Book Review: Don’t Blame Mother: Mending the mother daughter relationship by Paula J. Caplan

Through the process of writing a book about intergenerational healing in families I do research. I’ll write about the contents of the book in another post.  It is heartening to know that other authors have taken on the ideas already because it is not easy to consider. There is so much emotion around mothering, motherhood, childhood memory, etc.  There are grand expectations of mothers and for various reasons.  I started to read this book and so many emotions arose for myself which cause me to reevaluate some of my thoughts and actions. This first review points out some relevant and poignant ideas of the preface, Chapter 1 and 2.

Preface:  Caplan begins to discuss the ideas surrounding the mother blaming culture we live in.  While I recognize that women are in their own process even while mothering another person, I never thought of societal mother blaming but do understand that society often does ask people to look at Mothers with a lot of scrutiny when things are bad or good about a person.  In this section of the book Caplan also points out that perspectives of marginalized mothers or those of different ethnicities are specific. She lists the following books as resources: Generations of women in Their own words by Mariana Cook and Jamaica Kincaid, Phyllis Cheslers’ Letters to a young Feminst, Mothering Against Odds: Diverse Voices of Contemporary Mothers, Crossing the Color Line: Race, Parenting and Culture, Single mamahood: Advice and Wisdom for the African American Single mother to name a few.  Clearly mother shaming, like any other topic crosses cultures and ethnicities and one must be aware of the element that culture each carries.

CHapter 1 &2: Caplan states “our feelings about our mothers have profound effects on our relationships with our daughters and with women in general” pg. 8  I do not fully agree with this.  While this may be the case, sometimes your issues are valid and oftentimes pointing out a digression is not a failing.  I do however agree that “when we tell the story of our relationship with each other, a mother and daughter teach each other parts of the truth” (pg. 11).  Because we all process reality through our eyes but I do not see teaching someone how to treat us, even if it’s our mother that we are creating a myth.

This chapter discusses the myth about the perfect mother/witch, anger at our mother, blocking out or avoiding our mothers anger, fear of repetition, self-confidence, alienation, overwhelm about a new idea regarding motherhood or not knowing what to do within the paradigm mothers are given.

In all powerful points are brought up.  I look forward to delving more deeply into this book and discovering why I am so triggered by it. As a daughter and mother, I get to evaluate my own myths about MY motherhood and those that perhaps came from my mothering.  In all I am glad to be on this journey to discover parts of my self that I didn’t know affected me. It is also always heartening to learn about the cultural traps that bind many of us unbeknowst to us.  Mother Shaming? what have we come to as a society?

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