I can tell that (like many of my posts) this one is going to be TLDR, and will take a while to get to the point, so please ignore if you’re so inclined. What I report is purely anecdotal and may not reflect what you see in your immediate surroundings.
I live in a “nice” suburban neighborhood, which interestingly, is heavily populated with single moms. When we first moved into the neighborhood, this meant twenty-something moms with 7-year-old boys who occasionally annoyed the neighborhood by throwing toys on roofs and breaking tree branches. They later evolved into 14-year-olds who kept the neighbors awake by riding their motorized scooters late at night. Now they are 20-something young men who by day, congregate in a group of about a dozen to tinker with cars and drink beer, and by night, hot-rod through the streets, leaving donuts and skid marks on every street corner. To my knowledge, they don’t go to school (much) or have jobs that take up significant parts of their days. I don’t think they are criminals – they simply seem to have too much time on their hands. Where are the twenty-something women? They have moved on – law school, an out-of-state internship, a couple at University, and a next-generation working single mom who moved to a “more affordable” neighborhood. The now forty-something moms speak proudly of their daughters’ accomplishments, but I don’t hear similar proclamations about the sons, who clearly are still at home and, I’m sorry to say, don’t treat their mothers very respectfully.
Why have the young women (largely) successfully launched and the young men fallen through the cracks? I believe that the girls looked to the example of their mothers who through hard work, were able to carve out pretty decent lives for themselves. What did the boys see? That men are absent and unneeded. I know that there are plenty of sons of single moms who successfully transition to a productive, self-supporting adult life, but unfortunately, they don’t live in my neighborhood.
Mercifully, my son got to see a better model than that. My husband is a great dad who works hard and is deeply involved our kids’ lives. During my son’s early adolescence, he and I had serious conflicts that only my husband was able to resolve. There were times that I felt my husband was too lenient – he permitted vocabulary and video games that sent me nearly ballistic, but he held fast in those few instances when it really counted, and in time, his strategy paid off – concede small battles to win the war. Now my son is a great guy who treats me respectfully, whom I am pleased to call a friend, as well as a son. This I attribute to the intervention of his dad.
When I see girls succeed in robotics, I receive vicarious pleasure in their accomplishments as an extension of how far women have come. But when I see guys succeed, I also receive vicarious pleasure, perhaps as a mom by proxy. I am so glad that you have chosen to work toward something meaningful, rather than tearing up your (or my) neighborhood.
To all of you dads and surrogate dads out there (and especially to my kids’ dad), thanks for the countless things you do that mean more than you know. Give your kids a hug today.