Mommy Nearest

The Priority of Motherhood

Salvo exists to a large degree because of the sexual and cultural revolutions of the 1960s. We cover the evils those upheavals spawned, from promiscuity to pornography to abortion to divorce, to name a few. Radical feminism was part and parcel of the transformation society underwent, inspiring (among other things) the notion that stay-at-home motherhood was unimportant and unworthy of modern women.

That subject has always been near and dear to my heart, and it inspired me to start writing. In those days—my children are now in their twenties—we were in the midst of what the media dubbed the "mommy wars." Should women stay home or return to work? Largely thanks to that same media, there was no question about which side was the winning side. How dare anyone suggest anything that might impinge on women's freedom, on their right to do whatever they wanted when they wanted? Today it's not even a topic of debate, at least not much.

So I was pleasantly surprised at the recent release of a book called Being There: Why Prioritizing Motherhood in the First Three Years Matters. The author, Erica Komisar, wrote the book based on her clinical work as a psychoanalyst, citing the latest neurobiological and psychological research on attachment, caregiving, and brain development.

Among other things, Komisar writes this: "It is my belief that it is best for a child to have his mother as his primary caregiver and for her to be emotionally and physically present for as much of his first three years as possible." In her 24 years of work as a psychoanalyst, social worker, and parent -guidance expert, she has treated both adults and children for a variety of maladies, including behavioral and developmental issues, depression, anxiety, and addictions. "From my firsthand professional observation," she writes, "I have come to understand the connections between these symptoms and disorders and the emotional and physical absence of young children's mothers in their day-to-day lives." She even goes so far as to suggest that the increase in the number of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders, ADHD, and other problems might be directly related to the lack of consistent, intimate engagement of mothers with their children.

Komisar realizes that such statements are controversial, but she believes that the effect of maternal absence on children is a major social issue of our time.

Not surprisingly, the book didn't get much attention. If the Wall Street Journal hadn't published an interview with Komisar about the book, I would probably never have heard of it. By her own description, Komisar is a political liberal who lives on Manhattan's notoriously liberal Upper West Side, but the liberal media didn't want to have anything to do with her. In her interview with the WSJ, Komisar, who is Jewish, says that while trying to promote her book, she was warmly received by Christian radio stations and on "Fox and Friends." But she couldn't get on NPR and was, as she put it, "rejected wholesale—particularly in New York—by the liberal press."

The Most Important Work

Komisar practiced what she now preaches. She postponed writing the book until her children were older, so that she could be, as she puts it, "fully present" to them. When each of her three children was born, she took six months off from her practice. She returned to work gradually, starting with one and a half hours a day, five days a week. By the time her youngest turned three, she was working three hours a day.

Our culture needs to encourage and support women who put their children's needs ahead of their own, at least for a time. "The truth is," Komisar writes, "we can do everything in life, but not at the same time. We cannot raise healthy children if we are not there for them emotionally and physically."

Society used to value motherhood instinctively. How could motherhood not be important? As C. S. Lewis said, "Children are not a distraction from more important work. They are the most important work."

is the author of the newly-released book, Don’t Let the Culture Raise Your Kids, published by Our Sunday Visitor.  She has been covering family issues for twenty-five years, as a producer for CBS News, a contributor to National Catholic Register, and a Senior Editor for Salvo magazine.  She has written for, First Things, WORLD magazine, and Touchstone.

This article originally appeared in Salvo, Issue #45, Summer 2018 Copyright © 2024 Salvo |


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