The Inevitable Heartbreak of Mothering Boys

photo-4“I just turned 40, if I’m going to do this again I have to do it soon!” my friend, a first-time mom said about gearing up for a second pregnancy while nursing her 4-month-old son.

“I know what you mean,” I quipped, “I’m not far behind you.”

“Would you want a girl?” she asked. “I do. You know what they say about boys: they leave.”

Enter my greatest fear.

If you ever stopped to wonder why mother-in-laws get such a bad rap, it has everything to do with the universal MOB (Mom of Boy) fear that suggests every boy grows to be a man who loves a partner who clings to their family at the exclusivity of the poor mother-in-law. You know, the poor woman who gave her whole heart to said boy who only gets to see him but once or twice a year … if she’s lucky.

If the way it plays out sounds wildly dramatic, that’s only because it so often is.

Like most mothers of sons, I’m working hard to raise young men worthy of exceptional partners, for it was Ralph Waldo Emerson who said, “Men are what their mothers made them.” That said, preparing my sons to attract wonderful mates with whom they’ll experience romantic and companionate love serves as both my greatest hope and biggest heartbreak.

“Having a son will break your heart time a million times over” a 60-something friend recently told me. As the mother of three grown sons, she’s nursed a broken heart for ages brought about by boys who only venture home between romantic relationships. The short space between break-ups and make-ups and the longer spans between divorces and new relationships seem to be the only time her boys are around long enough to love her the way she needs it most. It’s no wonder so many of us turn a little nutty, eh?

Talking at length with my fellow mothers of sons, it seems as though many of us feel resigned to take on the role of “that mom” — the overbearing, clingy kind who guilts her sons into giving them the time and attention they deserve. If our hearts are to believe Sophocles who famously said, “Sons are the anchors of a mother’s life,” where does this truth leave a mother of grown sons?

While I’m presently too busy raising boys to keep my inevitable heartbreak at bay, the best I can do is cherish the time I have left, revel in my role as queen of their young hearts, and remind myself that the bitter can only be tempered by the sweet.

What are your thoughts about mothering boys?

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