Last week we discussed how a father impacts identity. Today we’ll discuss how important and necessary a mother is in male identity formation.
My mom greatly impacted my masculine identity. As a child, she took me to help the homeless at the soup kitchen on the weekends. I hated it. It smelled. The floors were dirty. All of my friends were playing kickball in our awesome neighborhood. Why would I want to serve when all I really wanted to do was play?
One day I met a playmate, though. We both sat on the dirty tiles and I let him borrow one of my Hot Wheels cars in my pocket. His shirt was supposed to be white, but instead it was dirt brown with small holes.
“Your shirt is dirty. Why don’t you put on a new one?”
“It’s the only one I have.”
“That’s your only shirt?” I asked surprised. “Mom!!!! He says this is his only shirt!”
My mom was embarrassed. I was confused. He was my friend, and also young, so how could he be homeless? This moment wasn’t an epiphany by any means, but I still distinctly remember it, and I often think of that little boy and what’s become of him now. I’d even go so far to say that my writing is often geared towards young men who are hopeless because not only have I experienced it, but I’ve witnessed it.
If a father has an identity impact on sons and daughters, then a mother certainly bears an important part as well.
How could a soup kitchen impact my male identity? It was never about a soup kitchen, but rather about how much I saw my mom care for other people.
How much of a responsibility should a mom take in male identity? Here are three ways a mom impacts male identity in her son:
A mom ensures a man is well-rounded
For one, perceived masculinity is square. In the book Mothers & Sons: Feminism, Masculinity, and the Struggle to Raise Our Sons, “[Author Michael] Kaufman emphasizes that masculinity is stifling and forces men to suppress a range of human feelings and possibilities. Consequently, many of these emotions disappear because they are repressed and replaced with facades of strength, courage, and competition.”
I used this quote from Robert Bly in 10 Ways to Win a Girl’s Heart: “the 1950s male had a clear vision of what a man is…you were supposed to like football games, be aggressive, stick up for the United States, never cry, and always provide. But this image of male lacked feminine space…” Toxic masculinity is often built on obliterating anything feminine within. It’s defined by what’s it’s not.
But if you want to be a well-rounded man, a good mother chisels the edges and forms and with her gentle and feminine touch. After all, the Vitruvian man, is found within a circle.
A healthy man has both masculine and feminine energies
The energy you obtain from your mom is important. As I describe in 10 Ways to Win a Girl’s Heart, “every man comes from a mother and a father, and our traits are not independent, but mutually dependent on both of them. You are comprised of masculine and feminine traits.”
We often think of God as some Zeus-type masculine figure, but he’s so much more. Though denoted as Father, God has both masculine and feminine traits. In the same way, “Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung believed that aspects of ‘feminine’ and ‘masculine’ identity are subconsciously present in all human males.”
While we need masculine traits like provision, protection, and discipline, we also need the more feminine energies like creativity, care, and purpose…all necessary characteristics for a man in a healthy marriage. We absorb these characteristics simply by being near and loving mom.
A real man fights to end wars, not produce them
Without a sense of purpose, we become machines. Author Gordon Dalbey writes in his book Sons of the Father, “The enemy of God and humanity…ensures that young men will crave a reality defined by war. In the absence of military battle, in fact, they will find synthesize their own ‘wars’ to find it–from gangs and mosh pits to organized crime and domestic violence.” He goes on to write, “fighting military battles in this world clearly does not foster manhood defined by emotional security and pro-active vitality.”
Gordon further goes on to describe how more American soldiers have been killed by suicide than on the battlefield. Only healing and restoration, which are traits of a mother, can be the answer to this issue.
Both a father and mother are necessary components in identity development. While unhealthy or even absent parents can also impact identity, we can always find hope in healthy fatherly and motherly figures.