When You Think, I Love My Son But I Don’t Like Him


It’s certainly a momentous occasion to learn you’ll be parents, but once children arrive it seems for some that parenting is not all it’s cracked up to be. This can be especially true for moms of sons. So what do you do when you find yourself thinking, ‘I love my son, but I don’t like him’?

I love my son but I don’t like him is unpleasant but not uncommon to think. From postpartum depression affecting early bonding to teen sons challenging mom’s role, many moms find parenting an unnatural struggle. Getting support is encouraged, but moms should use caution expressing dislike for sons.

As a mom of three sons, I can understand the frustration many moms feel along the parenting path. And it’s even multiplied if that path is taken as a solo parent. However, the parent-child relationship is not set in stone, and there’s always means to improve it, if given time and staying diligent.

Is It Normal Not To Like Your Child?

Sometimes a mom’s tough love for her son can lead her to do things that disappoint or even hurt him in the short-term.

Of course all parents get frustrated with their children from time to time, but what about when that frustration seems to turn into more? Is it normal for parents to not like their child?

It’s normal for parents to not like their child now and then, especially when challenged, but unwavering dislike for minor children is not appropriate. Parents should remember that their role is to guide and teach their child, so that he or she grows into a respectable, if not always likable, adult.

In 2018, there was a viral video surfing the internet about a mom who walked out on her son at his college sports signing, demonstrating a strong disapproval for the college and team he selected.

However, what wasn’t/isn’t seen is that the mom and son had discussed his choices prior to the video and agreed upon something other than what he chose when the cameras were rolling.

Mom, being blindsided, left in her distress but returned a few moments later; of course, the video stops before that’s shown. What also isn’t shown is that mom’s feelings stemmed from her tough love for her son, and wanting him to move far away from the gang affiliation he had in the area of the chosen college (their hometown).

Moms, like Florida football player Jacob Copeland’s mother, may sometimes find themselves at odds with their son, and the world, when they voice dislike for their sons choices, even when they have their son’s best interests at heart.

Corroborating this situation is a 2017 study from the Journal of Family Psychology. It says that mothers who perform many roles within their family report higher stress (not surprising). This is often common for single-parent homes and situations where moms work both inside and outside of the home.

Also, not surprising is that homes with mothers reporting high levels of stress say it carries over into negatively affecting the parent-child relationship, particularly if mothers have sons.

Related articles about moms and sons that I recommend:

Can You Love Your Son But Not Like Him? Is This Possible?

Have you ever heard someone say I love him, but I don’t like him? Doesn’t like come before love? How is it possible to love someone, but not like them? What’s meant by this?

It is absolutely possible to love your son, but not like him. There is a fundamental difference between love and like, and this distinction is often unknown until parenting. Parents almost instantaneously, and even by obligation, love their children, but liking them can take years, if ever.

Love and like are two separate things. One is a preference (like) and the other is an emotionally-connected action (love).

LikeIs a preference or opinion.Examples:
You like pizza not Brussels sprouts.
You like shopping with your best friend, not your dad.
LoveIs an action stemmed by emotion and obligation.Examples:
You move closer to your elderly parents to take care of them at your own expense.
You spend afternoons driving your son to soccer practice when you’d rather be watching telly.

My Story: I remember experiencing an almost overwhelming love for my first-born, our son, when he was a baby. And I liked just about everything about him from his chubby toes to his peach-fuzz head (albeit, I didn’t like his colicky days!).

However, by the time he turned three, it was quite difficult to like anything about him. Unfortunately, our situation had me working (teacher) and my mother kept our son quite a bit in the early days. Hindsight is 20/20, they say…

She spoiled him beyond belief from toys everyday to just getting his way 100% of the time. It didn’t matter, either, that he ruled the roost because if you make a 3-year-old king…well, you should never make a 3-year-old king!

And of course, anytime his father wasn’t around, he was an absolute terror to me. He wouldn’t mind; he would scream at me at the top of his lungs and even lash out physically some. He simply couldn’t fathom why I had different expectations from his ‘mamaw.’

I could command a classroom of unruly inner-city kids, and their parents; yet, I wasn’t able to manage my own beloved 3-year-old!

I still remember the day I called my husband/his dad and begged him to come home early from work because I couldn’t handle it anymore. My husband dropped everything and did just that, but only after asking me, ‘If you can’t handle a 3-year-old, what are you going to do when he’s 10 or 16?’

I had no answer and wasn’t concerned about that in my dire straits. I truly just wanted him to take care of the immediate need which included getting me away from the little hellion I apparently spawned!

And if anyone had dared asked me if I loved my son at that moment, I would have professed, ‘Yes, of course! But I don’t like him at all!’

What To Do When You Do Not Love Your Son-

Though postpartum depression is common, many women are reluctant to seek help because of fears of repercussions and social stigma.

Many moms can’t imagine having dislike for their children, especially infants. However, it’s even more unnerving to think you don’t love your child. What should moms do who don’t love their children?

Parents, and moms in particular, who experience not loving their son or daughter need to seek counseling, whether from clergy or the medical field, as a first-step towards healing for their family. This is especially critical when children are minors, though necessary even for adult children, too.

It’s not unusual for moms to suffer postpartum depression after the birth of their son or daughter and sometimes, this manifests into dislike or not loving the child to the point of neglect. Most commonly, this afflicts mothers with a pre-existing history of depression, so families can be prepared and aware. However, it’s not always the case.

One study reports that 17% of healthy mothers experience postpartum depression, too. This is significant because most therapies and intervention studies and programs focus solely on women who have had a history of depression.

Steps for parents who do not love their son or daughter:

  • Maintain open-dialogue with each other, be honest and non-judgmental.
  • Always care for your minor children, even to the point of keeping a list if necessary that basic needs are met.
  • Meet with your religious counselors if applicable. Clergy are often well-versed in family therapy.
  • Seek support from medical professionals and experts.
  • Don’t react emotionally to your child or act upon resentments or out of frustration.
  • If you’re struggling with adult sons or daughters, accept that you don’t have to like the same things or even have the same values (without compromising your own) to have a loving parent-child relationship.
  • Above all, don’t give up! Family, more than anything else, is worth your long-term effort!

Mothers Who Regret Sons Over Daughters

As a mom of both sons and a daughter, I feel I’ve had the best of both worlds. However, some moms struggle with parenting both sexes, and those who just have sons sometimes resent it. So what can be done for moms who regret sons over daughters?

Moms who regret sons over daughters must deal with it appropriately and be careful not to resent their sons. Whether it’s moms who have only sons or moms who simply prefer their daughter over their son, it’s important for sustaining healthy family dynamics that moms treat sons equitably.

I remember working with a lady who had three boys. She admitted to me one day that she pined for years about not having a girl to doll up and experience ‘girl-talk’ with. I asked her how she got over it (because it was evident to me that she relished her boys fiercely. and that her boys were happy, well-cared for kids)

She said she talked to a woman who couldn’t have any children and realized just how blessed she was after all. From then on, she wholeheartedly embraced being ‘a boy mama’!

This Boy Mama baseball cap (from Amazon) proudly lets any woman proclaim her status.

My Story: I have already written about having sons and a daughter, but what I didn’t say is that I, too, was a bit disappointed upon learning that my first child was a boy. I had strongly desired a daughter, partly because I had grown up with three brothers and no sisters and really wanted that girl connection.

However, I was able to put that immature feeling aside quickly and like my friend, embraced being a boy mama. As I also said before, he was an overwhelming joy to me in those early days and once we got beyond the toddler years, he was both liked and loved by his parents.

It’s not to say it’s all roses with sons. Oh no! Don’t be fooled! We’ve had several phases that caused us great distress with our eldest son, and naturally, reducing our ‘like’ for him (but never our love!).

Moms who prefer daughters over sons are not bad moms. It’s a preference that can’t really be denied and doesn’t need to be. However, this preference becomes a problem if it means unfair treatment or neglect towards sons.

Bad TV Sons

The sons of TV’s Malcolm in the Middle are perhaps the most notorious of children, but in their case, the apple doesn’t fall far from the (parenting) tree.

Often, family-style TV shows are more about bad mother-in-laws than bad sons. However, it’s not to say shows with bad sons don’t exist. On the contrary! Let’s look briefly at some of the top, and very popular, TV shows with bad sons.

  1. Dallas: One of the most popular night-time soap operas in the early 80s, Dallas was as well-known for its infamously bad TV son, J.R. Ewing, as it was for anything else. Now J.R. loved and revered his mom and dad, but as a person, he was popularly awful and his parents, especially, mom, were often disappointed in his cutthroat ways.
  2. The Simpsons: The Simpsons began in 1989 and continues today on the same Fox network, making it the longest running TV series ever. Middle-child, Bart (a name that most-purposefully resembles BRAT) is the absolute worst to his family, teachers, and community at large. Probably the only person Bart doesn’t deliberately scam, harm, or harangue in some way is his ever-faithful pal, Milhouse.
  3. Malcolm In The Middle: This show ran on Fox TV from 2000 to 2006. However, it continues to live on and gain new fans everyday through syndication. It centers around high-strung and overwrought mom, Lois; hapless but endearing, dad, Hal; and their five conniving and scheming sons. Well, the two youngest ones aren’t so conniving and scheming as they are needy and taxing. But in full disclosure, the parents are just as (hilariously) awful!
  4. Empire: Fox’s Empire started in 2015 and continues to this day as one of its most popular and well acted shows, starring two Oscar nominated actors (one winner!) and a musically-talented cast. However, the drama comes from sons who usurp their father’s business, taking over in the most underhanded fashion.
J.R. Ewing of Dallas might just be the top ‘bad son’ in TV history.

The Takeaway For Loving Sons But Not Liking Them

So what’s to know about moms and dads who think I love my son, but I don’t like him? A lot!

Let’s recap:

  • There’s a distinction often misunderstood and overlooked between like and love. Know the difference!
  • Parents are actually obligated to love their children, but not necessarily like them.
  • Some moms suffer postpartum depression which affects their love and care for their sons or daugthers.
  • Parents shouldn’t be overly concerned about disliking their sons or daughters choices, but should always maintain their obligation to love their children (and that includes caring for them when minors).

Related articles about moms and sons that I recommend:

Jackie Booe

Jackie Booe is a Catholic mother of four, grandmother ("Oma") to two, and wife to Mat since 1994. She is a former public school teacher of 18 years, licensed in 3 states and certified to teach elementary, secondary English, and English Language Learners. In addition, she also taught education courses online as an adjunct professor, mentored numerous education interns, hosted professional development for educators, and tutored, as well as homeschooled.

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