‘The Mama’s Boy Myth: Why Keeping our Sons Close Makes them Stronger’ by Kate Stone Lombardi

I am a bit of a CBC junky and even when I’m in the UK I tune in to various CBC programs on arts and culture in addition to news. I heard about this book on CBC and the topic intrigued me. If you are very interested in the topic or love parenting books, then by all means find it at your local library. However, I’ll do you a favour and just give you a few of the main points. 🙂 Click on the ABC interview below. It’s a good summary of some of the issues.

The book exposes a double standard  in our society where the expectation is for mothers to be close to their daughters, but that being close to their sons can be inappropriate or detrimental to them.  No one seems to mind a ‘Daddy’s girl’ and girls are regularly encouraged into masculine pursuits, but a ‘Mama’s Boy’ is frowned upon.  Dad is cool when he teaches his daughter how to fix the car, but don’t let Mom teach her son to knit or engage in a heart to heart. What a boy gains by not being pushed away by his mother to fulfill the macho “Marlboro man” stereotype and by keeping him close, is sensitivity, communication skills, and emotional intelligence. The author is focussing on the mother-son relationship, so she overlooks, to a certain extent, the possibility that these things could be learned from a sensitive, communicative Dad.  Of course she does admit that the very best scenario is for sons and daughters to stay close to both parents. Here are some of the points which I found interesting.

1) Keeping our sons (and daughters) close and encouraging healthy communication, makes them stronger.
2) Mothers can safely reject the notion that pushing a son away or withdrawing when he gets older is better for him; indeed the author proves that keeping him close will make him stronger without any of the traditionally believed pitfalls.
3) The workplace ideals for strong leadership are not necessarily still the traditional male attributes of brute strength, size, and dominance, now giving over more to things like group skills, negotiation, social intelligence, and open communication.
4) Socializing into gender begins even before birth when we ask the age old question, ‘is it a boy or a girl?’
5) Statistics for single parent or same-sex homes have been found to be no better or worse. The author states that “children can thrive with a diversity of different parental combinations”.
6) Boys who are close to mothers or sisters have higher verbal skills and suffer less from depression.

Are the traditional roles and assumptions the author highlights really true? Are mothers criticized for keeping their boys too close? Do they push their sons away? Is there really a ‘mama’s boy’ taboo? Are we still participating in strict gender stereotypes? Some food for thought…leave a comment if you have thoughts on this.

Watch an ABC interview with the author.
The Mama’s Boy Myth

3 responses to “‘The Mama’s Boy Myth: Why Keeping our Sons Close Makes them Stronger’ by Kate Stone Lombardi

  1. I have recently read the Mama’s Boy Myth and found it compelling but I also found her insistence that boys are not that different from girls to be simply myopic and truthfully annoying. I taught for thirteen years and was so surprised to see how different the girls were from the boys. I do not believe it can all be attributed to socialization. I also found she contradicted herself several times. One particular example was from The Car chapter she cited examples of mothers who knowing that boys do not like talking one on one without distraction found activities to do when the need to broach a difficult topic came up. She went on to say that boys were then able to open up more during these conversations. My question is; since these boys were being raised by mothers sensitive to their emotional needs, which according to Lomabardi and the studies she cited, is the key to having boys that are not emotional cripples, then what explains, except pure biology, their discomfort approaching difficult topics without a distraction. I am also the mother of a teenage boy and we are very close. he is also very close to his father. It was fairly obvious from day one that he was different from his female cousins in his activity level and his choice of toys despite the fact that I was completely fine with whatever he chose to play with as was his dad. He spends a lot of time hanging out with his friends but with us also. Most of his male friends have excellent relationships with both parents and think nothing of hanging out with their mothers. Lombardi presents strong and well researched arguments to break down the old school studies that point to boys needing separation from their mothers at a young age and I applaud this. I just would have preferred that she admit that boys do learn differently and are different in many other ways. Her dismissal of testosterone as one small factor is strange to me. It is by no means a small difference. Truthfully you can find a study to support any argument and I like that Lombardi is challenging stale, outdated, misogynistic stereotypes but if you have ever seen a girl lose her temper vs. a boy you cannot continue to say that there are not ingrained differences.

    • I applaud you for reading the book. The main points in the Mama’s Boy Myth were interesting but I did find her being fairly stereotypical for someone who is trying to bust stereotypes! I tried to include the main points in the blog post so that people could skip actually reading the book, which I’m not sure is worth it. Thanks for your comments and I’m happy you are enjoying the blog!

  2. Oops also meant to mention…love your blog!

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