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Single Moms' Sons Can Succeed: Here's How I'm Doing It

Three years ago when Michael Phelps won eight gold medals in the Beijing games and President Obama was elected as President of the United States of America, I felt like I could definitely, without fail raise a strong, successful boy, even though his father isn’t around—both Obama and Phelps were raised by single moms.

Of course there are stats and studies that speak to the direct contrary—blah, blah, blah. Boys raised without men in the house or around at all, are at greater risk to do poorly in school, abuse drugs and fill the prisons, but researchers have changed their tunes.

In the ABC News article Single Moms' Sons Can Succeed, New Research Shows, (I keep this 2008 article bookmarked for a single mom boost every now and then) Michael Lamb, a psychology professor at the University of Cambridge in England says, “You can't assume that every child raised by a single parent is going to have difficulties—the majority don't.” He also says dynamics are less at play—it’s not all (2 parents) or nothing. “What's important is not whether they are raised by one or two parents. It's how good is the relationship with the parent, how much support they're getting from that parent and how harmonious is the environment.”

Michael Kimmel, a sociologist and gender studies expert at Stony Brook University in New York agrees and says the main parent has a giant effect. “We see constantly children of single-parent families who thrive because the parents are so devoted because they're compensating for the absence of the other parent,” he says.

This is the parent I am. Some say I do too much. I care too much. I make absolutely no time for myself, my friends, dating... But my son’s well being, his growth from boy to man is far more important to me. When JD’s father left when I was 11 weeks pregnant he didn’t leave me to be a single mom. He left me to be a Mom and a Dad. I do his job, too.

JD has many talents. Like his father, he is a runner. JD’s father is not around to take him to the track, so I do (great way to get in some exercise, moms!). I see this genetic talent in my son and I support it. He enjoys running—loves it, really. He always asks me to race him and I do. He asks me to be the coach. “Mom, say ready-set-go!” I sit on the bench in the courtyard of our condo and he zips around the loop of grass. “Go, go, go, bud!” I cheer.

My approach to running is similar to that of Debbie Phelps. “[Michael] Phelps was born with a gift that his mother nurtured,” says Peggy Drexler, author of the 2005 book Raising Boys Without Men. As mothers, single or not, we must encourage and support are child’s talents. Which is why my condo currently looks like an art gallery. JD gets his creative side from me and like me, he is proud of his work. He takes his time. He seeks approval. He gets frustrated when something isn’t perfect (so me). He enjoys collaboration and always asks me to color, paint, mold and build with him. I do and I take my son to museums all of the time.

Over the weekend JD enjoyed a new Mess Free Crayola Wonder Book—and then he displayed his work on the front door (it's magnetic). When my father stopped over on Sunday he was so proud. “Want to see my artwork, Poppy?” he said, pulling him over to the door. Then there are the cars. The cars that he lined up and looped through his bedroom and back to the living room. This is not a mess. These are not toys not picked up. “Look at my sculpture, Mom,” he said. I was in my office going through emails when he was working on this and when I saw the epic design, my eyes definitely widened—I mean, it was kind of like his toys were EVERYWHERE. But, he was so proud of the work, of his creation, of the color patterns. I cheered him on. I walked around with him and I listened as he described his work. I didn’t think about the 100+ cars consuming our living space. I just marveled at his work. That is my job. My son is already a giant success story. I am his biggest fan. Always will be.


Tell me about your child's talents and how you encourage them.

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