Solo with a son
Single moms face challenges in raising sons, but with a little help, boys do just fine.
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After divorce, it's still essential to involve dad as much as possible - as long as the relationship is appropriate, say parenting experts. This might mean traveling, as Ms. Reddy and Kalen do three times a year from their home in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to Seattle for a visit with his father. Or, where parents live nearby, the solution might be joint custody. Either way, such arrangements require parents to "breathe hard and make amends," says Michael Connor, whose teaches a course called "Fathers and Fathering: A Psychosocial Perspective" at California State University at Long Beach, which is always well attended by single mothers of sons.Skip to next paragraph
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When amicable co-parenting isn't possible, and even when it is, Dr. Connor says, "Male friends and relatives who are consistently active in the mother's and son's lives can have a tremendously positive influence." Where things start to get tricky, he adds, is when mom has a series of fleeting relationships with men.
The dating game
This is the most difficult aspect of single motherhood, says Melissa Fisher, the mother of a five-year-old. "When I am dating someone who I know would be good for my son, I am often fearful that if things don't work out, it would hurt him more than help him," she explains.
This is one reason family counselors recommend that single parents try not to introduce their children to everyone they date, but instead to wait until things start to get serious.
When Ms. Capo isn't sure about a guy, she simply asks Spencer. "I value his opinion," she says. "He'll say things like 'Mom, that guy is trying to get to you by impressing me,'" or "'He's a little overweight, but so what? People can lose weight. They can't change their personality.' "
People sometimes tell Capo that she talks to Spencer too much like a friend, but she insists that he's mature enough to handle their blunt discussions.
"We all have this image that single mothers are running around 'adultifying' their children all the time, and that's just not happening," says Pollack. "When any parent constantly talks to a child like an adult friend, this can be confusing for both parent and child. But we all slip sometimes."
It's always smart to let children's questions and comments take the lead, says Linda Dunlap, a professor at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., who is wrapping up her second book, "Nurturing Children With Open Arms." Boys, she says, tend to be somewhat protective of their unmarried moms.
"They might think to themselves, 'I'm taking care of Mom, so why does she need him in her life?' " All the more reason why unmarried moms need to keep sons informed during the dating process and encourage a dialogue where both of them can express feelings and concerns.
A package deal
Fran Strohm hasn't quite gotten to that point yet. She and her newly adopted son, Yuri, an eight-year-old Russian boy, are reveling in life together as a twosome.
"I always thought I'd meet Prince Charming, buy a house, and have kids," says Ms. Strohm. "When that didn't happen, and I began to get serious about adoption, it crossed my mind that a prospective husband might not like my son. I had to come to peace with that in order to go ahead wholly with adoption."
Now, those concerns have vanished. She has no doubt that Yuri, whom she describes as "quiet but social," would be adored.
And if someone does come along, she adds with a smile, "he'll just have to realize that I'm part of a package now."
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society