“In a Few Years, Will I Be Done Being the Mother of My Sons?”| November 15, 2022
While your mother is closer to her daughters than she is to her sons or their wives, this isn’t a universally true pattern
I have one daughter and a bunch of sons. Baruch Hashem our family was recently blessed with another baby boy. Of course, I love them all, and I enjoy raising them — I put tremendous effort into mothering. But this last birth, while bringing me great joy, has also awakened some sad feelings. I know that after I put so much into my boys, nurturing them with everything I have, they will one day leave me, as they should. I know it’s not the same with daughters; grandchildren are usually closer to their mother’s parents. Even when boys aren’t yet married, how much time can they really spend with a mother? How much does a high school boy even need his mother? To buy him a new suit twice a year and take him to the eye doctor? I keep telling myself that’s how it should be, that it’s healthy and normal, and that I want my boys to be independent.
But then I think about how, in a few years, I’ll practically be done being a mother to these boys. Mothers of teenage girls, on the other hand, are involved in things big and small in their daughters’ lives, and they spend plenty of time together. Even today my mother meets up with my sisters and I for lunch, and we go shopping together. Although she has a good relationship with her daughters-in-law, it’s not the same; she doesn’t spend time with them in that way.
I know that our children aren’t here for our pleasure. They’re their own people and our job is to nurture them, help them reach maturity, and then send them off flying. But I still feel a sense of sadness when I think of the future.
I’d love help in finding the right perspective on this.
From what you’ve written, it seems your mother has shown you a model of how relationships between sons and daughters differ. While our parents’ model everything about life, we need to remember that they are, in fact, only two people with two specific ways of being in the world. Along with the Torah that your mother imparts, she imparts aspects of her worldview, drawn from her own experiences, observations, and conclusions. In childhood it can be hard for a person to sift out the personal quirks of their parents from their enduring, truth-based wisdom. It’s a task that befalls us when we reach maturity and carve our unique path in life.
So while your mother is closer to her daughters than she is to her sons or their wives, this isn’t a universally true pattern. There are many women whose closest mother-child relationships are with their sons. There are also many who enjoy extremely close relationships with their daughters-in-law — sometimes closer than to their own children!
While the nature of the relationship may differ, there are many ways of relating to older children that can form and maintain strong connections. Talking and laughing with each other and sharing thoughts, ideas, observations, and experiences is something that brings closeness to people of all ages and both genders. Engage your sons in conversations about topics they’re interested in, both worldly and spiritual. Share what you learned in your weekly shiur, discuss interesting topics in aspects of halachah, but also help prepare them for, or assist them in, their adult lives by talking about practical matters such as how to manage money, time, and stress, topics in local and world politics and community issues, or whatever else might be useful or interesting to them. Sharing your knowledge, life experience, practical skills, and important values through light and lively conversation simultaneously educates your older children while forging strong bonds. Putting in time and effort pays off in quality relationships.
A case in point is the relationship you enjoy with your own mother: you’ve said she takes you and your sisters on regular shopping and lunch excursions, enhancing the closeness. She doesn’t spend time with her daughters-in-law that way. Whatever the reason for that, keep in mind that relationships can be both built and maintained with regular nurturing. If you want to have great relationships with your future daughters-in-law, plan to invest heavily in those relationships. Treating daughters-in-law as beloved daughters in the full sense of the word tends to create close bonds.
There are no guarantees for the future, but maintaining a proactive and positive attitude will help you enjoy the present while enabling you to make the best plans for the best possible outcomes.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 818)
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