A recent comment came from Elaine, who wrote to say:

Right now the “when-then” in my life is “when our oldest son decides to include us in his life again, then I will be happy.”

She wrote with an obvious sense of loss and pain over this changed relationship. I am so grateful for her honesty with us, and I understand. Though her situation and mine may be very different in terms of the particulars, I, too, experienced a profound loss with both of my sons after they married. I knew they needed to transfer their allegiance to their new wives. I wanted that and encouraged it. I even thought I was prepared for it.

But I quickly discovered a new reality of being not just second place in their lives but of feeling unnecessary. They would have never said this if asked, but it was how I felt. They were busy learning how to do marriage. They were busy learning how to do business and work. Their learning curve was steep, and whereas I had been a part of previous learning curves in their lives when they lived at home, now I was not included or needed. I knew it was right, but it didn’t lessen my sense of loss.

And to make matters worse, when they did call home—rather infrequently from my perspective—they seemed to always want to talk to their dad. Somehow he always was near the phone when they called. And then they would talk “men talk” and my son would hang up without even asking to say hi to me. I knew it wasn’t intentional, but for a time, I felt like I didn’t exist anymore.

I have worked through my mother-adult son relationships in two ways. One is that my husband gently mentioned to both of our sons how much I missed having a relationship with them and suggested that when we came to visit that they take me out for breakfast. My sons had no idea the loss I was feeling. How could they? I felt so honored to have them invite me to go out for breakfast even just a few times over the last five years. And I knew it was their dad’s suggestion, but it didn’t matter to me. I was grateful for even a small amount of time with them one-on-one.

The second solution for me has been to give thanks to God for them and to grow in my own contentment with the kind of relationship we do have. And both relationships are different, I might add. Would I like more time with them? Sure, but I have learned to be at peace with our different kind of relationship now that they are adults. It’s okay now. And I’m okay now, too.

They both have so much on their plates with work, wives, and three and four kids each. So I pray for them, watch them from a distance, and rejoice when I get even little snippets of time with them, whether it is in person, though an email, or through a phone call. The last thing I want is for my sons to feel they have a needy mother they have to worry about and can’t satisfy!

And I remember the days when I was number one in their lives and am grateful for those days of influence and involvement. I treasure it now more than I did then.