Recently someone brought an excellent book to my attention: “The Dance of Anger, A Woman’s Guide to Changing the Patterns of Intimate Relationships” by Harriet Lerner.

Some historians (especially the French historian Philippe Aries who wrote the book Centuries of Childhood)  have argued that ‘childhood’ is a concept created by modern society. He studied paintings, gravestones, furniture and school records and discovered that before the 17th century children were represented as ‘mini adults’.

Today adolescence seems to go on longer and longer with young people well into their twenties displaying symptoms of  (the mindset of) ‘eternal youth’. Not growing up – in plain English! Indigenous societies couldn’t afford this. They had Rites of Passage and the elder of the community organised Initiation for young boys. Adolescence lasted about  a week: before initiation they were boys and after initiation they were men.

I am a mother of three children. Like many mothers today I want my children to have a ‘childhood’, by which I mean: a period of unconditional love, close knit and supportive family life, protection and schooling.

So far so good!

But as many women put more effort than ever into motherhood , (motherWORK!), strangely this seems to coincide with women being blamed for all ills in the world.

Mothers get blamed for working outside the home or only working inside the home. They get blamed for how their children behave. They get blamed for acting short tempered in public with their children. They get blamed for tantrums their children have in public (“she doesn’t seem to have that child under control”).

Harriet Lerner says, very rightly, that “mothers cannot make children think, feel or be a certain way, but we can be firm, consistent and and clear about what behaviour we will or will not tolerate, and what the consequences are for misbehaviour”. I think this is important work: sorting out power struggles and control issues and being more clear about what comes under the umbrella of our RESPONSE-ABILITY and what does not.

Our own eldest son often says that when we have one of our ‘important conversations with him’ we have already decided what we want his response or the outcome to be. There is a lot of truth in that. We will never agree to the 7 hours of computer time he’d like to have in a day! To our defense I must say that we do try to listen and make changes inspired by the things he says in turn. But… the bottom line is that we are in the role of his ‘parents’ and not his friends. It is our job to create firm boundaries – as it this those very boundaries that make children feel held and safe (so they can then kick against those boundaries with all their might).

Don’t blame a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes, as the saying goes.

Don’t blame a mother until you have loved her children to infinity and beyond!

Human beings have an unfortunate tendency to project onto others what they will not own in themselves. Bearing that in mind I would say: instead of blaming mothers, or indeed blaming others (anyone) for the ills of society, let’s see how we can make positive choices about how we parent, how we take care of our relationships, how we treat Mother Earth and all sentient beings,  and how we run our lives – and give others (especially M-OTHERS!) the same freedom and respect.

When my own children complain about having me for their mother I always remind them that spiritually speaking, on the level of soul, they must have chosen me with great care! They pull a dirty face but do not argue with me!

(The paintings that go with this blog are taken from the MOTHERHOOD SERIES on my art website

Imelda Almqvist