High Variance

Growing Up With a Single Mom

A good friend who is a single mom recently published an article about the angst she feels on Father’s Day. She wonders aloud what her son might or might not be missing out on by growing up with only a mom in the house. I think there are a lot of misconceptions out there, and wanted to share my personal experience as an only (and male) child of a single mom.

Let’s get the biology nonsense out of the way first. I did not need a man around to teach me how to pee, how to shave, or about the birds and the bees. Holding your penis and aiming it at the toilet just isn’t that hard. Shaving a face is not that different from shaving legs. As for sex, my friends told me about the basics, and my mom taught me to treat women decently. There isn’t any secret knowledge about sex that fathers have to transmit to their sons. Or if there is, I seem to be getting by just fine without it.

I didn’t live with a “male role model,” and I’m not sure what I would have gained from it. People are different in many ways beyond gender. I didn’t have an athlete role model or a computer nerd role model in the house either but still managed to be a decent amateur swimmer and eventually a professional programmer. Then there’s the fact that role models don’t have to live with you. Teachers, neighbors, coaches, parents of friends can all be role models. My local Radio Shack Color Computer Club was loaded with role models. And finally, my mother was a terrific role model as a teacher, an artist, and a lifelong learner.

I did grow up with many “traditionally male” interests, and sure, it would have been nice to have a dad around who could show me how to hold a bat or identify sports cars we saw in the wild. But I had many other interests too. My mom took me to concerts, and plays and museums. She indulged my creative side and brought me to the beach all summer long. I got to have long uninterrupted conversations with her because it was just the two of us.

To be honest, the only thing I feel like I missed out on by having a single mom was getting to closely observe two adults in a healthy relationship. It took me some extra time to figure out how to create and maintain these kinds of relationships since they were new. On the other hand, many kids in two parent families don’t get to see that either and instead learn bad tastes and behaviors that are hard to break. I got to start with a clean slate.

The bottom line is that my mom did a wonderful job raising me, and I think most single moms have all the tools they need: Their kids are in great hands.