Interviewing a dozen professionals for my research paper took me back to a book I had read in 1992 and reminded me of the crippling effects of a dysfunctional family.
Families and How to Survive Them, co-authored by the psychiatrist and psychotherapist Robin Skynner and the comedian John Cleese, analyzes how and why we fall in love with a “divinely damaged” person and how we often become stuck in childlike behavior, thanks to influences that go back to several generations.
The mad family dynamics has been widely discussed and parodied in the media. What is swept under the rug is a phenomenon which may be called “monstrous motherhood” when mothers apparently turn into monsters and execute their own children – directly through abuse and rejection, or indirectly by leaving their children behind, or if they opt to stay, by becoming emotionally absent.
Lest we be too harsh on them, psychiatrist Barbara Almond explains in her book The Monster Within: The Hidden Side Of Motherhood, that being a mother is not automatically an all-fulfilling state, that fierce and demanding pressures surround contemporary mothering.
She said that the mother-child bond has been idealized while fathers have been given less and less responsibilities. Contemporary mothers are now wrestling with two distinct challenges. More women work outside the home and become the breadwinner. In the Philippines, a consequence of the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) phenomenon is the separation of married couples and alienation from their offspring.
In spite of the superwoman tasks of the mother, the emotional well-being of the family is still laid at her doorstep. Raising healthy children is seen as the mother’s territory, for the father’s role as protector seems to have a limited time frame.
But what happens when a woman does not have the capability or willingness to be a mother?