THE MOTHER MIRROR: How a Generation of Women is Changing Motherhood in America by Nancy Rubin

THE MOTHER MIRROR: How a Generation of Women is Changing Motherhood in America

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One of numerous current attempts to deal with women's motherhood/selfhood dilemmas (sensitively articulated in Israeloff's Coming to Terms, above); one of two new works (see also Scarf, below) to rail against ""the tyranny of the so-called maternal instinct"" and contend that today's children of working mothers are, if anything, better off. Rubin (The New Suburban Woman) has a particular pop-psychology tack, reflected in the title; she's against both ""automatic rejection of the previous generation's home-oriented values . . . [and] its opposite, an angry defense of traditional roles. . . ."" In either or any case, motherhood is manageable--by the ""managing mother"" who applies work skills to her household, and whose children assume responsibility and gain independence. Altogether, it's not an argument that touches the emotional quick or addresses concrete problems. Neither does the text particularly reward reading. Rubin first condenses some feminist history to explain how what she calls ""the madonna myth"" took hold. She then looks in on some ""mother managers"" and the daycare centers where their children are seen thriving (but whose capable, devoted workers, she does note, universally oppose daycare for children or grandchildren of their own). She reviews the state of single-parent families--again, stressing how children can adjust and benefit. (In the case of divorce, she downplays the dangers in children becoming confidants and consolers.) Also downplayed is the ""superbaby"" phenomenon, of too much riding on a late-born child. (Working women and/or ""mature women make even better mothers. . . ."") A chapter on surrogate mothers and test-tube babies has some bona fide information; one on ""militant mothers"" talks about resisting both experts (medical, psychoanalytic) and pressure groups. Finally, women should return to work for good reasons-but if they do, they shouldn't feel guilty about it. What is valid here has been said better before; what is dubious--the claims for daycare, the manageability of family and job--is better discussed elsewhere.

Pub Date: Oct. 24th, 1984
Publisher: Putnam