In America today, 25 percent of women go back to work less than two weeks after giving birth. Seventy percent of babies under the age of one are regularly cared for by someone other than a parent. When you consider the biological imperative for mothers to be close to their babies -- the indisputable norm for how babies were nourished, nurtured, and protected from potential predators for millennia of human history -- it would appear we are now in the midst of a biological and societal experiment in child-rearing unprecedented in the history of humankind.
This experiment hasn’t been without consequences, says Erica Komisar, my guest today and the author of the thought-provoking (and controversial!) new book Being There: Why Prioritizing Motherhood in the First Three Years Matters. In it, she explores the critical nature of a mother’s presence in early childhood, and connects the alarming increase in childhood mental disorders over the past 30 years to our society’s absence and devaluation of mothering. Erica is a psychoanalyst, so not surprisingly we unpack a lot in this interview -- from the neuroscience underscoring the pivotal role of motherhood and our time’s misguided focus on gender neutrality, to her thoughts on technology, modern-day alloparenting, and how we can spark the revolution toward a truly child-centric society in the 21st century.
Here’s what we delve into:
- Why Erica delayed writing Being There for a decade
- “Life is not a linear pathway”
- Our modern epidemic of mental disorders in young children
- Motherhood as a transformative experience
- The neuroscience behind the first three years
- Guilt as the necessary signal to confront feelings of conflict
- Why gender neutrality is interfering with mothering
- “We’re not meant to be isolated or to raise children in an isolated fashion”: Our society’s overvaluation of independence and self-sufficiency
- Why daycare isn’t alloparenting
- “Having to work” versus really having to work: what the surprising research says
- How to find a career with more flexibility
- Being there versus helicopter parenting
- Kinship bonds and Erica’s vision for the future
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