Sunday, May 24th, 2009Invisible Mothers, Come Out of Hiding
Recently, My daughter, Lisa, forwarded an email that pinned an invisible pinkish purple heart on mothers who are invisible to their families. Lisa was pained by the email and commented to the sender, a friend of hers: "Frankly, my mother has been one of the most visible forces in my life and often I find myself repeating her actions and can see my daughters doing the same". Lisa continued, "As I heard at my grandparents funeral years ago, your children are the monuments you leave behind".
Do you want to leave behind a monument of invisible mothers creating another generation of invisible mothers and sons who marry invisible women to mother their children? Is this a return to the perceived good old days of the fifties or a distortion of healthy parenting? From burning bras in the sixties to invisible mothers in 2009, is that progress? I was deeply pained by this email and want to share with you my thoughts on this painful dilemma.
Here is an exerpt from the email: "Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more, no one can see me. Some days I'm not a pair of hands, I'm not even a human being. I'm a clock to ask 'What time is it', a car to order, 'Right around 5;30 Please'. These were the hands that once held books and the mind that graduated, summa cum laude - but they disapppeared into the peanut butter, never to be seen again. She's going, she's going , she's gone!" How truly painful for the writer and her child.
It saddens me to think our culture is still affected by this kind of servant - master attitude and continues to pass that distorted belief down the generations. One differentiates as a person by bouncing against boundries, i.e. another person. Creative opposition is an important tenant of human development. Our children need to hear us say no, kindly but firmly in order to learn what it means to be a separate person. To be invisible is to eliminate creative opposition and impair the growth and evolution of our children and our society.
Study biology. Creative opposition is a component all growth and differentiation from plant to one celled animal to a human. Through it we begin to recognize the difference between self and other, an important distinction to accept and value if our children are to grow into full maturity.
For young Johnnie or adolescent Jane to bounce against an invisible non-self parent and think he or she is the center of the universe while all the planets revolve around them leads to narcissism. The essence of narcissism is when one has little empathy for the pains of others and expects his needs to take precedence. Perhaps this is why the incidence of narcissism is rapidly increasing in our young people.
Is it a reaction to the sixties and the women's movement? Is it an overcorrection? If so, I pray it swings back to a more moderate position. A narcissistic child who blames his parents for his lack is no more appealing than a bra burning woman who blames men for all her problems.
How does this happen that a summa cum laude graduate becomes invisible? Two folks marry, two become one. The only way this occurs is if one gives up self, becomes subservient, invisible and the "stronger" party takes self from both, leaving one invisible, a move dysfunctional for both partners as it is not solidly rooted in self. In addictions, one party often overfunctions and takes self while the addicted spouse does less and less.
The greatest gift a mother can give a child begins with warm human attachment and then moves to gentle differentiation in which the baby begins to experience discomfort. It is only in the no, the discomfort, that little Janie realizes that we are separate beings who come together in human warmth, touch and attachment only to move apart, and again feel the experience of aloneness. As long as we have birth and death, it is essential that we begin to accept, experience and thrive in spite of our existential aloneness. To be invisible is to avoid the reality of our aloneness. Fusing fearfully with partners and children, keeps us from being fully human. We, our children and partners deserve more. More on the invisible mom tomorrow.
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