23 Kasım 2010 Salı

Motherhood After Bowlby - But Can We Satisfy Our Children?

John Bowlby (26 February 1907–2 September 1990) was a British psychologist, psychiatrist and psychoanalyst. Bowlby was born in London to an upper-middle-class family. He was the fourth of six children and was brought up by a nanny in the British fashion of his class at that time. Normally, Bowlby saw his mother only one hour a day after teatime, though during the summer she was more available. Like many other mothers of her social class, she considered that parental attention and affection would lead to dangerous spoiling of the children.

Bowlby is single handedly responsible for describing the desired form of motherhood which strongly emphasizes bonding with your baby. Bowlby's biggest idea had to do with "attachment" - how an infant forms a bond with his or her mother. His deterministic theory stipulates that the kind of relationship infants have with their mothers come to define the kinds of relationships they will have with other people for the rest of their lives!

This bright revelation about the relationship between child and mother was actually based on studies on war orphans and hence on loss and separation. In time orphans were forgotten and huge generalizations were made prescribing added responsibilities for the mother. Caring for the physical and psychological well being of her baby was no longer enough, the mother was told to continuously make herself available to her child such that her absence does not cause the child unspeakable loss. Hence generation after generation of mothers, regardless of how less or more educated they are, are willingly going the extra mile to be there for their children - body and soul - and this is how the mother martyrdom saga lives on.

As an adult, if we accept that our relationship with our mother determined everything else in our life, and if we are suffering from any anxiety at all who else will we blame other than our mother? In doing so, we accept to live our lives as adult children who even after having children of our own refuse to grow up. And in looking for answers in our parents' undoubtedly less evolved psyches, we swear we will not do any of that - whatever it was - to our children! This is why we are determined to stay home with our child (whereas our mother was a working mom), brave traffic to carry her between school and extra-curricular activities (you had to take the bus and were unhappy about it), arrange play-dates (you were all alone until your brother was born), attend cookie workshops (your mother was too busy and all you had was a piece of fruit), etc.

But can mothers actually satisfy their children’s needs? No, never! But do we stop trying? Of course NOT!

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