7 Things Your Son Will Do That Show You've Done Your Job As A Single Mom

Photo: allison zager
7 Signs You've Done Your Job As The Single Mother Of A Boy

What it means to be a man is changing. Evolving. The roles that were once clearly defined are shifting. And while I don’t think those rigid roles serve us anymore, I do empathize with how confusing it can be for men right now.

As the single mother of a boy, I’ve spent the last 18 years looking at what lessons and traits I hoped would get instilled in my son and what kind of role models to surround him with. I, too, have had to be both father and mother, taking on traits I believed were “male.”

As my son has grown up, he fits the model of many ideal male attributes: “tall, dark and handsome” and “smart, funny, strong and ambitious.” But the ways in which I feel inspired by the man my son is becoming have little to do with those kinds of things and more to do with character, grit, presence, and heart.

Photo: Alexandra Defurio

At my son’s high school graduation last week, he was surrounded by so many good men who are good in very different kinds of ways. His dad, his grandfather, many family friends, his friends’ dads and his teachers. I couldn’t help but reflect on the lessons the men in our life have taught him about what it means to be a man — a good man — especially in today’s changing world, and the things he does that show me he's become one.

1. Holds space for women.

Not too long ago I got angry about something. My anger turned into tears and you watched it all unfold before you. You stayed quiet and didn’t try to fix it or run away. In the end, you gave me a hug and we were able to have dinner and enjoy the evening. I was blown away.

Women don’t want men to fix their feelings, we just want to be able to express ourselves with freedom and without judgment. You held the space for that.  

RELATED: 5 Ways Good Men 'Hold Space' For The Women They Love

2. Makes his bed in the morning.

On Sundays mornings when you were small, I went to meditation group and you came with me for the bagels and screen time you’d get. My teacher always said, “The spiritual life starts with making your bed in the morning.” It’s a metaphor for leaving the past behind and starting fresh but it also speaks to the daily practice of putting things in order and being disciplined. To many people’s surprise, you make your bed every day.

3. Uses his strength in service.

Men and women are equal but we are not the same. As you grew to tower over me by seven inches, wearing a size 13 shoe, it meant you were better-suited than me to carry the full 5-gallon water bottles into the house and the big bags at the airport. As your trainer assisted you in getting stronger, he also taught you to use that extra physical strength not to intimidate, but in service to those around you.

4. Owns his mistakes.

On Downton Abbey, Maggie Smith says, “There’s nothing like being wrong to make a person self-righteous.” In a time when few people take responsibility for their choices, one of the recurring life lessons you’ve heard is that humility is important. We all mess up, we all make mistakes and we will continue to do so, but when you do make a mistake, admit it, make amends, and recommit to a new way of being.

5. Cries.

I once heard, “When it comes to emotions, men get an Applebee’s 3 pack of courtesy crayons and women get a Crayola 64 pack.” I disagree.

At Thanksgiving dinners, our dear friend always gets glistening eyes when he gives the toast.  You and your male friends have shown me the men of today feel and express a whole range of emotions. You always say, “Boys do cry, they cry a lot.” And that’s not just okay, it’s important.

RELATED: Men Who Cry Are Beautiful

6. Puts the toilet seat down.

A Feng Shui master once taught us that the energy in the house doesn’t go down the toilet if you keep the lid closed. Whether or not you believe that, we’ve discovered many more benefits: a closed toilet prevents bacteria from being sprayed around the bathroom, it also means you will never have that boring clichéd argument with your future girlfriends or wife, and it just looks better.

7. Is inspired by remarkable women.

Women are raising the bar. We are doing more. We are taking more risks. Traditional roles are being turned on their heads and that means men have to evolve along with us.

They can be confusing times but your love and respect for strong women, including me, gives me hope for your generation. You love the women in your life, young and old. Men and women need to work together and you’ve shown me that we can and we will.

RELATED: The 3 Things Men Look For In The Strong Women They Marry

Michelle Fiordaliso is an executive coach and award-winning writer and filmmaker. She is the co-author of Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Ex and has appeared as a relationship expert on Today, Tyra and Oprah Radio. Her writing has been published in The Huffington Post, Self and The New York Times. Michelle has coached c-suite executives at companies including Converse, A&E and Uber. She holds a Master of Clinical Social Work and Psychotherapy from NYU. For more about her journey with Joe, you can read her NY Times Modern Love essays here and here, or follow her on Instagram.