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Whoa, Momma!

Sharon Kennedy Wynne, Tracey Henry and Suzannah DiMarzio

The myth of the "mama's boy"



mamasboy.jpgIt's rare that the mere title of a book gets me to exclaim, "Finally!" but that's what I muttered under my breath when I arrived this morning and found this from our book editor awaiting my perusal: The Mama’s Boy Myth: Why Keeping Our Sons Close Makes Them Stronger written by New York Times contributor Kate Stone Lombardi.

Mothers are constantly warned not to be too close to their sons, don't cuddle or coddle them, he needs to learn to be a man, after all. The spark that started Lombardi on her quest to write this book was when a friend "confessed" that she and her son were particularly close. The kind of supportive relationship that would be bragged about with a daughter was somehow a dirty little secret with a son. Lombardi "confessed" that she too rejected the mama's boy pressure and saw nothing wrong with nurturing the relationship. Over and over, she found women who delighted in their closeness with their sons, but didn't want their names used or spoke in hushed tones. This of course is because the image in pop culture of a boy who's close with his mom is of a man who is timid, wimpy, unmanly -- one who can't form healthy adult relationships.

But Lombardi found that research shows the opposite to be true.

Boys who are close to their mother are far more secure and independent than those who are not. Little boys who are insecurely attached to their moms are more aggressive and hostile as children. But moms are encouraged to separate from their sons early, push them away in the name of manhood, and we wonder why we have more men dropping out of school or mired in the court system.

In her research Lombardi found a growing number of modern moms who reject this age-old "wisdom" about how to raise boys and are questioning the very nature of masculinity.

"By nurturing close bonds with their sons," she writes, "mothers are developing in boys traits like sensitivity, emotional awareness, tenderness and the ability to articulate feelings -- all of which have traditionally been considered female characteristics. This is precisely the kind of 'emotional intelligence' that many believe today's adult men lack. In a very real sense, mothers of sons are bringing the feminist movement full circle."

What do you think, moms? Do you feel a subtle pressure from society about how close you should be with your sons?

--Sharon Kennedy Wynne

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[Last modified: Monday, February 20, 2012 2:23pm]


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