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Mother and Son - what is the secret?

(71 Posts)
koalabear Mon 11-Jul-05 09:14:28

I am not sure if this topic has been done before - I couldn't find it in the archives.

I have a 15 month old son, and on the quest to try and do the best I can, have been observing womens' relationships with their adult sons. It seems to me that, in the extended circle of my family and friends, not many adult men have a good relationship with their mother .... not many men "respect" their mothers .... it seems to me that they "tolerate" them. In my own little world of research when I asked men about this, some answers indicated that this is sometimes due to being closeted as a child and not allowed freedom to grow into a man, or because the son felt like he was controlled and manipulated.

Horrified at the prospect of being "tolerated" by my son for the rest of his life, or worse, resented even, but still wanting to provide boundaries and guidelines, I wonder if anyone has either observed a good relationship between mother and son, or indeed have a good relationship between mother and son, and if so, what do you think is the basis for that good relationship?

NotQuiteCockney Mon 11-Jul-05 09:35:02

DH doesn't have a good relationship with his mum, and I haven't really got any brothers, so I'm working from guesswork and other readings here ... but ...

I think with all children, one of our most important jobs is to forget. We have to forget that they were once useless vomiting houseplant type creatures, and see them as adults. I think a lot of mum/son relationships are broken because the mother doesn't realise her son is now an adult, and treats him like a blithering idiot. (or maybe just my MIL does?)

KiwiKate Mon 11-Jul-05 09:35:18

Hi KoalaBear. Interesting topic. I have a 2.2yo DS. So find this interesting.

I don't have any scientific info, but from observation, I agree that mothers who are overprotective do not have good relationships with adult sons. This does not mean you don't have to have any boundaries. I think it is more about allowing boys to be independant in appropriate ways (not stiffling them and not trying to make all their decisions for them) - enabling them to figure out things for themselves (as appropriate of course, and not providing no guidance).

Also, if you are able to build up good lines of communication about inconsequential things then they are more likely to talk to you about important things.

Also, if you are able to find an activity that just the two of you do together then you will ensure that you have special time with him.

Also, you can get the book "Raising Boys" by Steve Biddulph (available on www.amazon.com). This has specific techniques on raising boys to enable them to fulfil their full potential. I've not read it personally, but it has received rave reviews here (and friends of mine swear by it). Stands to reason if we can enable our boys to reach their full potential they might be more likely to have a good relationship with us.

koalabear Mon 11-Jul-05 09:39:22

yes, my husband and I have read the raising boys book and it is very good - perhaps i should read again, because it seemed to be more about the father's relationship with his son than the mother's relationship - but then again, maybe that's the answer in itself in that perhaps as a mother i shouldn't be the dominant relationship in my son's life, but rather, allow him to have a good and honest and strong relationship with his father also

Janh Mon 11-Jul-05 09:40:59

I don't think it has been done before, kb - well done! We've had threads about our own relationships with our parents/inlaws but not this specifically.

My DS1 is nearly 17 now and we have a pretty good relationship on the whole - he is going through a stage where he can be very arrogant and rude but he's like it with DH too. When he's not that way out we have really good talks about all sorts of things - he is doing Politics and History at A level and is very interested in current affairs, and he will also tell me bits about his friends and his social life, although of course he is not as open and chatty as his sisters. My relationship with my DDs is far better than mine was with my mother, but then she grew up in the 30s and 40s and had to leave school at 14 - I grew up in the 60s so my teenage activities were not that different from theirs.

I wonder whether the relationships you've observed derive from the man's father's attitude to the mother/women in general? After all it's only 30 years (?) since women's lib really got started, before that the Little Woman's place was in the home with a duster, even if she had a paid job, and it's taken time for the alternative to trickle down. (I was looking at a school Sociology book the other day and one of the sections had quotes from male factory workers, in the 60s going by the women's hairdos, and the men's attitude was "they're only working because they're bored at home, they should clear off and leave it to us" ) I think if a boy's parents have an equal partnership at home he will be more inclined to view women as rational beings.

What I'm trying to say, in a roundabout way, is that I think it's mostly a generational/attitude/education thing, although there will always be clingy mummies and resentful sons.

Furball Mon 11-Jul-05 09:42:26

There's a saying

A sons a son until he has a wife
A daughters a daughter for the rest of your life.

Which having a ds am hoping am can prove wrong, so am also interested in any 'pointers'

Monkeysmom Mon 11-Jul-05 09:43:47

I also have a 15 mo and asked myself the same questions. I have bought a book called “ Raising boys” but it focuses more on father-son relationship.
I will follow this thread with interest, hopefully will be some good advice.
My DH also tolerates his mother. She is though a very difficult person. On the other hand, my brother gets on very well with our mum. She is very open minded and un-judjemental. However, she never had to discipline my brother. He was a very good child and teenager and she never had any problems with him. I was always the rebellious one and she handled that extremely well.

Marina Mon 11-Jul-05 09:45:08

koala, have you read this extremely interesting book ?
I think I have the makings of a very good relationship with ds. I try to respect his privacy (he's six and still ferreting about cheerfully in his pants at the slightest opportunity), explain to him what makes people tick and how to be friendly and sociable, promote his dad as a good role model (even if I secretly want to deck dh for some minor husbandly misdemeanour ) and try VERY hard to never say in his hearing, any tempting generalisations about the uselessness of the male in the domestic and relationship front.
I am aiming for ds to feel that being a boy is not second best in society or at school, that being a boy is not an excuse to be clueless about emotions, personal hygiene or tidiness, that it is absolutely OK to run about the garden pretending to be a nude missile or cluster bomb, singing "Obviously" by McFly very tunelessly, but that it is also OK for him to learn to sew, knit, wear pink and play with dolls when he wants to.
But my number one objective is to not run down the male gender in his hearing. It's so easy to do, let's face it, and it gives growing boys the option to think on some level, "well, they all think men are messy, thoughtless underachievers, I might as well just throw in the towel".

KiwiKate Mon 11-Jul-05 09:52:13

Hey KB, don't sell yourself short. You have a very important role to play - especially in the early years. I don't think the key is to distance yourself from him.

Well put NQC! I think that is the key that when boys become adults, mothers still treat them like babies! (No NQC, it is not just your MIL). I think it smacks of the mother being desperate to maintain the bond (and has the reverse affect). This seems to be especially so when a woman enters the "son's" life (mother feels displaced and wants to make the point that this is "her" boy, but forgets that he actually is not "her" boy anymore, but an adult with a partner/wife/girlfriend).

As for treating a mother with respect, I think a lot depends on how our sons see our husbands/partners treating us. If your DH/DP treats you with respect, chances are that your DS will too.

I have three brothers, and see that their relationship with my mum is different from mine. A lot depends, I think, on your son's partner/wife (I know this is a long way down the track). If you are able to create a good relationship with her, then she will be happy to have you visit/be around/call her man on the phone/be around the grandchildren etc. Women I know who have the best relationships with their adult sons seem to be ones who have a good relationship with the son's partner/wife, and who respect their son's independance (even if they do not agree with what their sons do, they acknowledge the stages at which certain decisions are no longer for the mother)

PeachyClair Mon 11-Jul-05 09:52:57

My MIL has such a good relationship with her 30 year old son that following her marriage breakdown, they share a mortgage!

She has a rubbish relationship with my dh though, he barely tolerates her, i have to make him call her.

I think the situation is that she won't allow her family to grow up to be themselves; dh was favourite until he dared leave.

I have three ds's. I THINK I (usually) have a good relationship with them.
I try to accept their differences- from me as well as each other- and unlike many friends I don't fight their 'maleness', I do however teach them to respect other people (boys and girls alike) more feminine qualities as part of an 'we're all special' thing I have done since birth. I don't try and change them in that way, neither do I stereotype them if I can help. it. It's ahrd to explain but, when DS1 was 13 months DS2 was born, we bought DS1 a buggy that he loved for six months until it was regarded as girly. I bought him a doll, it was ignored. So I now let him choose his toys- if he wants a girly toy (rare but ds3 does sometimes) they can have it no probs, if boys toys then thats OK too, it just isn't an issue.

I think the thing is to respect them, their individuality and to perhaps accept that when they move on into a relationship or marriege, the girl is likely to want to be closer to her Mum throughout such things as pregnancy, child rearing etc.

Or as I do, tell them every day to marry an Orphan. Or hope one of them is gay.

Janh Mon 11-Jul-05 09:57:34

I wonder if it makes a difference if there are only sons in the family and no daughters to talk to?

Monkeysmom Mon 11-Jul-05 10:02:26

Kiwikate, you are right about finding an activity that just the two of you do together.
My mum and my brother share a passion for board and card games. I remember my brother as a teenager playing cards with my mum to the early hours of the morning. And they also used to talk for hours during this time. I rarely joined in as I used to be such a bad looser. They used to discuss politics, philosophy, religion e.t.c. However, my brother never shared with mum his private life, never talked about his girlfriends or any sort of problem.
I used to tell my mum absolutely everything, talk about my boyfriends, cry, gossip about my friends, asked for advice. Very different relationship.

handlemecarefully Mon 11-Jul-05 10:20:06

Personally, I would only use "Raising Boys" for loo roll after the utter crap that Biddulph stated in the first few pages - that little boys shouldn't be in any form of childcare pre-school, because to do so would damage their delicate pysche. Sold my largely unread copy at a NCT Nearly New Sale.

Dh has a good relationship with his mum (my MIL obviously). My observations re MIL is that she is quite easy going, non-judgemental and doesn't interfere or over cosset.

handlemecarefully Mon 11-Jul-05 10:22:34

I'm with Furball:

"A sons a son until he has a wife
A daughters a daughter for the rest of your life".

...that sadly all too often your relationship with your adult son can often be heavily influenced by how you get on with your daughter in law. Certainly was true for my mum....

I hope my son chooses his partner wisely....(but he's only 15 months, so it's a way off yet )

koalabear Mon 11-Jul-05 14:48:23

So, in summary so far, in no order of priority (sorry if I've missed any points out):

* allow your son to be independant in appropriate ways, enabling him to figure out things for himself
* build good lines of communication, even if its only about inconsequential things (on the premise that he's more likely then to talk to you about the important things)
* do something together, just the two of you
* accept his differences - from you as well as other people - don't try to change him
* have an equal, respectful partnership with you husband/parter to show your son that men and woman equal, rational beings and also so he learns to respect women
* be open-minded and non-judgmental
* try to be easy going, and don't interfere
* respect his privacy
* never say in his hearing, any generalisations about the uselessness of the male in the domestic and relationship front
* when your son is an adult, treat him as such
* work on having a good, adult relationship with your son's choice of partner


wow, that's quite a list so far
anyone got anything to add ?

popsycal Mon 11-Jul-05 14:54:06

MArina - I love your post. That is exactly what I want to do with my boys but hadn't articulated it in words yet!!!

saadia Mon 11-Jul-05 15:02:12

This is very interesting. I haven't read the whole thread but just wanted to say that my db has a very good relationship with our mother, and my dh also has a good relationship with his mother, in fact most of the grown-up males I know have good relationships with their mothers.

From what I can see, the common denominator in all these relationships is that there is complete trust on both sides and an involvement in each others' lives, in that there is good communication. But the main thing I see is that the sons really do love and care about their mothers, and I'm not quite sure how this came about- aha I've just realised that in both my db's and dh's cases our fathers passed away before their time so that might be a factor as well.

Of course, I'm not suggesting that we mothers of boys do away with our dhs.

handlemecarefully Mon 11-Jul-05 15:04:46

"Of course, I'm not suggesting that we mothers of boys do away with our dhs".

Oh I dunno, seems reasonable if it's the only way to preserve a good mother son relationship

QueenEagle Mon 11-Jul-05 15:09:00

ds1 said to me the other day, "When I'm all grown up and married I'm still going to come back every Sunday for roast dinner."

I think we have a good relationship then.

QZebra Mon 11-Jul-05 20:13:33

I find this thread surreal because honestly, I can't think of a single adult son-mother relationship (that I know IRL) where the son doesn't adore his mum. For instance, my older brother always said categorically he would look after our mother when she got old & frail (I was equally categorical that I would not be taking care of her). I know a lot of sons who can barely tolerate their fathers, though.

Lizita Mon 11-Jul-05 20:51:57

Haven't read other replies, so sorry if i repeat. My boyfriend has a good relationship with his mum, he is an only child (don't know if that's got anything to do with it). It seems like it could be because he can talk openly with her about most things, she's a good listener, non judgmental. Pity he doesn't learn from example eh! Perhaps it helps that his dad is a grumpy so-and-so and he feels protective towards her! No idea what she was like as a mum when he was little though.

lynnej Mon 11-Jul-05 21:32:55

My dp is very close to his Mum and his Dad too but his Mum more. He once even insisted that his mum get a puppy when he started full time school because he didn't want his Mummy to be alone at home whilst he wasn't there. Aww bless!!! We all tease him mercilessly about it though.

He often calls our DS a "mummy's boy" when he runs to me when he's hurt or tired but we then just remind him of what he was like as a child and he soon shuts up!!!!

I once heard a saying "if you want to know how a man will treat you, look at the way he treats his Mum" in my case this is very true although I am not generalising this does relate to my dp and his Mum.

tigi Mon 11-Jul-05 22:37:18

my son is nearly 11, and I think we have a good relationship at the moment. He is just starting to be a bit more grown up, and not a little boy anymore. He likes me to tuck him in, and we then have a good old chat then! But he is leaning more to his dad now than being a mummys boy, they do more football and cricket together. I hope though that we can keep a close bond by maintaining these chats, and hope that he always feels he can talk to me about anything as he grows up. I have a close relationship with my parents, and my brother was especially close to my mum, who they had a very jokey loving bond, but since he got married 4 years ago, he completely changed, and hardly sees mum and dad. My sil is just evil, jelous I think, and poisons his mind about them, which is so sad. I just pray my sons find nice wives!

ks Mon 11-Jul-05 23:01:15

Message withdrawn

Chandra Mon 11-Jul-05 23:16:48

KB there's a very good for parents of boys, is called Raising Boys (by Stephen Biddulph), it explains several stages in the life of a son (from baby to teenager) and shows how and when the mother presence is more important as well as when, mainly for hormonal changes, the mother needs to take a "back seat" and let the father or other male figures be the centre of the boy's life. It makes a very interesting reading, you can get it from AMazon.

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