How Being a “Boy Mom” is Harder

boy mom

Yesterday, we discussed the things that can make raising girls tough. But knowing that both genders can present unique and significant parenting challenges, we’re flipping the page today and discussing how being a “boy mom” is harder in its own way.

The challenges unique to boys seem to change a bit with age. But for boys of all ages, the pressure to perform in sports, pay attention like girls in the classroom, and learn how to “act like a man” in a culture where the definition of a true man is vague.

Boys sometimes lack the emotional language to express what they’re feeling, even to parents who desperately want to know. They can be a little closed off, especially in the middle and high school years. So check out our list of ways in which parenting boys is harder — from the funny to the serious. See if one of these struggles sound like your little man!

1. Boys can be less communicative.

While girls tend to share a lot (sometimes even more than you want to hear) about their feelings, boys often clam up, leaving a mom to wonder what’s really going on in their heads and hearts. In our family, our daughter speaks about 10 words for every 1 our son speaks. While some of it may be linked to personality (she’s more extroverted on the whole), other moms tell me that’s just the way with boys. Try setting aside some one on one time to build your mom-son bond and learn how to speak his language.

2. Boys feel pressure to be athletically talented.

The pressure here varies based upon the culture of your hometown or school, but on the whole, boys growing up in the U.S. are often judged by peers and adults alike based upon their ability in sports. That’s fine if your child is athletically-talented, but it can be a source of angst if he’s not. Even for boys who are good at sports, sometimes the pressure to perform is a burden. Whether he’s a baller or not, help your son to realize that his worth is based on far more than his skill at any game. Help him to keep his athletic endeavors in perspective, whether they’re successes or failures.

3. It’s hard for today’s boys to know what it really means to be a man. {Tweet This}

Back in the day, being a man was all about aftershave, pipe smoke, and bringing home the bacon. Gender roles — in both positive and negative ways — were more clearly-defined. Now it’s harder to paint a picture for your son about what life looks like for a great man because the men are expected to bring home the bacon and change a 3 a.m. diaper. How do you act like a gentleman without offending a progressive young woman? Team up with your husband to outline some core values and traits you want your sons to emulate and focus on making those clear to them.

4. Boys often smell atrocious.

This needs no further explanation.

5. Boys naturally need to pull away from Mom at some point.

In the process of becoming a man, boys will naturally separate themselves from their mothers to some degree in adolescence. Ouch! No mom likes the sound of that. But it’s the natural order of things and necessary for young men to gain independence. Just remember that it’s not about you, and it doesn’t mean that he loves you any less. Just look for ways to appreciate and connect to this new young man, and try to refrain from treating him like your little boy. Sure, you still set the boundaries he needs to be safe, while learning how to live life as a man, but acknowledge that the mantle of responsibility is slowly shifting from your shoulders to his and that you are proud of who he’s becoming.

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In The Comments

What are some of the parenting struggles unique to boys, in your experience?


  • Jennifer Lambert

    When people used to find out that I was a working mom of three children all six and under people would give me many kudos, support and sympathy UNTIL . . . . . they found out that all three of my children were boys. Then, all of a sudden, the sympathy and support would lessen dramatically. “Oh,” they’d say, “well, at least you have boys. They are easy!! Girls are so much harder!” And, instantly, I felt reduced to only a half of a mom because I was raising boys.
    This was, and still is, a very hard thing to be told. In those years, I was exhausted!! My boys NEVER stopped moving. I would see my friends’ daughters playing nicely with their dolls and toys – in one spot!! Not my boys. They would run, roll, sway, rock, jump and even slither every single second that they were awake! How I longed for the ability to fold my laundry while they played nicely in a corner like these girls appeared to do. It was not to be. We ran a sprint all day long!
    As they got older, we became referees. I literally had a babysitter tell me that she was exhausted by the end of the day because all she got done while watching my boys was referee – telling them to stop touching each other, to get off of one another, to not pull each other’s hair and at times, actually pulling them apart. Yes, I thought, that was my everyday life. I could never let my guard down.
    There are many challenges with raising boys beyond the never ending physical activity. Real challenges that make a mom’s heart stop. First, they are thrill seekers. I will never forget while camping when my youngest came to tell me that his next oldest brother was just like Nik Wallenda, the tight rope walker. Here he had just walked across the four inch beam that held up the swing set – 10 feet above the ground!! I have found my boys climbing the rafters in the barn, above a cement floor!! We are a few years away from teaching our oldest to drive. How I wish I could be teaching a girl, who uses her frontal lobe more, than a thrill seeking boy.
    Secondly, as a boy mom, we have had to address issues of pornography early on. We have to limit TV, movies and even comic books because of the scantily clad women that are depicted in these media outlets. This is a real temptation for boys, one that they deal with early on and one that needs to be dealt with early on to help them to become the husbands and fathers of integrity of the future.
    There are so many more things that a boy mom deals with that I have not mentioned here. We do have incessant talking from our boys – it’s just endless talking about topics that we may not be interested in – Star Wars, Transformers, Pokemon, you name it. We have to teach them how to handle it when girls their age are ‘throwing’ themselves and trying to be manipulative and possessive of them at school.
    I am not here to say that being the mom of boys is harder. First of all, I have nothing to compare it to. I’m raising a specialty line of boys! Maybe raising boys is easier. If so, I guess I’m thankful that God gave me all boys because I can’t imagine my job as a mom being much harder than it is now. Second of all, I am so tired of the mom wars. Raising a boy is harder. Raising a girl is harder. What about the fact that PARENTING is harder. Can we all give each other the support that we all deserve without having to compare our intensity scale?
    Please know that I am not condemning you for writing these articles. I have read them both and am fully aware that you left out a lot of hard things for raising girls as well as for raising boys. I guess the word ‘harder’ just struck a nerve and I wanted to share my thoughts. Thank you for allowing me to do so.

    • Tljohns

      I am the mom of 3 boys as well…your post is absolutely perfectly “right on”. Couldn’t have said any of it better!!

    • ES

      The word ‘harder’ struck a nerve with me, too. Being a parent is hard work. Raising kids is difficult – but raising girls is not more difficult, and raising boys – while sometimes different – is not easier. ‘Harder’ was an unfortunate word choice…

      • MC

        #4 made me laugh out loud. My baby brothers are teenagers now, and their rooms just have a certain smell sometimes. The older one is in college and his dorm room was even worse when I visited. On a more serious note, how does #5 not apply to both boys and girls? Does it just happen earlier with boys? All children need to grow up and learn independence from their parents eventually, and I think that was equally hard on my mom with all of us, if not hardest with me as the oldest. (I’m asking out of honest curiosity; I’m not yet a parent myself but plan to adopt in the next couple years.)

        • valleygal

          Re: #5…I think its more painful for moms of boys. The old adage (which are adages because they tend to be long time truths) is “a son is a son til they take a wife but a daughter is a daughter all her life” … If a healthy relationship, daughters stay close to their moms. Share their childraising.
          After all, all everone talks about is the Mother of the Bride and not the Mother of the Groom.

    • Dana Hall McCain

      Hi Jennifer! Thanks for taking the time to respond. You make some excellent points that echo my own experience. And please understand, as a mom to both a boy and a girl, I don’t really think one–overall–is harder than the other. But there are absolutely ASPECTS of parenting each of them that are harder RELATIVE (oh, how I wish Disqus allowed italics–my caps are just emphasis, not screaming lol) to the other. A lot goes into choosing the headlines for our articles, including search engine “friendliness.” Sometimes the absolute best descriptor of our content and intent just doesn’t work at all for parents who are would be searching for the topic we’re covering. It’s tricky. And frustrating. But I promise, we’re trying to get it right. Thanks again for your feedback!

    • Celeste Conner

      Jennifer, I only have one son and no brothers. I have often said that while I am so grateful to have an experience that my mother missed by not having a blessed boy, I have missed the “total boy mom” experience because my son has no brothers. While he has always been a great sport to his two older sisters by allowing them to dress him up and play school with them, he has no one to get into all that “trouble” with (although one sister prefers “boy” movies). He has often bemoaned the fact, and I have with him. I love when he has a friend over and they “act like boys.” You have a great unique experience–as each of us do.

    • Jenn

      big huge AMEN to this from this momma of 4 boys under 8!!

    • Kassandria Hollis

      I could not agree with this comment more. I have three boys. I don’t have girls. I have no idea what girls are like to be able to say who is harder (I know some very rambunctious girls and some pretty calm boys) but I am exhausted none-the-less. My boys talk non-stop. (Minecraft!) I am constantly breaking up fights, yelling for them to stop swinging from the curtains, stop diving off the back of the couch, stop leaving the house without telling me (and without pants on!) etc etc. I can’t get them to sit still. I’ve had the opposite experiences with strangers than you though. I’ve had people stop me in the store to comment on their experiences with raising all boys. One father actually APOLOGIZED to me for my boys, said he was one of three boys and they drove his mother mad, and he is sorry. It doesn’t help my husband was one of three boys (and one sister) and he is the youngest. He is a thrill seeker as well (seriously, he does stunts and rides motocross and does backflips off my fencing for fun) and instigates things between my boys. Our household is constant chaos.

  • JL

    Number 4 is ridiculous and offensive!

    • JS

      To each their own. It made me laugh. My 7 year old won’t bathe unless I force him.

    • KK

      Number 4 was my favorite – I’ve got 2 boys!!!

    • LH

      lighten up! It’s funny and true. I’ve smelled it in public many times.

    • SM

      I agree that it is offensive. My 16 year old son always wants to smell good. The girls comment on it all the time.

    • Jenn

      I have 4 boys.. #4 was the most true on the entire list!

  • #4 cracks me up!! One thing I haven’t gotten used to with my boy is that throw up sounds and farting are just hilarious to him and he does it often. He’s only four so hopefully that will get better with age, a mom can hope right?! LOL

  • Happy Momma

    Well im super excited that I’m having a boy, after having 4 girls I thought it would never happen. I love my girls sooo much and they are each very unique in their own way but I can’t help but feel beyond happy that I will now have a son.

  • SM

    I think the hardest thing is that when my son is focused on academics and athletics but then the girls are all trying to distract him. He is a Junior in high school and so far he sees the benefit in being a friend to all of them. However, there is a lot of pressure to pick one as a girlfriend. Not happening. School and sports are more important for his success in life than some little honey coming around to cause drama and life-changing decisions.

  • Gelsomina

    I am raising a boy after 16 years of raising a girl. He is fourteen, I am going crazy.

  • Celeste Conner

    Dana, I think boys smell worse. (And I agree with all the important stuff.)

  • SBF

    #5 is tough but it happens. My 11 year old son doesn’t want me to hug him or say “I love You” in front of his friends anymore. Although I miss the hugs, I understand and we’ve figured out a way to say “I love you” without anyone noticing. When he says good-bye, he cracks his knuckles while looking at me. I do the same. It’s our little secret way. I know some people don’t like cracking knuckles, but each mom and son could figure out their own secret code. My son initiated it today when I dropped him off at school, so I know he likes to be able to “say” I Love You, but still look “cool” at school.

    • mel rdgz

      My 9 year old son and I have a secret fist bump/handshake that means “I love you”. His friends think its pretty cool.

    • somegirl

      My son started getting embarrassed of me when he was like 8 lol. I wasn’t allowed to say “i love you” around his friends anymore!!

  • Lois Tackett Steele

    I raised four boys after a childhood that included NO brothers. I was always told boys were not as dramatic as girls, which made me roll my eyes and laugh. We always had plenty of drama. And yes, boys sometimes smell atrocious. One place we lived had a hall with their 4 bedrooms and doors that closed at either end of the hall. Yep, a total locker room experience any time I needed to go back there.

  • Suzanne

    I had three boys under the age of two for a short little while. Three in diapers! And not a lot of help. Lost my job, marriage fell apart, but I have three wonderful grown men today. And I have to admit I often thanked God for giving me sons. There tell me they never really felt pressure to perform other than in school (they hated it from kindergarten on). I love being the mom of sons and the mom of twins. Everyone should have both. And if you are open to discuss anything without losing your cool (think back on your own youth!) when raising your children, they will not “fear” talking to you about anything. I feel that this could also apply to girls. Talk to them about the uncomfortable stuff: feelings, sex, drugs, as if you were discussing the weather, and your children will make you their primary source of information. Don’t wait for them to learn stuff from others. Ask them every day what they learned, what happened, how they feel about this, etc… until they feel that this is a comfortable thing to do. This is your job as a parent, whether you are a mom or a dad.

    • Mama

      Suzanne – This was my experience too, about being willing to talk without losing your cool, they will come talk to you if they know they can do it safely, and that you are really listening. Also about not waiting for them to learn stuff from others. Teach them how to handle situations before they happen. (ex: what would you do if someone hands you a lit cigarette at the bus stop? You can practice a response that will come easily, and not leave them stunned and vulnerable in the moment.) Mine are wonderful young men too!

  • aeb

    I think it’s especially hard when you have only boys and work full time. (No time for any female bonding while they are at school. And of course weekends are either running somewhere or trying despatately to catch up on house stuff before the work week starts again.) I have only brothers and while I love my mom dearly, we were never “close”. So when the boys reach that age when they don’t feel they need you anymore, and you can’t understand their testosterone based reasoning, its especially hard and lonely…

  • Kayla Turner

    I have two boys and I have been offended once or twice when told I have such pretty girls when their hair grows out a bit but really I haven’t been told boys are harder or easier than girls. I think at this age boys are harder because they are always moving bit let’s be honest when a girl goes boy crazy things get scary. The only thing I disagree about this article is that boys don’t communicate well. My tthree-year old definitely communicates with me, he talks non stop. And his little brother talks just as much when he is alone with me, he just prefers to allow his brother to be the mouth piece for both of them.

  • Exhausted

    Being a high school student today is really really hard. My 15 year old attends a public high school where most of the students are boys. The girls tend to go to other private schools because the boys are just rough and rude and “manly”. Our son still talks to me about things and I encourage it. My husband has been fighting cancer for 5.5 years and it has taken a toll on the whole family. I do speak with him often about what
    goes at the school and the students are merciless in their “flaming” — saying rude and devastating things to each other. I have often thought that he deserves better. I have looked in to private school which we cannot afford. I look around and see a world that is struggling to stay together. The middle school and high school boys and girls see violent actions everywhere they go. Some of it is unthinkable. What we see on the news and on the web is – the world that they live in and are going to live in. I feel that
    their “breakaway” from their moms has to be handled by each family as they feel that their son is ready to do so. This is the most challenging time in which to be a parent and to be a student. They are the future. I still do feel that he deserves a better environment and I came to a brutal realization that this is as good as it gets. The experiences he has now will come in to play as he matures because the world is what it is.

  • valleygal

    The hardest thing for me being a boy mom is when my son started to pull away.
    I was so looking forward to my son coming back home for a spell after he graduated college. It was wonderful but a little sad because of my mother memories. When he leaves again, Im sure there will be a little bit of heartbreak. Reliving empty nest.
    Smaller but still there. Between his and my work we do t see much of each other.
    While I certainly dont want a clingy son, I do cherish the quiet conversations I have now with him because I know once he starts his own family I wont see him hardly.