When Jenny Isenman’s piece “Moms of Boys are Jealous Shrews” hit the internet, a firestorm was set off in defense of and against the humor writer.
Was Isenman’s piece so polarizing because it capitalized on the deep-seated fear every mother of a boy has: that her son will eventually leave her on some level? Why did this topic evoke such a passionate response from readers?
Mothers to boys
“The moment you bring a baby boy into the world, you start to wonder when he’s going to leave you. You know that one day he’ll leave you for another woman — even though he’ll propose to you all through toddlerhood and tell you that you are the only girl for him.” Thus begins Jenny Isenman’s satirical essay ‘Moms of Boys Are Jealous Shrews, So Here’s a Contract for Your Son’s Future Wife.’ The piece, which ran originally in the Huffington Post, and struck such a nerve with mothers of boys that it went viral soon after it was posted and garnered hundreds of reader comments, emails, shares and Facebook likes.
Daughter-in-law versus her husband’s mother
Such an obligatory relationship has long been the subject of literature, from Chaucer’s The Lawyer’s Tale to Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. The battle between mother and daughter-in-law has been well chronicled.
But Isenman’s piece seemed to re-ignite passions for and against a boy’s mother. There is the prevalent generalization out there that girls will stay close, but boys leave. Did this humor essay unhinge some deep-seated fears amongst mothers of boys?
Isenman went on to detail a fictitious contract for her future daughter-in-law — keep in mind her son is 5 at present time.
Some of the contingents: “I will compliment my mother-in-law’s (MIL’s) cooking, her decorating, and, most importantly, the incredible way she raised her son, my husband.” Or simply acknowledging “that my MIL’s son is on loan to me so that we can make grandbabies, which will probably look like her and have her wonderful traits, which I will mention in conversation frequently and with great fervor.”
Moms of boys
Any mother of a son will attest that the relationship is very special, part of the reason it is parodied in literature and film. Striking a balance between raising a boy who loves his mom and a mama’s boy is an imperfect science.
Dr. Peggy Drexler wrote an essay in Psychology Today and offered the advice to always err on the side of the loving mother.
“Celebrate their victories, but soften — not excuse — their failures,” Drexler said. “Demand their independence, but never close their safe harbor. Give them the responsibilities they can handle, but make them honor the responsibilities they have. Teach them to respect others, but show them that respect must be returned. Be demanding; but don’t demand perfection.”