By Jessica Kobrin Bernstein
When she was raising her two children, Kate Stone Lombardi—a seasoned journalist for The New York Times for more than two decades and mom to now 26-year-old Jeanie and 23-year-old Paul—was taken aback by the assumptions of so many people around her saying that it was best to distance herself from her son to avoid him becoming a “mama’s boy.”
But Stone Lombardi’s parenting instincts went against all of the advice that she was hearing—and synthesizing years of research combined with hundreds of her own interviews with mothers, sons, fathers and experts, she presents a solid argument to those naysayers in her book, The Mama’s Boy Myth: Why Keeping Our Sons Close Makes Them Stronger (Avery). Both the data and the personal anecdotes demonstrate that fostering a close mother-son relationship results in emotionally evolved, empathetic and successful men.
What inspired you to write The Mama’s Boy Myth?
There was nothing in popular culture that depicted a mother-son relationship in a positive way. The only thing in books [and] movies were negative images of controlling moms and this weak, wussy boy who was never going to grow up to be independent. My relationship [with my son, Paul] didn’t look anything like that—I wanted to know where this was coming from.
In your opinion, what is the importance of the mother-son relationship?
Moms teach their boys to recognize what they’re feeling, talk about it and [then] start to develop empathy for others. They work at every stage of the game to develop emotional intelligence and it doesn’t make boys weak or dependent. It equips them to navigate life later on.
Has there been any backlash surroundingthe book?
I had an excerpt printed in the Wall Street Journal and some of the comments—more than 200—were really angry, most of them from men. One saying, “Your son sounds like the kind of kid they would have beaten up as a child.” This really surprised me because this book is really good news—I love boys and men, and I think fathers are very important. This book is just about mothers and sons.
Tell me about any positive feedback.
[There have been] a lot of positive comments from sons—one that made me really happy was [from] a veteran of the Afghani and Iraq War, your typical guys’ guy. He talked about how his mom made him a better parent and soldier.
How do these close mother-son relationships differ from helicopter parenting?
What I’m talking about is maintaining an emotional connection to your son and letting him develop into the full person that he is. My generation encouraged what used to be considered masculine traits, like pursuing education, in our daughters so we should be also encouraging emotional intelligence in our sons.
What kind of dialogue do you hope to spark with your research?
My hope is that we start to have a conversation about some of the assumptions we’re making. We’re still looking at the mother-son relationship like it’s 1955. I’m tired of these old stereotypes. Ten-year-old boys still need their moms and 17-year-old boys still need their moms.
To read the full article at New York Family Magazine click here.
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