The Myth Of Motherhood: Chapter Analysis

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This chapter analyses the polar opposition between those who consider maternal love as an innate instinct that all females share, and those who regard it as a cultural construct. The first part of the chapter analyses the evolution of the concept of maternal love from the eighteenth century to the present, to later consider its representation in different areas, such as psychoanalysis, and popular culture. The main aim of the chapter is to determine the ways in which the definition of what constitutes ‘natural’ mothering patterns has become static in our culture, and identify the distinctive characteristics of both good and bad mothers. This will be done by focusing on the growing prominence given to the figure of the mother in psychoanalysis,…show more content…
Focusing on maternal attitudes towards their children from the beginning of the eighteenth to the end of the twenty-first century, Badinter describes the passage from almost complete indifference to obsessive attention to toddlers’ well-being. In the eighteenth century, when ‘in absence of any outside pressure, the mother was left to act according to her own nature’, women tended to act in a self-centred way, and refused their maternal duties. Mothers’ disinterest in their offspring was confirmed by their refusal to nurse them –due to concerns about their own health and their social life–, and the children’s subsequent entrustment to hired…show more content…
In her work The Reproduction of Motherhood: Psychoanalysis and the Sociology of Gender (1978), Chodorow affirms that the first phase of mother-child duality, during which the mother acts as ‘external ego’ for her children and makes ‘total environmental provision’ for them, must be followed by one in which the child start recognizing the mother as a separate entity to enable the child’s development of self. The acknowledgment of this separateness is made possible by the frustration of expectations of primary love. Chodorow also underlines how the relationship a mother develops with her child changes greatly according to the newborn’s sex. While the detachment from a son is seen as more natural and plain by mothers, because of the different sex that characterises the two parties in the relationship, the bond towards daughters tends to be symbiotic, characterized by feeling of merging and separation. Girls tend to perceive mothers as both different but similar, and they continue fearing identification with the maternal figure. As regards the role of mothers as primary sources of love, Chodorow underlines how this concept is culturally and socially constructed, and it is transmitted from one generation to another through imitation and training. Therefore, mothers who comply with the devotion and abnegation model could be accused for their complicity with

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