There’s a certain type of mother wound that hits first born sons, hard, and their pain is not acknowledged. If anything we have coined the derogative term “mama’s boy” and use it as a blanket to silence and mock their suffering. See, many women unfortunately find themselves raising children without the aid of a supportive partner. This may be because she is in an abusive relationship, is single, or has lost her partner to divorce or death. Whatever the reason, it can’t possibly be easy carrying the load and responsibility of raising children alone. And it is in these difficulties that mothers often unconsciously turn to one of their children as a support system totally blurring the lines between adult and child and therefor committing one of the vilest forms of emotional abuse – EMOTIONAL INCEST.
Thabo is a 23. At age 10 he was already his mother’s confidant, a shoulder to cry on. His mother offloaded the details of her unhealthy marriage to Thabo’s father onto Thabo…“He is wise for his age”, “He gives good advice”; she would say.
This made Thabo feel important. He was trusted with secrets and adult information. But at the same time build up great resentment for his father and an unhealthy attachment to his mother. At 16 Thabo’s father dies and on the day of the funeral his grandmother pats him on his shoulder and says “You are the man of the house now. You have to take care of your mother and siblings”
. AT 16 YEARS OLD THABO WAS NOW THE MAN OF THE HOUSE WITH THE RESPONSIBILITY OF TAKING CARE OF A WHOLE FAMILY. His childhood totally robbed from him. Now at 23 his mother still hasn’t remarried and as the man of the house had to finally build his mother a house, pay for his siblings’ education while also trying to start his own life. His mother calls him 10 times in a day and cannot make decisions pertaining her household without asking him for advice. He is the man of the house now.
As you can imagine, Thabo is a people pleaser, struggles with setting boundaries, cannot be vulnerable, attracts narcissists and struggles to speak his mind or even ask for what he wants. He has emotional outburst and is not aware of how these struggles tie to his childhood experiences with his mother and how in all his relationships he is simply mirroring his childhood dynamics wherein his feelings were neglected by his mother and was reduced to a caretaker.
Thabo’s story is the story of many first born sons, more especially in African communities. Society calls them mamas boys, insinuating that they are highly depended on their mothers when in fact their mothers are highly depended on them.
We find a prime example of this distortion of the truth in Steve Harvey’s book “Think like a man act like a lady” which was later adapted into a movie.
In this movie we are introduced to 5 types of men I suppose to expect in the dating scene and one of them is the mama’s boy. When we are first introduced to Michael who is played by Terrence Jeckings, he is portrayed as having no backbone and being highly depended on his mother but upon paying close attention you realise his mother is the one that’s highly dependent on him. Making the mama’s boy name given to him, a cover up for a sinister form of emotion where mothers turn their sons into Mama’s little man
I imagine it may be frustrating for sons who’s lives are dedicated to taking care of others to be shamed and invalidated as being weak and highly depended on their mothers when its actually the other way round.
For many mothers it is normal to substitute their negligent, abusive or absent husband with their sons and this is vile. Emotional incest is one of the most atrocious forms of emotional abuse that kids are subjected to because children do not have the emotional capacity to deal with adult problems and there’s no excuse under the sun that should allow a mother to subject their offspring, especially their firstborn son to adult problems, especially because emotional incest between a mother and son often alienates the father and build within the son resentment towards his father. Parents are caregivers to children, not the other way around. It is the responsibility of the adult to form supportive relationships with other adults.
So if many sons are actually momma’s little men, does this mean mama’s boys don’t exist? The answer is…They do exist. But the term in itself should awaken within us empathy for the boy who was coddled and not ushered into manhood. Mama’s boy is a consequence of another extreme end of emotional incest wherein the mother intentionally keeps the boy at infancy mode, needing her to survive. In this. She fulfills her need to attention and company by keeping son at this infancy developmental stage but either over-nurturing him and not making room for him to experience life and take on responsibility without her aid. Some mothers go as far as making the son believe he is somewhat physical or mentally sick or incapable of surviving on his own.
We see an example of this in the movie “IT” where Eddie’s overbearing mother makes him believe he has multiple ailments, including asthma that will easily kill him if he was ever caught without his meds and far away from mommy’s nurturing. As a result Eddie is highly attached to his mother and the psychological programming is long lasting because he goes on to marry a women who is a spit image of his mother in both body and character. She too overbearing, just like Eddie’s mom.
The emotional and psychological trauma of Emotional incest are insidious and long lasting. In most If not all cases, the son goes on to seek out relationships with women that mirror his childhood dynamics with his mother. Mama’s boy’s growing up to need to be coddle by his partner and Mama’s little man growing up to always playing the martyr isn’t by chance. Its conditioning and none of these patterns are ever the son(victim)’s fault.
Therefore, for first born sons who are victims of emotional incest whether at the hands of a mother or father, know that it was not your fault but the responsibility to heal is now yours if you want to have a chance at nurturing healthy relationships with others and more importantly with yourself. Healing not only frees you, it frees future generations too. Acknowledgement, awareness and patience is how you will break the cycle and release the pain. Be brave. You can do it.
And for those of us who are not victims of emotional incest. Let’s be a little empathetic with those that are victims. Let’s remember that no one was ever shamed into healing