Mama's Blog

Saturday, June 04, 2005


Dear Gals,

I have stumbled across a couple of books that I would like to share with you,
the moms in my life. I am finding that these books are creating, for me, a
community of support and reflection that I otherwise can't access via the phone
or email in the wee hours of the night, or more likely, during the abundance of
hours when the wee one is at my breast. One, in particular, is really making me
think, dream and articulate, and I thought it might be good to get together
over this one. It is "Maternal Desire" by Daphne de Marneffe and I
got it from the public library. Let me share with you a few excerpts from the
intro and propose an idea for gathering:

In discovering she was pregnant with their
third child, the author found that she was possessed with an overwhelming yet
inexplicable sense of freedom. A memory came to mind of the day she rode her
bike without her father's help "--unsteadily, but irrevocably." That
memory "captured a transition I sensed was taking place in my life. I was
moving from a shaky endorsement of a model in which children were fitted into
my previous life to a desire for a life centered on mothering, from which other
priorities flowed. Paradoxically, the outward complication of our lives was
introducing a radical simplicity. My feeling of freedom did not diminish, of
course, the real demands we would face in having another child… still, I found
the glimmer of freedom compelling, in part because its source-- my shift of emphasis
towards mothering-- felt so transgressive. How was it that at the dawn of the
twenty-first century, the ancient imperative that women mother their children
felt somehow liberating and new?"

"Every mother I knew, and virtually every mother I read about, grappled
more or less explicitly with the same painful questions: Where should caring
for children fit into one's life? What should one do with the desire to care
for one's children? How should one understand it, think about it, or talk about
it? No one expected to have easy answers, but it seemed that so often our
culture's response was framed as a matter of how little one could spend time
with one's children and not do them damage. So rarely did public discussion
take account of the embodied, aching desire to be with their children that so
many mothers feel. What's more, the vocabulary for this desire seemed so
limited, the language available for exploring it so constricted, that it was
hard to get a grasp of what part of the desire should play in one's decisions
and in one's very assessment of oneself."

"Women's desire to have children has survived the vagaries of
feminist suspicion and is now fully respectable and in public view. But the
territory that remains occluded, dogged with contention and strangely
unspeakable, is the territory of caring for children-- of spending one's
hours and days with them... and of its meaning and value not only to children
but to mothers as well."

"Embedded in the emphasis on the caregiving mother's nonentity status is a
tendentious refusal to recognize the pleasures, the self-expression and the
moral fulfillment mothering can afford. Mainstream feminism, with its espousal
of Western individualism as the basis of women's liberation, has been ill
equipped to recognize, let alone critique, this limited view. Though feminist
activism has helped secure for women the public power previously denied them,
it has done little to challenge the assumption that women who spend their time
caring for children are powerless, un-self-actualized and at the margins of
cultural life."

"We live in a culture that enshrines acquisition but profanes care. When a
person, still most likely a mother, feels the desire to care for her children,
our tired cultural scripts shed little light on the profundity of her
situation. This books offers a view of maternal desire-- its qualities, its
effects, its pervasive devaluation and misinterpretation in our individualistic

So, just a little taste. The author is a clinical psychologist
and in her book she draws on all kinds of theories about childhood development,
materialism, feminist issues, french feminist theory (my favorite), abortion,
sexuality and the eros of mothering, etc... It is can be a bit academic but the
chillier parts could be enriched by the sharing of resonances of our personal
experiences and thoughts. I propose that we agree on a date four to six weeks
from now and, for those of us in Los Angeles, create a potluck tea and gather
round with our babies to discuss the book, our lives and whatever else comes to
mind and heart. If you have another friend who might be interested, we could
invite her as well. For those out of town but interested, we could come up with
some ways for you to be a part of the dialogue too. I am open to ideas for how
to frame or structure the conversation. So, late me propose a date and time and
have you either Reply All or reply to me to get the conversation going.

How About: SATURDAY MAY 28TH OR SUNDAY MAY 29TH, noon to 2 or 3PM

If you are busy, feel no pressure. The exciting thing is there may be a bunch
of good books to read and discuss (Naomi Wolf's "Misconceptions"
looks good too!) For me, its either this or Winnie the Pooh. Let me know what
you think!

Love, and spit up.



Post a Comment

<< Home