N and O Article
Originally Printed in The News & Observer, Raleigh, NC, March 15, 2005
– Reprinted by permission of The News & Observer of Raleigh, North Carolina
Sharon O’Donnell plays basketball with her sons, Jason, center, Billy, right, and David, not in the photo, after school at home in Cary. O’Donnell says mothers who have only sons share a common bond and the need to get out of the all-male environment sometimes.
Staff Photos by Juli Leonard
MOB Club offers moms fellowship – That’s Moms of Boys, and one of them thinks a club of their own would be greatBy Karen Guzman, Staff Writer
She arrived home one October afternoon last year to find all the decorative plates gone. Sharon O’Donnell had hung them, as a tasteful welcome, on a wall that greeted visitors entering her Cary home.
In their place this afternoon was a bold poster of Fenway Park, legendary home of the Boston Red Sox, with the solemn words “The Chapel” printed beneath it.
The Sox, beloved by her husband and three sons, had just won the World Series. Decor takes a back seat at such momentous occasions.
O’Donnell left Fenway up for two days before replacing it with her plates. She has learned to compromise.
O’Donnell’s club plan is fairly loose at this point. She’s open to suggestions and can be contacted at www.sharonodonnell.com.
She also plans to establish Web sites for moms who would like to participate in a new club , but don’t have time to attend meetings.
The site, www.momsofboys.org will be available soon.
After all, this is the kind of thing that happens when you’re the only woman in a house of men.
“We suffer in silence,” O’Donnell says of all those moms treading water alone in a sea of testosterone.
Help could be on the way.
A writer and Cary News columnist, O’Donnell is gauging interest among local moms for a Mothers of Boys club.
Why is such a club necessary? Ask any woman deprived too long of intimate female friendship. There are some things men just don’t get.
Like that really interesting two-way conversation requires both parties to respond with more depth than “Yes” or “No.”
Or that the Three Stooges are not highbrow cinema.
And that noisy body functions are not funny and should not be engaged in as entertainment.
Stranded in a house of men, a woman can start to lose perspective on such matters. O’Donnell thinks a club would offer moms crucial female fellowship, as well as opportunities for activities with their sons.
“It sounds like a great idea,” says Maryann Bucknum Brinley, author of “Oh Boy!” a collection of interviews with mothers raising teenage sons. “Mothers need to know that other mothers have been there, done that and survived it.”
No figures are available on boy-only families, but a lot of boys are out there.
Baby boys born in the United States outnumbered baby girls every year between 1992 and 2002, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.
And although a plethora of helpful books about raising boys exists, only a few are aimed at the needs of the mothers raising them.
Sisterhood and sighs
These moms share a special sisterhood, O’Donnell says. It crops up when they meet.
“We sort of have a knowing look, and then you might exchange some things,” she says. “The sighs start and the ‘hang in theres’ go back and forth.”
It’s important to note that every mother interviewed for this article stressed she loves her sons and would not trade them for a harem of girls.
It’s just the lack of female energy, the balance of household yin and yang, they miss.
O’Donnell got the club idea from a similar organization in New Jersey, which patterned itself after another one in Pennsylvania.
Mothers of Boys, a group of about 40 women in Morris County, N.J., was formed in 2002 as a vehicle for moms to connect, let off steam and celebrate life with boys.
Members, who call themselves “MOBsters,” meet four times a year to socialize and participate in charitable activities. The group has donated gifts to orphanages and sent a care package to a New Jersey soldier serving in Iraq.
But it’s the common emotional ground that keeps these women together.
“The meetings just take on a life of their own,” says co-founder Marybeth Wooters, a mother of five sons.
In the January meeting, a mother of four grown sons shared her wisdom with younger moms in the boy trenches.
“There’s a connection that bonds us all, and then on a deeper level, there’s this mom of four boys saying, ‘Keep the faith. It’s a great thing,’ ” Wooters says.
Bonding in busy times
O’Donnell’s club plan is pretty open at this point. With families so busy today, she envisions something that won’t require a big time commitment.
But heartfelt communication is one topic that’s bound to come up. Necessary for women to bond, it can be real challenge with boys.
Especially as they grow up “and you start to see them stepping over into what I call the ‘guy zone,’ ” O’Donnell says.
She realized her oldest son had entered the zone one night when she picked him up after a middle school dance.
Waiting in the car, she saw girl after girl pop into a mother’s car and begin spilling the beans about the night’s activities.
When her son arrived, O’Donnell asked him how the dance had gone.
His response: It was dark. It was loud. That was all. No gossipy tidbits, no lovelorn confessions or broken hearts.
Disappointed, O’Donnell still strives to stay verbally close to her boys, so they’ll know she’s there and available if they ever really need to talk.
Stephanie Mood, of Cary, has three boys, ages 10, 7 and 3. She, too, has noticed that it’s more work communicating with boys.
She worries it’ll be more difficult to maintain a close bond as the boys age and pull away from her.
“I don’t want them tied to my apron strings, but I want them to want to call the house after they go to college,” she says.
Shared activities help. But once again, moms and boys don’t always have the same sorts of interests.
“About every weekend it’s let’s go to the air show, the train show, or play baseball,” Mood says.
She still enjoys shopping trips, however, taking her 3-year-old along with her.
“He doesn’t know any better yet. He’s a prisoner,” she says.
O’Donnell’s sister, Gail Gunnells, of Raleigh, also has three boys. She gamely supports her sons’ athletic interests and has learned to suppress the urge to take them to the ballet.
“The boys weren’t into that,” she says.
O’Donnell wasn’t sure how her older two boys would react when she took them to see a production of “Annie” a few years back.
The night seemed to be going well until her older son disappeared during intermission. He reappeared as the second act was beginning, slipping back into his seat.
O’Donnell whispered to him, asking where he’d been.
He answered, without batting an eye. He had called his father at home to check the hockey score.
O’Donnell was crestfallen, feeling the experience of the play had been lost on him.
Then on the drive home, it all turned around. The boys began singing “Tomorrow” in the back seat.
That day the sun really did come out.
Staff writer Karen Guzman can be reached at 829-4752 or firstname.lastname@example.org.