Whether you’re raising boys or girls, parenting is widely known as the most amazing, exhausting, trying, endearing, rewarding journey. For some reason, it’s also a journey that people – random people in the grocery store or the post office – feel the need to comment on. Those people you’ve never met who touched your belly when you were pregnant and asked if you were having a boy or a girl . . . yes, them. Those people don’t disappear when your baby bump does.
They’re lurking. Sometimes they even seem to take over the minds of the people you know and love – aunts, uncles, in-laws . . .
And they say things. Lots of things. Unsolicited things.
As a Mother of Boys — three boys — I hear a lot from people. On the one hand, I wear this M.O.B. crown with honor, and I feel proud that this girly-girl has done this well so far (if I do say so myself) at raising my boys. On the other hand, yes, sometimes it’s hard . . . and sometimes these random comments really don’t help.
According to the 2018 M.O.B. Truths survey (and my own experience!), here are the top 3 things to NEVER say to a M.O.B.:
ARE YOU GOING TO TRY FOR A GIRL?
Don’t. Go. There. It seems like an innocent question, but it’s quite loaded and can be an emotional trigger for some. For starters, let’s just get this out there: miscarriages happen, infertility happens, stillbirth happens. More friends than I ever expected have gone through difficulties that drive deeper emotion than I can describe in words. It’s profoundly personal, and for many, profoundly private. So just don’t ask what someone’s family plans are.
If we do choose to grace you with an answer, most days the answer is an obvious “NO.” We got into this to build a family, regardless of whether we ended up with sons or daughters or both. And from what I hear, chances are that if we already have three boys, the next child has high probability of also being a boy (is that true? Or is it always a 50/50 chance?). So, no, we’re not going to haphazardly “try” for a girl, and then try again, and again, and again, until our family portrait looks like the Little Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe. Our family is complete, even if I’m the only one with different anatomy. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.
On other days, we may have just run into a friend who got a pedicure with her daughters, all dressed in matching floral shirts and wearing cute pink flip flops. We may have realized that this is an experience we likely won’t have, and, while we are so in love with our boymom lives, there may be a tinge of emotion if you jab us with a “who will spend time with you if you don’t have a girl? You must be trying for a girl . . .” Which brings me to the second most popular answer to the question “What are the most annoying things people say to you about raising all boys?”
BOYS LEAVE THEIR MOMS WHEN THEY GET OLDER
WHY? WHY? WHY? Why would anyone ever think this is OK to say to a mom who is joyfully, wholeheartedly going through this motherhood thing, even if it means being chased by worms or playing action figure battle games? FACT: Girls also tend to move out when they grow up. OK, don’t fact-check that – I don’t have a source for it. My point is simply that kids grow into adults and sometimes move away for a significant other or a job or to see the world. And some don’t. While the stereotype says girls are more nurturing, I know plenty of guys who have remained close – emotionally and in physical proximity – to their parents. I hope that’s what my boys do. But in the end, I want them to do what makes them happy. I think it’s important to remember that, even though generalizations like “boys leave their moms” may be based on observations, every kid – boy or girl – is unique. I feel like I can already predict which of my sons will make sure I get into a good nursing home, which may be distant but then will call and make me laugh, and which one may stay close to home and talk often. Even if they’re not living down the street from me, I hope we still have a close relationship. And as I snuggle them and watch them grow now, the last thing I want to hear is that I’m doomed to live a dark and lonely life when they’re older, void of knowing their accomplishments or their children or how their week went.
We have a verbal “filter” in our house – something we’re working on with the kids. Before they say something (or reflecting immediately after), I want them to think through 1) Is it kind? 2) Is it helpful? 3) Is it true? If none of the above, then don’t say it. I think random people telling a mother of boys that their sons will obviously leave them someday need to use this same filter.
YOU HAVE YOUR HANDS FULL
It’s true. All parents do.
It’s not a bad thing. It’s just a thing. It’s parenting.
Kids have questions – constant questions, and we want to answer them to fill their heads with knowledge and encourage them to stay curious. We have epi-pens to manage and constant emails from work on our phone (seriously, I have very mixed emotions about having technology at our fingertips at all times). We have diagnoses to worry about and social stuff and managing households. We have responsibilities to feed and nurture and support and clean and keep healthy and teach manners. We have to be present – really present and in the moment – to be the role models we want to be.
My life as a mother of boys follows a lot of the stereotypes – we cannot pass a puddle without jumping in it . . . if there’s a chance to get dirty, we go for it . . . we do more moving than sitting calmly and quietly . . . our grocery bill is enormous because boys are HUNGRY . . . and there are injuries from our adventures.
So, yes, we have our hands full (but so do parents of girls!). And even though we’re sometimes overwhelmed, it doesn’t mean we’re not happy.
Let me tell you a story about my mom: Sometimes, if she knows we have a particularly busy week, she asks me if I want her to make us meatballs and bring them over. I say, and I genuinely mean it — “You don’t have to do that.” And then she makes meatballs and shows up at my door with them, and suddenly, my hands are full with one fewer thing to worry about – dinner. Why the sudden meatball story, you ask? If you’re going to comment on someone having their hands full, follow it quickly by “how can I help?” – or better yet, just show up with metaphorical meatballs.
That said, don’t be surprised if your comment of “Wow, you sure have your hands full” is met with a glare. Having our hands full doesn’t mean we can’t handle it. Just like our hearts grow with more love each time our family grows, so does our ability to manage the varied demands of motherhood. Yes, there may be hot-mess days when my pants may still have a tag on them, and I forget to rub in my blush (“Your cheeks are . . . ummm . . .extra-pink and ummm . . . radiant today, Karen”), but my kids are well taken care of and happy, so go ahead, pile on some more. (OK, don’t. I actually prefer the meatballs).
Are you a M.O.B.? What have people said to you that struck a nerve?