Man-less Mothers: Help for Single Moms Raising Sons

Woman

Not all children have fathers. In fact, an alarming number of children in the United States and beyond grow up in homes without fathers. Almost one in four homes in America are held together by single-mothers. In fact, the federal government spends close to $100 billion every year for programs to support father-absent homes. Astonishing, heart-breaking and completely unnecessary.

 

At our core, Restoration Project is about eradicating fatherless. We aim to reverse this horrifying trend of father-absence by calling men to heal their wounds, know their God, and restore their world. An audacious task. And yet in the midst of our attempts to change the course of the Titanic, we regularly encounter mothers who face the overwhelming task of raising sons…alone.

 

Let me start by making three very important statements:

  • First, on behalf of all men, I sincerely apologize to you, dear one, for leaving you to carry a burden you were never meant to bear. We have failed you, hurt you, abandoned you and left you holding the weight of our sin. I am deeply, deeply sorry.
  • Secondly, we are here for you. There exists a growing tribe of men who recognize the failures of our brothers and refuse to allow future generations to be affected by their absence. You and your children are precious to us, and to the best of our ability, we will stand in the gap and offer what fathering we can to those who have only known absence. You are not alone.
  • Thirdly, there are a multitude of reasons and factors that result in single-mother homes. For some, fathers have passed away, leaving a widow and children to navigate life on their own. In other situations, women may have been at fault (or partially) for the break up of the family, and she may carry guilt or blame for the circumstances in which they now find themselves. For far too many, men have abdicated their responsibilities as husbands and fathers and abandoned or blown up their families. While mothers from all three situations could benefit from the following thoughts, I am primarily writing to those in the third category.

That being said, we regularly hear from single-mothers raising sons asking for guidance, insight and help. Without a present-father to make a man out of her son, many moms ask for assistance in where to start, what to do, and whom to contact. Therefore, I offer the following five foundational mother-directed man-maker movements for all you blessed single-mothers.

1. Cast a vision of who he will become

Far too often, boys who grow up in father-absent homes lack a vision of manhood. Simply put, he has no model to mimic, no positive schema for what becoming a man may be, and struggles to imagine himself as an adult. “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18, KJV). Without a sense of who he will become, your son will either flounder in his own mire of confusion, or latch onto the pseudo-masculinities our culture so freely offers.

The more you can cast a vision of true, good, and redemptive manhood for him, the more you paint a picture of his future as a man who embodies the character of a godly man, the more you can inspire him to believe God has made him to become a deeply strong and tender man, the more he will heed your words and aspire to become that man. Every child hangs on the words and visions of his mother, and the more you can cast a vision of who he will become as a man, the more he will want to become him.

2. Ground him in his story

Every one of us has a story. And every one of us enters into an already-existing narrative – the story of our forefathers. Like being born on a moving train, we ride the rails of our parents’ trajectory.

We are shaped by stories from the first moments of life, and even before. Stories tell us who we are, why we are here, and what will become of us. Whenever humans try to make sense of their experience, they create a story, and we use those stories to answer all the big questions of life. The stories come from everywhere–from family, church, school, and the culture at large. They so surround and inhabit us that we often don’t recognize that they are stories at all, breathing them in and out as a fish breathes water.
~Daniel Taylor, The Healing Power of Stories

You, his mother, are his most powerful story-teller. You offer him the life-giving nature of his narrative, and can ground him and orient him to the nature of his life by helping him know where he fits, where he has come from, and how he came to be. Rather than sour him to his past, you can offer him clarity on his story.

Some boys have no sense of who their fathers are. For others, they know all too well the pain meted out by an adult male who abandoned them to find their own way in life. As a result, mothers may be tempted to cut out (either figuratively by excluding him from the stories, or literally by cutting him out of pictures) the boy’s understanding of his father. Yet it is vital for the boy’s development into manhood to know his own story if he is ever to take up the pen and write a new ending.

3. Tell him about your pain, but do not make him bear it for you

Your pain is clear. You have been left, abandoned, abused, cheated-on, discarded, misunderstood and unseen. And while I cannot know the fullness of every single-mother’s story, I am convinced that you have endured significant seasons of pain. Again, I apologize on behalf of the fallenness of men.

As another male in your home, you may be tempted to (most likely covertly, not overtly) pass your pain onto your son. He’s male, and males hurt you. He may remind you of his father. He may act, respond, or sound like him, or he may have inherited some attitudes and beliefs that are demanding or demeaning. Keep in mind that your son is not his father. He is not the embodiment of your pain, but a young boy who is trying to navigate his maleness alone.

Tell him. Tell him about your pain. Tell him how you have been hurt, how the actions and words of his father have cut deep and wounded you. But do not make your son pay for his father’s sins by conscripting him to bear your pain. If your hope is to free him from the entanglement of his father’s failures, do not lay them on his shoulders to carry.

4. Surround him with trusted surrogate fathers

You, mother, are a valiant woman. You have struggled much, bear much, and believe much. And while you have so very much to offer your son, he still needs the sharpening presence of a man to raise him into the fullness of his manhood. Men become men through other men. Your son must have adult men who will intentionally and prayerfully take him beyond what you can provide.

Therefore, from an early age, surround him with trusted surrogates. Invite uncles, grandfathers, coaches, pastors, mentors, neighbors and friends to be part of his “man-crew.” Normally, it is the father’s role to gather a cadre of men who together will stand as his company. Without a dad in the picture, however, it falls to you. Seek out, ask and implore men to take up the mantle on his behalf. Have them read Man Maker Project, and ask them to fill the gap where his father should have been.

It is not weakness to ask for help. Oh no, it is actually a sign of great strength and fortitude. Ask. Expect. Demand.

5. Pray fatherlessness ceases here

And finally, your son has experienced fatherlessness first hand. He knows the wound far too intimately, and will carry it for the rest of his life. It is one of the most powerful wounds one can bear.

As his mother, pray. Pray for redemption and restoration in your son’s life. Pray that the curse of fatherlessness be cut off here and now, and that future generations will never know this agony because it stopped here and now. Pray with your son, over your son, and beyond your son. Pray with other mothers. Pray with his surrogate fathers. Beseech the Lord, the ultimate Father of the fatherless, to bring an end to fatherlessness in your family right here and right now. Allow for the Warrior to rise within you to battle the forces of darkness that so desire to derail your family tree. Your prayers are by far the greatest gift you can offer your son and future generations.

Man-less mothers…may you come to know the goodness of the Father in your own life and your son’s. Of anyone on earth, you are my greatest hero.

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