Thoughts on Mama’s Boys

Have you ever been counseled to push your son away? To create some psychological distance between yourself and your son? To stop “babying” him or kissing or hugging him?

Ahmeritt, a Blogging ‘Bout Boys reader was. Her son is now 18, but she distinctly remembers “a church deacon counseling my husband to not let his son be too close to his mother.”

Such advice — and the fears represented by such misguided advice — is examined closely in Kate Stone Lombardi’s book, The Mama Boy’s Myth. For decades, Lombardi says, women have been counseled to back off from their sons, lest they somehow contaminate, corrupt or otherwise interfere with their sons’ development. But those misguided messages, she argues, are harmful to both boys and their mothers — and to the society at large.

She starts with society’s current mythology regarding moms and boys:

Mothers who stay emotionally close to their sons for “too long” are seen as those smothering moms who won’t let their boys grow up. Instead of pushing them out of the nest to make their way in the rough-and-tumble world, these moms hold their sons too tightly. They create effeminate “mama’s boys” who will invite contempt from their peers and will be forever maladjusted.

Think about that for a bit. I personally never felt pressured to push my sons away, and I certainly haven’t stopped hugging or kissing them, despite the fact that my oldest is now 14. But it has been implied that I have “too much influence” over them. And realizing that, I realize that there are definitely still people who believe that a mother’s continued influence over her sons is somehow a bad thing.

The good news, Lombardi writes, is that most moms are ignoring the advice and following their instincts instead:

This is…the story of an underground movement being conducted by a generation of mothers. It’s not only that women are keeping close to their sons; it’s that in rejecting decades of accepted “wisdom” about how to raise boys, mothers are questioning the very nature of masculinity and redefining assumptions about gender. By nurturing close bonds with their sons, mothers are developing in boys traits like sensitivity, emotional awareness, tenderness, and the ability to articulate feelings.


The Building Boys Bulletin

The Building Boys Bulletin Newsletter gives you the facts, encouragement, and inspiration you need to help boys thrive. Written by Jennifer L.W. Fink, mom of four sons and author of Building Boys: Raising Great Guys in a World That Misunderstands Males, Building Boys Bulletin includes:

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“I learned a lot about helping boys thrive over the past 20+ years — most of it the hard way! I’m eager to share what I’ve learned to make your path a little easier.”   – Jennifer

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4 Responses

  1. Read the book and have to say, I’ve been accused of many of those things. In the beginning it bothered me. Now, not so much.

    I am raising my son the best way I know how. For better or worse, he’s my boy. I love him, and I will continue to do what I feel is best for him. His love of trains and mud and toilet humor is in direct contrast to his love of all things yellow and pink and of pretty bows in his hair and wearing my clothes. And, I love him all the more for it.

    At 3yrs old, he can be whatever he wants to be, and he’ll have his Mama’s support and love. Always.

  2. I’m reading the book now, about in the middle. I have to say that I’m not super impressed. So far it’s just an analysis of how we got here, how mothers of “Mama’s Boys” are viewed, and a few anecdotal stories of mother’s experiences. I was hoping for more of “Here’s how we can help our boys grow into mensch” (Or in my case “how to connect with a taciturn 13 yo :^P ) I didn’t want more of why Freud was wrong/misinterpreted and how even modern stories enforce the idea of an over-involved mother being a bad influence.

    Any one know of a book that has more how-to and less historical stuff?

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