The list is long, of good and loving mothers I know — of now-adult children, the ages of mine— who are not doing so well. Some of these mothers may truly have “bungled” how they raised their children. But I can name plenty of others who breast-fed their children, served them good meals, stayed home when they were sick (or every day), read to them, sang to them, taught them to ride their bikes and swim and ski, and above all, nurtured them daily (in families that remained — unlike my own — “intact”).
And their children are in drug rehab. Or they’re in jail, or suffering from profound depression. I know more than one mother — the kind of person who up until that moment would have been described as “a good mother” by anyone who knew her — whose child committed suicide.
What does this say about those mothers? If the value of these women’s lives were measured by the success of their children, they have failed, and, by the Jacqueline Kennedy measure at least, nothing else they may have succeeded at should matter all that much, as a result. In the eyes of many people (including the woman herself), a woman whose children fail to measure up is guilty of an even greater failure. Bad mothering.
What does this say about those mothers?
Just one point that the writer fails to consider:
No one knows what went on behind close doors except the mother and the child (and perhaps siblings). A narcissistic, cold, manipulative mother can appear to be the sweetest, most doting mother to the outside world, including her neighbours, friends, sorority sisters, etc. She can be a pillar of society – anything from Martha Stewart/June Cleaver hybrid to a sr. middle-manager with an Ivy league M.B.A who is loved by her staff – yet save a completely hidden, monstrous side she unleashes secretly on her own child.
I know people (men and women) who were victims of abuse and neglect at the hands of these narcissists. They never fully recover, they maymanage to limp along but they struggle all their lives. The child has no proof of what happened except his or her own memory. The mother then scapegoats and gaslights, saying they are lying: “I was a loving mother but poor me, you are mentally ill.”
This type of “mothering” is the cause of a lot of suicide and depression in young adults and middle aged people. I would not wish it on anyone. It must be hell on earth, especially when she shows an angelic side at all times to the outside world and is socially successful. At least if your mother was a heroin addict everyone feels sorry for you (i.e. Peaches Geldof).
When kids from allegedly good homes go off the rails I tend to ask, “I wonder what really happened behind close doors.”
Excellent point, no one really knows the actual dynamics of families other than the people involved. It can never be assumed that all is well, simply because the image that is put on show to outsiders looks good. People always put their best side forward for the public.
Being made to feel very sorry for a “poor mother” is fairly common, but it’s hardly as if the mother had no input at all. (Strangely, I don’t see anyone trying to create equivalent “poor father” sentiments.) While there are indeed plenty of other outside influences, the mother still had some hand in shaping the person her child grew to be.
Perhaps it is true that the “troubled” child is just an aberration. But I do become even more suspicious of the parenting when there are several children, and they are all “troubled”.