The attributes of a single parent

Joe Castelli/Web Editor-in-Chief

I find myself stifled by our perceptions of what constitutes gender-based roles of parenting. As a man, I am to be the macho breadwinner and inspire a multitude of characteristics that are supposedly male-oriented. Characteristics such as being physical, functional, sexual, emotionless, intellectual, and a leader are supposed to inspire a child to stand up and be a risk-taker and so forth. What it seems as though women are told in this society is that, to be a woman, they are to be caring, nurturing and motherly, sacrificing, organized, the homemaker, hardworking, constantly concerned with her looks, emotional, and overall less rational.

My argument today is not whether any of the characteristics described are negative or positive, but rather that they are not entirely realistic, and that it is necessary to blur the lines of distinction between masculine and feminine characteristics when it comes to parenting. Specifically, single-parenting requires a plethora of attributes that must be juggled and balanced in order to imbue our children with a well-rounded character.

Multiple perspectives should bring multiple solutions to a challenge. In this case, the challenge is raising a child who can adequately handle the pressures of a constantly changing world. But in the absence of a parent, I have found it necessary to strive to inhabit a number of traits that may be alien to many men. What I am doing is acknowledging that both parents and the qualities each offers to a child are vital, and the absence of one has meant that I have sought to present my daughter with as many cogent, sensible, and complete characteristics as I can offer.

It is not my intention to confuse her, but rather to inspire her to be a total human being. In my opinion, women are not necessarily more nurturing because of a deeper rooted need to nurture due to hormones or major difference in brain wiring. Women are often times the sole provider of cultivation due to circumstance. This may happen through an absentee parent or emotionally absent partner.

The lesson of parenting is not one way. The lesson is both ways in uncovering my ‘feminine’ qualities; I have reawakened a truly nurturing soul while retaining the ingrained masculine identity that has been forged from an early age. I have not lost any of what it means to be man, but rather I am becoming more complete by having a small insight into the nurturing characteristics that we are told women have. The complexities of school, work, parenthood, as well an evolving identity mean that student parents are in a significant class of their own.

In conclusion, a man can be nurturing, gentle, and caring without sacrificing the other qualities of what this society perceives a man to be. Likewise, woman can personify the perceived characteristics of masculinity without losing femininity. What can change is a society that perpetuates gender rigidity in opposition to a much more balanced and natural context.