Boys who have been exposed to emotionally sound women will likely feel more confident relating to other women in their lives.
I’d like to provoke action by providing information and encouragement particularly for single moms raising men (SMRM). Much of the psychological, sociological, and cultural world doesn’t acknowledge differences between boys and girls that warrant attention or differing approaches to child-rearing. I’m not one of those people. Mothers raising sons have different challenges than mothers raising girls because boys and girls are different.
No, boys aren’t better than girls. But they sure as heck are different. And I know for a fact moms raising boys are struggling. Struggling to not worry themselves into an early grave, struggling to keep their sons safe, and fighting against pervasive rhetoric discounting our efforts to raise healthy and functional men. Compound those issues tenfold for those of us doing this alone or without much help.
Let’s start by addressing some root issues. Many single moms carry unnecessary burdens because of our internalization of the stigma associated with being a single mother. It’s like trying to carry a boulder up a hill in 100-degree weather; the rock is heavy enough but the task is made more onerous by the conditions under which it’s being carried. Similarly, our task is already difficult. If we are allowing the heat of others’ negative thoughts to bear down on us and penetrate our psyche, our mothering is hamstrung. To maximize our effectiveness, we must make sure our mental and emotional health is intact. Otherwise, innovative strategies and wise advice will do no good whatsoever because we either won’t have the mindset to implement them, or because we will unwittingly sabotage them once they’re implemented. So let’s deal with our minds and our hearts.
These are just a few of the reasons mental and emotional health are critical for single moms raising boys:
- Mentally and emotionally healthy moms help sons feel secure and create an environment for open communication; boys tend to clam up when faced with out-of-control, overly-dramatized emotions.
- A healthy mind leads to healthy emotions and strengthens our bodies so we can do what we need to do; boys require tons of energy from us.
- Emotionally healthy moms can help prepare sons to learn to interact well with girls, paving the way for successful adult relationships; boys who have been exposed to emotionally sound women will likely feel more confident relating to girlfriends, wives, teachers, and other women in their lives.
- Mentally and emotionally healthy moms are better equipped to handle the mental and emotional rigor required as boys mature; young boys and teens often don’t know how to handle their own emotions as adolescence hits. Their increased aggressiveness often devastates and paralyzes moms who must deal with new emotional realities of their relationship with their sons.
Strong mental and emotional health helps moms relate to their sons in a developmentally appropriate way and reduces over-attachment and issues of “letting go”; boys can become particularly sensitive to feeling emotionally attached to and dependent on their mothers as they mature.
So what can we do to build strong minds and emotions? I offer these two basic, but critical, tips:
We can protect our minds from emotional overstimulation.
I cut back on the number of publications I read regarding parenting. Sounds counterintuitive, but think about it. We might get some level of surface satisfaction from “being in the know” but practically speaking, we can only absorb, learn, and implement one or two improvements to our parenting at a time. The rest of that information is floating around creating mental clutter that over time, just causes anxiety and stress. Instead, try identifying one or two issues that concern you about your parenting style or outcomes you see in your relationship with your son. Research resources for those issues and concentrate on them almost exclusively for a while. Otherwise, we can end up being constantly overwhelmed and feeling like a failure.
We can guard our hearts.
Don’t let all the negative media and cultural narrative surrounding single motherhood embed itself into your emotions. Statistics, studies, surveys, blogs…they can all be helpful but remember, unless any of those people have actually interviewed or studied you and your son, none of their information necessarily reflects your motherhood and family experience. Not only will this type of informational poison affect you, but it can also affect your son. Unintentionally, we can find ourselves saying and doing things that reveal the negativity that has seeped into our hearts. For example: I asked my teenage son what advice he would give to moms raising sons.
One statement he made was, “Stop comparing your son to other guys [by saying harmful things].” I asked him what he meant by that. He replied, “Stop saying things like, ‘You’re acting just like a ni**a’, and stuff like that.” I asked why did he use that as an example. He responded that some of his friends tell how their moms make remarks like that to them. Ouch. Most mothers wouldn’t intentionally damage their son’s sense of self by that way, but those kinds of comments can spill over out of our mouths when our hearts are full of bad news and damaging portrayals of boys and men.
These ideas are just the tip of the iceberg. What ideas do you have about developing and maintaining healthy minds and emotions? I’ll continue the discussion next week by diving deeper into the realm of thoughts and how powerfully they impact our mothering.