with author Kim Goldman
raising a son as a single mom
One of the most important decisions of my life, was divorcing my ex husband. Not because of what it would mean for the rest of my life, but how it would impact the future of my small son, who was just 18 months old at the time. In one move, I would change the trajectory of his life permanently. What I would do with that would be my greatest success or biggest failure.
I am being a bit of an extremist, but that is how I felt when I decided to break up my family more than seven years ago. Having been raised by a single father, with an absent mother, I knew the potential for a healthy future, but one that also carried deep scars. It’s only now as an adult that I have been able to scrutinize and really identify how being raised in a single family home, especially one without a woman present, effected who I am today. The momma bear in me wants to protect my son from any harm, but the realist in me knows inherently that I only can only control a portion of the process. I just needed to hunker down and be the best human being I can for my son—and cross all my fingers and toes.
I set out on a course to raise the best “future husband” I could. I wanted my son to be kind, compassionate, loving, sensitive, tough, assertive (without being an “ass”), chivalrous, witty, smart... yep – the perfect man. Now before you get all “that’s so weird” on me, the point I am making is that I was raised by an incredible man—my father— coupled with tremendous influence by my older brother (who sadly was killed in the prime of his life). I had strong male role models in my life and felt confident I could impart that wisdom on my son—despite having no male parts.
Since my divorce, I have mostly been single. It has weighed on me tremendously that I haven’t exposed my son to enough male energy. Even though I consider myself a tomboy, I knew having breasts would ultimately get in the way of being able to completely relate to my son. I tried to pretend like it didn’t matter, but I know, having had the same experience growing up, that those basic biological differences between us will eventually create some tension. So in the meantime, I try to find ways to connect with him on a level that is about other things like: video games, sports, school, movies, friendships, music, animals, laughing, and yes, farting.
The relationship between my son and me is less about the differences between being a boy and girl, but more about the similarities of trying to be amazing, productive people. I have to trust myself to some extent that who I am as a person is someone worth modeling, as opposed to who I am as a woman or a mother. I am absolutely not oblivious to the importance of my son having strong male figures in his life, but it is equally, if not more important to me, that my son is exposed to strong, incredible, remarkable people, regardless of their dangly parts.
In my opinion, we get so caught up in male/female stereotypes that we will often overlook the opportunities to instill the basic principle of becoming decent members of society. We are worried about teaching boys to be “tough” and not show emotion, or pushing girls to be more “girlie” – we disallow for individuality and uniqueness by adding layers of “expectations” – that exhausts me, and it doesn’t fit my parenting style. So while I know there will be bumps in the road because of the Venus vs Mars complex, I am going to hunker down and stay present and pay attention to the person in front of me, the little boy depending on me to parent him.
Kim Goldman is a best selling author and Executive Director of the Youth Project; a non-profit organization that provides free peer mentoring, crisis intervention, support groups, education and outreach to teenagers. Kim also expresses her strong point of view as co-host of "Broadscast." Connect with Kim on Twitter @KimEGoldman and Facebook.