MOTHER LOVE/MOOR HATE: The Power of Maternal Ambivalence by Rozsika Parker

MOTHER LOVE/MOOR HATE: The Power of Maternal Ambivalence

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A British psychoanalyst perceptively explores the creative potential--and social suppression--of maternal ambivalence. Parker argues that it is quite common for women to hold passionate feelings of both hatred and love toward their children; she calls this disruptive combination ""maternal ambivalence."" Drawing on her own patients' experiences, as well as on images of mothers culled from popular culture, journalism, psychoanalysis, and literature, she argues that this culture has been reluctant to acknowledge the complexity of maternal experience. We demonize ""bad"" mothers: child abusers or the much-publicized real-life couples who go on vacation, leaving their children home alone. We also idealize ""good"" ones: the Virgin Mary, the perfect homemaker, etc. Either way, we seem to ignore most mothers' emotional reality, because to acknowledge the complexity of the maternal experience is too threatening to cultural stability. This is a moment in history, Parker asserts, in which parenting and women's roles are changing profoundly, yet our construction of motherhood may be more rigid than ever. She argues that this is unfortunate because when mothers repress ambivalence, it may come out in destructive ways (from literal abuse and abandonment to quiet hostility that children may sense). In addition, understanding the depth of hostility a mother has for her children can help her to better understand the depth of her love for them, which can also be difficult and painful to acknowledge. Parker's psychoanalytic jargon is tough on the lay reader at points, but her examples--voices from mothers and from the culture--make this quite readable. A well-timed exploration of motherhood by a therapist who is equally thoughtful about her patients, her profession, and her culture.

Pub Date: Feb. 28th, 1996
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Basic