parent opinion

"It seems to have happened so fast." The pain of being a single mum to almost adult sons.

My teenage sons don’t want to hang out with me anymore. 

For 17 years, I’ve been a single mum, so the three of us have been Team Z. As their dad was not emotionally or financially reliable, I was always the main character in their lives. 

But it seems that overnight, I’ve been demoted to support character and will continue falling down the credit listing. 

Yet they will be forever the stars in The Days of My Life.

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Of course, this is natural and if it was any other way, it would be weird because we raise our sons to be independent adults who want to go into the world without their mummy tagging along. 

But, bloody hell, it still hurts my heart.

The other day, I sold our ageing camper van because my youngest son, aged 16, kindly patted my hand and told me that our days crammed into the van together were now gone and, fun though our memories were, if we were ever to road trip and camp again, they would be in their own vans. 

I cried. 

It seems to have happened so fast. 

We celebrate all the firsts in our children’s lives: when they learnt to sit, crawl, walk and talk, ride a bike without training wheels, or the first day at school. 

Yet how many of us remember the last time we picked our growing child up out of the bath and snuggled into his damp warm skin? What about the last time your child fell asleep, and you carried him to bed? Do you recall the final time your child crawled onto your lap to cuddle? And what was the last bedtime story book you read to your child? 

Already I’ve forgotten the last time I rocked my children to sleep in my arms or swooped them up onto my shoulders to dance around the lounge. 

I cried when I noticed they had both grown taller than me.

I cried even more when my eldest son jumped into my arms a few years ago, and I fell over because he was heavy.


In a few months, my eldest plans to move to another city to study, followed the in another year by his brother, and they’re horrified when I joke that I should come along too. 

The time is soon coming for them to fly free, without me hanging onto their feet, pulling them back into the nest. 

The eldest is already driving, his brother in the passenger seat, thrilled with this step towards independent living.

Not only am I no longer Number One, they’ve long since realised I am not the most wonderful and perfect woman who ever lived, and that I am in fact am very irritating, quite slow and so very wrong on nearly every single thing I say or do. 

I do however note that though my cooking and cleaning skills may not be to their exacting standards, my offers to hand over the tasks have been kindly declined. 

Being a single mum of boys is an extraordinary journey, and I know there are many other single MOBS (Mums of Boys) out there like me, muddling along, wondering if we’re parenting them correctly. 

Are we raising our sons to respect women? Are we making them mamma’s boys? 

For what is worth, this is what I’ve learnt. 

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It’s bullshit that says a close mum-son bond makes weak men. Nurturing tight bonds builds men who understand women better and are comfortable around them. 

They learn to calmly debate issues and discuss emotions and though in their teens they move away from this, in good relationships, the sons will eventually return to their default setting again.

Our role is to boost our sons’ self-image and making them know how loved and wanted they would forever be in our homes and lives. 

Of course I have so many guilty worries and sad regrets. 

The time I told my son that if he peed in his pants one more time because he was too lazy to go to the toilet, I would rip his penis off. 

Or the time I screamed so much at my youngest after he spent an entire hour-long walk kicking the back of my heels as a joke, despite me telling him to stop, that a passer-by worried for his safety. 

Or the time my eldest had a report with 5 As and a B, and I said: "B for History!? OMG, what happened?"

The kids will never let me forget the time one child was throwing an empty plastic water bottle at me while I was driving, and it went under the brake, and I panicked. So I pulled the car over, leapt into the back like a crazy woman, and bit his arm. 


After a stunned silence, we all burst out laughing. But that was poor parenting indeed. 

Most of all, I dearly wish I hadn’t wasted energy fighting for parenting payments and permission to leave the city with the kids. 

I should have quietly resigned myself to staying put, simply relied on Centrelink’s single parent payment, and put myself on hold while my kids got calmly through High School. 

When it comes down to fighting for this, men win because we back down and maintain peace to protect our children. 

If only I had put aside my hatred and bitter resentment more quickly in those early days, not shared my hatred of their father so loudly to friends and family in front of the kids, nor pulled them into any situation where they felt they had to take sides. 

But when I look at my sons and their many successes so far, I know: I am winning so far. I might not have done it perfectly, but I reckon my sons are pretty frickin’ fantastic. 

So, single mums doing it tough out there – the fatigue, the struggling to make ends meet, the fear of the challenge, the loneliness and the tasks that seem endless and so boringly repetitive – focus on the joy. 

Lean into what brings you and your boys together, and know this time goes so fast. Soon they will be off into the world on their own adventures.

It’s very sad. But also exciting. Because now my most glorious story starts where I get to be a 50 plus something Wonder Woman. 

Feature Image: Supplied.

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