Mothers and Sons

Friday, March 16, 2012

Kate Stone Lombardi, contributor to The New York Times and author of The Mama's Boy Myth: Why Keeping Our Sons Close Makes Them Stronger, questions the prevailing wisdom about the bond between mothers and sons.


Kate Stone Lombardi

Comments [31]

Dan from Long Island

I listened to this segment and I knew what was coming. Its more father and man bashing. of course boys need their mom and they should be close to their mother. By the way, what does close mean. Close means different things to different people, and means different levels of affection at different stages of your life. I have 5 kids from 24 to 9. 4 boys and a girl. I would like to think that I played a key role in their lifes. Just as a mom has a role, the father has an equal role. They are however different. To deny that is to deny the difference between a man and a woman. Boys needs a positive and active father for so many reasons, and how we can even deny that is so unbelievable. Stats show that children of single moms have many more problems in life then kids with an active father. This is not a knock on the many heroic single moms out there who are doing everything they can. A boy needs a father to show him how to act like a man. What is a man you ask. How about a person who is respectful to all, a hard worker, kind to the needy. A dad is someone to have a catch with. Yes not everyone is a major leaguer, but everyone should have a dad throw a ball around, while you discuss life. I dad knows how to change a tire, fix a pipe etc . A dad may also tell a kid to tough it out in tought times, and that good as well. We men are not relicts of history who have no need to exist in this society. Would anyone ever write a book and say that fathers are more important that moms...of course not. ... heres a little thing my dad told me about moms and dads... I think its true and explains the different way that dads act,
.... " a kid is ridinh his bike without holding on to the handle bars, something his mom and dad told hime is dangerous . Both parents are watching as the boy loses control of the bike and crashes onto the sidewalk and crys. He is not hurt only a small scrape. The mom rushes over to the boy. She would trade places with him in a minute and take all the pain for her child. She never wants to see him suffer or struggle in any way. The dad...knowing his son is not really hurt, looks at the kid and says ," Did you learn a lesson there." The dad knows that life is full of little bruises and battles, he cannot stop his son from getting banged up. In his view the son almost deserved to fall, but as long as he learned a lesson from this incident, then it served a purpose. The dad has a completely different view of the event.

Mar. 16 2012 08:12 PM
Maria from san diego, ca

It's great that sons are close to their mothers - to a point.
If he is too attached to his mother - ie. plans vacations with her, lives with her, puts her needs first - then there can be no room for an adult relationship for him with a wife or girlfriend.

Mar. 16 2012 01:54 PM

All of this parenting talk is really strange. It's burning straw men. Where are the men in this discussion? Why are we still so focused on women as mothers? It's pretty obvious that there is a mounting attack on women's rights, reproductive and otherwise. This focus on parenting, which invariably looks at mothers more than fathers, is limiting. Thoughtful, involved parents tend to raise thoughtful, involved kids. Extremes in either direction from either side is where problems emerge.

Mar. 16 2012 01:01 PM
Peter from Brooklyn

To propose this idea, independent of the collaboration between mother and father, is as egregious as the 'Right To Lifers' proposal to control women's reproductive rights. No studies of boys in middle school can give any indication at all about the issues that commonly wound males in adulthood. Furthermore, Ms. Lombardi's generalization about children going to mothers for emotional support and to fathers for "active" support (I gather physical) belongs as much to the one sided ignorant cliche as the concept of "The Momma's Boy," as did most of the stereotypical examples of scenarios, and metaphors that she offered as the son's dilemma in her interview. I have led men's support groups in NYC for over 20 years and tragically, I have more than my desired share of proof of the self serving danger of her philosophy. I have nothing against a loving relationship between mother and son, but male health is very complex and from the sound of it Ms. Lombardi is defending a female position and not the boys who later become men, which I hear no indication that she knows anything about. Granted I will not be buying this book, so I will not know all its ideas, but what I heard her express was deeply disturbing.

Mar. 16 2012 12:48 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Did you know there's support in the Bible for Ms. Lombardi's position? Isaiah 66:13 has God saying, "As one whom his mother comforteth, so shall I comfort you." I'm not sure how many people who are suspicious of close mother-son relationships might be swayed by this, but it's worth a shot!

Mar. 16 2012 12:12 PM
Kathy from Westchester

I have three boys, two in college, and one in high school. They are messy, smelly, dirty, eat a lot, sleep a lot, make lots of noise, play video games, and they are MAGNIFICENT. I love them and and I let them know it.

I give them all the space they need to do their thing, but I stay attached to them in ways that are not intrusive. They are healthy, wonderful empathic boys, and I know they will grow up to be sensitive, strong, capable men.

There is no other way to do this. And it is my belief that any negative feedback I might get about how unabashedly i love them is borne of jealousy. Misguided other mothers place distance and then feel bad about it.

Mar. 16 2012 12:02 PM
Elle from Brooklyn

Teresa, I could not agree with you more! The cardinal rule is "Never marry a man who hates his mother."

Mar. 16 2012 11:59 AM
Elle from Brooklyn

Moms, you can find common ground with your sons. I'm useless at sports, but I can be the scorekeeper at his ballgames. And he loves theater as much as I do, and there is tons of cheap children's theater in NYC. We both love the Harry Potter books. I don't understand a thing about Pokemon, but he loves explaining it to me. Just a few ideas.

Mar. 16 2012 11:58 AM

What about those of us sons who were hopelessly neglected my our mothers? I think having a neglectful mother and an over-aggressive father have made me into the emotional-invalid misogynist I am today.

Mar. 16 2012 11:57 AM

Suzanne, my mother also favored my brother. When he was younger my brother never really had to do the chores and my mother helped my brother out financially in ways she never did with my sister. The best thing to ever happen to me was to give birth to a boy. It was a very healing experience. And even with all the closeness, I make sure he does his chores.

Mar. 16 2012 11:56 AM
Maria Scardino from NYC

I come at this from the point of view of a first grade teacher. I think that this is a very murky issue, as a general rule fostering independence is not mutually exclusive from being 'close'. However being too close hinders children from developing peer relationships, and it also interferes when it comes to children taking ownership of their learning. I have had students who are so used to being the center of their parents' universe that they come to school and are shocked to experience that they will not be taught one- on -one!

Mar. 16 2012 11:56 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Children are just pawns in the power struggle between Mom and Dad for supremacy and control of the "family." When divorce became accepted and commonplace, the feminist control over the children became almost total. It is a reversion to a BONOBO-style social order.

Mar. 16 2012 11:56 AM
Teresa B from Brooklyn

I was married to a man who had a falling out with his mother before she died- a combination of the adult son hating his mother for all of the years of her being an A-type overbearing mother.

He basically has an issue with women and when i became a mother to his child it when he started hating me - i became his mother. we are no longer married.

bottom line: my first queston on a potential date is, HOW WAS YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH MOTHER? if it was negative i will not persue a relationship!

Mar. 16 2012 11:55 AM
Elle from Brooklyn

Maria, good for you! I also hate "big boys don't cry" - what does that get us but a bunch of emotionally closed-off men?

Mar. 16 2012 11:55 AM
Henry from Katonah

No positive examples of mother-son relationships? It is pretty clear that our last 2 Democratic presidents were both raised primarily by their mothers. I think they turned out extraordinarily well. That is not meant to be a partisan statement.

Mar. 16 2012 11:55 AM
Beth16 from Brooklyn

Hey This first caller sounds like she's talking about my (now 15 yr old) at LaGuardia!
Boys can be cool & interesting, responsible & thoughtful too!

Mar. 16 2012 11:55 AM

I'm 42 and I'm posting this from my parents' house and my Mom is actually making me a delicious lunch! I don't live with Mom & Dad, but I live 1 mile away and I'm glad that I am able to share my new family with my Mother. My son is 8 years old and adores spending time with his Grandmother (and we enjoy the free babysitting).

My Mother can be controlling and domineering at times, and I have consciously been a contrarian in many ways to my Mom's wishes since I was 12 years old, partly to establish my own individuality and other times just to be a brat LOL. I explain my actions when Mom gets upset with my behavior and she seems appreciative of my honesty. I may disagree with my mother on things from politics to parenting to my hairstyle, but we both strive to be honest and open with our feelings and intentions.

Mar. 16 2012 11:54 AM
tom from new york

We all know it's good to be close to our mother. But how do you define close, how do you distinguish between a healthy close and an unhealthy close.

Mar. 16 2012 11:54 AM

I have two sons and a daughter. I work so hard to be close to my sons, although we don't share as many common interests, such as shopping, as I do with my daughter! I want them to to respect woman and view them as equals -- like their father does.

Mar. 16 2012 11:54 AM
Suzinne from Bronx

This is a very sore topic w/ me. The love of my mother's life was my brother. I was treated like garbage and emotionally abused by her all my life. Two years ago when she died my brother got EVERYTHING from her estate. That's the legacy my mother left me, and it has damaged me forever and the hate I feel for her will never, ever dissipate.

Mar. 16 2012 11:53 AM

Love this topic. My son wanted to breastfeed far longer than is typical in the United States. Fortunately, I worked in over 33 countries and knew from this experience that he was normal. My son was the first among his peers to happily go off on sleepovers and happily go off to camp. He got his black belt (which was a three hour long very grueling test) at age 10. At the same age, he confidently insisted on walking to school on his own. After tailing him, I concluded he was ready. He had a steady girlfriend for nine months when he was in sixth grade -- longer than the Kardashian marraige. He bought her flowers on Valentine's Day. He does well in school. I took up Martial Arts too when I felt sorry for him doing push ups when he was training for his black belt. I suppose we do somewhat hide our closeness because we play spar instead of hugging the way we did when he was little. I adore him and have no fears about his ability to be independent. I think a secure base of love and comfort lead to independence. Deprivation leads to dependence because of unmet needs.

Mar. 16 2012 11:53 AM
Sebastian from Stamford

Does any of the work take into acct if the Mom is not educated, ie- high school dropout, or high school diploma only? What about Mom's that are not stable and keep their sons close to make themselves feel better? Or Moms that lie pathologically to shelter their sons?

Mar. 16 2012 11:52 AM
Maria from Morningside Hts.

Being close to my sons also means letting them express their emotions freely. I'm still proud of my comeback to a man who said to my then-2-year-old "Big boys don't cry." I said "Well he's a little boy, and it's fine with me if he cries."

Mar. 16 2012 11:52 AM

It is not specific enough to say that being "close" to your mother is a good or bad thing. It is likely the nature of the relationship that matters. Clearly a close but unhealthy relationship is bad. And the opposite is likely true.

Mar. 16 2012 11:52 AM
MD from Westchester

Define "close". Moms that are too involved in their children's lives do not make either their sons - or daughters for that matter- any favors.

Mar. 16 2012 11:52 AM

I would love to have the closeness with my sons that I have with my daughter but they have no interest. They push me away at every opportunity; one has been that way since preschool, the other since he became a teen. I treasure my closeness with my daughter and don't know how other moms get their sons to include them in their lives.

Mar. 16 2012 11:51 AM
Elle from Brooklyn

Laura from Nyack - Yes! I think you've hit it exactly!

Mar. 16 2012 11:50 AM
Elle from Brooklyn

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I live in fear of the old saw "My son is my son til he takes a wife . . . " I only have one child (eight years old now), and I hope and pray that the bond that we have now will not be sundered by the inevitable societal (and Freudian!) pressures.

Mar. 16 2012 11:50 AM
Laura from Nyack ny

Is there an implicit homophobia here... That sons who are too close to their mothers will turn out effeminate and gay?

Mar. 16 2012 11:50 AM
Chris from Stamford

When I first read her article, I felt so empowered. I have 2 boys and 1 girl. I shower them equally with loads of love and affection. The debate in our house is who should give the boys the "sex" talk, mom or dad? I want to speak to the boys as I did my daughter but my husband thinks it is not "right" coming from mom. I would value Kate's take on that topic.

Mar. 16 2012 11:47 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Where is the father in all of this?

Mar. 16 2012 11:05 AM

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