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Progressive Single Parenting: Lessons from Rom

Rom pushes past the long-established family hierarchy and stands up for what is in the best interest of Nog.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Single parenthood is never a task for the faint of heart. Rarely is it undertaken by choice. This was the case for Rom, a Ferengi man who had to raise his son Nog after his wife chose to leave their marriage once the standard five year marriage contract was up.

Rom lifts up a sweater to Nog's excitement at Quark's Bar in 'Little Green Men'

We first meet Rom and Nog on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine where they gladly follow the Ferengi customs that they were both brought up with when it comes to the role of parent and the role of males in general in Ferengi culture. Rom wholeheartedly accepts that he will play second fiddle to his older brother Quark, because he knows that he does not have the lobes to be a good businessman. Yet when it comes to the raising of his son, Rom pushes past this long-established family hierarchy and stands up for what is in the best interest of his child.

Initially both Rom and Commander Sisko are against their sons becoming friends, but as time wears on, they realize that both Jake and Nog need each other and complement each other's strengths and weaknesses. This friendship opens the door for both the Ferengi father and his son to start growing away from the cultural confines of their shared experiences so far. Through their exposure to positive friendships with other species, they open themselves emotionally to the cultural diversity that Deep Space 9 offers them at every step.

Rom sees the opportunities that Nog will have while attending Keiko’s school, so he continues to stand up for his son, insisting that there is more to life to learn than how to run a business and make a profit. Both Nog and Rom share a talent for mechanics. Slowly Quark sees the value in this as it gives him free access to maintenance of his bar’s equipment, and lets his two relatives pursue this line of interest.

Nog and Rom tinker with equipment at Quark's Bar in 'Heart of Stone'

Nog and Rom's relationship deepens as they work together as both waiters and maintenance staff within Quark's Bar. Through his exposure to machine repair, and through conversations with the Starfleet officers who drift through the bar, Nog decides that traditional Ferengi life is not for him. His true feelings about his father come out while he talks to Commander Sisko about it. Nog’s strong love for Rom, yet his desire to have a better life than his father, propels him forward. Exposure to other cultures through both his experiences in Keiko’s school and his friendship with Jake has opened his eyes to the possibilities that lie beyond finance and profit.

After studying for several months, Nog is ready to write his entrance exams for Starfleet Academy. A good parent shows interest and encouragement in any new activity that their child demonstrates passion in pursuing. By supporting his son emotionally and backing him up against his naysaying uncle, Rom shows great strength of character by being proud that his son will be the first Ferengi to attempt this line of work.

Rom unionizes all the workers at Quark's Bar in 'Bar Association'

After Nog’s departure to Earth, Rom starts to experience empty nest syndrome. Common amongst many parents, this is usually the time in their lives when they sit back and reconsider the use of the time that they formerly devoted to raising their children. Having more time to himself with his son's departure from his immediate life, Rom decides to step up against his brother once more to create a better working environment for the employees at the bar.

With the formation of the Bar Association, Rom further shows that he is seeing the uselessness and impracticality of traditional Ferengi culture. He knows that he is smart, but he lacks confidence in himself. Rom’s intelligence does not lie with business. The Ferengi loves his brother and wishes him no ill, but needs to find his own sense of purpose and tells Quark his intentions of taking on work with the maintenance crew of Deep Space 9.

Rom joins Ben Sisko for breakfast at the Replimat in 'The Ascent'

Rom is finding his place within the community of the maintenance crew and is loving every minute of it. His work, and being around others who enjoy their work just as much as he does, has given Rom the strong foundations of self-confidence that he's been lacking most of his life. Once Nog returns to the space station, he and Jake move in together as roommates while their fathers experience their first pangs of joy and sadness at seeing their sons move out from their childhood homes. Captain Sisko and Rom exchange notes about how their children are adjusting to living on their own and how these two boys, now young men, are still very important influences on each other.

Now that Nog is back on the space station, Rom has more opportunities to work alongside his son. At this point, while the father is very proud of his son’s skills, they respond to each other more as equals than as parent and child. The relationship between adult children and their parents often matures in this way to become more of a deep friendship than that of parent and child.

Nog leads a rescue mission with Rom, Quark, and other Ferengi in 'The Magnificent Ferengi'

Despite Nog’s passion and dedication to his new line of work as a Starfleet cadet and his wider view of interspecies acceptance, his innate Ferengi heritage is never that far from the surface. When offered a prestigious title and the responsibility of leadership, Nog’s innate Ferengi greed gets the better of him and he reflexively agrees to go along on a mission to rescue his grandmother. Training his father, uncle, and a few other Ferengi in preparation for this rescue attempt only strengthens Rom's admiration and love for his son.

Rom, now married to the Bajoran Leeta, still misses spending time with his son. Their work does not often let them work together as much as it used to. To this end, he looks to create reasons to spend time together. An opportunity to spend quality time with each other appears when they are recruited to the Niners baseball team. When Rom is kicked off the team, Nog is incensed and wishes to show his loyalty to his father by quitting the team. Rom insists that his son continue to play and that he will get just as much satisfaction from watching his son defeat the Vulcan team as he would from playing out in the field. This is a very touching parental sentiment where even being on the sidelines watching his child participate in an activity is a very important gesture of emotional support.

Rom cheers Nog and the Niners on from the baseball stands in 'Take Me Out to the Holosuite'

After Nog’s injury during the Siege of AR–558, this experience left the young Ferengi feeling less of a person, and inadequate in his work as a Starfleet officer. While his father desperately wants to be there to comfort him, Nog needs to figure this out on his own. Being an understanding parent, Rom gives his son the space and time that he needs to recover his emotional and physical balance. Once Nog is ready, Rom is there with open arms to give the support and love that he has always given his child.

Deep Space 9
Leeta and Rom embrace Nog in a hug at Quark's Bar

Being a single parent is challenging at the best of times. Carrying it off while having a meddling brother constantly over your shoulder, and doing so during war time, is all that much more difficult. Rom pulled this off admirably, while also finding his own sense of purpose once his role as a parent was not needed as often. Star Trek offers a variety of parental role models through various characters; the relationship between Rom and Nog is just one example of how a parent and child can reach beyond their cultural norms to find a more meaningful life together.

This article was originally published on March 19, 2021.