How do we, in western society, in this era, define motherhood? If you were interviewing someone for the job…probably the hardest, most thankless job…what qualities would you be looking for? What questions would you ask? Would you administer any psychological tests? I think back to a line in the movie Parenthood, where a character (played by Keanu Reeves) says: You know, Mrs. Buckman, you need a license to buy a dog. You need a license to drive a car. Hell, you even need a license to catch a fish. But they'll let any butt-reaming a**hole to be a father.
The same for motherhood: no licence required.
We, as a society, assume a mother will love their child, hopefully unconditionally. We also assume that a mother will keep her child safe, even sacrificing her own comfort to make this so. And we presume she will teach her children some life skills and some guiding values.
So, as a mother, if you know, or even suspect your partner/husband (or any other family member) is hurting your child, what do you do? Why would you even hesitate to speak to a social worker or even a lawyer, or throw the perpetrator out, or leave with the child if that’s what you have to do? And if it is happening, if he is hurting your child why were you unable to see this? The results, the child’s behaviour changes or physical condition or attitude/mood, is likely to make the abuse very obvious to a mothers’ discerning eye.
In the movie I discussed in my previous blog, Patrick Melrose, the mother, played by Jennifer Jason Leigh, is portrayed as an alcoholic drug abuser trying to blot out reality. In my novel, Both Sides Now, Rose’s mother is focused on her own victimhood, deep into a self-preservational denial. In my own personal story, my mother hid herself inside her religious fervor.
Even condemning the denial, we must have some compassion for all three of those mothers (and even yours if it applies). It’s a hard job. It is even harder if you are dependent, financially or emotionally, on the abuser. It is even harder if you are also a victim in that family unit. Even harder if you were that child once. And in this patriarchal social structure we live in, even today it is difficult to convince most people that incest is not just a family matter. And too often the solution chosen is to remove the child from the situation. This punishes the child as much as the perpetrator. When a curfew was suggested as a solution to a high rate of rapes, Golda Meir said “But it is the men who are attacking the women. If there is to be a curfew, let the men stay at home.”
Why punish the victim?
We as a society have done so much work to support women who must escape abusive relationships. There is much more work left to be done to protect our children from family members. Is it motherhood and apple pie to say these children are our future? Don’t leave it to those victimized by incest to break the cycle themselves. I can tell you that is a life-long struggle.
Let’s start talking about incest. This is not an extension of the #metoo movement. This is the #letstalkaboutincest movement.
Are you a mother who has seen the effects/symptoms of incestuous abuse, has believed her daughter(s),and who has removed her children from the control of the pedophile in the family? I want to hear from you. I want to write your story.