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Keeping The Mother-Son Relationship Healthy
The mother-son relationship has been given special consideration throughout the history of mankind. Many women say that having a son gives them a sense of completeness. “It’s like I found a missing part of me through him,” confirmed one woman.
Boys are valued more in patriarchal societies. Sometimes ‘male child-centeredness’ can become obsessive. In India, special rituals are performed to invoke divine intervention in donating a son. Sons are needed to maintain the lineage, take care of the parents in old age and ensure the salvation of the soul after death. As such, boys receive preferential treatment including the best food, health care, education and protection. This ‘son-preference’ has led to widespread female feticide in several countries, leading to a reduction in the sex ratio.
Researchers at the University of Richmond in Virginia have found that women’s brains develop a ‘maternal neuron’ that acts like a ‘bad mother’ or ‘good mother’ switch. These clusters of brain cells form during pregnancy and turn on after birth, attributed to good or bad parenting. ‘Good mothering’ requires a certain number of neurons to be activated.
A team at Yale University used brain scans to study the areas of the brain that drive good or bad mothering. “We have identified areas of the brain where there is a link between neuronal activity and measures of ‘adequate’ or ‘inadequate’ parenting,” said Dr James Swain.
So far no one has come up with a scientific explanation as to why a mother loves her son more than her daughter. Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins suggests in his book “The Selfish Gene” that this maternal devotion is a selfish strategy for the survival of his genes. He knows that after a certain age, he cannot reproduce. So she protects her male offspring because he will eventually spread her gene pool.
When a mother has this protective love for her son she is fiercely protective of his life, stunting his emotional growth and tying him to her apron as a ‘mama’s boy’. This trend is documented from biblical times in the story of Rebecca, who encouraged her beloved son Jacob to steal his brother’s blessing by impersonating him. But he suffered heartbreak as he was separated from her for years to protect him from Esau’s wrath.
The Greek mother Thetis drowned her son Achilles in the magical river Styx, rendering him helpless. But of course he left her with a vulnerable heel.
As with mother-daughter relationships, close mother-son relationships are important during the early formative years. Children begin to suffer when separated from their mothers. But every mother should remember that this is only a temporary phase. Physical distance should start early with a boy because of the sexual potential of such a bond. Mollydolling is harmful to the mental health of both mother and child.
The Oedipus complex is a well-known phenomenon. It is based on the Greek myth where Oedipus finds his father a rival for his mother’s love. So he kills her and marries her mother Jocasta.
The period between 18 months and three years when a child becomes aware of his own sexual identity. He develops a sense of self by exploring his own body. Between the ages of three and five, the libidinal and ego develop. This can be defined as the Oedipus stage, when a child desires to possess his mother and even begins to see his father as a rival. This is a transitory stage, and a wise mother will gradually wean him away from such feelings until he begins to identify with his father.
Reasons for abnormal feelings of mother:
• When a mother experiences abandonment from her father in her own childhood, she may become overprotective of her son, to compensate for this feeling of abandonment. He wants his son to live in that Oedipal stage for his own fulfillment. Sons cannot be surrogate husbands or fathers; They are not playthings for his pleasure.
There are many great men who have suffered because of this overprotection. Andrew Carnegie’s mother promised him that he would not marry until she died. It has been a frustrating experience. He finally married at the age of 52, a year after her death.
Dwight Eisenhower also had an obsessive mother. Once when she was isolated for scarlet fever, she used a ladder to climb up and see her son every day through a window.
However, a mother who experiences childhood abandonment by her father may also experience bonding difficulties and become abusive towards her son.
• If a wife’s emotional needs are not met by her husband because of his profession, or because of his indiscreet nature, or because of infidelity, she may turn to her male child. He may shower her with kisses or hugs or verbal professions of love. Such ’emotional cruelty’ seeks to separate the father from his son’s love. Real injustice is not dismissed.
• Unmarried parents, either unmarried or widowed, may also overindulge and overprotect their male children to compensate for the lack of a father.
The destructive effects of such dysfunctional relationships:
On the baby:
1. Excessive dependence on mother stunts mental and emotional growth. He is unable to cope with life’s challenges, has behavioral problems and is often considered a ‘sissy’. The mother does not want her son to grow up and plans to keep their relationship exclusive.
2. Inability to maintain healthy relationships with others. It can even damage his sexuality and destroy his ability to have a happy partnership. He avoids commitment. If he marries, it may end in divorce because of his mother’s constant interference. He wouldn’t have the courage to stand up to her and protect his wife from constant bullying by her mother.
3. A manipulative seductive mother and a passive distant father can turn a boy gay.
4. Mother’s love can prove to be a dangerous emasculating attachment, rendering the son sexually ineffective.
1. A woman who shifts her time and priority to her son will lose her husband. There will be lack of intimacy and many sexual problems. Her husband will start looking elsewhere for his fulfillment. He may become a workaholic or develop extramarital affairs or indulge in drinking or gambling.
2. A mother whose life revolves around her son is bound by a subconscious assurance that she will never leave him.
3. An abusive relationship may develop. Inappropriate feelings towards her son is a form of child abuse and can be depressing.
How to maintain a healthy mother-son relationship:
• Respect your son’s personality. Treat him with deep respect and help him develop his personality.
• Make your son a well-balanced person mentally, physically and spiritually. ‘Mother Love’ kills. So don’t hold too tightly.
• Set healthy boundaries and know when to physically remove yourself.
• Parenting is a joint venture. Fathers should not be excluded from the relationship. They should also be allowed to bond with their sons. A parent’s responsibility involves equipping them with life skills such as respect for elders, respect for the opposite sex, discipline, love and good example. The goal should be to foster maturity, independence and self-reliance in adulthood.
• Do not neglect your husband. Take time off from motherhood to be ‘together’ with her. Talk, care and be close. Let your love for each other grow as you share the responsibility of raising him.
• Be a good and competent role model. Let him learn from you how to respect and treat his wife while married.
• Always remember the child is not your husband. So don’t put adult responsibility on him.
• Change your focus. Use some time to take care of your other children’s needs. Find new activities to occupy your son’s mind.
• Pray and ask God to give you the wisdom to handle your emotions with responsibility and self-respect.
As feminist Naomi Lewinsky said, “We don’t need our children. We shouldn’t meddle with them when they’re babies. We shouldn’t let our messy feelings permeate our child’s development. We should let them grow up. Individuals.”
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