Mother blame and obedience

In the course I am taking about mothering and motherhood, as students we are asked to write journal entries after our readings. This particular entry is based on readings in Maternal Theory Essential Readings edited by my professor Andrea O’Reilly.

Maternal Theory

Mother blaming is a patriarchal construct that regulates women. The power of mother blame has been ingrained in us since children; we grew up knowing that our mothers were there to serve us. She not only had to keep the home running, she was to make sure we all grew up to be happy, responsible people, who are a credit to our society. Everything considered socially unacceptable with a child is assumed to be a mother’s fault, a woman’s success is judged by her child’s success and social acceptance throughout life. Mothers know this, and this fear mongering is there to make sure mothers – women – play by the rules the patriarchy makes for them. “There are myths about mothers that allow us to take anything a mother might do and turn it into evidence of something ‘bad’ about her,” writes Paula J. Caplan. “Important work that a mother does goes largely unnoticed, except when she does not do it, as when she is sick and can not make dinner.”

And so, women in Western culture are expected to be obedient to their family’s whims: their husband, their children, everyone else’s needs and demands. The obedience expected of mothers disempowers them, “And therein lies the first of many strange paradoxes of human motherhood,” writes Susan Maushart. “That mothering is the most powerful of all biological capacities, and among the most disempowering of all social experiences.” One especially strange idea is that a mother is expected to create obedient children, while remaining obedient to said children. So of course a lot of us are matriphobic, we are taught not to be failures like our mothers. The only traits we women need to inherit from our mothers is passivity and pliability.

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