Should we ditch the whole 'Mama's Boy' concept? Keep reading to find out...
“Awww, she’s such a Daddy’s girl!”
Calling a little girl “Daddy’s girl” is often tied up with beautiful imagery of her cuddling up to her dad, going for walks or playing soccer together, or, when she’s older, having her first dance with Daddy at her wedding.
But how often do we hear people saying in the same tone, “Awww, he’s such a Mama’s boy!”?
For generations, mums have got the same message when it comes to raising their sons: “Don’t get too ‘close’ to him” or, “Cut the apron strings soon”.
Things are different when it comes to dads and their daughters.
In fact, fathers are encouraged to play a big role in their daughters’ lives as they grow in maturity. Experts advise that having a close relationship with her dad is good for a girl’s self-esteem.
On the contrary, when a mother is similarly involved in her son’s life as he grows up, she may be accused of spoiling, smothering or coddling him.
Why is it considered ‘cool’ if a girl is taught how to tinker with a car engine by her dad, but not so cool if a boy is taught how to sew or wash his own clothes? Why do some mothers tell their 4-year-old sons, “Stop crying like a girl!” or “Only girls like pink!”?
In fact, if a mother doesn’t cut those proverbial apron strings as her son grows older, the common perception is that she will be left with an effeminate, clingy and totally dependent ‘Mama’s Boy’.
So is the ‘Mama’s Boy’ theory true? Apparently not!
A mum’s influence on her boy is good
We all know without doubt that, regardless of gender, all babies benefit vastly from a close connection with their mothers.
This is also true for older boys, according to research. A study published in the journal Child Development that involved almost 6,000 kids found that baby boys who grow up without a strong bond with their mums are more aggressive and destructive.
Sociologist Dr Michael Kimmel says that when young boys grow up without the nurturing influence of their mums, they may carry a fear of intimacy and sense of betrayal into their adult years, given that the first woman they have loved pushed them away at a young age.
Contrary to the belief that a mother’s influence can’t be too good on a boy as he grows older, a strong relationship between mum and son can actually help him grown up into an emotionally secure adult.
Here are just some of the ways that a boy will benefit from the solid nurturing influence of his mum as he grows up:
- Mothers can help their sons develop a high level of emotional intelligence (EI), which will help them talk about their feelings and empathise with others.
- According to Dr William Pollack, a professor of psychology at Harvard University, boys who grow up with the capacity to express their emotions will eventually be independent young men who will make empathetic partners (and don’t we all love a man who can cook, clean and change a baby’s diaper without batting an eyelid?).
- A young man with strong communication skills and well developed EI will also fare better in today’s economy and job market, where communication and teamwork skills are preferred over physical strength or chauvinistic qualities.
- Boys who are closer to their mums are likely to have a more balanced understanding of what ‘masculinity’ is, without confining this term to traditionally associated values such as toughness, self-reliance and the lack of emotion.
- A study of 400 middle-school boys in New York City public schools showed that boys who had strong nurturing relationships with their mums had less anxiety and depression, and got better grades than their peers who did not have such relationships with their mothers.
The point of this article is not to say that adult men should run to their mothers for every problem life throws at them. And actually, this shouldn’t happen if a mother has a strong nurturing relationship with her son through his formative years.
We just want to point out that sometimes stereotypes of mum-son relationships can get in the way of mothers forming and nurturing balanced relationships with their sons, from childhood to adulthood.
We also shouldn’t forget that as much as a son needs to grow up with a loving and supportive maternal presence in his life, he equally needs a strong bond with his dad and other male role models.
So as modern mums, let’s try to think beyond traditional stereotypes about mum-son relationships and not get dragged down by the whole ‘Mama’s Boy’ theory.
Instead, let’s help bring up our boys to be confident, emotionally secure, empathetic and independent adults.
We all know the world could do well with more people like that.