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Single moms and their sons

January 2008
By: Stephanie Davenport

Over the years, we've learned about how a boy can be affected by not having a father around. We've discovered that he can be hurt in a number of areas by not having a masculine role model in his life. His sexuality, school performance, and life decisions all seem to suffer because of his father's absence. Despite all of the awareness surrounding fatherless children, there is one consequence that we have not heard discussed at length. What happens when sons do not observe their fathers providing financially for their families?

A father living according to God's design carries the burden of providing financially for his family. Although the mother may also work outside of the home, the responsibility that women feel to provide does not compare to the internal turmoil that men experience during hard financial times. Men are held accountable in Scripture, such as stated in 2 Thessalonians 3:10, "If a man will not work, he shall not eat." Providing for a family is no easy task. Godly fathers exhibit a silent strength to their families through their earthly work and through their own reliance on God's provision. That becomes an awesome demonstration of God's love and strength to their families. 

Unfortunately, men who grow up without a father often struggle with the responsibility God has given them to provide for their families, and they commonly battle with idleness. They don't know what their own role and duties entail because it was never modeled to them in their homes. Instead of seeing their fathers go to work every morning, they saw their mothers work. Mom would work during the day, and sometimes during the night at a second job, and still barely make ends meet. When times were tough, they saw their mothers—not their fathers—pray and work.

These men usually leave home with a great amount of respect and admiration for their mothers' strength. So much so that they find themselves drawn to romantic relationships with single moms. They see the same strength and familiarity of their own family unit in single mothers and are naturally attracted to them. This type of attraction is often mutual. Single moms are also drawn to men raised without a father, because these guys tend to understand the situation and can easily relate to the children. 

It sounds like a match made in heaven. However, as time goes on, the relationships often become problematic. These couples marry with entirely different expectations. The single mothers look forward to not having to do it all on their own any more. They may expect that their new husbands will step up and be the primary breadwinners in their families, and they long for that feeling of being safe and taken care of. To increase the friction, this group of men has never lived in a healthy nuclear family, so they aren't usually aware of the amount of responsibility they're taking on. In fact, many of them enter into the relationship assuming that they will be taken care of by their new helpmate. 

At the CPC where I'm on staff, we place a great deal of emphasis not only on saving the unborn, but also on life change in our clients. Sometimes to encourage life change, we have to help our clients recognize their relationship patterns. We see many single mothers who enter into relationships with men who were raised without a father. This can mean disaster and greater difficulty for the single mothers and their children. The men are usually in a cyclic lifestyle pattern—seeking the familiarity of their own family origin. Once they're settled into the new home and relationship, they often will shirk their responsibilities and begin a pattern of job changes or stop working altogether. I've been involved with cases where they expect the mother to continue working two jobs so that they won't have to work at all. Although it's not always admitted, they typically have a lot of anxiety about the responsibility of providing, and their solution is simply to avoid it. 

Conversely, another group of previously single mothers may struggle to fully rely on their husbands because they've always had to do it themselves. Internally, they feel like they need to hang on to their own savings or have a back-up plan in case the husband fails to provide. This is not a healthy view, either. God wants women to trust Him to provide primarily through their husbands.

Within a Christian married couple, either of these situations can be overcome. Spouses can learn their roles from Bible study, prayer, and spending time with other Christian families in small group settings. In my own personal experience, God has amazingly orchestrated a natural transition of the familial roles. I had been a single mother for several years before I remarried. I fell into the category that has difficulty relying on others for provision. For me, it meant leaving a financially rewarding career and going into a ministry where I don't make enough money to support our family any more. Although it's been challenging to rely completely on God to provide through my husband, I'm comforted to know that God's hand is aligning us according to His design and plan. My husband has been equally challenged with making up my salary with his remodeling business. We have both had to surrender our own lives and desires, but through our submission to God, we're experiencing genuine restoration.


As we instruct our clients in transforming their behavior, it's helpful if we can train them to recognize red flags in their current and future relationships. When I struggled with these issues, a friend gave me a tool to use. She instructed me to write a list of everything my past and current relationships and partners had in common. When you help your clients to compile this list, they may be amazed at the similarities. It will train them to recognize harmful behavior patterns. When they are able to see these red flags waving in the future, they will be able to avoid the potential danger these partners would present.

A list might look something like this:

1. Several of my past partners have had suspended drivers licenses due to DUI arrests

2. Many have had a problem with alcohol

3. They have all had difficulty retaining employment

Stephanie Davenport is Development Director of Living Alternatives in Champaign, Illinois.

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