One of my original intentions for this blog was to explore single parenthood. My focus of late has been political resistance, but since the personal is political (now as much as ever), I’ve been returning to my roots, so to speak, in writing I don’t share here as often as I used to. Parenting and writing and working, plus balancing it all, along with relationships and learning to trust again after so much personal turmoil–these topics continue to demand my creative attention.
I regularly read lots of blogs, including The Relationship Blogger, where my friend Raymond brings prolific thoughtfulness to human connections of all kinds. We were talking one day about solo parents–how I am one, and how he was raised by one. I remember asking him whether he thought a strong woman would make her son love or hate strong women, because of course I worry about such things. He told me a little about his experience, and I told him a little about mine; and from that common ground, we decided to write guests posts for each other’s spaces.
Enjoy Raymond’s post:
The single parent effect
I was raised as a child in a single family to my Mum. She really was the only solid direct parent I had. The other boyfriends and the near husbands that she dated in the past didn’t come close. Well, apart from one of them but that’s a different story. I can remember one bloke that she was seeing always said to me, “You follow your mammy around like a wee collie dog.”
I didn’t realise it back then, I thought he was just being a big dick, but to him I expect, I was somewhat of a competition. My Mums love for me versus the love that she had for him. It’s quite an immature mindset, but that totally lies in the realms of their issues. I’m not owning any of that bumf, nor trying to analyse it. I have my own issues.
And all through my early childhood right up until my late teens I always felt as if it were Mum and me, against the world. Mum was my rock, she had always been there for me. It was quite a significant bond, and not to mention I feel that it was intensified because there was just the two of us.
Mum was an anxious, nervous, worrying person that always thought the worst in herself and the good in other people. She held her self to such inexplicable high standards but was easy and fairly open with other people. It worked against her in retrospect because she was always so harsh on herself, setting herself impossible targets and crucifying herself when she couldn’t match up to the perfect person she had envisaged in her head.
And it’s pretty much what I became through Mum. They do say that both parents shine through in their child’s personality, well, I only had Mum. So, I absorbed most of her traits and her good points and everything about her. There were similarities with Dad, but mostly genetic similarities. I couldn’t learn much from him because he wasn’t around much to teach me in childhood.
Picking women was no different, and for me, it’s where a lot of people lose sight on their dating & relationships game. Truly owning their parent’s failures and making a dedicated stand to right their wrongs. My Mum was known for dating muscle bound weight lifters. All through growing up most of my mother’s partners used our extra room (if we had one) for their weights. Mum was no ugly person, so she usually had the pick of good lookers. Although I’ve grown to realise good looks is not a direct indication of personality. Mum liked to be submissive in her partnership with other men whilst they ruled the roost, and she was always worrying about something or other.
And through Mums neurosis, and submissiveness it rubbed off onto me. I became a neurotic and submissive man. Basically, I hadn’t been taught the proper boundaries a child should have when it came to relationships with other people. It led to all sorts of trouble growing up and learning. Don’t get me wrong, the boundaries were in place when it came to general behaviour, but watching my mother let her friends and other men walk all over her when she didn’t deserve it, it’s all I knew, and I became that. One with no boundaries.
I had a difficult clash finding myself in intimate relationships also. On one hand, I had my mother, sitting there, telling me, in my mind, that relationships were fickle, I would remember how hers never lasted long and the almost petty reasons they failed at, and it would make me utterly nervous to step a foot wrong with another lady. And then on the other hand there was the primal beast, wanting to be released from his cage, roaring endlessly, hoping the gates that were keeping him locked up would somehow crumble. It was a battle of two me’s, I was a split person.
It was quite a clash for me, the overt neurosis of losing a partner would ultimately suffocate whoever I was in a relationship with at the time into hiding. They would get rid of me before I put my feet up to ask her how her day was. And the caged beast in me would slaughter himself at night, screaming, shouting at me, that I was a mess, that I needed to let him out, for some air, to see the world.
The women I usually chose to date were superbly strong. They were a special brand of noisy, and on the surface, they weren’t afraid of much. I was essentially doing what Mum was doing, looking for someone to protect me from the nasty wide world. I blame my outward neurosis for that. All through my life.
If Mum was strong? Or Balanced?
I think it would have turned out much different. Until I decided to change my life I wore my Mum’s dating dress like it was my own (Metaphor!), and I feel, for me, it wasn’t healthy at all. But if she was a balanced individual seeking a balance in a relationship I think it would have turned out much different. I wouldn’t have been eternally seeking strong women, I would have learned to seek what she sought, or so I feel anyway. There was the toxic personality of my Dad, of course, but if she was more balanced she may have taken more effort to shield me from his badness. Who knows?
There is no right or wrong to relationships. I’m trying to lead by example in my mind. Through reflection I know I’ve owned a lot of my Mums traits (and good stuff) and some of Dads too. I know Alex will mimic us, so around him we try to be the best version of ourselves, and I treat my wife with the utmost respect around him. Apart from the bickering. We bicker sometimes. But what would life be without healthy disagreement, right?
A few years ago, I finally realised why ultimately any relationship I started was doomed to failure. I was gunning for strong women, the fearless, strong ladies that would shield me from the harsh life of the outside world. But alas, the strongest women also need comfort, too. It’s why I eventually sought a balance, and became happy with everything that I do!
My post at The Relationship Blogger is, of course, about relationships–as a solo mom. It’s called “An evolving concept of dating: One solo mom’s work-in-progress.” I hope you check it out and follow Raymond’s blog!