Here is something I wonder about on a quasi-regular basis. Does the experience of mothering inevitably diminish a mother’s sense of self? I mean, when she is closer to the end of the job than she is to the beginning, does every mother look at herself and wonder, if not exactly "where did I go?", then at least, as David Byrne so sublimely put it, "how did I get here?"
One of my favorite ideas about mothering is DW Winnicott’s notion that a baby derives its first sense of self by seeing itself reflected in its mother’s eyes. But do we mothers spend so much time reflecting, imagining, and nurturing the other that we lose sight of ourselves?
Or is it that, as we grow, we continue to need the eyes of others to help us know who we are and, in this North American culture, the eyes that see mothers see very little of substance or value?
I know so many mothers who are finished with the baby/toddler/nursery school stages who question their worth, wonder what is left of them, are unsure what the world holds for them next. They are habituated into putting the needs of others first and to blaming themselves when things in the family sphere go wrong.
When I look at them I see insightful, funny, talented, experienced, powerful, capable gifted women. When they look at themselves, why don’t they see what I see?