What Everybody Ought to Know About Moms & Sons

Have you seen the images on Facebook, trumpeting the amazing, lifelong, unbreakable bond between mothers and sons?

Here are some quotes I’ve seen on these photos:

  • “There has never been, nor will there ever be, anything quite so special as the love between a mother and son.”
  • “The bond between mother and son… remains unchanged by time or distance”
  • “My son is a promise that I will have a friend forever!”
  • “There is nothing stronger than the love between a mother & son.”
  • “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, As long as I’m living my baby you’ll be.

Christian mom, have you ever thought (when you read these things) that you’re being lied to, and that your emotions are being preyed upon?

What Everybody Ought to Know about Moms & Sons // jessconnell.com // Facebook memes lie to us. The Bible tells us the truth. Here's what everybody ought to know about the relationship between moms & sons.

Now, there’s a piece of truth in each, of course.

I’m not some unfeeling monster here trying to say there’s nothing unique and beautiful about the mother-son relationship.

The love between mothers and sons is amazing! Wonderful! Beginning in the womb, and then at the breast, moms are the first to capture their sons’ hearts. We hold their hands while they learn to walk, and wrap them tight when they cry as they skin their knees and learn hard lessons of preadolescence. They come to us with giggles and snuggles and compliments.

Sons are a wonderful gift!

But, the next time you see one of these pictures with a heart-grabbing quote telling you how nothing will ever change and how your son will always be your sweet little baby boy, ask yourself if it is actually true in light of the very first few verses that tell us about the first family, and God’s plans for the world. 

DARE TO ASK: IS IT REALLY, BIBLICALLY TRUE?

In Genesis 2:24, He laid out the end game for mothers and sons:

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”

The truth is this:

A Facebook image with an infant’s chubby hand wrapped tightly around his mom’s finger is not the complete story, and we would be fools to expect that it will stay that way.

As Christian women, we need to reckon with the biblical truth that from the beginning of their lives, the whole plan– the DESIGN– is for our sons to LEAVE. 

“NOTHING STRONGER?”

Not only will they leave, but should they marry, they will hold fast to their wife, and become ONE with her.

That is definitely more intimate, more special, and stronger, than the still-special, still-strong, but not-the-same love he shares with his mom.

It is a lie that the bond between a mother and son remains unchanged for all of time. And it is a lie that there is no stronger bond.

Frankly, even without a wife, my son’s bond and love for Christ ought to be higher and better than his love for me.

PERSONALIZING THIS TRUTH

There are higher loves we should pray that our sons experience than the one they share with us. It does not diminish the fact that we share a wonderful loving relationship with our sons, but it ought to encourage us to be honest in our expectations of what’s coming in our relationship.

I’m the mom of 5-going-on-6 boys. I can’t *TELL* you how much I love them, and how excited I am to meet our sixth son, Luke, in just a few weeks. I LOVE being a mom of many boys!! (I love our eight-year-old daughter like crazy too, but this post is all about boys…) Our sons have been a great delight of my heart, and I am so thankful for the times God has given me to share with them!

But I believe this truth about moms & sons is often overlooked.

And honestly?

I don’t want to live in a fantasy land, and set myself up for depression or bitterness when each of our sons does exactly what God built him to do: leave our home, in the pursuit of greater loves (with his God and with his wife).

Sadly, I think too many women:

  • hold unmet expectations of affection, deep relationship, and neediness that they’re still wanting their adult sons to meet, and
  • place guilt and pressure on sons who they never really expected would leave.

SO… WHAT?

With that in mind, I think this means 4 things for us as Christian mothers of sons:

1- WE LOVE OUR SONS DEEPLY

Of course, we love deeply!

But if we live with the awareness of points 2 & 3, our selfish tendency might be to hold ourselves back– to protect ourselves from pain. As moms, though God has designed us to love DEEPLY.

2- WE DON’T TRY TO KEEP THEM AS OUR LITTLE BOYS

We are raising future HUSBANDS, future FATHERS, future LEADERS of our world. When we take the “always my little boy” approach, it stunts their growth and it sets us up for future sorrow:

  • either because they will become a man and break our hearts by leaving because we had faulty expectations
  • or because they stay a little boy and break our hearts by never leaving and maturing into manhood, like many of the modern unemployed “adultescents” who still live at home, playing video games.

It is neither biblical nor wise to treat our sons as perpetual boys. Doing so ruins their trajectory, and hurts the hearts of everyone involved.

3- WE RAISE THEM TO BE MEN

We would be foolish to coddle them or protect them from the realities of life.

We don’t shy away from topics they will encounter as men. Instead, we PURPOSEFULLY pour in as much wisdom as we can *before* they leave, recognizing that we only have a limited time to do so.

  • We teach them to respect women, no matter what they’re wearing or how they’re acting.
  • And though none of us really *wants* to talk about porn with our sons, we do it. Like Solomon, we talk about the real danger of the seductive woman & why it’s foolish to fall into her traps.
  • We talk about business ethics, hard choices, avoiding get-rich-quick schemes, and the value of honest, hard work.
  • We talk about the lure of drunkenness and the inevitable foolishness that comes when you give in.

4- WE RAISE THEM WITH THE GOAL OF LEAVING

When they are young, they should hear often of their future as husbands, fathers, and hard-working men. In addition to plenty of time working alongside dad (in his job, or in the yard, or as he goes to help another family move, etc.), they should spend time around honorable, hard-working, honest men.

Our sons should be raised with an understanding of their purpose– where they fit in the world, and how they will grow into manhood.

We don’t hold them back from opportunities to risk, learn, grow, try, and stretch their legs… even when those things will take them farther from us. If they are ready and mature enough to try, we should let them.

Even though it means that they are moving *AWAY* from us.

We “train them in the way they should go”– according to their “bent”… looking at how God has made them, and helping them to identify how they might glorify God, and provide for a future family, with the talents, skills, and gifts God has given them.

 

IN THE COMMENTS, PLEASE SHARE:

  • How does this approach compare/contrast with the ideas you’ve heard from culture (even from other Christians)?
  • Have you had sons leave home? How did that process look for you? Are there things you did (or feel you could have done differently) to prepare for their departure?

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Jess Connell

Jesus-follower, Happy wife, Mom of 8 neat people. Former world-traveler, now settled in Washington. Host of Mom On Purpose podcast (momonpurpose.com). I write and wrangle kids.

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16 Responses

  1. Jessica says:

    My four year old just melts my heart with the absolutely sweet things he says at bedtime when I tuck him in. I have at times struggled with the thought of him growing up because I do enjoy how sweet and loving he is at this age but this is the truth and I trust God will help me rejoice as he grows up into a strong man of God and it’s so important to teach and train on those subjects! Thanks!

    • Jess Connell says:

      Yes!! I’ve had those same thoughts & feelings. Little boys are such a wonderful gift to us as moms.

      It’s been important for me to keep letting my heart and eyes RENEW my assessment and understanding of them, as they grow, so that I don’t inadvertently keep wishing my preschooler would stay my squishy toddler, or my elementary school boy would stay like he was when he was a preschooler, etc.

      I admit, I don’t have this whole thing figured out, but I’m trying to counsel my own heart with thoughts like this… I don’t want to hope for something that is unbiblical and ultimately against how God has built our sons to be. I don’t want to be a constraining force that holds them back from what God means for their good.

  2. Erin says:

    This led me to a couple of thoughts. I have three boys and one girl. My yongest boy constantly says he wants to live with me forever. He is 6, so right now I say “Ok.” But sometimes I remind him that God has plans for his life, and there is a great big world to see and wonderful people to meet and he doesn’t HAVE to life with me forever.

    The other thing is that my husband is an only child and his mother still (after his 4 years away at college and our 13 years of marriage) still doesn’t like to have separation/boundaries from him (or from her grandchildren). (I will admit that this is both a mother-son issue and an only child issue.) As circumstances happened, we never moved away from his parents, and we both think it was the biggest mistake we ever made. I would encourage any young couple to move a short distance from relatives when first married. Cleave to each other (and the Lord) first.

    • Jess Connell says:

      Great thoughts!

      I, too, have seen this in many adult relationships where the son is never really given “leave” to be the man he needs to be. The poor guy is emotionally held hostage by a mom who can’t let him be a separate adult.

      Thanks for sharing your advice from experience!

  3. Laura says:

    I’ve never been the kind of mom who’s all you’re-my-sweetest-boy-and-mommy-loves-you-oh-so-much. Just not that kind of person, by any stretch. I tell my boys each day that I love them, but I have never been a cuddler and neither have they. I know we have a special bond, but I do look forward to seeing them become men. I really do. If for nothing else, then to have the hard work behind me 😉 But honestly, I have just never felt those things one reads on a mom/son meme.

    My mother-in-law is also not the kind to keep my husband close. She has never tried to pull him back or away from me. Mind you, we live with two whole provinces separating us, but even still, she’s just not the type. And my husband is not a mama’s boy. I guess I kind of take it for granted, since it’s all I know. But once in a while I realize that it’s not like that for everyone, and so I remember to be thankful. I want to one day give my daughters-in-law the same kind of freedom to love my sons the way my mother-in-law does for me.

  4. Stephanie says:

    Thank you for this post. This is something I struggle with, knowing that I will have to let them go someday, and that they may choose to move farther away to do what God wants them to do. Right now we have two boys, one is almost 5 and the younger is 2, and we have a baby on the way. I often feel sadness when I think about the fact that this is the closest we will be in our lives, as I know they will grow up. I pray that I will be the kind of mother who will be there to support them as they leave, and someone my daughters-in-law can respect and feel comfortable around.

  5. Kondwani says:

    Society certainly does give sentimental and incorrect messages (about both boys and girls, and the relationships they might have with their mothers). Our highest goal has to be to raise them to be men of God. We spend a lot of time reading biographies and discussing the early missionaries (and today we were on the RRS Discovery learning all about Scott and the Antarctic – a secular, but inspiring adventure). We have to be willing to let the boys go – and if that be to the ‘ends of the earth’, then that is how it should be. I’ve heard reference to the Psalm where the sons are referred to as ‘arrows’ – what is an arrow for, other than to be shot in some direction. Even now, I do sometimes wonder whether future daughter-in-laws and future grandchildren will be many miles away from us. But at the same time, I know there is a greater purpose in it all. Your post was a refreshing reminder, cutting through sentimentality to the things which really matter.

  6. Candice says:

    This is interesting. I’m not on FB so I haven’t seen these kinds of sentiments. I have four sons and I know that when they grow up, leave, and possibly marry someday will be bittersweet. But I think if women understand a man’s need for respect (and sons need it too) it helps to realize that our role will need to change as they grow and we allow them the room to lead their own lives and, someday, families. Have you heard this old saying? “A daughter is a friend for life; a son, until he takes a wife.” I hope we will be friends but it is definitely going to be a different relationship than it is with our daughters! :)

    • Jess Connell says:

      Yes Candice, I’ve heard that saying… slightly different, but still the same meaning:

      “A son is a son ’til he takes a wife,
      A daughter’s a daughter for all of her life.”

  7. Sarah says:

    My mom instilled in me that children are SUPPOSED to grow up and become adults. I later learned that I am not raising children. I am raising future adults. And, in this home, it is future CHRISTIANS.
    Matt Chandler has an awesome set of sermons at The Village church about boys becoming men.
    It is doing your child a disservice to try to keep them little as long as possible. I KNOW my boys aren’t always going to come running to me when they are men. My job, now, as a mama is to be his soft place to land until he has his OWN soft place to land in a wife. I need him to trust me with his innermost deepest thoughts (as a child) and to protect and cherish those times. But, one day, he isn’t going to want to talk to me about those things. And, that’s the way it should be.
    My husband calls his mother and checks on her. He gives her money sometimes to help her out with the bills. But, she is a widow. And, his brothers aren’t MEN. It used to bother me, but I see now that I should be thankful for the way he treats his mama. Because, it means he will always take care of me and make sure my needs are met to the best of his ability. Their relationship is healthy. Not umbilical. 😉

  8. Barbara Tinder says:

    I was infertile and prayed for my son for years. Some how God gave me wisdom to know I was raising Him for another. A preacher once said,” We spend their lives letting go.” I always remembered that. However, my son married last year which was wonderful. But, what I didn’t realize was that I had expectations of him when he grew and left home. To call me once a week and have those heartfelt conversations we use to have every Friday night. It took some time for me to realize that was his new wife’s joy now, not mine. He hugs and kisses me when he sees me, sat at the hospital with me for a week this year. He loves me. But he belongs to another, after all, that is what I raised him for. My favorite saying to him all of his life was ” It’s not all about you”, the other day I heard him tell that to someone and explain what he meant. At that moment I remembered a conversation I had with a little boy who had been hurt by something or someone,I don’t remember what now, and realized I had accomplished what I set out to do. I had raised a man. Job Done! Love Him for who the LORD makes him and move on. I will always remember that sweet baby that they laid in my arms. God’s answer to my prayers. All of the wonderful moments we have shared but he has a mans job to do now and I’ve had to let go.

  9. Lauren says:

    I have four girls and one boy (he was the fourth born child). Biblically speaking, we desired a son to be the “savior” of our family. We are painfully aware of how our society has failed to launch their children, but we are also painfully aware of how the same society has become more matriarchalto their detriment, but that would be a whole post in itself. A son is supposed to rise up and care for his mother when his father dies. I expect my son to leave and cling to his wife, but I also expect my girls to do so with their husbands to the extent they change their last names and will care for their mothers-in-law if the need arises. My son and his wife should care for me. There is no doubt that my son acts differently with me than the four girls do, and the girls adore their Daddy more affectionately. Our son wants to work and do man things with his dad, but he seeks his affection from me. Maybe this is what people take too far and misunderstand.

    • Jess Connell says:

      I’m not sure I understand what having a son as the family “savior” means. I’ve never heard that term, and I’m not sure I agree with it. I’m asking out of curiosity, not combat: Where do you, biblically, see the idea that sons are to care for their mothers more than daughters should? Because I see the exact opposite: that sons are to leave their mother and father and cleave to the wife.

      I don’t understand what you’re getting at here, and if there is some biblical precedent for it, I’d like to hear where you find the basis for this understanding.

      • Lauren says:

        I’ve read your blog for a very long time, and so because I feel I know your heart, I’m not feeling any animosity. Don’t worry! I thought you might be curious but didn’t have to time to expound any further the other night.
        Rather than one particular passage, let me point you to the patriarchal society in the Old Testament. It was critically important for women to bear boys. Their daughters would marry and move wherever the new head of their home would carry them. Think of Rebekah leaving to marry Isaac never to return to her home again.
        When we talk about “leaving and cleaving” as is found in Genesis, we’re not just talking about a physical leaving, but everything that’s involved in making a home. I’m not as good at expressing myself in written word, so I hope I can make it clear just in saying that I absolutely believe that man should leave and cleave to his wife alone; and if the Lord calls him somewhere other than where I live, then, by all means, he must be obedient. But in the case of being widowed, or destitute in some way, it would be my son’s responsibility to care for me.(Sidenote here: If a mother must move into her son’s home, she is a guest, not a ruler over her daughter-in-law.) Yes, we later come to the New Testament church’s call to see to widows and orphans in their distress, but in 1 Timothy 5 where it says we should support genuine widows (meaning those too old to remarry), it also says if a widow has children or grandchildren, they should tend to their mother first. Jesus, being firstborn of his mother, was responsible for her, and passed that care over to John in John 19:26-27.
        Another scriptural example of the need for a son would be found in Naomi. When her husband and two sons died, she was in a desperate condition. Because her daughter-in-law truly left her old family and took on her new family as her own, she was “saved” through the kinsman redeemer, Boaz. He fulfilled the son’s responsibility int he absence of Naomi’s own. I encourage you to investigate the kinsman redeemer further. It is a foreshadowing of Christ who was to come.
        You have been so blessed with many sons that you should never have an unmet need! While I was so happy to have three girls first, life-bearers, homemakers, I also felt a longing in my heart for a son because I truly did feel the need to carry my husband’s name and to know our family would have male spiritual leadership and provision in my husband’s absence. I’m not sure that feeling is one that anyone can understand unless they’ve been without a boy.
        I’m already seeing this come into play in my life. My husband is a pastor, and we were called five hours from home, not an impossible distance, but one that is long-enough to affect the care of our parents. As my husband’s parents are beginning to age, there are times he must trek home to help see to physical needs. My father is only 63, but has dementia. When it comes to helping my mother with some decision-making, it is up to my younger brother to make the final call. It doesn’t mean I don’t care, but as a wife and mother, I left and took a new name. I have to take care of my children so that my husband can work. I don’t have to be hands-off when it comes to my dad; I’ll care for him for a few days so my mother can get a weekend off, but ultimately, I’m now my husband’s and need to see to his needs first.
        Hope all that makes sense!

  1. January 17, 2015

    […] What Everybody Ought to Know About Moms and Sons. […]

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