Of Responsibility, Daughters and The Decision of Motherhood…

Shortcut to the hideout! by Wajahat Mahmood
Shortcut to the hideout!, a photo by Wajahat Mahmood on Flickr.

Emilie Mendala-Mathew writes in her recent article, “Mother-Daughter Relationships Associated With Mental Well-Being,” that, “The quality of relationship between a mother and daughter has been linked to the daughter’s mental health.”

Says Rosalind Barnett at the Center for Research on Women at Wellesley, College, Wellesley, MA, “Daughters who report healthy relationships with their mothers also report high self-esteem, positive outlooks on life, and fulfillment in different areas of their lives.

Likewise, Barnett adds, “Positive aspects of the mother-daughter relationship can result from daughters feeling cared about, mothers expressing interest in daughters’ life, mothers supporting daughters’ family choices and personal decisions, mothers being dependable, and effective communication.”

Well how original?

This is not to discredit Barnett’s work or assertions. They are quite true.

Nor am I criticizing the author of the article, Emilie Mendala-Mathew. Clearly we need to read these thing, women and mothers included, to gain greater understanding of what, forgive me, should be obvious.

When a child is loved, they feel good and positive about life. When they do not feel love, doubts creep in. They grow sad and angry.

Take for instance the recent life sentencing of 18 year-old Alyssa Bustamante for having killed her nine-year-old neighbor in 2009.

When asked why she committed such a heinous crime, Bustamante cited, “…because she wanted to know what it felt like to kill someone.”

How sad, most obviously for nine-year-old Elizabeth K. Olten, whom Bustamante strangled and stabbed, Olten’s parents, but also for Bustamante herself.

And yet I cannot help but wonder who are Bustamante’s parents?

Where is her mother?
Most particularly did Bustamante feel her mother’s love?

The answer is most clear.

In fact, I would assert that on some level the relationship between Alyssa and her mother has left Alyssa feeling dead inside.

Thus she acts out by not committing a crime that exhibits what she has felt in relationship to her mother or primary caregiver, but also in killing Elizabeth Olten, Alyssa sought to inflict someone with the pain that was/is consuming her and break her isolation.

Some may feel that questioning the whereabouts of Alyssa’s mother and her role in Alyssa’s life and upbringing is unfair.

What about the father, you might say?

This is a valid question. And he should be held accountable as well.

Women have much to consider as the war rages between those of us who believe it is a woman’s right to choose whether she wants to bring life into the world, and those who would assert that women have no rights over our bodies when that body has another life growing inside it.

The purpose of women possessing the right to choose, a right that we should not have to request, is not simply there for window dressing.

We have this right along the right and choice to use birth control because we, as the gender in whom new life gestates, and springs from, have a responsibility to ourselves and most particularly any life that we conceive to question within ourselves, “Am I ready to commit my life to duly raising this child in a way that is fair to not simply the greater good of society, but most importantly, that child’s own well-being?”

In short, am I able, ready and willing in body, soul, mind and spirit to nurture and love a child such that child will not regret being born because of my mistreatment of her or him?

We need to ask these questions of ourselves as women.

The feminist and women’s liberation movement has opened the doors for women to pursue meaning and purpose in our lives through traveling many avenues.

No longer are we limited to establishing meaning in our lives by only giving birth.

Conversely we must use this freedom, which has always been right, wisely.

Those who oppose abortion and other forms of birth control submit that abortion essentially amounts to killing a life.

Is the life Alyssa Bustamante’s life worth any more than Elizabeth K. Olten?

And what is the quality of Alyssa’s existence confined to life imprisonment for committing a crime for which she will either experience remorse until death or that she possesses not conscience that leaves her regretful?

This is not to say that Alyssa Bustamante should be dead and Elizabeth K. Olten alive.

Rather what does it mean that this argument between a woman’s choice versus the life of a child, albeit unborn continues?
Perhaps the issue is not so much those who stand on either side of the issue and with our strongly held beliefs, but rather how we as women choose to utilize this right that we possess over our bodies and the life that can and will not come through us.

With privilege and freedom always comes responsibility and careful discernment.

Unfortunately women with our new found freedoms, like all men in this society, have and still often travel down the path of seeking the American dream through the mis-guided notion of believing and attempting not simply to “do it all,” but as well “…grasp it all.”

The sad history of  the American dream has been that achieving it has always required another person to undergo a simultaneous nightmare.

The right to, “Life, liberty and the right to pursue happiness,” does not happiness guarantee.

Modern medicine has provided women with the ability to take charge of our bodies and control whether we become pregnant.

With the ability to choose to give birth also comes the requirement that entrance into motherhood be a decision.

Allysa Bustamante’s desire and need to know what it felt like to kill someone required Elizabeth K. Olten surrender her life.

What must the children that we women carry and birth surrender when we cannot deal honesty with ourselves and consider, if not admit, “Perhaps motherhood is not for me?”




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2 Responses to “Of Responsibility, Daughters and The Decision of Motherhood…”

  1. DeBorah Ann Palmer Says:
    February 13th, 2012 at 4:05 pm

    When I read this column two fictional accounts of disconnected mothers come to mind. We Need to Talk about Kevin” by Lionel Shriver. That book even though its fiction is truly disturbing. The mother Eva is a misanthrope who raises a son who becomes a mass murderer. Eva is an example of a woman who views her children as accessories, a woman who never should have bore kids.

    Another author who explores fractured relationships between mothers and daughters is Jamaica Kincaid. Both the novels The Autobiography of My Mother and Annie John deal with women alienated by the very concept and definition of motherhood.

    I’ve also wondered why Zora Neale Hurston does not have children in her novels? Just saying. I appreciate thoughts and feedback. Thanks.
    DeBorah Ann Palmer´s last blog post ..Absolution From a Broken Spirit

  2. Anjuelle Floyd Says:
    February 13th, 2012 at 8:50 pm

    The mother-daughter relationship definitely influences a daughter’s mental health. When our daughters are unwell, either physically or mentally, we, their mothers, must always ask, “What can I do to help?”
    Thanks so much for taking the time to share.
    Peace and blessings.

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