On THAT letter and being happy parents

Did you read it? The letter from a mother to her 10 year old son complaining of his lack of respect towards her. It caused a predictable twitter storm and a rush to judgement.

I found the letter an uncomfortable read: initially I felt like a second class parent as I failed many of this woman's parenting essentials. My second thought was relief that I didn't breast feed. But it's not that bad surely? I also began to be uncomfortable with the tone of it, and felt sorry for her son because of her martyred tone, and I recognised myself in her too. Then I caught myself on. Like everyone else on the internet, I was judging this woman, while knowing almost nothing about her.

It's a letter. As readers we don't know have the full picture of what her life is like, or the exact nature of her son's 'rude and aggressive' behaviour. Her son could be hitting puberty early. My son's behaviour also changed at age 10, and I did not cope well at the time.

Perhaps this mother is hurting inside, her gorgeous little boy who always looked up to her is now disrespecting her. As parents we all know this is likely to happen during the teenage years, but it can be a shock when a 10 year old does it.

Many parents, especially mums, seem to invest far more time and emotional energy in their kids than my parent's generation did: most of my interactions with my Mum and Dad were on family outings, plus board games and cricket with my Dad. At home we were sent out to play, and even meal times were spent reading books and newspapers, with The Archers on the radio. Very middle class I know. Today we seem to spend many more hours with our children each day, especially if we are full time mothers in the home. I'm sure that I'm not the only woman who didn't realise all the demands that would be made of me as a mother. So many life changes and I've not always accepted them with good grace.

Anyone who believes that they have given up a lot for their kids could feel some of this, especially if motherhood does not live up to their expectations. If most of your time and energy has been invested in your children, you could well feel depressed and even betrayed if they turn around and disrespect you and take you for granted. But if you do everything for your children, isn't there a danger that they this will happen naturally? Sadly it seems to be a human trait not to value the everyday quiet loving care that is provided by the stay-at-home parent. Else why does the one coming home from work usually get a rapturous welcome?

Most commentators condemned this woman, and many were very harsh, but one thing did ring true, because I've been thinking it too.  Like me, this mum needs to be happy for her kids. I'm not talking about ecstatic happiness, but contentment, cheerfulness and positivity. Not at all times, obviously. They need to see all the emotions: grief when someone dies, anger at injustice, hurt when someone is cruel, but I think our children need to see that we are happy to be their parents. If they see us looking sad every day, they may think that it's their fault, even if we tell them that our happiness is our responsibility, as I do, they may still blame themselves

And perhaps that 10 year old boy may have that burden.

And perhaps, like me, that Mum needs to work on her own happiness. To help herself, and her son.


  1. I read the letter and didn't want to assume that the mother was to blame for her son's behaviour, but there's a lot left out, such as his relationship with his father (if there even is one) and his brother. Mostly, though, I suspect that he is hearing a lot of this kind of talk himself away from home, particularly at school, and that there may be a lot of rudeness and aggression directed at him. A lot of adults don't think children, particularly boys when they get big and 'threatening', are entitled to civility when adults talk to them, but expect them to be polite anyway. In secondary school it gets a lot worse as bigger boys can act that way with even less accountability (that was particularly true for me at boarding school, where senior boys, particularly prefects, would be both verbally and physically abusive in response to trivial slights, but staff often were as well). It's no surprise that they take it out on their parents.

    It's too much to expect a 10-year-old (even a girl, much less a boy) to consider their mother's pregnancy sickness and labour pains; they might appreciate those things more as adults.

    1. I agree that he could be picking this up at school, and via the media too perhaps? And perhaps there's a similarity between the behaviour that many special needs parents observe that their children hold it together in school and let it out at home.

      I think it's a bit bizarre to expect anyone to consider what their mother went through in pregnancy and childbirth though!

  2. I had heard about this letter but hadn't read it until now and it is interesting. I too have a ten year old who has become rude and aggressive but I don't think I would deal with it with a letter like this as I don't think he is old enough or mature enough to understand. Sometimes there is so much more going on inside their heads and bodies, they hit out at us as it is the place where they can. I don't think I would judge her as so many did but I can see what you mean when you say that you start to. Interesting post thank you

    1. It certainly raises lots of issues, thanks for reading and commenting x

  3. I thought it was a brave letter but sadly it will be wasted on a 10 year old. I also think that she didn't do it all for him, so that he could have the best life. She did it for them as a family and for her own satisfaction as a good mother, for her future vision of successful well-adjusted, happy sons, etc... I do everything I can to make my daughter happy so whilst I am doing these things for her, the pleasure I get from making her happy and the pleasure I will get in the future, hopefully, from a good relationship with the lovely adult I hope she will become, is far more. I could have chosen a high-flying career instead of being a mother but that would not have made me as happy as being a mother makes me. I wish my little one a wonderful life but I don't kid myself, I did it for me.

  4. Hmmmm......

    I hadn't read the letter until now so thanks for bringing it to my attention. I have to be honest and say that from the first line it reads to me not as a mother really writing to her son but rather writing a piece that might appeal to other mothers? A piece to offload perhaps? I say this because very few 10 year olds would 'get', much less care about, their mothers pregnancy issues! She surely knows this? They wouldn't even get that they're being disrespectful! And THAT they NEED to 'get', and quick.

    I do like your thoughts on the issue. I think we are very emotionally invested in our kids and they definitely see home as a place to let go of all their frustrations. It is sometimes hard to deal with. They have to let go but also they need to find a respectful way to do so. But sure it's like talking to the wall! xx

  5. I am so out of the loop at times and know nothing of this but I've enjoyed reading your musing of it and I think you are right our kids need to seeus filled with joy to know they should be too. Mich x