Do Working Moms Raise Sons Who Cheat?

IStock_kid A British psychiatrist has concluded that hiring a nanny to care for your infant boy could turn him into a serial womanizer. Why? Because you have conditioned him, from the earliest age, to the comfort and solace of “the other woman."

Yet one more example of why so many ambitious women simultaneously crave and fear our ambitious goals.

Wouldn’t it be great if women could ignore what our culture thinks about high-achieving women and eliminate the fear part of our ambition equation? Just imagine how that would change our perspective.

A British psychiatrist claims hiring a nanny is setting your boy up for a life of "other women"

Mothers! Have you ever headed off to work, leaving your son in the care of a sitter? Were you wracked with guilt  as your beloved boy wrapped himself around your pants-suited leg, begging you to stay? And did you, maybe years later, feel relief and vindication when your child matured into a loving and responsible adult?

Not so fast, honey! A British psychiatrist has concluded that hiring a nanny to care for your infant boy could turn him into a serial womanizer. Why? Because you have conditioned him, from the earliest age, to the comfort and solace of “the other woman.”

In a review of An Unsolicited Gift: Why We Do What We Do, a new book by 85-year-old Dennis Friedman, The Daily Telegraph offers this summary of the author's theory: Employing a nanny for your son “creates a division in his mind between the woman he knows to be his natural mother and the woman with whom he has real hands-on relationship: the woman who bathes him and takes him to the park, with whom he feels completely at one."

The result, in Friedman's view, is that “he grows up with the idea that although he will one day go through all the social and sexual formalities of marriage, he will have at the back of his mind the notion of this other woman, who not only knows, but caters for, all his needs.”

When I read this news item—soon picked up by American papers—I dismissed it as hogwash. But then I overheard two guys talking about it at the gym. And guess what? They think Dr. Friedman has a point. (“Makes sense to me,” said one. “Me, too,” said the other—which, as you know, adds up to a weighty, well-considered conversation in malespeak.)

Well, of course it makes sense to men—just another handy excuse for any impulse to stray. Why blame your own lack of sexual self-control if you can reach back to the way Mom did you wrong when she hired that caregiver?

In case you're interested, this shrink is equally worried about our daughters. Baby girls left in the charge of nannies, he believes, are filled with a “vaccum of need” that they will attempt to fill with drink, drugs, sex or money. Drinks, drugs, sex or money--in other words, leave your little princess with a babysitter and she’s destined to end up with a needle in her arm, soliciting on the streets?
But back to the psyche-damaging  “other woman.” To Friedman, the solution is for mothers to stay at home with their children until age one. Apparently, that first birthday is the cutoff for cheater-formation.

But I’m not so sure. Now that we’re questioning the role of the caregiving “other woman,” what about the rest of those looming female forces in a young boy’s life? Should we be keeping him away from that soothing nursery school teacher who beams at him no matter how many crayons he breaks? Should we ban his grandmother, that font of expensive new toys and no-strings-attached forgiveness? The junior-high girlfriend, who's so young herself she doesn't realize boyfriends, however cute, can be held accountable?

What this comes down to is, women with cheating husbands can blame their mothers-in-law—who cheated on their little boy by going to the office. This will certainly be news to the wives of such champion cheaters as Tiger Woods, who spent his entire childhood glued to his father's side; John Edwards, from a legendarily impoverished, non-nanny-hiring millworker family; and Jesse James, who claims to be descended from the famous outlaw but according to Dr. Friedman must have gotten his rulebreaker tendencies from a babysitter instead. 

Originally published in More Magazine, April 2010

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