Q&A with Author Kate Stone Lombardi of Chappaqua

When 20-year New York Times contributor Kate Stone Lombardi of Chappaqua mentioned to an acquaintance she and her son have a great relationship, the woman gave her a funny look. “I hope you don’t think it’s odd or weird,” she said, “but my son and I are also really close. But,” she added, “if you write about us, you can’t use my name.” Stone Lombardi’s interest was piqued. The result? Her first book, The Mama’s Boy Myth: Why Keeping Our Sons Close Makes Them Stronger.

What is the most pervasive myth regarding the mother/son relationship? If moms keep their boys too close, they’re going to somehow create archetypical mamas’ boys—weak, effeminate, wimpy guys who won’t be able to form adult relationships. On the contrary, research shows that sons who have a close bond with their mothers go on to be very good spouses and partners.

What are other common misconceptions? If a son is really close to his mother, he’ll be too soft and not be able to cut it in the real world. Again, the opposite is true—mothers who stay close to their sons are raising guys who are going to be equipped to navigate the 21st-century economy. We’re not living in an era where brute force and domination are valued as much. Today’s men need to communicate well, work effectively in teams, and respect and work with—and for—women.

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How does the mother/son relationship contrast with other parent/child ones? The mother/daughter relationship is celebrated—there’s practically an industry built around it with spa discounts, etcetera—and fathers and sons are encouraged to watch sports and go hunting together. And it’s commonly acknowledged that the father-daughter relationship is crucial for girls’ self esteem with father/daughter dances and the like. You can just imagine how it would fly if anyone held a mother/son dance!

Is there a double standard when it comes to raising a child of the opposite sex? Yes. When dads encourage their daughters to excel in sports, no one thinks they’re trying to raise masculine girls. But if a mother is teaching her son to cook or sew or even just talk more about his feelings, then she’s seen as trying to feminize him.

How does your twenty-three-year-old son feel about your book? His feelings have been mixed—from being a little embarrassed to openly saying we have a special relationship. He’s a real guy’s guy—six feet tall, into competitive athletics, and a hockey player—yet he’s able to talk about his feelings, is sensitive to others, and has a strong degree of emotional intelligence.

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