Some mothers are kissing mothers and some are scolding mothers, but it is love just the same, and most mothers kiss and scold together. -Pearl S. Buck
Mother. The word is rife with diverse meanings and deep emotion. The mother archetype spans many types, from the attentive and loving parent to one who abandons or hurts her child. In certain contexts, the word can even be an obscene oath.
Carl Jung stated that the mother archetype exists in the child. The baby projects the motherly ideals on the person who it sees as the nurturer. That can be its biological mother or the nanny who loves the infant as her own.
Mother archetypes abound. Mrs. Bennet in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is seen as both scheming and ridiculous in her pursuit of husbands for her flock of dowry deficient daughters. Abigail “Marmee” March, a rock to the family during their father’s absence, wise and imperfect, instructing Jo in holding her temper by using her attempts to keep her own as an example. And who can forget that shudder-worthy moment when Norman Bates spun that chair around and Mother Bates was mummified? Aaaaaah!
Currently, I’m reading Abigail Jones by Grace Calloway. The book raises the specter of Lilith, who is the mother of the demon world. Lilith, in Jewish tradition, was Adam’s first wife, cast out of Eden when she refused to submit to Adam’s authority as her husband. She sends her evil daughters into the world with the express purpose of proliferating evil and debauchery. The offspring share a consciousness with their mother and a single-minded desire to carry out her wishes—a Jungian notion to be sure.
In fictional stories, it seems that Mother often has an agenda—whether it is selfish or dedicated to the welfare of the child. Real life is often more complicated. The relationship between mother and child is deep and it resonates through the child’s lifetime, whether it is positive or negative. Mother’s example can either be an inspiration or a cautionary tale. Or, it is a little of both.
The mothers that ring true for me are the ones who are complex. The ones who try to do the best they can with the cards they’ve been dealt. Love their imperfect children as they struggle to come to terms with their own imperfections.
Who are your favorites mothers from books or movies? What do you like about them?
Happy Mother’s Day to beautifully flawed mothers everywhere.