Sunday, August 08, 2010

Some Women Shouldn't Be Mothers

I recently heard this statement applied to some women I know. And in academic theory only, I could agree with this assessment. Those women made the lives of their children miserable or continue to do so now that their children are adults. They emotionally and physically torment their children even into adulthood. Hugs and kisses and "I love you's" are virtually non-existent. There are blatant cases of favoritism and intentional familial division. Those children continue to seek approval they will never receive, still bearing jagged scars. And this isn't even the tip of the iceberg.

But were those women so bad at mothering that their children didn't deserve to exist? Because that's what it boils down to. Is this "bad mothering" a generational thing? Because in the case of these women, they are all related. So if it is generational, how can it be stopped and reversed? It's easy to identify which women were born mothers. It seems easy to identify those traits in others. But in ourselves, how do we know which one we are? A friend of mine is fond of saying, "There's no guilt like mother guilt." We always feel bad about something. So, is there a checklist, some set of criteria to measure against? Does the kind of mother we have had play into it? Could mothering be considered a "nature vs. nurture" event? Apparently, there has been a study done on this.

On an seemingly unrelated note, I was also recently interested to find out that the Catholic Church basically teaches that in-vitro fertilization is morally wrong because it violates the dignity of both spouses and the children created. Further, it was explained, many of the children created through IVF die or are frozen; some are even used for experimentation. I found this to be very, very interesting, although not an argument I hadn't heard before. I know of several children born to parents who tried conventional means for many years and were unsuccessful until in-vitro fertilization. Should those women have become mothers in that way? The Catholic Church says no. Does years of disappointment in bearing children make a better mother? Are they more likely to be patient with and thankful for their colicky baby who cries every night until 4am after waiting for years and years for the joy of a baby? Or, is it more likely they will feel guilty about any negative feelings they might have about their bundle of joy? Does that make them a bad mother? When does someone transition from a sad mother, an inexperienced mother, an undemonstrative mother to a bad mother?

It's been well said that there is no test or licensing required to become a parent, and there should be. But if there were, what would the criteria be and who would pass and fail that exam? Would it be a psychological exam delving into your wonderful/troubled/mediocre/mis-remembered/fill in the blank childhood? Or rather, would it be a skills test of bathing and dressing infants, administering first aid and potty training? The testing possibilities and subsequent opportunities for failure are endless.

Is mothering something that can be learned? Can someone in a cycle of generational "bad mothering" break that cycle? And if so, what would that look like? Where could she get help and not judgment? And frankly, whose opinion matters? Mine? My husband? My kids? Random people who hardly know me? And again, with what criteria? That my children are dressed, fed and at the doctor when sick? Who really knows? Who knows what goes on in the hearts of people?

I guess some women shouldn't be mothers. But who gets to decide?


Christy Mitchell Leisk said...

enjoyed your thoughts and opinions, however, as a Catholic, I can explain the Church's belief on in-vitro: We believe that a soul is attached at the moment of conception. If there are fertilizied eggs that are frozen, unused or tested on, then it is a desicration of the human body. Especially if they're just thrown away or used for testing. We do not think that the couples who have difficulty becoming pregnant, shouldn't have children. We just believe that there are other ways.

Georgia said...

I have to say I was really a little bit surprised to know what the Catholic Church's stance on this actually was. I'm curious to know the numbers on this. Obviously, the number of destroyed eggs must far outweigh the actual number of embryos who survive to be born for this to be their position.

Shanon said...

Very though provoking! It is one of those issues that gets people up on soap boxes on both sides of the aisle, but you have presented it in a very even handed way. Interesting thoughts. But I have to say that if there has ever been a woman break the mothering mold set by her own mother, it's you, sister.

Georgia said...


Thank you for what you said, but I don't know that I can agree with you. I am different from my mother in many ways, but I am very much like her in many ways. It is real and it is painful. It seems there is no objective way to know if that makes me "bad" in my own right or just better than she was. Sometimes we don't realize we've screwed up (and how badly) until it's far too late to change anything. Perception is reality, but it isn't always truth. What will my children say about me? And will they be right?

Trina Joy Koslowski said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Trina Joy Koslowski said...

At every stage in our lives we are teaching and learning unknowingly or not. I have to believe that God graces unmotherly mothers with children in hopes that they will learn from them. Our first child, Gabriel was stillborn at 34 weeks. I spent a great deal of time wondering why crack-whores had viable babies but not me. God sends every child for a reason and a purpose. When I realized that, I was finally able to learn what Gabe had to teach me.

Georgia said...


Thank you for sharing this, and I think you have a point. As a high schooler, I really never thought I'd get married or have children. I spent a lot of time taking care of a pain-in-the-ass younger brother and reasoned that if this is what parenting was like, someone else could have it. So when medical doctors told me at a young age I'd probably never get pregnant, it didn't seem like such a big deal.

Obviously, that's not the way it happened.

With children comes change. Emotional and physical to be sure. I am not as selfish as I used to be, but I still have far to go. Mothering, and especially being a stay-at-home mother, is extremely difficult for me. It doesn't come easy or natural.

I honestly don't know if I'm better than those who are rumored to be bad. It's too subjective. I'm just different.

Do we ever get it all figured out?

Julie, Alex & Cooper said...

Hey - Am I the friend to whom you refer who thinks you are closet sweet? Thanks for giving me an anonymous shout-out on your blog! And, I do think that you are sweet, sometimes even not-so-closet. But, that could be because I am blinded by friend-love. :) Keep up the thoughtful commentary and I will keep up the shallow, totally off the wall comments on the thoughtful commentary!

Georgia said...

Now, don't want me to give away all my secrets, do you?

shanon said...

In the end, we all make mistakes. It comes down to how we love our children and how we let them know it. We are human, and we are going to screw up. If we apologize and let our babies know that we are not perfect and don't require them to be, either, we'll make it through. Someday my children will probably say, "Mom got angry and yelled a lot when we were little, but she loved us." I'll feel bad about that first part. But at least they'll know that last part.

Tricia said...

Whewee! That's a thought provoking blog. And thank goodness it isn't up to me or any other human to decide who gets to be a mother. I know I have shortcomings that, in other's eyes, might make me a "bad" mother. Thankfully (and sometimes terrifying), the Lord examines my heart more than my actions. At this point, all I can see to do is seek the Lord, follow His guidance as a parent, and thank Him daily that His grace will cover over my many, many screw ups.