In her latest book, Rose (co-director, Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities; Women in Dark Times, 2014, etc.) examines how motherhood is broken apart, chewed, and spat back out.
“By calling on mothers to hold up the skies,” she writes, “we blind ourselves to the world’s iniquities and shut down the portals of the heart. Unless we recognize what we are asking mothers to perform in the world—and for the world—we will continue to tear both the world and mothers to pieces.” The author seeks to understand exactly what is being asked of mothers on a daily basis and to distill those demands into succinct causalities. Recognizing mothers as the glue that holds everything together, Rose is convinced that mothers carry too onerous a responsibility in ensuring the health of their children, their families in general, and, ultimately, society. “Behind each and every child there is a story of mothers to be told.” The author traces the progression of the roles of women in society through history, invoking the authoritative voices of Simon de Beauvoir, Adrienne Rich, Sylvia Plath, D.W. Winnicott, Melanie Klein, and more. Among other topics, Rose tackles the difficult terrain of mother and child affection; the responsibility of the mother to guide her child toward adulthood; and society’s changing expectations of working (and single) mothers. She carefully identifies the boundaries of her line of inquiry and brings everything back to the book’s central idea: “There will always be a limit to what mothers can do for their child, and therefore—the unavoidable but mostly avoided consequence—to what we can ask of a mother.” For those readers interested not just in feminist theory, but also gender theory as it relates to parenting, this will be a rewarding reading experience.
Clever, insightful essays on motherhood as “the ultimate scapegoat for our personal and political failings.”