Mothering desires arise differently for women. The desire to give love, and by doing so to BE loving, is a strong desire for many women and me as well. I did not develop this orientation because I witnessed it from my parents, however. Mezey’s findings are correct, I believe, in that girls do not develop mothering desires simply on the basis of parent socialization. I definitely did not. Mezey relates that “the development of mothering desires is integral to the development of mothering decisions” (46). She goes on to say that social and cultural conditions largely dictate this process of developing the desire to mother. She says one reason often given as to why women want to become mothers is biological determinism. Women are programmed biologically, thus it’s a forgone conclusion that they will all want to become a mother. That’s not true, (but it may be for me). My mother was not biologically or in any other way driven to mother me. My mother did not give me the feeling of being seen, heard, known, or cherished. She also did not show me that mothering was something to aspire to. My grandmother (my father’s mother who helped raise me) was not domestic at all, but she was more maternal than my mother. My mother was in a band, a cocaine addict and I definitely saw her and knew that was not the way to be a mother or a person.
My grandmother did not socialize me into domesticity, but I found myself there regardless. My own mother did not want to be “chained”, like Kristy in Mezey’s work. The message I received was not to see that as a liberated way of living, but a disconnected, empty and loveless life. That was my interpretation of her life. Though she was a negative mother, I did not interpret motherhood as negative at all. I felt an even deeper desire to mother because of my own interpretation of my mother’s life. And I see it as empowering to be a stay at home mother, like, “Look what I get to do!”. Raising the next generation is pretty darn important.
My own experience of my mother and her abandonment of our relationship was partly informed by what I knew about her childhood. She had been abandoned; her mom and dad had divorced. I intuitively felt the connection between her not having a mother who really loved her and wanted to be her mother, and her glib, selfish attitude toward me. I identify very much with Diane in Mezey’s work. Diane says, “I just always wanted what everyone else had. For years I wanted…..a house, I wanted a white fence, I wanted kids and a dog and the whole family thing…..” (57). I see nothing wrong with craving the symbolic.
If a person wants the symbols of family life, such as white picket fences and the like, let them represent and externalize their deep desires. I was always like Diane, I craved and longed for what (it seemed like and certainly more people than not) most others had, two parents who loved one another, a house, safety, emotional, physical, psychosexual safety. The feeling that I could rest in the love my parents and our family shared was a deep desire I had. Stability. Knowing that my parents could handle anything and could create a stable, healthy, happy life. I knew families like that and I wanted that. The archetypal house, dog (or cats if you are us, both a dog and cats) two parents in love and a white picket fence, those symbols spoke to me.
My grandparents (father’s parents who raised me from age 10, after my father finally ran off my stepmother and no one was left to take care of me) used to belittle my dreams of the archetypal white picket fence. “There’s no such thing, Sarah”. “That’s just a dream, there is no such thing as perfect”. I was not asking for perfect, however. Just good enough, as the great D.W. Winnicott expressed. Well, guess what? I did not listen. They couldn’t see into the deeper symbolic meaning of what my broken heart was trying to say. While I do not actually have a white picket fence (HOA won’t allow it), I have everything that fence symbolized for me as a child.