Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Mother Dance

A couple of weeks ago I also finished reading The Mother Dance. The book is by Harriet Lerner a well known author, psychologist, lecturer, etc. about the psychology of women. (Probably best known for her The Dance of Anger.) I quoted this book a few weeks ago with her comments about perfectionism. She also addresses the ever present maternal guilt:

"Guilt keeps mothers narrowly focused on the question 'What's wrong with me?' and prevents us from becoming effective agents of personal and social change."

On a totally unrelated note, in another section she discusses research that was done on mothering practices in late 18th century Paris when using wet nurses was widespread. "In 1780 there were 21,000 babies born in Paris. Only 1,000 of these babies were breastfed by their mothers, and only 1,000 were wet-nursed in the city. The vast majority of these infants, 19,000 of them, were sent to wet nurses outside of Paris, sometimes as far as 125 miles away. It was ordinary practice for the children to remain there for as long as three to five years."

This was a cultural artifact--not of economic necessity--during this time women were encouraged to organize their lives around their husbands and breastfeeding was seen to interfere with a woman's modesty (as well as with her ability to provide for her husband's sexual needs).

I thought this was fascinating and also sad. It also made me chuckle a little to think about complaints about children being in day care--at least the baby isn't being farmed out 125 miles away for 5 years anymore! LOL!

Last week I also finished the book Tying Rocks to Clouds: Meetings and Conversations with Wise and Spiritual People. This book was so-so and I found myself frequently feeling depressed when I was reading it, so...

Anyway, a good quote regarding parenting (from the author's interview with Stephen Levine who has three children):

"Talk about a fierce teaching. It is easier to sit for three years in a cave than to raise a child from the time he is born to three years old." ;-) This was in response to a question about whether serious spiritual development is possible when having relationships with others (spouse, children, etc.) I firmly believe that without having children, I would be less "developed" than I am now--it is sort of like having kids is bad for the self (ego), but great for the soul!

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