I watched an event held at the United Nations on Tuesday. It was a hearing entitled “Good Parenting Builds Society: The Importance of Motherhood and Fatherhood.” The event marked the UN Global Day of Parents this year and was sponsored by the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Djibouti, Permanent Mission of the Republic of Belarus, the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See, and the Universal Peace Federation (an NGO).
All of the invited panelists were good. You can watch the entire event here, but I wanted to highlight the remarks by Erica Komisar, LCSW, who is a parenting coach, psychoanalyst, and author of Being There: Why Prioritizing Motherhood in the First Three Years Matters.
“Family is something that is undervalued. We give it a lot of lip service is this culture and maybe in your cultures too, but we really don’t put our money where our mouth is,” she said.
She cited neurological studies related to parenting during a child’s first three years, and what they need for healthy development.
Her speech sounds an alarm for the damage we as a society are inflicting upon kids when they are stuck in daycare early on instead of spending the time necessary to bond with them, buffer them from stress, teach them empathy, etc.
She also noted how our culture wants to deny basic biology and the biological differences between a mother and a father.
“In our culture, there is a denial of the differences biologically in terms of how we are made to nurture our children. It doesn’t mean that we can’t overcome some of those differences, but first, we need to acknowledge the difference between men and women in terms of biologically how they nurture,” Kosimar stated.
She stated how both mothers and fathers when they are present for their children they reduce stress through the production of oxytocin which occurs when mothers nurture and fathers play with their children which in turn reduces cortisol, the stress hormone.
Komisar noted that we are now seeing children with elevated levels of stress.
“The part of the brain that regulates stress is not supposed to turn on for a year and what we are seeing now with children being exposed to stress so early, being separated from their parents early, both parents having work and leave them with strangers, not living near extended family who are there for those children, those children, their amygdalas are growing quite large. Remember, that little part of the brain that regulates stress is supposed to stay small and inactive. It is growing very large and like a balloon, it gets large, large, and guess what? It gets so large eventually it pops, it doesn’t pop, it shrivels up and is no longer useful in regulating the stress response and another part of the brain which is meant to regulate the cortisol gets very small, they hippocampus which those who kind of create a negative feedback loop where it shuts down the cortisol response and stops working,” she explained.
Komisar also stated the importance of a mother and a father in the home. She said in single-parent homes when there is only one nurturing object (an object of attachment, usually the mother), there is no separation object. “Fathers you can say are uniquely created to lure their children out to explore the world. To lure them away from their attachment objects to help them to separate from their mothers, to not only explore but to become resilient,” she said.
“We have to be more present for our children both physically and emotionally. We say that our children are our priority, but increasingly, not just in America, but the rest of the world as well, we spend much less time with our children than ever before. And if we say that our children are our priority then you put your time where your priority is and then look at where parents put their time. It is not with their families. It is increasingly with their work or other interest,” she concluded.
Listen to her full remarks below: