I know how to have a good time. This weekend I went to the Freud Museum to see an exhibition on the history of women and psycho-analysis. Rip-roaring.
I don’t know much about Freud (if I free-associated, I’d probably only be able to say “dreams” and “penis-envy”) but I do know he had some odd ideas about what makes a woman tick. Anne Kampf quotes a typically bizarre piece of Freud in her excellent book How to Age;
“It is well known that women alter strangely in character after they have abandoned their genital functions. They become quarrelsome, peevish, and argumentative, in fact they display sadistic and anal-erotic traits which were not theirs in the era of womanliness… the tender mother has deteriorated.”
Despite his cheering depiction of women, I did enjoy wandering around his old house. There were a few pieces of art on display, and one particularly caught my eye: a series of about 30 sketches on what it feels like to be a mother and to be mothered. The artist saw herself and her mother as spiders, weaving destructive, binding webs. Their faces were distorted in rage or sadness, reduced to the suffocating functions of “mother”. It was — intentionally, I imagine — painful to look at.
Before Mini I feared I might have that same reaction to motherhood. Not just an ambivalence but an active rejection of the role and what it stands for in our society — motherhood and apple pie; motherhood as the correct progression from sweet girl to “tender mother”; motherhood as the calming influence that forces you to settle down, motherhood as the primary definition of being a woman.
I still reject those ideas, and now know that they are nothing to do with the reality of being a mum. Even more hearteningly, I can see that you stay essentially the same person you were before giving birth (sorry to disappoint anyone who was hoping for a magical transformation into domestic goddess drone), it’s just that others’ perception of you changes.
I would like to leave the last word today to Freud himself. His views on mothers are perhaps best left undisturbed by this blog(!), but instead:
“One day, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful”.
(This post is dedicated to all you fly muthas http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eNVde5HPhYo)
Ps can anyone recommend books/reading on motherhood through history/societies? Please let me know if so! Pps. Apologies for the blogging hiatus: Christmas was not the cause, but I’ll use it as the excuse