(NEW YORK) — The author of a new book that has already courted controversy for calling on women to prioritize mothering for the first three years after giving birth instead of returning to the workplace spoke out Tuesday on ABC News’ Good Morning America, saying she wrote the book because she felt as a society, we “devalued mothering.”
Erica Komisar, who penned the book Being There: Why Prioritizing Motherhood in the First Three Years Matters, links a recent increase in mental illness and developmental disorders in children with an increasing cultural devaluation of mothering.
She said in an blog post for Book Culture that she made these observations during her 27 years in private practice as a parenting coach and psychoanalyst. Komisar cites data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which states that antidepressant use in the U.S. has increased nearly 400 percent between the periods of 1988 through 1994 and 2005 through 2008, which offers some correlative — though not causative — support for her ideas.
Some skeptics have pointed out, however, that for many women, staying home is not an option, especially as the U.S. remains the only industrialized nation in the world that does not offer paid maternity leave.
“The title’s a little deceiving in that the book isn’t really about working versus non-working,” Komisar said. “It’s about prioritizing. So that word was chosen very carefully. Prioritizing your children in the first three years whether you’re a working mom, or a non-working mom.”
“In an ideal world, we want to be there as much as possible…but there’s reality and women have to work,” she added.
Komisar, who works as a psychoanalyst, also asserts that a mother’s physical and emotional presence during the early years of a child’s life — specifically the first three years — has a significant impact on the child’s long-term emotional and mental health.
“The first three years are what we call the critical period of brain development for children…I say in the book ‘more is more,'” Komisar said. “The more physically and emotionally available you can be in the first three years, the better off your children will be.”
In Being There, Komisar argues that women should disregard societal pressures that emphasize achievement over being emotionally and physically present for their children.
She calls Being There a “handbook” for parents, adding that she hopes that it sparks a conversation about the role of mothering and work-life balance.
Komisar also addressed if dads have the same nurturing instincts as mothers.
“[R]esearch has really shown that moms and dads, when they nurture as primary caregivers, they both produce something called oxytocin, which is a brain hormone, a love hormone if you will, but it has a different effect on women and men,” she added. “It makes mothers more empathic and sensitive nurturers. It makes fathers more playful…and encouraging resilience in children. They’re very different and in fact you want to really emphasize the sensitive nurturing so we want to teach dads if they’re going to be primary caregivers, to be more empathic towards children.”
Being There: Why Prioritizing Motherhood in the First Three Years Matters hits bookstores nationwide Tuesday.
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