The Mother Son Relationship – A Bittersweet Pain


The mother son relationship – is there any other bond so painful? I don’t know about daughters – I never had any. But sons? Oh yes – I know about those.

There is an old rhyme:

A daughter is a daughter for all of your life
A son is a son ’til he takes a wife.

Those two simple lines are so loaded they are lethal. And in my experience they are true.

I have two sons in their early thirties. They are both married with young sons of their own. They both live over 2 hours drive away. They both have extremely busy lives.

Each of my sons fell in love with decent, intelligent, beautiful, well-educated girls who are turning out to be brilliant mothers. My boys chose well.

So what is the problem? It has taken me a long time to catch on, but I am now ‘the other woman’. You know the scene – the woman who waits in vague hope of enjoying the company of a man she loves but who is not hers.

Except honey, he was mine first.

You see that little boy on your lap? The one who is cooing and gurgling back at you? The one who makes you feel as if your heart will burst with love? He isn’t yours. Know that. He came through you and he is of you but…he still ain’t yours. You’ll see.

For every mother who has a son, you need to face one thing – one day he will leave you for another. Hard to believe  that when they gaze adoringly into your eyes, nuzzle at your beast and play with your hair as it brushes their velvety cheeks.

No one told me that one day, all that delicious love, that unbreakable mother and baby bond would gradually morph with the passing years into a painful and futile longing for my sons to look my way once in a while. Not just at me but at the rapidly ageing extended family who loved them so much when they were little.

No one told me that girls come along and kidnap boys, taking them home to their families  who will probably benefit far more from the fine young men we raised than we will.

No one told me girls grow into women who steal our babies and keep them so busy, they can hardly find the time for us any more.

If you are still a mum with boys at home, enjoy them all you can because soon they will be gone. And although they may come back, as the years pass and responsibilities grow, their visits will get less and less frequent.

mother son relationships
Leaving Mum Behind

When they do come, you will be expected to provide a clean room with fresh bedding they may use for only one night. And while they are here, don’t make any ridiculous plans for you all to visit elderly relatives who may not be here next time they come.

Don’t set yourself up for disappointment because although your daughter-in-law and her family have your son to themselves all the time, she may well have made plans to use some of your precious, much-anticipated 48 hours, for them to socialise with friends who happen to live in the area.

And if you even try to protest, you will be met with hostility, excuses and a total lack of understanding of their own selfishness.

But that’s ok – one day they will get it. Oh boy will they get it.

The irony is this, the example that is set to the children in how grandparents are treated is  exactly what comes back to haunt their mothers one day. They too will long for their sons when their arms and homes are finally empty.

And before anyone tells me I should count myself lucky that I am not one of those mothers who lost a son – I already know that. My pain may be nothing like the pain of a woman who lost a son forever but it is still a pain and sometimes, it does help to rant. I prefer that to crying.

I have many friends with grown-up sons and they all say the same thing – they lost them when they got married.

The mother son relationship – the most bittersweet bond I have ever known.

19 thoughts on “The Mother Son Relationship – A Bittersweet Pain”

  1. I have 3 bous snd 1 girl. Your fight about ghe girls they stay close. The boys who are now men, lets just say i cry alot, i cant believe they forgot me, i miss them sooo very much.

    1. Hi Sharon, thanks for your comment. Glad for you that you have a daughter to make up for the boys’ lack of attention. I guess that’s just the way it is when they become men. We can only love them from a distance and let them go. Thanks again for stopping by.

  2. I have 3 sons and 2 daughters, all young adults now. Both my girls have stayed close although the youngest one is about to go abroad for a year. My sons are each different though. The eldest one is – as you describe, the middle one worries when he doesn’t hear from me and will ring around his sisters to find out if there’s anything wrong, my youngest son is 22 and living away but we meet up at least once a month. I guess, it’s when their own families come along that the dynamic will change significantly in the way that you describe.

    1. Thank you Fran – appreciate your time in reading and commenting. Yes, it does all change when their own babies come along. It also depends very much on whether they move away. I know if my boys lived in my town things would be complete different. There are so many variables involved and those things could change with time. Having said all that I said in the post, I would not want my life swamped with baby-sitting duties the way I see some women’s lives are! So it isn’t all bad.

    2. Hi Fran, thank you for taking the time to read and comment. Yes, it does all change as life events move on. It’s nice that you have one son who keeps tabs on you! Mine are pretty good on the whole. I think if they lived in my area it would be very different – they could just pop in without having to come and stay. It is that two hour drive that makes more regular contact difficult. By U.S. Standards I guess it’s not much really! Thanks again.

      1. Hi Gilly,
        I’m in the Uk too. If my mum drives 2 hours she expects two nights accommodation before the drive back!
        I love your blog by the way,
        Fran x

        1. Hi Fran, of course – I keep forgetting – you are UK too. One of my only UK blogger friends! I am actually quite happy to do a 2 hour drive and come back the same night but it just seems like a lot of diesel to burn for a fleeting visit. Thanks for your kind comment – I love yours too and it is nice to know another blogger here. Do you find most of your contacts are stateside too? They are so friendly. x

          1. Yes me too – 14 months now. Just popped over to scribbles – great post have left a comment. And yes Oz bloggers are lovely too. x

  3. You have written my story so well. The really sad part is being treated as if I am not good enough for the grandchildren. I can proudly say that I was a GOOD daughter-in-law!. My son is an attorney and he and his wife are very devoted to their church. They just read the scripture differently.

    1. Hello Pam – that is such a shame – especially about the grandchildren. It makes me so sad when I hear about situations like this because grandchildren are so precious. Not being a big part of their lives does hurt. Our children move away for university etc and never come back and then we have to live with the sadness of missing them AND the babies when they come along. Thank you for reading my post and for taking time to comment, it means a lot.

  4. I have one son, and have had to accept being the other woman just as you so aptly describe. It is so hard and I love my daughter-in-law too. But I have to admit, I look at her with her two boys and think, ‘someday you will understand what losing your son feels like.’ I am lucky that they have just moved closer to us and I work on having as much 1:1 as I can with my son, but I will always be the 2nd string player (along with my side of the family). Thanks for expressing what so many mothers of sons experience.

    1. Hello Molly – thanks for stopping by again and for your lovely comments. I don’t feel so alone with this when I hear from other women who know exactly what I am talking about. So pleased your son has moved closer – wish mine would! I love both my daughters-in-law too – lovely girls – just wish I had a bit more time with my boys. Not much to ask really 🙂 Thanks again – appreciate your time.

  5. So much of this is true. I have two adult sons….but I also have two adult daughters. The boys definitely move on but my girls are my best friends. Right now the oldest son is talking about moving halfway across the country with his fiancé because they don’t like living here anymore…

    1. Thank you for reading and commenting Marcia – I appreciate your time. Yes, girls are definitely the preferred brand of human! Although I did leave the UK for 10 years when I was younger, I did come back and my sister and I are still very much in our parents lives at a time when they need us. Hope your son doesn’t go halfway across country to live – the USA is a big place!

  6. I hear you! Only one of my sons is currently in a relationship, and she is lovely. At the moment, we are fortunate in that when they come to see us, they stay with us, and we have their full attention. I know this will likely change as they have their own family.
    I have always known this would happen, but it doesn’t stop it hurting does it?
    Oh, and my boys not only want fresh linen (well, they would get that automatically), but they want home cooking and home baking. Woe betide me if there is no cake or biscuits for them to take home with them.

    1. Thank you for your support in reading and commenting. Much appreciated. It’s all a process that gradually unfolds. I have had lovely relationships with my two daughters-in-law right through all the courtship days, engagements, weddings, family get-togethers etc. However, the crunch really comes when they settle down away from home and then have babies. That is when you really lose them because of time, distance and life commitments. Very hard to let go of our babies! Thanks again for your thoughts.

  7. Gilly your gorgeous!

    I love the way you write so much! I must find the time to read some more of your work. However at the moment I have the son you are writing about and he does gaze at me with love like no other. Nothing lasts forever they say…. but what a joy to have experienced the bitter sweet than not at all.

    Love Tash xxx

    1. Hello my lovely! Thanks Tash – I can’t imagine your little Luca leaving you! Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, it means a lot as I know you are very busy with Luca and the shop. Hopefully I will get down again soon and we can sit outside the Helmstone and gorge ourselves on that amazing food. Love to Mama and thanks again for your lovely comments.x

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