Unsex Mothering Responses: Beth Jones


Un-Sexing Single Mother Parenting of Boys

A Response to Darren Rosenblum’s Unsex Mothering: Toward a Culture of New Parenting

Beth Jones

Rosenblum’s article, Unsex Mothering,[1] applies in some ways to every different type of parenting.  As a single mother of twin eleven-year-old boys, I personally relate most to the portions regarding single parents and non-traditional parenting.  When I was not a single parent, I was married to my children’s father while my mother also lived with us.  I feel incredibly lucky to have had my mother be a stand-in parent rather than simply a grandparent.  When I was learning to do everything necessary for my children, she was there with her experience and insight whenever I needed it.  I can’t count the ways my mother helped me, from day-to-day chores to advice and emotional support.  To her credit, my mother never tried to force me to parent “her” way, and my children quickly learned what behavioral differences were expected with each of us. 

Primarily, I have been a single parent.  I became one when my children were just under one-year-old.  Being the youngest of four girls, I had no experience with children, especially boys.  I have frequently been described as an over-analyzer, and there were many topics Rosenblum discussed that I also contemplated while planning my parenting style.  I was raised almost exclusively by a single mother, and while my children’s father has joint custody, it has always been important to me that my children feel entirely complete and balanced when with me.  I decided very early to play what I considered both the “mother” and “father” roles.  While I thought of it not as “unsexing” but more as “both-parenting,” I think it equates to something similar. 

Living in Oklahoma, there is no shortage of societal norms that are expected to be followed.  While I disagree with many of them, I use these biased ideas—girls and boys only behaving the way their sex dictates, Christianity being the only widely accepted religion—to help my children not only learn to coexist with all types of people, but to show them that while people may be closed-minded and sometimes hurtful, it doesn’t mean those same people don’t care deeply for others or aren’t trying to live how they feel is best for them.  As a parent, I think that teaching children equality shouldn’t include references to sex or gender unless the situation has already included it in the issue.  For example, I would not tell my sons that they could not have something because it was intended for girls, but if a classmate picks on them for liking pink or doing something considered feminine, we discuss the likely background of that statement, why it shouldn’t affect my sons’ interests or opinions, and how to address the situation in the future, if necessary.  I try to remove the emotion from these issues when feelings and self-respect might be hurt and help my children analyze the situation objectively, recognizing that the offending child’s own home life and parental influence led them in that direction.  As a result, they have learned to stand up for themselves without being unnecessarily hurtful to the offending child. 

I also agree with Rosenblum’s assessment that, “children may benefit from new people engaging in childcare while they maintain their connection to adults who are former partners of a parent.”[2]  While a parent may dissolve her personal relationships at any time, her decision doesn’t have to dictate when a child should terminate a relationship with that person.  Many parents don’t consider the impact another person or family will have on their children, or that their feelings are just as invested in this new person as the parent’s—especially if those people mysteriously disappear one day.  My children maintain friendships with someone now with whom I haven’t had a relationship in over six years.  They enjoy spending time with him on occasion, and they feel secure in knowing that their relationship with him can continue without my involvement.  My hope is that by helping my children see the personality behind each person rather than relying on superficial labels, they will naturally look into a person’s character as they mature.  I won’t call it the end result, as my children are only half grown, but the current result is that my children are comfortable with all ages and types of people, can converse with adults or with children on respectively different levels, and know when to show appropriate respect and how to stand up for themselves without pushing their beliefs on others.  If they should choose to become parents later in life, I would not be surprised if they practice unsexed parenting themselves rather than traditional father roles.

[1] Darren Rosenblum, Unsex Mothering: Toward a New Culture of Parenting, 35 Harv. J.L. & Gender 57 (2012).


[2] Id. at 86.



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