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That unique feeling of being the mother of a boy

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By Emma Grey

Posted on October 17, 2012

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Oh my ... I am so dead gone on this boy it’s ridiculous.

Emma & Sebastian moments after his birth.

I am writing this ten minutes after tucking my toddler into his cot with Iggle Piggle and Teddy and Thomas, after his very first utterance of: ‘Love you, Mamma’.

I’ve been wanting to articulate how I feel about mothering a son for a while, but have never found the right moment until now.

I’m one of two girls. I’m a ‘girl mum’ and ‘girl auntie’ from way back – fourteen years back, to be precise, when I had my first daughter, followed by my second, followed by my sister’s two girls… all of whom I adore in ways that I’ve tried to capture and have written about as if my life depended on it.

We know what to do with girls in our family. (That is until they hit their teenage years – we’re feeling our way in the dark a bit there, but generally it’s been simple, familiar.)

Enter the first boy in the family for generations. When I was pregnant for the last time mothers of boys would say things like ‘boys are special’ and ‘boys are different’ and ‘the bond between mother and son is hard to describe.’

I thought, naively, ‘What are you on with your boys are special/different rhetoric? How special and different could they really be?’

I must admit right now that I never really had a desire for a son. I’d been overjoyed that I’d had a daughter, and given her a sister.

I’m eating my words now. No, not ‘eating’ them, gorging on them, like someone who hasn’t had a meal in days. No desire for a son? Was I mad?

Meanwhile, I ran this article by my teenage daughter and said ‘Is this okay? Do you get how much I love you all, in different ways?’ and she said, ‘Mum, you are so weird. Seriously, It’s fine!’

Having a boy is different. Not better. But it’s the stuff that mother-in-law nightmares are made from. He is MINE and he always will be, in a way that I don’t obsess about with my girls. This is not because I love them any less – instead because I want more for them.

I’ve got it all organised you see. My girls will be blissfully happy in their lives seperate from mine but we’ll all still be getting together to cuddle side-by-side and chick-flicks when I’m eighty.

While I’ll be happy to see my daughters move on into blissful lives with their future partners, the same is not true of my son.

In fact, in my more hideous maternal moments, I have thought: ‘Who IS this girl who will take my boy away from me, decades from now?’ Yes, I have.

Or guy. Maybe a guy will steal his heart? This actually seems less threatening, somehow. For you see, I am the woman in my son’s life.

From the moment my daughters drew their first breaths, I saw a little bit of myself in them. I identified with their strength and femininity. I wanted the very best for them, and wanted to champion them to become independent, strong young women who would stand on their own two feet, hold their own in a boardroom, be sassy, be whatever they wanted.

I identify with my daughters in ways that can’t be replicated in my son. I see much less of me in him. Perched on the upper deck of a Parisian tourist bus last year, I bawled my eyes out about being there, sharing the city with my growing-up girls – just the three of us. It was the highlight of my parenting life and I could fast-forward to their next trip there as young women, independent from me. They make me ache with pride.

But my boy – oh, no – that’s different. He is different. I love how much he adores and depends on me. I love that he clings. He has me on a pedestal and I wouldn’t want him jaunting off to Paris on his own! He needs his mummy! (Or is it the other way around…)

Every rational part of me rebels against how differently I feel about the two genders of my children whom I love equally. As much as I want to raise strong women, I do not want to raise a ‘mummy’s boy’. I despise Mummy’s boys! It’s just that now, I finally appreciate how Mummy’s boys are unintentionally created…

In some cultures, the 12-year-old son is removed from his mother and undertakes ‘initiation into manhood’ rituals. The bond between mother and son is severed, to an extent, for the good of the young man. I hate that! I cry at the thought of it! But I get it.

It’s to protect young men from mothers like me, who have fallen for their baby son in ways that they can barely articulate because it’s different’. It’s ‘special’. It’s ‘hard to describe’.

I have several friends who only have sons and who long for a daughter. I completely understand that desire. They adore their sons, but sometimes I wonder whether they realise how privileged they are.

At our 20-week ultrasound, boy bits were identified and a part of me was crushed. I knew girls. I loved having girls. I had to say goodbye to the concept of my lovely Amelie Isabelle.

My husband, who already had one of both genders from his previous marriage, said ‘This will be good for you – you need a boy.’ At first  I didn’t know what he meant by that.

Until the moment Sebastian was born and snuggled right into my heart like his sisters had before him – a tiny version of the man he would become and I thought, ‘Hello! What is this? This is special. This is different. This is hard to describe…’

What do you think? Is having a boy different? If you have a son can you relate to being the woman in his life?

Why not share this?

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Emma Grey - to view all of Emma's blog post click here

Emma Grey is the author of ‘Wits’ End Before Breakfast! Confessions of a Working Mum’ and blogs at Never a Dull Moment. She is director of the training consultancy, WorkLifeBliss, which offers programs for working mums and their employers. Emma has three children – fourteen, twelve and two – and two older step-children. She is currently writing a vampire-free fiction trilogy for teens.

Website: http://www.worklifebliss.com.au/

  • I don’t have a daughter but I GET this so much. I get teary somedays just thinking about my son all grown up and married with his own life. And yet, that is exactly what I want for him. I think it’s just that I know daughters nearly always rely on their mums, always, especially when they become mothers. Yet boys, they seem to do it on their own. At least that is my experience.

    Like you, I absolutely do not want to create a mummys boy, but be the same breath I can’t imagine letting go. My son is only two, so for now, I’m living in denial!

    I do feel very lucky to have a son though, boys really are wonderful.
    x Laura

  • Aww Emma, I love this post – Like Laura I can SO relate. I had heard from several friends that having a boy was ‘different’ and that a special bond exists between mummy and son. My friend who had a son told me that her 4 year old son looks at her each morning and says ‘You’re so beautiful mummy’. I only have a son so have nothing to compare it to but the feeling and bond I have with my son IS hard to describe. Like Laura I get teary when I think of my son all grown up. I find is strange and terrifying to think that I am the whole world to this little man and at some point won’t be, which is exactly the way it should be.

  • Oh wow! This is sooo true. It is so different. As for the future … well, I’m not even letting myself think that far ahead … yet!!!

  • I have just read this through tears, because you have articulated so well exactly how I feel about my sons. My eldest is my girl, and the relationship I have with her is completely different, not better, not worsen just different to the one I have with my sons. I have two. 14 and 5, and like you, I had absolutely no points of reference in regards to boys. I had a sister, boys were a complete foreign concept. It took me until my eldest son was 18 months old to stop trying to figure out the mystery that is his maleness, and embrace it instead.

    The person who ends up with my 14yo will have to firewalk to pass my approval. Being on the threshold of change, i feel the pull away keenly, and it hurts. He is the kindest, compassionate beautiful soul. My 5 yo, is still all mine at the moment, and not interested in anything beyond his mum. I’ll enjoy it while it lasts, because it goes far too quickly. Blink, and they are in year 11 stressing about assignments, exams, and making big life plans.

    I wish it would slow down… Just a little bit.

  • Oh gosh I don’t have any girls (yet – I think the baby in my belly is a girl) but I totally get this. My son is three and the bond between us is so very very hard to describe – but Emma, I think you’ve done an amazing job!

  • I am a mum of two boys who has never had the desire for a girl as ‘boy’ things interest me more. However I know of some mothers of boys who long for a girl. Recently around 75 of us MOBO (mothers of boys only) gathered for a fundraiser for Family Life. We had about 177 boys amongst us and it was the most poignant of nights. Boys are amazing. Simply amazing. Though of course I’ve yet to reach teenage-land! That’s on its way.

  • I don’t have a girl, just 1 boy, and all I can say is “yes, yes and YES” to all the above. he is mine and the thought I will one day have to share with him another is NOT ok with me!! I often have scenes from Friends “I’m going to love you so much no woman will ever be good enough for you!” Girls stay near their mums, boys become much more independent (and meet and marry girls who want to be near THEIR mums! I know, I stole my husband and brought him all the way to Australia from the US, I don’t blame my MIL for hating me!).

  • It’s so lovely to hear from you all and have my feelings reinforced by your stories too. Once I started writing, the thoughts poured out onto the page, but there were about 20 months before that when I really struggled to articulate just what it was about having a boy that was unique.

    When I imagine Seb all grown up I feel teary too – partly in pride … (Gahh!! I’m teary now!)

    And Kelly – every wish for a wonderful, healthy pregnancy and birth. Either gender’s a winner!! xx

  • I love this post.
    I don’t have any girls…just one beautiful boy…but I sense that girls would be different for all the reasons you articulated.

    The one thing I do sometimes very selfishly mourn is that I will never experience a daughter giving birth and becoming a mother herself.
    I imagine that must be one of the most special moments this world has to offer.

  • What a beautiful post. My husband and I used to laugh that we wouldn’t know what to do with boys (we have four girls). But I must admit I wouldn’t change a thing.
    Your little darling sounds so precious xx

  • Lakshmi Singh

    I completely agree Emma. As a mother of a boy and a girl, I get what you mean! I love both of them to bits, but I think you nailed it when you said “i’m the woman in his life”. Great post!

  • Penny Taylor-Yates

    Em, I’m bawling! Xxx

  • Rebecca

    I LOVE THIS! It couldn’t be worded more perfect. I only have a son but from the first moment I held him, he grabbed my finger, and that is when I fell in ridiculously in love with this special little man. Everyone told me having a boy is so different to a girl and that having a boy was an amazing gift. I never understood how until just over 2 years ago.

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