to “bite the bullet” on certain decisions she’s made that I didn’t agree with.
But, she’s a good mother to my oldest, as my wife is to my youngest child.
I pray that none of my children’s children ever have to experience the trials that come with growing up the way I did. However, if they do, I’ll be sure to be there for them, as my whole family (particularly my father) has been me.
Everyone: Did you grow up in a single mother household?
Ladies: Are you a single mother? If so, what have you learned from being one? How has it affected you?
Fellas: How did growing up with a single mother affect you? Are you partner to having created one? If so, what have you learned from the experience?