outsource the care of their sons to other women may be inadvertently
raising adulterers. Or so claims Dr. Dennis Friedman in a book that has
kicked up a bit of a ruckus in Britain. A Fellow of the Royal College of
Psychiatrists, the doctor argues that men become womanizers because
their mothers left them with nannies.
According to Friedman, having two women care for a baby
boy may cause his little brain to internalize the idea that there are
multiple females to meet his needs. "It introduces him to the concept of
the other woman," he said in London's Daily Telegraph. He explicates
the relationship in his book The Unsolicited Gift: Why We Do The Things
We Do, which explores how a mother's love for her offspring can
determine how those children behave as adults.
Girls are affected by nannies too. Not having her mother
around creates in the infant female a "vacuum of need," says Friedman,
which she might try to fill in later life with substance abuse or
promiscuity - presumably with those married men in her social circle who
were also raised by nannies.
But it is the thesis concerning boys that has been more
controversial. Having two maternal objects, says Friedman, "creates a
division in [the boy's] mind between the woman he knows to be his
natural mother and the woman with whom he has a real hands-on
relationship: the woman who bathes him and takes him to the park, and
with whom he feels completely at one." This dual-woman life, one for
family and one for catering to his every need, might become a set
pattern in his mind, so that when he grows up and feels like his needs
are not being met, he strays beyond the home.
Friedman suggests mothers should not work, or if they
must, should not return to work until their children are at least 1 year
old. Critics, and many, many working mothers, quickly pointed out that
he offers no statistics for his theory (as in, exactly how many nannies
Tiger Woods must have had), nor does his proposal seem particularly
practical, since many women have little choice but either to return to
work after having children or to not feed said children. Additionally,
it rankled many women that Friedman lays the blame for men's fidelity
issues on females. If it's not the inattentive wife who drives a man
into another woman's arms - it's his inattentive mother.
It also doesn't make developmental sense, says Dr. Jean
Mercer, professor emerita of Psychology at Richard Stockton College in
New Jersey, who specializes in infant development. "Babies don't form
attachments solely to their mothers - they become attached also to
fathers, grandparents, nannies, child-care providers, older brothers and
sisters, or anyone else who interacts with them socially and frequently
participates in care routines like feeding and bathing." These
relationships are healthy and part of normal development. And becoming
attached to a nanny doesn't equal becoming detached from a mother, or
that the two are interchangeable. "A nanny or other person is added to
the existing relationships most babies have."
how wide a cross section of society Friedman used to draw his
conclusions, but it's possible they may have been a bit skewed. His
previous three books were explorations of the psychology of a small but
prominent group of people with powerful matriarchs and lots and lots of
nannies: the British royal family.
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