I have given a lot of thought to the idea recently that mothers raise their daughters and love their sons. This Madame Noire piece made me reflect on it again. It’s a phrase I must have heard in my twenties at some point, somewhere. I thought of it talking to a friend about her boyfriend and some of their ups and downs related to compromise in their relationship. He never learned compromise because the main woman in his life, a single black woman, let him do whatever he wanted. He was THE man in her life.
As hard as some people try, I believe it is really hard for a woman to raise a man and teach him how to be a man — whatever that looks like. I can’t pretend to know, as a woman who is just starting to build successful and stable platonic male friendships. Single fathers, too, probably struggle with teaching women how to be women. But at the heart of what is being discussed as a masculinity crisis in our culture is this idea that someone can be both mother and father to a child. Not only does that sound incredibly hard, it also sounds pretty impossible.
My mother tried this, God bless her. Every time Father’s Day rolled around, I would get a call from her days in advance. “Remember to call me and wish me a Happy Father’s Day since I was both your mother and your father.” In truth, she had failed at both roles, despite her best efforts, but I reflect on her efforts fondly. It’s the effort that matters in the end.