Adulteres! Caused by Nannies
Mothers who 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. (See the mobile apps that make adultery easier.)
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. (See the top 10 mistresses.)
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."
It’s unclear 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.