If you’re a mother of boys, there is one conversation that inevitably comes up along your journey as a parent. It’s a conversation that you won’t be prepared for, and when it first takes place, you will probably react to with shock.
It’s a conversation about your son’s future wife.
As you gaze at that soft downy head of your newborn, you might be surprised that such a long off prospect could be something that crops up in conversations so soon. I mean, surely you need to discuss toilet training and whether the tooth fairy brings a gold coin or a folded note first?
But nope, somewhere along the way, especially if you have multiple boys, you will encounter this phrase:
“A son is a son until he takes a wife; a daughter is a daughter all of her life.”
(That and “Oh, you must have your hands full” THAT phrase crops up a lot too.)
It’s a silly, overused cliché that makes massive assumptions (and surely undermines the intelligence of men.) But the truth is when this stereotype is relayed, it can make your skin crawl. It can make you look at the grown men you know, your husband, your brothers, your cousins and wonder could it happen?
No, surely not my boys. They wouldn’t do that to their Mama.
But would they? You see husbands who do. Brothers who do.
The idea that you will “lose” your son to a future partner is difficult for a new mum to get to grips with.
You watch your boys depend on you, adore you, seek you out when they get hurt, concerned or anxious. You are their world. But then many women look they way their husband's relationship with his own mother changed and they can see that perhaps there is a kernel of truth in this uncomfortable cliche.
In the book What Do You Want from Me? Terri Apter, a psychologist at Cambridge University, examined 20 years of research and found that the relationship between female in-laws is tenser than the one between a man and his wife's mother, contrary to the popular stereotype.
She found that on the part of the mothers there was a sense of being frozen out of the relationship when their sons married and a sense of constant disapproval or intrusion.
Two-thirds of women said they felt their mother-in-law was jealous of their relationships with the sons, while two-thirds of mother-in-laws said they felt excluded by their sons' wives.
Looks like neither party wins.
Apter found that child rearing was one of the most constant and stressful sources of conflict between daughter-in-laws and mother-in-laws.
"If I don't see my grand kids as much as I want, if I don't think they're being cared for properly, if I don't think they're being raised in a way that is consistent with my beliefs of a good life," then trouble can ensue Apter told Time Magazine.
"Each family has its own set of norms that usually fade into the background of their lives but tend to come to the foreground when two families merge."
Deborah M. Merrill, associate professor of sociology at Clark University also explored the mother son relationship after marriage. She wrote:
“Marriage appears to have a greater impact on mother-son relationships than on mother-daughter relationships. That is, marriage is greedier toward men than women with respect to inter-generational relationships,” Merrill writes. “Despite the increased importance of work in women’s lives, men’s masculinity is even more deeply tied to their role as provider as well as their work identity. In contrast, relational ties remain more important to women. Men’s relationships with parents will continue to take a back seat to the extent that their roles remain focused on provision for the nuclear family and work.”
WATCH these adorable twin boys chat to each other in a language only they can understand. Post continues after video..
The fact is that not all things are black and white, not all men emotionally move away from their mothers after marriage, not all daughters stay in touch.
To worry about this when your children are young is really simply a waste of energy.
Not all lives are so easily defined. What we need to remember is that it is not that you won’t be important to your son when he married, but that your importance won’t remain at the top of the rung. We need to remember that its not because he loves you less but that he loves others who need him more, others who make him happy.
And that’s okay isn’t it?
That’s what we all really want for our children. For them to be happy.
Are you a mother of boys have you given thought to this cliche?