Mothers and Sons

I grew up among brothers, and then birthed only sons.  And while I loved raising boys, it is impossible not to notice that a house full of men is a world unto itself.

Being a mother of sons means that:

You get a glimpse of what the man you made babies with must have looked like before you met him.

You discover that ESPN truly is a 24/7 channel.

You are straightening the house for yourself, and while others in your family may help, they are humoring you.

You may watch your sons engage in violence that sets your teeth on edge. Their dad calls it hockey, football or wrestling. Mothers of sons call it a chance to get hurt.

Mothers and Sons: Life With Only Boys

You mediate and referee fights so vicious that blood may be drawn.  And while their bodies may be hurt, their feelings won’t be and they will be back fighting and playing moments later. At first this baffles you.

You will have the opportunity to explain periods to someone who won’t look you in the eye as you speak and doesn’t want to know.

If you want company for a manicure, you will need to find a friend. Ditto shopping.

You do not go shopping on a family vacation unless you go alone.

You will never shop for a prom dress or a bride’s wedding dress and you will discover that a tux takes 20 minutes to rent. Momentarily this will seem like a let down, and then you will realize that you have saved weeks of your life.

You will need a man to give some instruction, at times, on shaving, tying a tie and the importance of respecting women.  The first two can be demonstrated in an afternoon, the last needs to be modeled over a lifetime.

At some point one male in your house will put forth the argument that there are more people in the house who want the toilet seat up than want it down.  Resist this argument.

You will not need to guess, surmise or analyze what your children are really trying to say. Sons say what they mean.

You never have to share your clothes and no one in your home will confuse your lingerie with anything that belongs to them.

You may meet a girlfriend or a fiancée who later becomes a daughter-in-law. You must not speak one ill word about this woman, because any woman can remember for decades, a single sour word from her mother-in-law. Such is the life of mothers of sons.

You will find that many of your emotions are transmitted in a foreign language and that no one in your house can translate or understand.  But because they love you, they will remain polite or, if overwhelmed, retreat.

Friends and family may offer you sympathy, suggesting that life is not really complete without that unique mother-daughter bond. You smile and try not to be rude, knowing that life with sons could not be better.




  1. Emily says

    Lisa, wow, what timing on our posts! Did you see my huff post piece on this topic?? I too wrote about the missing mother-daughter bond and how I’ve realized I can have that same bond with my sons…you and I not only share similarities with our families, but we also share the bond of cherishing our life as a mom to 3 boys…loved this and going to share it now!!

    • Emily says

      I did not mean to use the word “bond” three times in that comment! I also meant to say that great minds think alike since we posted on the same topic! :)

  2. Kamander says

    So many unfortunate stereotypes here. I’m sorry.

  3. says

    LOL! SO true! As the only girl among three brothers and the mother of an only boy, I loved hearing your post today! Thought you might enjoy my take on living with all boys in my “Here’s why girls are better than boys” post.

  4. says

    I adopted my daughter when my sons were in middle school. It is truly a different world. It is not a better world. It is just different.

    I do disagree about boys saying what they mean. Some do; some don’t. Some say so very little that you spend a lot of time guessing. Some say so much that you have to discern for yourself which bits were the important ones. Some say what they think you want to hear.

    • says

      You are so right about boys being different. My boys are different from each other, but there are some threads that run through life with many boys and I tried to capture some of that here. Thanks for your comment.

  5. Jennifer Comet Wagner says

    This is one of the best blog posts I have ever read. I don’t think that I ever related so much to something I have read. With a brother and two sons I have spent my life living with males. Before I had kids I always thought that I had to have a daughter. I later realized that I was meant to have only sons.

    I would add to your list that toilet seats and rims need to be cleaned much more often with sons in the house.

    • says

      So kind Jennifer, so kind. Yes well if it got into the mess, the dirt, the laundry….a whole new post! I too was meant to be a mom of sons, love it.

  6. says

    Hah! They may be “stereotypes,” but they are TRUE! As I said to Emily, I just put a similar article in drafts for a future issue. Now I think we should run them all together!!

  7. says

    Perfectly timed, as my son is home for spring break this week! Everything you say is true, but I bet whatever lucky girl has you as a mother-in-law, she will want you to join her on her hunt for a wedding dress.

    I never could understand the need for my husband and my son to beat each other up at random moments…

  8. says

    Yesterday I was using the bathroom in Baby Gap (I always get weepy walking through that part of the store.) I saw a young mom with her baby girl on the changing table, and her 2 year old daughter holding tight to her leg. I got more weepy. I, too, grew up with two older brothers, and I have one son. I not only yearn for more children (my store is closed) but I always wanted a daughter. Your post reminds me of all of the reasons I love my son so dearly, why I was meant to have him in my life, and why I am a blessed mom many times over. Thank you, Lisa. You have no idea how much I am indebted to you. I feel my own post (down the road) coming on. Kleenex time…

    • says

      Cathy, I just spent the last three days with my baby niece and I cannot tell you how much having that gorgeous girl in my arms brought it all back…

  9. Carpool Goddess says

    Wonderful post! I have great memories of being the little sister to a brother and a sister. Having a brother around created an interesting dynamic. I have one of each now, and sometimes think that same sex children create a closer bond. Two of my friends who came from, and had all girl or all boy families, had grandchildren in the opposite sex. It’s been fun to watch.

    • says

      Such a mystery on how siblings bond…gender, age, similar personalities, proximity, shared experience….any and all of the above?

  10. says

    SO true! So true! I am the only girl among four boys and the mother of an only boy. Boys are different! I love ’em but they really are determined to kill themselves half the time. :-)

  11. says

    I am cheering you on Lisa and am totally in agreement. Of course you’re preaching to the choir when you’re talking to moms of sons (like moi). Kinda done with “it’s so much better with girls and don’t you wish you had girls”.
    I feel so so lucky to have my boys — easy – loving – and steady,

    Love the humor and honesty -.

    • says

      I have read so many articles about the lengths women will go to to have daughters, I just thought I had to weigh in with how much we love being moms to sons.

  12. says

    I dont think this was stereotypical, Lisa, I think you were just relaying your experiences with your own boys. Growing up with 3 sisters and only having sons I got a deal I can handle. Girls scare me! Very good advice about the future daughter-in-law :) Not looking forward to that inevitable toilet seat debate…

  13. Risa says

    Enjoyed this post!
    My sons never really fought–due to a 5 1/2 year age gap and their natures. But they have a unique way of communicating, and boy, can they make me laugh! I knew my younger son had reached adulthood when he took me to a shoe store in his college town. He came in with me, and when I looked at him like “who are you and what have you done with my son?” he just said, “Hey, I’m not 13 anymore. I can come into a shoe store with my mom.” I have a special relationship with my daughter, but with the boys…it was a constant source of wonder as they grew to be men.

    • says

      It is such a revelation, those moments when we realize how much they have grown and how little of the child is left. Love your story, those really are the moments that stick with us, aren’t they?

  14. Anonymous says

    Funny timing for me, too, but for different reasons that some of your other commenters.
    I have a daughter (my first born!) and two sons, all grown. I miss my boys sharply and painfully every single day, but I miss my girl much less. This is in part because (no kidding) we work in the very same building, and can lay eyes on each other every couple of days.
    But I think its mostly because my girl and I are so close; we will always be in each other’s lives, just as my Mom and I are always in each other’s thoughts/hearts/memories.
    My boys, though, are a different species entirely, and miss having them beside me, where I can try to decode all the fights and grunts and sports watching……!

    • says

      Working in the same building, you are one lucky mom. Boys do require some decoding, even after 21 years, and many more with my brothers, still learning the language.

  15. says

    A friend, pregnant for the first time, recently found out she was having a boy, and both she and her mother cried they were so disappointed. I wanted to shake them both! I have two girls and a boy, and they are all fun and interesting and adorable. And having a son is different, but not in any way that is bad. All my kids love me, but my son LOOOOOVES me and some days it’s like having a tiny boyfriend tag along. I know my friend will come around the minute she lays eyes on her new son when he arrives and someday wonder how she ever could have shed a tear over such a thing. Boys are fun.

    • says

      I cannot tell you how many people said something to me as I had one boy after another. I really felt like looking back at them and saying….are you kidding! Thanks so so much for sharing this here!

  16. says

    I loved this post! It was such a call back to the days of living with 3 brothers (despite the fact I also have 5 sisters), and a fabulous contrast to my life raising 2 girls. Off to share with my girlfriend that has only boys…

  17. says

    I grew up in West Texas with a pack of dingos as friends (all boys). I married, then had a son. I love my guys. LOVE THEM. Nice post.

  18. says

    Shhhhh…… do not tell my girls that my son is my favorite! Wait, they know this! :>) I agree with my Mother that sons go the extra mile when they leave the nest! Nice post, thanks!

  19. says

    beautiful post, insightful as always. i have one of each and come from a family that has 3 of each. as a single mom, the shaving lesson was difficult and i was the worlds worst driving instructor but one night my son called me and said “mom i was sitting at the bar, talking to this girl, and i knew i could go home with her and have a one night stand. but i heard your voice and all the things you said to me over the years and i couldn’t do it. right now i hate you and love you in equal measure.” i laughed but honestly it was one of those few moments when i gave myself a little pat on the back.

    • says

      Big pat on the back for both being a strong single mom and for teaching your son your values. Love your Freshman Year piece.

  20. says

    I was fortunate to have had 2 daughters and 2 sons (or crazy) but I totally agree with your assessment – sons have a richness and a bond with their mothers so special, so unique and so priceless. They’re a different breed, absolutely – but totally fulfilling! What a great post.

    • says

      Thank you. I am sure that daughters are truly wonderful. You would just be surprised at how many people feel sorry for you when you don’t have one, even with a house of wonderful boys!

  21. says

    Aww, I love this and love the relationship I have with my son, which is so different (but just as good), as the one with my daughter. Yes, sons are great and to be cherished!

  22. says

    Love this! I went back and forth between being so sad I never had sons (especially regarding the fighting yet no feelings were hurt and they played soon after) and being so thankful I had daughters (wedding dress shopping … and knowing I’d really kind of suck at approving of a wife for a son). Wonderful things about both genders, I’m sure. Blessings one and all. (Plus, there’s the opportunity to see things from the other side once you become a grandma. I have only grandsons, no granddaughters. Interesting little fellas, those boys.)

    As always, a great post.

    • says

      Blessings one and all is right. And grandkids, as a do over if you missed one gender the first time around!

  23. says

    This touched my heart and reminded me of my years raising my boys. Thanks you for this. It sparked the memories of the tenderness mothers and sons have that most don’t understand.

  24. says

    Love your post! I raised two girls and two boys. The girls are older, and the boys are the younger ones. During the crazy days of getting everyone to the right place at the right time I never really reflected too much on their differences. Now however, I notice it all the time, and the boys love to point out when their sisters are being “drama queens”!

  25. says

    Beautiful post. I am the mother of a daughter and a son, so I will experience a lot in my time. I’m nervous and excited about it all. A little petrified too..

    • says

      The biggest aid to any fear I felt (or feel) as a mom, has been my friends who are one step ahead of me on this journey. They have acted as a beacon lighting the way. I wish you friends like that.

  26. Lisa Newlin says

    I definitely don’t want to know what my husband looked like when he was younger. In pretty sure it would ensure we never have sex again. He was VERY awkward.

    At least with boys you don’t have to listen to gossip about what someone wore to the party and who kissed who. Wait, that sounds kind of fun. :-)

    • says

      A bit of gossip might have been nice, but that is what we have girlfriends for! Hmmmm about the husband, maybe it would make you appreciate him eve more?

  27. Nareen Rivas says

    I so relished this post especially because I’m having another boy and as my husband says,I’m outnumbered but I couldn’t be happier. Thanks for writing all the things I should expect in an all boy household although I’m not too thrilled about ESPN 24/7!

    • says

      SO happy for you, truly. Can you post comments in such a way that readers can see links to your AMAZING photos??

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  29. Marlen says

    I have both a boy and a girl. The boy is the oldest and the girl is the youngest. My boy is a special type of person. He could be perfect in brief moments and then can be distant for long periods of time. I totally love his personality and he is probably one of the most social bug I have ever met. But, he can also be very private and not let you in to his world. My daughter well she is a the most special human being you can ever meet. She is warm, compassionate, smart, funny , pretty , a good friend, she is always there like an open book and just pure happiness. I have had my issues with her and I stress the word “I” and only “I” because of my lack of ,,, alot of things. You see my daughter is gay and it has been and still is a hard thing to accept but with all the triaghts I mentioned it will be okay. So yes, boys are special and girls are wonderful but if I want to be totally honest , girls for me, are better.

  30. says

    I love the bit about house cleaning. I need to remember that! And the mother in law/daughter in law part. Oh man, do I need to remember that–because although mine are teens now, things move fast in this mothering world!


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