I was 17 years old when I made my first visit to a fraternity house. 

I’ll never forget the feeling of my flip flops sticking to remnants of spilled food as I ascended the staircase, and the unique odor of what I assumed to be a combination of sweat, vomit and feet. Little did I know it would be my first foray into a lifetime of a frat lifestyle, as a boy mom, playing the role of house mother for my impending offspring.

I was blessed with four boys in less than six years. They’re close in age and a force to be reckoned with. Their energy alone does circles around the greatest athletes of our time, and the walls of our house have the drywall damage to prove it. Any mom to energetic kids knows that if this energy doesn’t get out, it’s going to cause catastrophic damage to your individual psyche and likely within siblings or the home. That’s why, on a number of occasions, my husband and I have felt the buildup of stress brewing within our guys and stopped by a local middle school track.  We drop them off, enjoying our coffee in the quiet car, as our boys complete their task of running or walking a mile. They know not to come back into the car until they’re done. Perhaps this is a good time to note that I never claimed to be a perfect parent. But in my defense, it does help get the energy out!

Related: To the people who assume raising boys is wild and messy—it is and it's perfect

I’ll never forget attending a neighborhood outdoor party where I overheard a neighbor as she leaned into her husband, saying “don’t ever invite them over, they’ll ruin our house…”. I still chuckle at that comment, recalling my kids running through the blocked off streets in the neighborhood playing tag, screaming for joy and digging in the dirt trying to find worms. To an outsider, raising boys looks messy, loud and wild. Honestly, I’m an insider, and for my family, the perception is not far off! Having boys like mine is not for the faint of heart.

But here’s what many people don’t know: Raising boys has more tender moments than outsiders realize.

When they’re at the age of vying for your attention, being a boy mom is reminiscent of having the leading role in ‘The Bachelorette’. Every minute of my life has been a living, breathing cocktail reception held before each and every rose ceremony. Outlandish antics, fights and pushup competitions are the norm, as conversations are constantly interrupted by another gentleman suitor, asking for one-on-one time with me. It’s a one-upmanship competition where, rather than a rose at the end of the night, my attention is the sole prize in their eyes. 

Let’s not forget rolling up to a store, or quite frankly, any public setting. Being a boy mom makes you feel less like mother goose and more like a bad ass mother hen. When I cruise into a store with four boys in tow, you can bet your bottom dollar that we get a lot of attention. I’m herding my boys across parking lots like wild mustangs, making sure everyone’s safe simply getting into the store. But I know these mini brutes are also serving as my own set of personal body guards, especially as they get older. They might follow me here, there and everywhere—but I feel like a baller in the company of my guys. Why? Because I know I’m the most precious female in their life. I know they would go to the ends of the earth for me, as I would for them. 

Related: How becoming a boy mom transformed the way I see men

But here’s what many people don’t know: Raising boys has more tender moments than outsiders realize. There are feelings, emotions, and compassion beyond the energetic and loud exterior. My house has more drywall patches from roughhousing antics than the homes of my fellow girl moms’, yet beyond the surface are humans who need love and affection the same as anyone else. I consider it one of life’s most precious gifts, to serve as my guys’ personal sherpa of emotions. Preparing them to be self-aware, and to stay in tune with more than the rush of energy. And every once in a while, reminding them that their influx of jokes about bodily gasses aren’t always going to make others laugh.

It's interesting how I find myself watching my best friends’ daughters as though they’re wild animals in their natural habitat, when I was once a young little girl myself. And yet, I imagine that’s how outsiders look at our family—like monkeys in a cage on display. Or better yet, a three-ring circus. But you know what? This is my circus…and my monkeys. And, I love this life. 

Being a boy mom is the most challenging, stressful, fun, exhilarating and rewarding job I could ever imagine. And truth be told, it’s a chore that requires a lot of extra cleaning to ensure you don’t live in a proverbial fraternity house. But boys love their moms with a fierceness that’s unmatched by any sport or novelty. And it’s the greatest gift I never knew I needed but am beyond grateful that I received.

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