Monday, February 15, 2010

Missing Men -- by Jamie

When I first considered becoming a single mother by choice, all the books and materials I read warned me about the importance of surrounding my future child with positive male role models. I figured that wouldn’t be such a difficult task, as I knew my generous, loving father would be greatly involved in the upbringing of my child, and I also had a handful of other terrific males in my life whom I could count on. For instance, I’d been assured that my sister's husband would be a strong presence in my child’s life, as he was a bit wary about my decision to raise a child without a father figure, and told my sister that he’d make sure my daughter always had him to lean on. I also had several good male friends whom I knew I could always rely upon, and assumed they would continue to be involved in my life after my baby was born.

When Jayda arrived, my father stepped in, as I'd predicted, and became a doting grandfather and the perfect male role model any mother could want for her child. And it wasn’t as if I could ignore the idea of having men in my child’s life even if I wanted to; from the start, my daughter appeared to adore men wherever we went. As a baby, she'd coo at the busboys when we went to the diner, and bat her eyelashes at our pediatrician during her check ups. When she started her gymnastics class at 18 months, she almost immediately threw herself into the lap of our attractive male instructor. And because of that early love affair, I made a great effort to keep Jayda involved in the gymnastics program, semester after semester after semester—partly because it was a great class, but more importantly because I wanted Jayda to have a weekly connection with a charismatic male teacher who aimed to improve her confidence. But when I mentioned this to one of my married friends—who had lost her own father at a young age—she laughed at me, and told me to relax and not try so hard. She said her own mother had made absolutely no effort to surround her with any positive male role models after her father had passed away, and she'd turned out fine...and you know what? She's right. She’s a strong, successful, well-adjusted woman—and a great mom, herself.

As it turns out, Jayda's uncle, who'd pledged his early devotion to her...well, he's never around. Yes, he does love Jayda in his own way, but physically, he’s more devoted to his job and his friends and his own life, and barely manages to see Jayda more than five times a year. And my once-cherished male friends? I barely speak to them anymore, myself—let alone rely on them for teaching Jayda about what good men should say or do to a woman.

I've always prided myself on having male friends. Just friends. True...maybe sometimes there was a flirty dynamic between me and a few of those guys, but in the grand scheme of things, we really were JUST friends. However, lately, I've felt let down by just about all of them. And it's not that I expected them to all be there for Jayda (though, that would have been nice)...I just expected them to always be there for me. Because while it's nice for a woman to have her girl friends—and good gal pals are certainly irreplaceable—male friends have their significance, too. Especially for strong, independent women—who, let’s face it, are the type of women who generally become SMCs. Because while I often acted a little tough around my guy friends, I was also able to let my guard down and be a little girlie-girl when necessary. And best of all, my guy friends were great about helping me with things. Fixing stuff for me. Giving me advice about things a woman like me knows nothing about: Car engines, mutual funds, hard drives, and a zillion other random-but-important issues and objects. And they did so in ways that are different than when a girl friend helps me out. I’m not saying I’m good at playing the part of a damsel in distress (far from it!), but sometimes a woman needs to have a guy take care of her…even if it’s just a guy friend. And I miss that. But most of all, I simply miss my guy friends.

But I guess not every man wants to hang out with a single mom. And, of course, it’s true, many of my former male friends and I don’t have all that much in common any more. Some of them used to love swapping dating stories with me—and since I’m not the serial dater I used to be, my stories aren’t as plentiful or exciting as they once were. Another former male friend used to drag me to see bands with him every week; I rarely have the time (or the babysitter) to do that, these days. But I wouldn’t mind seeing a show every now and then…if he’d actually ever invite me now! But what disappoints me more than missing the guys, themselves, is that these guys are missing out on the best thing that’s ever happened to me—Jayda. Oddly enough, instead of me needing these men as “good male role models” for my daughter—who I believe is thriving and doing just fine without them, thank you very much!—I feel like they’re the ones missing out on something. They’re missing out on the warm, witty, amazing daughter I’ve been blessed with…and the remarkable mother I’ve blossomed into because of her. And that’s a shame.

As Jayda’s mother, I can see a lot of myself in my daughter. And, similarly, we both like men a lot: We often turn our heads to take a second look at them, find many of them attractive and charming, and we certainly like to flirt with them. We know there are some good ones out there, and, unfortunately, some not-so-good ones. And all I can do is continue to encourage Jayda to become a strong, confident, intelligent woman—and hope she’ll make the right choices in the men she befriends. But as for “surrounding her with positive male role models,” I’m not going to force the issue. Jayda has plenty of people around her who love her—and it doesn’t matter whether they’re women or men—as long as she can count on them. And she can always count on me. That’s enough.

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