Her letter reminded me of how I struggled to learn to tell the time as a girl. The epitome of not being there for a child is not physical absence, but emotional absence. More chilling than coldness, more nerve-racking than anger, emotional absence deprives a child of a basic sense of self. There is no resonance, no responsiveness.
Many of the women who wrote in applauded Angela for breaking the taboo in speaking out about her mother. The stories were especially poignant because many were sharing their true feelings about their mothers for only the first time in their 60s and 70s.
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The good mother myth is so strong that a person is often condemned for speaking out about it. I have been accused of being a misogynist for focusing on mothers in this way, especially in an age when fathers can take on equal responsibilities at home. While fathers and grandparents, siblings, friends, neighbours and teachers all have the potential to shape a child, the mother-child bond is often called a foundational relationship for good reason.
There is no getting away from the special impact a mother is likely to have on a child. Our early inter-actions with our primary care giver — who tends to be our mother, in spite of all the social change there has been — shape the circuits of our infant brain, circuits that are used to understand and manage our own emotions.
Long after the complex structures that form our social and emotional brains have developed, we continue to seek responsiveness from a mother. We seldom cease to care what a mother thinks of us. Anne Wilson pictured left two years ago and right three years ago with her son. Then I had a son and experienced motherhood for myself.
What a revelation. For some, the reasons will be circumstantial. Many of the women who wrote in to the Mail were born in the Forties and Fifties. Their mothers had endured the stress and privations of the war years. Some had made hasty marriages. It was also a time when women were expected to focus their lives on the home, to set aside personal ambitions to bring up families —though this was not the case for my mother, who was able to continue her research career.
For other mothers there may be an envy of opportunities they never had. Dr Apter photographed at Newnham College, Cambridge.
Some women take out their own misery and frustration on their children. All my attempts were to no avail. Her mother Marion was isolated, bringing up Lesley and her younger brother with domestic help, but without an emotional support network of family and friends. I have found these women often acquire skills in the process of dealing with a difficult mother. These skills include patience, diplomacy and tolerance. I have a strong marriage and my daughters, who are in their 30s, are wonderful mothers. One of the fears of growing up with a difficult mother is that you will be one yourself.
But just having the insight to acknowledge what your mother is like is often enough to break the cycle.
It can make you a particularly responsive and loving parent. My daughters and I are very close and they tell me I was a good mother to them. The views expressed in the contents above are those of our users and do not necessarily reflect the views of MailOnline. Why are some mothers so viciously cruel to their daughters?
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Pretty easy. Even if I ran the hallways, I would still be fairly good. Later on, when I really stopped trying, I was put in disciplinary schools. It was like a jail. You get strip-searched before you go in, fingerprinted every day. One day I just climbed over the gate and left. It was a public school organized like a jail?
In other words, it was early conditioning for what everybody assumed your future was going to be. When I finally went to jail, I already knew everybody. Everybody I went to school with was in the jail. What were you put in that school for? Fighting and acting up.
I said in one of my raps, I was acting up in school because I thought it was cool, but really I was hurt. What type of motivation do you get if your mom is on drugs? Your self-esteem is automatically just low. Some people have the determination to shoot to the top. I always say anger is an easier emotion to deal with than pain. They hurt, they torn, they scarred. Michelle Alexander. I went to public school.
The books were falling apart. They probably still got the same books from when I was in school. I read a lot as a child, mostly because I was grounded all the time. Then we had a black-studies course in high school, and I became obsessed with black history because it felt like, for the first time, the world made sense. You would see your community and how people lived, and they would tell you we just did not want better. But I could see how hard people worked, and they still could not get ahead. Studying history calmed me. The most I ever read was in prison.
Reading made me process the system.
Because I am already a conspiracy theorist. People locked in the basement for 23 hours a day, being beat by the officers. Yes, the 13th.