February 11, 2013

Raising a Mama's Boy

When I found out we were having a boy, a slew of thoughts ran through my brain. I felt a surge of responsibility. I wasn't just having a baby. I was having a son. A son who would someday get married and have a family of his own. A husband, a father, a leader, a friend, a......mama's boy?

Let's think about this, people.

The Mama's Boy Myth 
What exactly does the term "mama's boy" mean, anyway?

It's usually thrown around with a universally negative connotation to describe men who are "excessively attached" to their moms. The term "Daddy's girl" is used as a sweet observation, but "Mama's boy" is more of an accusation. (Double standard? Methinks yes.)

As a proud boy mom, I'd like to challenge the notion that a close mother-son relationship is a bad thing, and I'm not alone.

I recently read a TIME article by Kate Stone Lombardi, author of "The Mama's Boy Myth." She starts by saying:

"For generations, mothers have gotten the same old message when it comes to raising sons: beware of keeping him “too close.” A mom who nurtures a deep emotional bond will prevent him from growing up to be a strong, independent man. By refusing to cut those apron strings, she is on track to create the archetypal, effeminate, maladjusted “mama’s boy.” There’s one problem with this theory: it’s just not true."

The Mother-Son Relationship
YES, when boys are young, they need their dads. But they need their mamas just as much. They need us to encourage them, to listen, and to ensure they know it's okay to talk about their thoughts and feelings. Their future loved ones will thank us for it.

Telling me slobbery secrets at six months old.
Truly, I view the "boy mom" role as a huge responsibility. I want to raise a young man who will grow up to be a great listener and honest communicator. (Sure, the fact that I have two degrees in Communication raises the stakes of this one.)

Don't get me wrong; it's also a priority for his super-handy daddy to teach him 101 ways to fix a car, how to squash bugs, catch (and release) geckos, and the like, but there's more to a boy than snakes and snails and puppy dog's tails.

I want him to be strong, independent, kind, and fun, and I'll do whatever I can to help him get there.

The Mother-in-Law-in-Training Survey
I want to be a good mother-in-law, not just a good mom.

It's a high probability that my son will get married in his late 20s or 30s. That means that for most of our relationship, he will be married, and I'll be a mother-in-law. I believe that his wife should be the #1 woman in his life (thanks for reminding us, Genesis 2:24), and I wouldn't dream of anything different!

Still, I hope our relationship continues to grow and change once he's grown. I don't want to be what I would call the "mom on the shelf." Go with me on this one:

She only shows up for the holidays, and instead of being real, everyone tiptoes around her on their best behavior. She doesn't change much from year-to-year - just looks a little older and brings back the same old memories. 
Not fun.
Not healthy.
Not authentic.

So. Because I'm slightly nerdy and yes, genuinely that curious, when I was still pregnant, I started dreaming up a mother-in-law-in-training (MiLiT) survey for three special groups:
  1. Moms who are happy with their relationships with their adult sons. I imagine they'll be happy because they talk to them enough, see them enough, and love each other for who they are now - not just who they were in the old days.
  2. Adult sons who are happy with their relationships with their moms. I imagine they'll be happy because they feel loved, supported, and encouraged, but not smothered by their moms. They'll be happy because their wives and moms get along well, and the kids love to visit grandma's house whenever they get the chance.
  3. Daughters- and mothers-in-law who enjoy their own relationship. I imagine they'll enjoy the relationship because they love and respect the man their mothers-in-law raised, and they genuinely enjoy their company. They'll be happy because they can trust their mothers-in-law with the kiddos, and appreciate the healthy boundaries they all respect.
I imagine once I start finding these magical unicorns (kidding...kind of), I will discover that as with all things, the key is balance.

[There's oh-so-much more to be said and explored on this topic, friends. I know you're thinking it.]

Call me, maybe?
So that's that.

Time is moving so quickly. Someday soon this little fella will be out of diapers and into preschool, then high school, and then I'll blink and he'll be bringing my future daughter-in-law to our home for Christmas. (WHAT?!)

I treasure this time for what it is. I value my front-row ticket to the early years. I relish the opportunity to be here for him every single day. I get to be here for just about every bump, bruise, boogie night, and bedtime routine that shapes him into who he's meant to be.

I'm not worried that I can be too close to him. I'm not worried he's too attached now, or that he ever could be. All-too-soon he will be out on his own, living the life he's meant to. Independently.

So for that reason and those that preceded it, I would now like to make a direct appeal to my son: 

You can call me "mother."
You can call me "mama."  
Please just call me on the weekends.

Great Resources for Boy Moms: An Ever-Growing list

What do you think about the mama's boy myth? What makes a mother-son relationship work for a lifetime? Share your favorite boy mom resources here in the comments!

P.S.  This post is not related to my business, which is about helping bright entrepreneurs attract their dream clients, one brilliant message at a time. HOWEV - if you like my writing and want help with your own, sign up for free tips at www.nikkielledgebrown.com!

chalk photo credit: pacres via photopin cc 
elf photo credit: Bernzilla via photopin cc


  1. At the ladies retreat at our church last year, our therapist came to speak. She said something then that will stick with me for the rest of my life. Once your children are grown (she was addressing a woman who was complaining that her son didn't call enough and spend time with her enough, and said son was married with children) whether sons or daughters, you have no choice but to be a blessing in their lives, and if you can't be a blessing, then you don't have a right to get the blessings of being in their lives.

    I want to be a blessing to my children when they are grown, so as to receive those many blessings.

    As far as mama's boys go, I think they're on the upward trend. I teach both my children equally about things like cooking and doing laundry and 'mama' stuff. Odds are these days that neither one of them will marry someone that knows how to do either, and someone in the house needs to... for the sake of their future children. I want my son to know about women- not the stuff the dudes talk about, but matters of the heart, and the matters that matter to them. And if that makes him a Mama's boy, then rock on. Because I have a feeling with his dashing good looks, his amazing moves in the kitchen, and his foresight to know when fold or hold em, he'll have no trouble snagging an amazing bride someday. Someday far, far away ;)

    1. Beautifully put, Heather! Thanks for sharing.

      I totally agree. And need to get busy learning how to cook so that I can teach him to do so one day. I don't think his family can survive off of cheesecake and brownies - my specialties ;)

  2. Great post. I too really want to be a good mother in law someday. It's a very important part of being in my son's life. I want my future DIL to love me as much as I plan to love her.

    I also like the comment your friend above made about being a blessing in our children's lives. I'm tucking that bit away in my mind. :-)

    1. Thanks, Liz! We are in this together, friend :)

      Based on the response over on my Facebook page, this is a juicy topic that hits home for just about everyone. What son doesn't wish his mom and wife got along better? What mom doesn't wish she had a better relationship with her son and daughter-in-law? (What daughter-in-law doesn't wish she had a great relationship with her mother-in-law?!!!)

      I'm not gonna let this idea go. I'm committed. I've got skin in the game. I will keep you posted when I get this survey going - I know that plenty of people are invested in the findings!

  3. You and I could discuss this subject for days. Let's just say, I'm seriously contemplating writing a book entitled, "The Daughter-in-Law Diaries: true stories of adversity, desperation and deliverance." However, for the purpose of your blog, I'll try to keep my comments brief.

    My feelings can summed up like this: Let go, but never stop loving. When you think about what it truly means to love your son, it's important to remember that the definition of love is different between mother to son and son to mother. As a mother, you are required to extend more grace and acceptance towards your child than your child is required to give you. Meaning - regardless of who your son chooses to marry, if he loves her then you need to love her. Unconditionally. No matter what. Period. The end. It is your job to not only insist that your son love his wife more than he loves you, but also to choose her over you at all times, under all circumstances. In spite of your feelings, positive or negative, you must always lead your son back to his wife. (This is unless of course, she is unfaithful, dangerous, etc.) If you truly love and accept her the way Christ loves and accepts you, you can't fail. You will be victorious in your mission to be an excellent mother-in-law!

    I really hope this helps. If you'd like to know more, I'd happy to share my own experience with you.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to comment, MSA608! You are absolutely right - I could talk about it for days. I will talk and think and pray about this for YEARS. (And funny you mentioned writing a book on the topic, because I'm considering that too!)

      I know letting go will be a tough but incredibly important thing to do, which is why I started praying about and for my daughter-in-law before her future husband was even born.

      I am always looking to hear about successful mother-son and mother- and daughter-in-law relationships!

  4. Excellent post! I enjoyed reading the comments from others as well.

  5. Really awesome blog post. i like all the mentioned words and pictures. Thanks for writing such kind of post.