Thanks for your article with reflections on the experience and writings about maternal ambivalence. This certainly is a worthy topic made more so the many powerful responses. I completed a doctorate which I titled Maternal Ambivalence in contemporary Australia: navigating equity and care. In this I spoke about the ambivalences that were evident in interviews with women on the ‘transition to parenthood’. In the thesis I said that I saw no evidence of ambivalence towards the infant/child, though I hastened to add that the mothers wouldn’t have told me if they had mixed feelings towards their child. I saw the kind of devotion clearly evident today that leads the vast majority of women to place both their health and their long term economic security at risk so as to cater to the needs of their infants/children. Something I wonder about mothering in that it ‘matters too much’ both to myself and to many women – a topic I think that is also worthy of consideration.
What I found in my research was – ambivalence about the place these women found themselves in after the birth, particularly in regard to their relationship with their partners, the massive gap between their expectations and their experience.
Life is too hard for women after the birth of an infant, not simply because they have mixed and often unexplained feelings towards their child (what I think is the most complex of our relationships) but because they are relegated prime responsibility for the care and well-being of their infant/child with little opportunity to reflect on the experience and with very little social support.
They say it takes a village to raise a child but we, most often, in the western world are far from a village and couples are under increasing pressure to do it alone. This isn’t good for mothers, fathers, babies and children but its also not good for society. There is mounting evidence of the need and value of early intervention to assist young families while concurrently programs are being pulled apart. No bloody wonder mothers experience mixed feelings which are certainly contributing to very high rates of depression and anxiety.
Best, Joan G]]>