MOTHERHOOD OPTIONAL by Phillis O. Ziman Tobin


A Psychological Journey
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It’s okay not to have children, it’s okay to have children, but it’s not okay to follow blindly in your mother’s footsteps, according to Tobin, a psychotherapist who also debunks the idea that “it’s in a woman’s nature to want . . . babies.” Then in seeming contradiction, Tobin goes on to state that in choosing whether or not to be a mother, “we define ourselves in the most important way a woman can.” That’s a troubling statement, setting women up once again to be interpreted in terms of the uterus, whether or not it is used for growing babies. Arguing that women are far less free to choose whether or not to have a baby than conventional wisdom suggests, Tobin goes on to examine both cultural issues (having a child is “normal” or “natural”) and personal ones (losing control of the toned body, the successful job, the satisfying relationship). Like many psychotherapists, she offers more questions than answers, encouraging the reader to do the work. Incorporating cursory and unconvincing case histories, the book begins with the toughest questions, like “Who am I?” and “What makes me a woman?” and goes on to “Will I get fat?” and “Why . . . do we consider childless women selfish?” The most revealing answers, according to the author, come when the question is reframed from “Do I want to have a baby?” to “Do I want to be a mother?” The answer is frequently a pained “I don’t want to be my mother.” The emphasis is on digging to unearth what others have called the “true” self. Tobin also explores the rugged road of infertility treatments, as well as both the positive and negative sides of being “childfree” and of mothering. A perfunctory and ambiguous road map for the often heart-wrenching voyage into self-awareness that more and more women are facing.

Pub Date: May 14th, 1998
ISBN: 0-7657-0127-8
Page count: 184pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1998


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