What is so abnormal about being a mama’s boy, or for that matter, mama’s girl? Aren’t they all mama’s kids? The human child requires nourishment and nurturing longer than other animal species. And unlike animal mothers, which push their offspring away towards independence pretty early, human parents, mothers in particular, are reluctant to do so till they are well into adolescence and sometimes even till later. They also try to hold on just a little longer emotionally to their children, especially the boys.
Note: This post is not only about mama’s boys, but also mama’s girls since in single child families, it can be either and the ‘suffocating mama’ phenomenon is the same.
It all starts innocuously enough; from being nurturing caregivers the role subtly changes to constrictive caregivers. ( Read related post here )
I have observed something very interesting. Our generation grew up with relatively more freedom because there were more children in the family. Parents weren’t so worried about how to raise the children confidently etc. etc. Considering that some of the best achievers in all the fields belong to Gen X, I don’t think their parents did a bad job. But when my generation began restricting the number of children, our anxiety grew in reverse proportion as we began agonizing about raising confident and successful children. Monsters-in-law only increased in number. One can imagine the condition of Gen Y which is largely opting for single child families!
Coming back to mama’s kids, many of them enjoy the attention of their mothers to the point of even taking for granted their attention. Rajat confesses that he is ok with his mother doing everything for him including laying out his clothes and fetching him a glass of water. ‘It makes her happy to look after me. Why should I spoil her happiness?’ he says casually.
Geeta lets her mother run her house – it saves her the bother and she is free to enjoy life. ‘I am her only daughter; she loves doing it,’ says the girl. The mother has fetched and carried for her all her life, so it is nothing new to her. Besides she is able to keep control of her daughter’s life. How long this honeymoon would last is anyone’s guess.
For soon enough the bond might become a binding tie and begin to choke — especially the boys. For the Sunnys and Buntys have grown into adults and have brought home their Sweetys and Pinkys. That’s when the problem begins.
But why should a mother’s closeness to her son be looked upon contemptuously, while her attachment to her married daughter is considered normal? Or, for that matter, a father’s attachment to his daughter is considered ‘cute’? (that is stuff of another post!)
The answer to this lies in the Pinkys and Sweetys who have to share the man’s affections with his mother. The clinging love of the mother to her son can play havoc with the relationship between the man and his wife to the point of even ruining the very privacy between them.
‘I’d looked forward to having the first cup of tea with my husband, but my mother-in-law insists on serving him, barging into our room. The worst part is, my husband doesn’t mind it! says an incredulous new bride. He probably is another Rajat who might just deign to let his wife take over his pampering if she fights hard enough for the ‘privilege’!
So while a woman’s obsessive love for her son interferes with the lives of the young couple, her love for a married daughter doesn’t, at least not directly however constricting it might be.
A mother feels happy when her son-in-law is close to her daughter unlike the MIL who might feel threatened when her daughter-in-law is close to her son.
But things can get out of hand here too:
I once had a neighbor who was over possessive of her two daughters. When her older daughter got married, she insisted on setting up her home, down to choosing the curtains and bedspreads and even the bathroom fittings! She made regular visits to their house and checked up on things to ‘help’ her working daughter.
Needless to say, the girl started resenting the interference and told her mother to leave her house alone! She obviously didn’t share Geeta’s opinion in the matter, Interestingly the son-in-law couldn’t see anything wrong with his MIL’s interest in running their home. He thought that it made their life easier!
Many a time, economic and emotional blackmail are used by the mothers to keep their children in line. Constant reminders of the sacrifices that she has made to raise them as a mother can make the children feel obligated and guilty when they are unable or unwilling to meet the expectations.
Societal pressure plays a part too. I know of many women of the Gen X who begin doing the conventional MIL act due to such pressures ‘Don’t give up your rights,’ they are advised by the Mantharas of the society. And so they don the cape of the monster-in-law.
So where does that leave the poor gen Y? They are left to parry the thrusts from both sets of parents trying to keep a balance while walking a tightrope. Often though it is easier for them to go along with the flow to make their lives easier or in extreme cases, distance themselves – physically and emotionally.
Today I see a lot of young mothers coddling their young ones to the point of being on call 24×7. While this is required when the children are very young, one should begin to slowly let them find their feet and wings in keeping with growing years.
By ‘letting go’ I don’t mean leaving a child to take decisions and fending for himself, but emotionally preparing to distance oneself from their lives by the time they become adults. The role of a parent should change according to the age-related needs of the child – from primary caregivers to advisors and then finally observers. Otherwise we will have Gen Z complaining of suffocating mamas in the not too distant future.
After all, if they have earned the right to elect their representatives to govern the country, can’t they be trusted to run their lives?
Image courtesy: walldesk.net