While seated solo at the bar at a busy restaurant at LAX last week, picking at a cold quesadilla and organizing folders on my laptop, I met a young business man.
“Where are you headed?” he asked when I lifted my laptop bag to make room for him next to me, the only empty stool in the room.
“Going home,”I said, stretching my arms and feeling my shoulder prick with the aftermath of terrifying GPS-led navigation on LA’s infamous freeways,”Just here for the day for meetings.”
We got to talking, as often happens when two strangers sit in proximity in crowded airports. He’s married with a new baby at home, but travels frequently as a sales man: he hates being away from his little one, missing so many milestones and brand new smiles. I smile and nod as he talks.
He is friendly but a little guarded, I am suddenly self-conscious that he has mistaken my friendliness for flirtation and so when he asks if I have kids, I say,”Yes, one, a three year old little boy” and don’t offer more information. I’m wondering if I should resume with my proposal organization when he asks:
“Does your husband stay at home with him when you have to travel then?”
“Uh, no husband.” I blush, and hate myself for it,”I’m a single Mom. My Mom helps out a lot.”
“Ah.” Instead of moving to the opposite corner of the restaurant, he smiles.” I was raised by a single Mom,”he says, and a look of kindness moves across his face,” I respect the hell out of her for all she did for me. I’m a Mama’s boy till the day I die.”
I have a few male friends who were raised by Single Moms, and many of them share the same sentiment: adult knowledge of how hard their Mothers worked to make their lives better. None of them seem too screwed up by often semi-absent and irresponsible Fathers, but they do often seem to have some resentment.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the impact of my solo Motherhood on my son. Specifically, I wonder if it will shape his ideals in negative or positive ways, if there are lessons I can help instill in him based on the perspective of my own situation. Can I better teach him to respect women? Can I help him to understand that, when he has children of his own, it’s his responsibility to foster, nurture and support them just as much as their Mother’s?
A comment on my last post, by a Single Mom named Gwen, has stuck with me all weekend:
“I hate the assumption of ex’s that just because they get divorced the kids have their Mom and don’t need their Dad unless he feels like being around.”
I know there are thousands of Separated Dads who do not fit this bill, who ache and work to be in the lives of their children as much as possible. But for many Single Moms, dealing with exes who only want to see their kids when convenient, who renege on child support, who expect Mom to bear the brunt of 90% of the raising of their children — this “it’s the Mom’s responsibility” attitude is one of the most painful realities of solo Mama life.
If there is a benefit to my son that can come out of the ugliness of the separation of his parents: it’s this. I have the opportunity to teach him that he can be a partner on every level to the woman who eventually bears his children. I can teach him that he can be sweet and soft as easily as he can be strong, and that it is his duty as a Father to be there as much as it’s often the instinct of a Mother to be a Mom.
I want him to respect the hell out of me one day, yes. But more importantly, I want him to respect the Mom of his children in twenty some years, so that she’s not fated to repeat the same rocky path of us Single Moms.
I chat a little more with the bright-eyed new Dad at the bar, and pass him a business card as I reluctantly leave to catch my plane.
“You’re a good egg,” I say,”Your Mom did a great job.”
“I’m going to tell her you said that,”he said,”And tomorrow morning I’m going to get up with the baby and let my wife sleep in.”
In a day filled with great meetings and opened opportunities, that was the most important sentence I heard.