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Don’t marry a man unless you would be proud to have a son exactly like him. I read this phrase and thought it was important to remember. So often, women create a list of things they want in a man, be it long or short, and fail to include this very stipulation. Some say they want a man who is accomplished, good looking, religious, smart, but fail to assess character.

I’m in my late twenties and single. I don’t rush into relationships because I’m keen on what I want in a man, but still, I tire of a question that I’m sure many women in my position can relate to.  “Why aren’t you married yet?”

I’ve met many men from different walks of life, but I’ve been slow to label my relationships.  I’m interested much more in who a man is when the date is over and he returns to his corner of the world, than I am in his resume.  Who is he in those moments when no one is watching? Who is he when his character is tested? I’m interested more in what is driving him than his destination. Years ago, my older sister told me that women are given a power over their children’s lives that we sometimes forget to exercise. We get to choose the father for our children. We get to decide who will be a part of their life, who will influence them, who will essentially raise them. We have the option to choose, and considering the staggering divorce rate, the percentage of single mothers, incarcerated fathers, and number of cases in child support litigation nationwide,  it’s sad that so many don’t choose wisely.

No, I’m not saying that we, as women, should be seeking absolute perfection, but I am saying that we need to remember to place priority on the things that matter to us, because ultimately those things cannot be ignored.  Many women I have talked to want to get married. They’re eager to start the life they have planned for themselves with a husband, two and a half children, and a beautiful home. When it doesn’t happen fast enough, they fear they may end up alone and unhappy. The truth is, we can be married and more alone than we were as single women. In all of that planning, we focus on a new last name instead of a life. It is important to ask the right questions.

In the unfortunate chance that a marriage is broken, will he uphold his responsibility as a role model for his children, or is his willingness to be a father contingent on the success of the marriage? I want my son to grow up loving and respecting women.  I want him to value hard work, and be persistent in those things he desires. I want him to be confident and humble. I want him to love God. I want him to grow up to be a good husband and father, accountable for his family.

These traits are learned over time and so if I have all the power to decide who will be the one to teach him, I want to choose carefully. I’ve heard it said that children learn more by a parent’s actions than by their words. Just imagine the little boy on the stepstool pretending to shave like his father. Or drawing a picture for his grade school crush.  What better way for a father to teach his son than to be the man that he wants him to be. So if we settle for the husband who is not everything we cherish but will do just fine, we’re potentially setting ourselves up for disappointment in our children and, needless to say, a miserable life for ourselves, always wondering if we should have done better.

Herina Ayot is currently working on a novel based loosely on her own life, “The Content of Things Undone.”  She tweets @ReeExperience.

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