Thoughts on Mama’s Boys

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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.


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