Monday, June 28, 2010

It Takes A Village of Men To Raise A Single Mother

As I face the reality of raising a young man to be a man as a single mother, I am clear that I cannot do this alone. I am also very clear that that state of being a single woman does not absolve my responsibility from participating in the effort, and even designing and coordinating the process. Becoming a man just doesn’t happen because one turns 21, it is a process, and a process that requires desire, guidance, love, understanding, support, prayer, overseeing and men as examples of manhood. That goes for both mother and son.
Not long ago I was increasingly concerned about my son’s changing attitude. He was cranky, short, irritable, annoying, withdrawn and a real pain in the tush. Not sure how to handle it, or to be frank not wanting to get locked up for going upside his head with my bat, I called a good male friend of mine to discuss the matter. What I learned in that conversation propelled me into nonviolence, and another dimension of mothering. Our conversation reinforced for me that the village for a single mother must include consistent, healthy, strong, wise, confident and sensitive men.  I have relied on a village of predominately men for over 22 years to help me raise my son. The village has always been as important in mentoring me as it has been in helping me to raise my child.
 My friend shared some very valuable information with me, and in response to that conversation I wrote him a letter (yes I still write letters) to thank him for his time. I decided to share the letter with you here. From my response, you will be glean how important it is for men to talk to and introduce women to manhood on a deep , even cellular level. While I may just be a spectator on the sidelines of manhood and masculinity, I listen and learn and continually readjust my position. I am no longer the mother of a boy, I am mothering a young man- that is a completely different role.  I have revamped my village, and continue to sacrifice and evaluate myself as a woman so I can do what it takes to raise a man, with the help and support of my village of kings in my corner.  Here is the letter I wrote to my friend after our conversation about single -mothering a young man.  Whether you are a man in a village or a woman building one, there is a lot here to ponder. I am not saying it will all work for you, but it should push you to think carefully about how you are raising the next generation of men to be men. Names have been changed to protect the innocent. Enjoy.
Dear D.L.,
“This conversation reminded me why I brought my son to meet you in the first place. Instinctively, after knowing you only for a short time- a couple of days actually, I knew my son needed to know you.

It is my prayer to God that only men, who understood life in such a way that they could speak into Sean's life with love and understanding and who can help him understand himself, who could direct him with the example of a life and living that would be a blessing to him, only men of that caliber would appear and speak into his life.

 You mentioned that as his mother, I set certain standards and established a proclamation for his life-“son, you will be this sort of person: good, smart, mannerly and do these things (get a good education, work hard,etc.) as my child. The operative word in that sentence, child. So as I move to emancipate my son from the proclamation of his childhood- as you recommended, I see the need to replace that with a proclamation for manhood, and that is simply something I do not have. I thank God for your willingness to talk over these things with me and to mentor me in the things of manhood.

Yes, I would like to ask you to have an open discussion with him.  I respect your wisdom and I appreciate that you understand and respect my role as his mother so much so that you would ask my permission to speak freely to him. That you want to be careful not to confuse him or dispute me by speaking something to him that goes against what I raised him to believe. However to avoid the possible problems that are so common in young men today, i.e.  illness, anger, skin disorders, rebelliousness, premature fatherhood, emotional and identity issues, and sagging pants - the things that can happen to him if he does not have an outlet to deal with his stress - I humbly yield to your wisdom, I seek to know more and to do what is necessary to support him in this next level of his life.

I will reevaluate all of the teachings I laid down as brilliant science when he was younger, to make sure they are now gender and age appropriate, as I cannot expect that principles that are applicable for women will also be applicable to him as a man.

I cannot expect, nor can any mother expect that solely teaching a young man how to be polite, independent and self-sufficient – the same things we teach our daughters, will make him into a good man.  He may be a good person, not a good man. Nor will teaching him how treat women help him to become a man. Dealing with women is not the essence of manhood. It is important, yes, but it does not teach him how to be a man. He must learn that from a man's position and perspective, not the perspective of a woman on the outside of manhood looking in. 

I recognize having walked thus far through life that what is best for men is not always best for women, but that men will and must do what is right for them, a woman's needs, desires or wishes notwithstanding. Surely a great man will accept a woman in his life as a helpmate, but he will, he must go forward with what he determines to be necessary for himself as man, and seek what prepares him for life as a man, a provider, a leader. To do otherwise is to live for and as a woman.
To do otherwise is to negate the indispensable, intrinsic nature and characteristics of manhood and masculinity.

It is a misguided woman, conflicted by this reality who ignores this fact, yet believes she is effectively raising a man.  A woman would perceive herself a hypocrite if she were to teach this to her son, and she would be placing herself at a disadvantage to promote this concept, even to her son, unless she is totally at peace with herself, her role and her identity as a woman.

Women raising men alone often raise them to cater to women, not to be men. The two are not mutually exclusive, however the under developed mind of a woman in the matters of manhood, or the woman unfamiliar with this balance in the developed man has no idea what this balance looks like. Therefore the focus of most women raising men is on women. Not on manhood.

And how can her focus be on manhood if she has no concept or vision of what it is to be a man? It cannot, for she does not know what she does not know!

Worse yet,  oftentimes women disagree with men on what manhood is, or what it means to be a man, and often rightly so, because we have often been so mistreated by men. Our concept of men is too often negative. When our sons do something we dislike or do not understand, the mumbling begins... "he is acting just like a man"- as though that is a bad thing. That to be a man is negative and directly opposed to or less sensitive or mature than to be a woman, sending the message to a man (her son) that to be a man is to be someone your mother will not like.

The ultimate dilemma exists in that a woman is striving to raise a man to be something she has distaste for. The truth is that in many cases, a woman has never, in her own life really experienced true manhood. Many of us as mothers have not had positive experiences with men, not even with our fathers. How then can a woman raise a young man to be something she has never touched, smelled, held or experienced. How can she raise her son to be something she has never, ever seen up close and personal- an authentic, wise, confident, sensitive good man? Our definition of a good man in short tends to be "a man who is more like a woman." Not even a man in touch with his feminine side, but a man who is his feminine side.  Hence why some women affirm and so love to talk to and be in the presence of men who are gay. They want a man around who is straight but has undercover gay characteristics, a man who is her girlfriend. I have all to many friends who are unconsciously seeking men who believe and treat them as gay men do, yet are not gay. I doubt there is such a thing. Our society tends to castrate men, and ridicule alpha men while simultaneously promoting the nature, fashion sense and sensibilities of gay men. When women do this, what message is sent to our sons? Our daughters? What does it do to women?

It is so rare, in these days and times of single parenting and female headed households that a woman meets an alpha man face to face, that she is likely to reject, challenge or discredit him when she does. Why? Because, he is not like anything or anyone in her memory or experience. The alpha male is an anomaly to her and she would be correct. An anomaly being a deviation from the common rule, type, arrangement, or form; an incongruity or inconsistency, the authentic and confident complete man is inconsistent with what she is familiar with, and she seeks to either quiet him or change him to meet her own personally and self serving model of manhood, or in so many words she wants to create in him a man who is more like her. Neither of which encourages, supports or produces a man. It does not work in a relationship; it does not work with a child. The infamous vicious cycle then occurs in that men who are authentically men become uncommon. Women thereby unfamiliar with authentic men and manhood perpetuate the new uncommon man by raising more men to be anything but authentic men. The uncommon man being something she despises, she seeks to change into something more like her, which of course backfires because she is now re-designing man to hate himself and become intrinsically woman. She is essentially playing God- making man in her own image and likeness.

That is partially what is destroying the fabric and fiber of young men. We as single mothers have to seek to truly understand that men are not on earth merely to serve and treat women the way we want to be served and treated. Men have their own path to blaze and it is not at all about us.

I clearly understand, God told me this 22 years ago, raising a man is not a self-serving experience, it is a God given responsibility. Doing it alone is not God's plan but with his support and the heart of The Father, single mom's can provide the foundation for the next generation of men, who will shift the paradigm by becoming men and fathers who reverse the trend of depositing sperm and abandoning children. Single mothers must pave the way for our sons to become men/fathers who will raise the next generations of men alongside the women that bear them---women who understand, love and support men because they are men; not because of what they can do for women. We can do that by effectively building villages filled with men as dynamic and supportive as you are.

Thank you for sharing your perspective on mothering a young man. Thank you also for showing in your daily walk what it means not only to be a man, but to truly be a king. Mothers, sons, daughters and men need your example. God bless you and thank you for being a part of my village. It truly takes a village of men to raise a single mother. That has always been my mantra, and it is no less true now that my son is a young man, because motherhood is never, ever over. I appreciate your willingness to pour into our lives, and thank you for helping me to further define and articulate my purpose.

© 2010 Cathleen E. Williams Enterprises


  1. Powerful, truthful, but also painful to read...which means it has hit a nerve I thought I'd 'numbed' out! Thank you for sharing this very personal epiphany with those of us who are 'not quite there yet': whose sons are still children. I don't want to arrive at my son's entrance to manhood blind and ignorant; I just need to muster up the couage to listen to and accept the truths you have so elegantly and coherently set out... Bless you Cathleen! Your ministry is appreciated...

  2. Cathleen: This is so... powerful! This should speak to so...many women and men the like. It calls to the forefront the man and his role, as well as the woman and her role.

    You know, I've always thought that I've done well raising my son with the help of God, as I've aimed to raise a wise, caring and compassionate man, who connects with even the feminine side and one that would be excited to treat a woman like a queen. However, I've had to on many occassions call men that I respected to help me out and to even speak to my son. I don't know what I would have done without the support.

    As a're right, there is only so much you can do for a young man. You have spoken of something that is so... real and rarely spoken of in this authentic way, or in any way at all for that matter.

    Thank you Cathleen for your AUTHENTICITY!

    Thanks for following your TRUE PURPOSE (your passion)!

    Thanks for listening to the voice inside - regardless of how strange the direction may have seemed at times!

    Thank you in advance for all of the people around the world that will hear your message, and choose to change, by incorporating a village of great men in the raising of their young man(en)!

    Thank you for all of the young men that will positively be impacted by this knowledge that will be attained by their mothers! Thereby, creating a better opportunity for them as a young fulfilled and happy young man!

    Thank you for the men that will take a look in the mirror and step up to the plate as a result of your message and adherence to the call on their life as a man!

    Thank You Sister! Thank You!

    I look forward to you being on the True Purpose Show on the series: "Man...Where Art Thou?" You're Awesome!

    Love You!

  3. Hi Cathleen!

    There's a lot to take in and process here!

    Two thoughts immediately came to mind while reading this:

    1. What defines "manhood"?
    2. I'd like to hear what young men raised by single mothers say about this?

    An idea for "I'm Just Saying" perhaps??? (: