15 December 2008

A Man in the House is Worth Two in the Bush?

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Sometimes I crack myself up! With the title of this post you'd think I was a sex blogger. Nahhhh ... I'm just going to talk about single parenting.

I had a bit of an internal debate surrounding this post. Something tells me it won't be the popular opinion, but hopefully you'll read to the end before getting out the flame thrower. In the mean time, I'm donning my asbestos armor!

Yesterday, ~c left the following comment on my Sunday Secret:

Dana, i don't know what to say, other than keep hoping, but a Male figure in the house is better than no figure..

Maybe eventually,,.. we can hope.. Send them to do things together, leave you outta it, just trips to the store, or something like that,, maybe there's a bonding that still hasn't happened.. Can't force it, but put the two in a situation as to where they are together,,.. without you.. and see.. maybe..

Wish you all the luck,..
I had a great deal of discomfort with what she said. I actually agree that having two parents in the home is preferred, important and critical, yet I have to wonder about the concept of two parents is preferred at any cost (which may NOT have been her point at all).

Life is an odd creature and quite fickle. When I found out I was pregnant with Cam, I knew I would be a single parent. There wasn't any baby-daddy drama (other than having to wait until after Cam was born to be certain of who his father was) - I would be raising Cam on my own. While pregnant, I was in the "I am woman hear me roar" mode. Of course I would be a successful single parent. Kids don't need a father in the house. Women can do it all! Yeah ... I actually went there ...

After Cam was born, the reality of being a SINGLE parent hit hard. I had no family in the area - no social support system in place. I had never changed a diaper until Cam cam into my life. I didn't know how to bathe, burp or bundle a baby, and I didn't have anyone to show me how. Sleep deprivation was a constant in my life for the first two years. There was no one to give me a break. If I wasn't caring for Cam completely on my own, I was worrying about who was caring for him while I was at work.

As Cam got older I realized the importance of there being a same gender role model in his life. Sure, this person could have been an uncle, a grandfather, a family friend, except I had none of those available. I was beginning to see that I was not capable of being everything Cam needed.

There are some great programs out there to help with voids like this. Big Brothers/Big Sisters is a wonderful organization, but with so few volunteers and so many needs, the wait for a place in the program is often long. They also have age restrictions, serving kids age 7-14 only. There are usually single parent support groups that offer resources for single moms, but seldom do those include role model opportunities.

Fast forward 7 years. Husband and I get together. The every-other-month interactions Cam and husband had seemed promising - promising enough that I decide to sell my home and move us to Illinois. It wasn't long before we got out here that I realized this wasn't developing into the "father/son" relationship I had hoped it would.

There are many reasons for this and in no way am I attempting to place the blame entirely on husband. As a single parent, my discipline of Cam was inconsistent at best. I was dealing with a child that wasn't "neuro-typical" and I was too damn proud to ask for help. Husband felt the discipline needed to be addressed and that was where his relationship with Cam began - as disciplinarian. They continued to develop quite an adversarial relationship. I can count on a single hand the times they've done something together that didn't involve punishment of some sort.

It's sad on many levels. Cam wants nothing more than unconditional love from husband - husband doesn't know how to give anything but conditional love and that is what he gives to Cam (and to me).

So where am I going with all of this. First, let me say that I believe single parenting is HIGHLY over-rated, specifically single parenting by choice (where a single woman intentionally becomes pregnant knowing she will be a single parent). Second, if single parenthood does occur through some other set of circumstances, it is CRITICAL that there be a support system in place for the single parent and the child(ren). Third? I don't believe that having a man - any man - in the house is better than no man at all. What I think is critical is that we do our best to chose the father/mother of our child carefully and that we make a commitment of unconditional love to the CHILD, no matter where the relationship with the other parent goes.

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26 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is just my opinion and I by no way intend this to be some sort of statement of social policy.

I guess I would just restate it this way. Every child needs a male and female role model in their life. That doesn't mean that it has to be a father. I personally can't imagine not being involved in the life of a child that was mine but I understand that there are men out there like that. I do agree with you that the idea of forcing it, can't be good for anyone involved.

I do sometimes want to take umbrage to all the judgment and evaluation that goes on about men and their qualification to be good fathers. I don't think I will ever hear anyone say that "I don't believe that having a woman- any woman- in the house is better than no woman at all." So that's just my soapbox for a minute.

Anyway, I've always thought that good writing is the kind that makes you think and stays with you. This certainly counts, thanks for the thoughts and the post.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you...no matter how well intended, I don't think a single parent can take the place of two, and my heart goes out to you for the lack of support....and the right man is vital. And as I said in another comment, I have seen the affects of not having a decent male role model...detriment to BOTH boys and girls. We sometimes forget that a girl's identity as a female are greatly influenced by early male involvement.

I have also witnessed children who are expendable in the lives of their blood relatives and treated like possessions rather than flesh and blood.......thank God that Cam has a loving parent that adores him and would I am assuming give your very life for. That makes up for a lot.....I wish you the best.

Knight said...

Obviously you can't force a father figure relationship with husband and Cam but to be honest, biological sons living in the same home as their fathers often end up with the same relationship or worse. You are completely correct that simply having a man in the home doesn't fix anything. If there is a void in Cam's life I trust he has been given enough love from you to find what he needs elsewhere in a safe way. He is a happy, healthy, kid and he is going to be fine.

Jay said...

A lot of times kids (especially boys) who are raised by single parents get lucky and find father figures, or "mentors" from coaches, teachers, their pastor and other places. Unfortunately a lot of single moms don't really think about things like this and don't encourage these relationships.

I don't agree that having a man in the house just so that there's a male figure in a kid's life is a good thing. We were better off without dad here. Being ignored would be much harder if it happened every single day right in front of us.

Bond said...

Jay hit on the point of the comment I was about to write. Coaches, teachers, ministers (I know you have not really 'selected' a church yet)
can be role-models...

Sad that husband and Cam can not find that common ground - sports would have been an excellent start - if husband had volunteered to be a coach or assistant to one of Cam's teams.

I do think no role model is better then a lousy role-model though.

Anonymous said...

I agree with most of that....

Although I guess it would depend on what the relationship is actually like with the man and woman.

captain corky said...

I hope Cam does find a good male role model someday. It's very important. I grew up with two parents and still needed and found a male role model outside of home.

Karen said...

I really don't think that any man is better than no man. A 2 parent, mom and dad, home is ideal. But that is not to say that single mom or dad couldn't raise a fabulous child.

I am really saddened by your statment that your husband doesn't give unconditional love. I am not sure I could endure a life with a partner who couldn't love me unconditionally. And it has to impossible for a child to understand why a "parent" cannot give type of love. With my personality, I would end up giving everything and never feeling truly safe.

I am not usually a rosy-colored-glasses sort of person when it comes to matters of the heart, and I know every relationship is different, but everyone deserves uncoditional love from the person with whom they are sharing their life and building their future. And if you take on the role of step-parent, you have the duty to give unconditional to your step children.

I hope you know that I am not judging your family at all. I think I went a bit of topic, but that is what stood out to me.

Jeff B said...

For better or worse, we tend to emulate those that either raise us or are the closest to us during our youth. I hope Cam will be able to see past the emptiness he is apparently finding with his father and rise above it as he becomes a man himself.

boo said...

Parenting is hard, no matter how you slice it. You've had some tough circumstances to work with, but it seems to me that you've been raising Cam as best as you've been able to. That's all any parent can do. Love them, do your best, reach out when you need help. If husband cannot or will not provide him with the role model he needs, help him one that will. Mentors often come from surprising places, in unexpected forms. You don't need Big Brothers to hand you a mentor - just go down to the local food bank (or retirement home, or hospital, etc), and start volunteering regularly with Cam. Give him the opportunities, with your eyes watching over him, to find himself a mentor. A man to respect and emulate, for all the right reasons.
Talk to the homeless men you pass when you are out together. Ask them their stories, how they got to where they are at. Let him absorb these things naturally.

Why am I lecturing you? You don't need a lecture. You weren't asking for advice, just thinking with your fingers.

I don't know if you've addressed the issue on your blog or not, if you have I've missed it, but how much does Cam know of his birth story? Does he know the reality of his biological father? Do you think it is/can be/will be an obstacle to him finding the mentor he needs?

You're a good Mum, with your kid's best interests at heart. We all make mistakes, and we all fall down. You just gotta pick yourself back up, dust yourself off, and try again.

we're doomed said...

I think that you have accessed your challenge for your family with much thought. I wish you the best in solving or improving the serious issue that you and Cam and your family face.

Anonymous said...

Dana,

I agree with most of what you wrote but much of the blame does go to the would be father figure.

My wife was a single parent of 3 boys. One of which is autistic. I knew going into this relationship that this was a package deal. I had to make that decision and stick to it. I love my step-sons as if they were my own. Discipline and all. Bottom line is that it all started with me. If I wasn't totally committed to my wife then I would have made the decision to not make her my wife.

Sounds (and maybe I am wrong here) like Hubby would have taken you...sans Cam. And that simply should not have been part of the deal. So, true...he should not take all of the blame but a really good portion of it should be his because of the decisions (and the inconsistencies in those decisions) he has made.

Just my 2 cents....I could be wrong.

Anndi said...

Being a single mom, but with an involved dad in the picture, I feel for you, Dana. I really do.

Anonymous said...

My husband grew up with two parents but his father placed that "conditional" type of love on him so I know of what you speak. I grew up with no father but a very promiscuous and tired single mother. I don't know which is better. It's a tough argument.

I know we all have good reasons for doing the things we do and I can totally understand why you would marry your husband. It sounds to me like you give the situation a lot of thought and don't just stay because it's easier than leaving.

Nolens Volens said...

I do hope you find some common ground for everyone involved. I've served as male role model for a few kids because I have understood the importance AND the magnitude of lending such a presence in their lives. Makes me mad when a father withholds child support money because he knows the mother doesn't have time to keep the house clean and doesn't have the $ to hire a lawyer to prosecute the deadbeat. The list goes on. I just do what I can for the fatherless kids.

Dana said...

Modernswinger, your soapbox is well placed and well received. Poor parenting is in no way limited to fathers - I learn daily of more and more mothers that qualify as "deadbeats." Sex (protected or unprotected) really must take into consideration an unplanned pregnancy.

Breve, I am actually seeing the results of the lack of a good male role model in a girl's life with my step daughter. She, too, is a victim of conditional love from husband.

Knight, I am now exploring other options for male role models for Cam. It's not a place I saw myself in 5 years ago, but I can see the necessity of it now.

Dana said...

Jay, my fear is that being ignored is what Cam is facing daily now. Being invisible is never a good thing for a child.

Bond, actually, the church (my church) is becoming my focus now. I have reached out to them - baring all of the "shame" - and am hoping to find some additional resources there.

Slick, husband does have some good qualities (as is the reason I am still here), I just don't know that he is capable of filling the void in Cam's life.

Dana said...

Corky, that's what I am hoping for - and actively seeking!

Karen, I do know you are not judging, and I know that your upbringing was far different than mine (or Cam's). I do appreciate your comments on this as it helps me better gauge what others have experienced as "normal."

Jeff, I feel a HUGE responsibility to help him fill that emptiness- not just with my love, but from the love of others as well.

Dana said...

Boo, I didn't take it as a lecture *wink* Cam and I are becoming more involved with our church and I hope this affords him the opportunity for additional role models. We participate in a service project at the church on the second Saturday of each month and this often takes us places where there are many opportunities for Cam.

Doomed, sometimes it just takes a little reality check and reorganization.

Flyinfox, I believe husband thought he could "fix" Cam - that the issues stemmed from poor parenting on my part. Now that he sees this isn't "fixable" he seems to have given up.

rage said...

I think it's just important to do the best you can, irregardless of whom you do or don't have in the household.

Vixen said...

I agree with you. And I really liked what Rage said.

While I was married to the father of my children, he was never a 'dad'. He lived in our house. The birth of my son was actually the initial demise of our marriage (long story).

I'm not married to someone who cares much more for them and shows much more interest in actually being their "DAD"....but they are less responsive bc he has taken somewhat of a disciplinarian role that my ex never took with them.

*sigh*

gottaluvme3 said...

Sorry to hear you didnt have the best experience starting out as a mom....I can't imagine not having loved ones around for me to lean on, let alone my children. Maybe you have become a better person because of it. You have a lot of life experiences to share with us, and I am sure there are people that appreciate it! (do I dare admit to being one of those people?? Hmmmmmmmm)

Nicey said...

Having a man in the house who is selfish, unprotective and gives condional love is no better than having a man in the house period...

If your happy then everyone around you will be happy.
Laters

Nicey

Jormengrund said...

Dana:

Coming from the viewpoint of a single deadbeat dad who is now the primary caretaker of three kids, I can actually say that I understand EXACTLY what you're talking about.

There are days where I don't know who these kids are.

They come home from their weekly visit at their biological mom's house, and are complete and utter terrors.

It's times like these when I become the complete buttwipe of a dad, and total killjoy for everything fun and rousing in a child's life.

Why? Because the boundaries have been completely wiped out in the two and a half days they were with mom, and they need to be put back up in order for them to function at school, in public, and at home.

Do I like being the "bad guy"? Do I want them to think of me as only having the stick, and never the carrot?

No.

But I also think that they understand where I'm coming from, and can appreciate the order that eventually comes through the chaos.

When two parents can agree on a course of action, it's great.

However, if only one is willing to step up and take action, at least there's some action being taken.

Now, that's not to say that I don't try to get out and do special things with the kids.. I try to get at least one or two "personal" days with each kid in a month.. But as far as I can tell, I'd rather make sure the rules are solidly in place before I agree to let them run wild.

That's just a personal preference of mine, and probably one that has been influenced on me from my upbringing.. What little there was.

Lu' said...

I think the last sentence says it all and says it well.

garbonzo said...

I agree with you that two parents are preferable to one...in the sense that it means that there is support for each parent. I cannot tell you how many times I turned to Emmy for support with our children. (I must confess I turned to her more than she turned to me) Many hands make light work.

But, as for a male role-model? That I am not so sure about. I'm not saying it is wrong, but I'm not sure it is right either. I would argue it is more important that a child sees a loving, supportive, healthy relationship between two people than it is to see a "man."

But, I could be wrong. I try to model the loving relationship.