It’s an age-old, if stereotypical, question that only a mother could love: “How do I find a nice girl for my son?” It’s also, however, a new one: In an era of Tinder and meet-cutes that mostly take place via screens, how is a concerned mother supposed to help end her son’s bachelorhood with a woman she can approve of? To find out, we played up the trope as best we could, asking a Persian mother, Southern mother, lesbian mother, Jewish mother and single mother for their thoughts — thoughts that went much deeper than the cliche the question has become.
Arezoo, the Persian Mother
As much as I’d like to think that I’ve taught my two sons what it means to be a nice girl, I don’t think I can. Instead, I’ve raised my kids to know their worth and to seek out people who have similar values. Foremost among them is decency and honesty. Before my divorce, I used to think that family was the most important indicator of a good companion. It was for my family. And I understand why it’s so important. But that seems less valid in today’s world because every scenario is susceptible to failure.
Having said that, I’m always on the lookout for potential women to introduce to my boys. I’m 52 years old, and I’m very ready to be a grandmother. Occasionally I’ll inquire about girls that are the same age as my sons whose families I know. Two years ago, I tried setting up my oldest son with the daughter of a friend of mine who came from an amazing family. She was beautiful, kind and smart. I know my son’s type, and she was it. Unfortunately, she lived in New York and we live in L.A., so it didn’t work out.
I do trust their judgment. But again, I want grandkids, so if I have to ask around to help speed up the process of my boys finding someone they can fall in love with, I will.
Wendy, the Southern Mother
The best preparation for being in a healthy, mutually beneficial relationship actually applies to ALL relationships across the board, and I’ve tried to instill these ideals in my 24-year-old son Graham:
- You first need to be comfortable in knowing who you are — flaws and all — as well as be happy with yourself. It takes a long time for a lot of people to become comfortable with themselves, but it makes navigating relationships that much easier.
- Follow the Golden Rule: Treat others the way you’d like to be treated. Further, in any relationship, follow the, “Is it constructive?” rule. It’s a good guideline to apply when you know you need to say something that another person may not like or may be hurtful.
- NEVER stay in any relationship out of fear or obligation.
- It’s okay to leave an unhealthy relationship, but that doesn’t mean not being committed to work on problems in a healthy relationship (because even the healthiest ones have problems). Your gut will help you tell the difference.
- Have decent table manners. Namely, don’t be a noisy eater!
I don’t care if Graham ever gets married, but if he does, my ultimate goal is for him to be a happy, healthy individual — if he has a partner one day (and perhaps children) to share life’s highs and lows with, all the better. That said, I wouldn’t mind having a daughter-in-law and a grandchild (or two) one of these days. Selfishly, the idea of having grandchildren is lovely because my husband (not Graham’s father) and I met too late to have children together, and he’s never had a child of his own. So we both like the thought of having grandchildren one day, but we’re in no hurry.
Jennifer, the Lesbian Mother
We’re two moms of two boys, so we’re missing part of the gender equation in our parenting. My partner was married to a man before. And I only dated men before I met her. We both had issues with men, but now, we’re responsible for raising two men. It’s important to us, however, not to present them with our own stereotypes of men as we raise them.
Our oldest is in middle school, and he’s not interested in anyone romantically. We often ask him, “Is the reason why you don’t hang out with girls because you’re around them at home?” He responds, “No, but yes…” He doesn’t have that male presence at home, so he yearns more for that connection.
There will come a time when someone will break his heart. Without directly telling him about heartbreak, we try to remind him that we’re there for him. He doesn’t tell you what he’s holding inside. So we worry that he will fall hard and get badly hurt.
My partner and I got married after we had kids because at the time we couldn’t get married. We got married to protect ourselves. Our view of marriage is based on that protection. We love each other, but being married was more about protection and validation than the fairy tale of it all.
As for our sons, we want them to decide what they think of marriage. My dad wasn’t married; he thinks “wife” is a derogatory term. Generally speaking, people around me don’t value marriage much. But if it’s about a companion to share your life with, great. And however that manifests, we’re okay with it.
If our sons do get married, the hardest thing will probably be for their partners to earn my wife’s trust. Here’s a good example of why: She and I fundamentally disagreed on how to teach our boys to walk. I was okay with them falling. She, on the other hand, wanted to walk behind them to make sure they never fell. For me, this extends to relationships. I’ve been through lots of shitty ones, but if I hadn’t been, I wouldn’t know all the things I know now.
Lori, the Jewish Mother
In my marriage, we didn’t treat each other with respect and weren’t supportive of each other. After my divorce, my goal was to meet someone who would be a great role model for both my son. Luckily, in the relationship I’m in now — 12 years and counting — he’s able to experience two adults in a loving, supportive and healthy relationship. I want the same for him. And so far, so good — he’s in a wonderfully supportive relationship with a great girl who’s kind and genuine. It doesn’t hurt that she’s also Jewish.
I’ll admit, it would be nice if the girl he ends up marrying is Jewish. But that doesn’t necessarily constitute a good girl. For me, family is everything — especially because my kids (I also have a daughter) and I are very close. So my wish is that my son marries a girl who loves to be with our family.
Shadi, the Single Mother
Sometimes I feel overwhelmed because I can only give my sons the female perspective on how to be in a healthy relationship. It’s sad because every mother wants what’s best for their child, but my kids never had a father who would show up for them. I try my best to help point out good examples they should follow, but it can seem hypocritical when you’ve been in a completely failed relationship. I do, though, explain to them that the way their father treated me is the only way he knew. I’ve also told my sons that anything that bothers you in a person is always going to bother you. You can’t change anybody.
That’s why, for the most part, I don’t give my opinion about their relationships unless they’ve asked for it. I do, however, think a lot about how my experience has corrupted their view of intimacy and romance. One of my sons has a slightly better relationship with his dad. I try to help the other one realize that he needs to also express his anger toward his father and tell his dad how he’s made him feel because I don’t want that pent-up anger to haunt him in future relationships.
Because if he doesn’t deal with it, unconsciously, he’s likely to repeat some of those same mistakes.