Woman jeans and sneaker shoes

The makeup of my family seems normal from where I’m from, and I have the typical single mother story. I am the oldest son of 3 children on my mother’s side, and my mother became pregnant just before my father left for college in 1974. The issue was that she was 14 years old when she got pregnant with me, and my dad was 19.

My mother met my father sometime before she went to high school. I never really asked her much about it, but as far as I could tell she loved him. She has told me that she was in love with my father, but I believe it was more so infatuation. My grandmother gave me most of the information about my father. She said that my father was the youngest of 14 children. I don’t think my parents had a very long relationship, as my mother was extremely young when she pursued my father. No one has ever opened up about it, but I think my mother may have led him to believe she was much older. My grandmother said that she didn’t blame my dad, because she knew how manipulative my mother could be, and that she was accustomed to getting her way. Obviously my mother kept the baby because I’m still here, and I know that she loved me. I’m sure abortion was never a question for her because she needed to feel loved. And her baby would always love her, as long as she was an involved mother.

I was the first grandchild, and everyone showed my mom extra attention because she had a baby. I think my mom enjoyed the attention, and she at least had love from her child even if she no longer had a man. My grandmother said that my dad approached her saying that he could not take care of me now, but he was going to go to college so that he would be able to take care of me later. When I was old enough to inquire, I would ask my mom about my dad. She would tell me that for the longest he said that he didn’t even think I was actually his child. My mother really loved, or was infatuated with my father, but I know he didn’t share those feelings for her. As I grew older, I noticed that my mom was always attracted to men that never felt the same for her as she felt for them. Many times she would just settle for guys that treated her nice, but she never found that true love we all search for. It was a cycle, as she had, and still has low self-esteem. I know at times she was disappointed that she couldn’t find the love of a man, and we always had to pick up the pieces when some new guy would break her heart. We were constantly telling her that she was fine, and that she didn’t need the guys she was interested in. Over time we realized she needed love, but she was never able to find the love she sought in a man. My brother and I could only do so much, and we saw her self-esteem diminish over the years. She put all of her time and effort into making sure her kids were raised right.

I considered myself the man of the house, because my mother slept in the day and worked at night. I had to raise my brother and sister at night, when she went to work. She gave me all the tools and resources to do it, but with no father in the house I had to be the authority figure. My mother began working the night shift to earn additional income. As a result, I became extremely resourceful and had to grow up fast. Once I started preparing myself for the future, I told her that I had to get away from the small town we lived in. I told her to focus all of her attention on my two younger siblings, because I had a plan to get a scholarship. I told her that would be my gift to her, since I knew she couldn’t afford to send me to college.

As promised, I was the first person in my family to graduate from college with the help of a full athletic scholarship. After I graduated, I felt that I had the power to change some things. If nothing else, my college experience showed me what I had the opportunity to be. I saw how to be successful in life, and I realized that a lot of behavior that my mother exhibited wouldn’t make me a successful man. She loved me with all of he heart, but she was habitual about making bad decisions. Her bad decisions were usually just small purchasing habits that put her in binds. She would buy things that we couldn’t afford then borrow money from others to pay it back. Or doing things in her self interest even though her selfishness would hurt others, e.g. charging her mother gas money to take her to dialysis. This type of behavior was such a part of her character that I blocked it out and just saw her as a hustler.

For me, it wasn’t until I made it through college that I saw the big picture and really went through my rite of passage. I knew I needed to hold my mom accountable for the sake of our relationship. My mother was repeating the same cycle of borrowing from others to get out of tight situations. And unfortunately, she had raised her daughter to be the same way. At one point my mother was continuously borrowing money from me to help her out, because she was always in some bind. It got to a point where it was difficult for me to pay my own bills because I was so committed to helping her. She even opened a credit card with a $5k limit. She never intended to tell me about it; but somehow I received a phone call or statement for the card. The issue… she had taken the card out in my name my freshman year of college, and was only paying the minimum amount. The card was almost maxed out. When I confronted her about it, she was sad but insisted that her actions helped me establish good credit. I realized that if I didn’t say something it would never stop, and I may end up resenting her for years to come.

This wasn’t the last time by far that she was guilty of making poor decisions and asking me to help her out of her binds. She told me that I was the strongest of her children, and the reason she continues to ask me is because I always bounce back. But the difference now is that I am married. I realized that I couldn’t continue to help my mom and expect a different result. I told her that I now have a family of my own that I have to be a man for and take care of. That means that I cannot continue to make bad judgment calls, and expect a positive outcome. I told her that God says my wife and I are now one, and I have to protect us from everyone the best way I know how. She cried because I refused to help and she was embarrassed, but she did not argue with me. She knows that I have always been a person that stuck to my word, and I’m going to do exactly what I say I’m going to do. My mother doesn’t always like what I have to say, but she always respects my decision. I know it is better for me to tell her “No” now and have her angry for a little while, than the alternative. The alternative is to tell her “Yes”, then have to avoid her in the future so she won’t be able to disappoint me any further. I’m sure she would much rather be upset with me for a little while than to lose a son forever.

When I think about the relationship between a mother and son, and why it’s so hard as a son to “break away” or “cut the cord” so to speak; I think about the type of investment a single mom has to put in to ensure her child is successful as a person. Most single mothers put in countless hours of love, time, and dedication to make sure their sons are the light of the world. And my mom was no different. That is a big deal, and the type of investment that is hard to let go. It is not something that a mother should have to let go. In a perfect world, a mother will raise her son to be the best man he can be. In return, the son loves the mother and strives to make her proud until he dies.

So how can you break away, or turn your back on the woman who has sacrificed so much for you? It’s never wise to bite the hand that feeds you, but breaking away from your mom is like betraying the only person who cared enough to take interest in you. Not only did she give birth to you, she stood by you so that you could be the best you could be. It becomes extremely difficult to break away, because sons feel like they are not being loyal if they leave their mother abandoned.

Holding a mother accountable holds the same weight because a son is always aware of the amount of time she has invested in him. In the son’s mind, we actually owe our mothers for investing that time. She could have been searching for a better man, or doing something that she wanted to do versus making sure her son was successful.

But once a man goes through their own rite of passage, they realize that a husband’s role is to be Godly, love, and protect his family. I have always respected my mother, and I love her very much. But I realized that I had to hold her accountable as a man, not only to preserve our relationship, but to protect my own family. God tells us that when we find a wife, we are seen as one under his eyes. I love all my family, but my wife and I are one and we come before all others. I try to live by God’s rule.

Mark, Indiana