How one single woman rejects the idea that she has to be both a mother and father to her son.
In the cracker aisle at the grocery store, my seven-year-old informed me that when his dad comes I’ll be his second best parent in the world. Currently, I rank number one though in no uncertain terms is this spot permanent. This default is through no fault of my own. I adopted him when he was six months old and ever since he became aware of Father’s Day, he has made it clear that he wants a dad.
The emotional development of children dictates that throughout their lives they will fall in and out of love with their parents. This happens in two-parent households all the time, as I had my own serious crush on my dad for years so I’m not bothered by my son’s elevation of his future father. If anything, I hope to get a little break. Being number one is lonely and exhausting at times.
As we continued tossing Jiffy cornbread mix and other items into our basket, I reflected on my pending demotion. I realized that I was relieved. As a single mother, I sometimes worry that he will grow up to be the dreaded “mama’s boy.” You know that guy who doesn’t make a move without his mom’s approval or can’t do anything for himself like make a bed, because, well, mommy always did that. He may or may not marry because no woman can measure up to Saint Mom. And the ladies who unwittingly love mama’s boys often find themselves in competition with the Big Poppa of other women – Mama. On the other hand, mama’s boys are most likely to take care of mom after dad passes and typically live within arms reach of her. Whatever. The cons outweigh the pros. None of my friends wants one of those and neither do I.
Fear of creating a mama’s boy makes my parenting job even harder. Having never been a boy, I’m limited in my understanding of his hormones or how he processes information. I can talk to him about interacting with the police but have no personal experiences with racial profiling. I’m not one of those women who claim mother and father status (too much pressure), and therefore cannot emulate manhood. Luckily, my son has a solid masculine community, where testosterone is understood. There’s his jack-of-all trades godfather, forever young great-great cousin who’s always down to race him on Wii Mario Carts, his classmates’ fathers who have lovingly embraced him as their other son, and various coaches who model commitment and character during practice and on game day. My brother, colleagues and husbands of friends spend time with him, adding to his growing list of “uncles”.
Even with these wonderful Black male influences, at the end of day, my son comes home to his sister and me. While I will never withhold affection or attempt to “act like a man,” one of the downsides of solo parenting is the lack of masculine energy in the home. Without question, I love my son to pieces and pray that the father he craves will get here lickety-split. In the meantime, I will mother him to the best of my abilities and start a list of all of the things I will do, after receiving my pink slip.
Nefertiti Austin is a Los Angeles based writer, college instructor and certified PS-MAPP trainer who co-leads classes for adoptive and foster parents. She blogs about adoption at mommiejonesing.com, and is currently working on a memoir about adopting as a single woman of color. Austin lives with her children in Los Angeles.