It is rare to read, whether in literature or social science, about the
experience of motherhood as described by mothers themselves. On the
contrary, most of what we read about motherhood are descriptions of
mothers from the points of view of the children-grown-up children
who are now psychologists, anthropologists or writers, but, existen-
tially and in relation to the people they are describing, children never-
theless. Thus, as is so often the case in scientific knowledge, uncon-
scious desires and needs are hopelessly entwined with what might
seem to be purely analytical statement. When women professionals,
who may also be mothers, have sought to contribute
our knowledge
of this complicated experience, in the field of psychoanalysis, for exam-
ple, they have to a large degree been overly influenced by the ubiq-
uitous Western myth of placid, fulfilling maternity which has been
accepted by their male teachers and mentors, and they, therefore, like
their male counterparts, have given us only half the story. And the
vicious circle is complete; the myth determines the content of our so-
called "objective knowledge" and our knowledge is used to reinforce
the myth. And the myth, which holds such sway over all the mothers I
know, is destructive preCisely because
is not altogether wrong, but
leaves out half of the truth.
Although women are as different from one another as men are,
although we have developed into many different kinds of personalities
through endlessly varied experiences, although we are born with every
kind of human temperament-still there is only one image in this cul-
ture of the "good mother." At her worst, this mother image is a tyran-
nical goddess of stupefying love and murderous masochism whom
none of us can or should hope to emulate. But even at her best, she is
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