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.