I'm already imagining the letters we'll get in response to this week's cover story
n occupational hazard of being a magazine editor, and reading thousands of letters to the editor, is that you start to mentally compose letters you may receive as you read a feature. You imagine potential outrage, envision who will be thrilled and who will be miffed, foresee what feathers may be ruffled.
It doesn’t take much imagination to come up with the types of letters we may get in response to this week’s cover story. Motherhood is the most idealized of roles — there are songs and sonnets, poems and paeans written about it. The warm, loving, always nurturing mother is put on a pedestal.
And in this issue we explore the phenomena of women who aren’t naturally nurturing, women who don’t see motherhood as the ultimate fulfillment of all their deepest desires, who sometimes struggle in their role as mothers.
If you recognize yourself in the description, the features by Miriam Kosman and Elisheva Appel exploring this reality will be a deeply validating read. You’ll realize you’re not alone, learn the Torah perspective on the issue, and discover what other women do to compensate for what doesn’t come naturally.
But if you don’t relate, if you are naturally maternal, and love nothing more than spending every possible moment with your children, you may find these articles disturbing. How can a mother possibly not love babies? Or five-year-olds? Or ten-year-olds? (I suspect when it comes to teens, many people stop asking this question….)
Here’s what I want to point out: There’s a huge difference between what one feels and how one acts. The women we interviewed didn’t say, “I’m not naturally maternal, too bad.” Or “Since I don’t love spending a lot of time with kids, I’ll just get a full-time nanny.” They realized their lack of maternal instincts meant they had to work harder at doing what came naturally to others — and they invested heavily in their parenting.
It’s easy to read what wasn’t written (I can bring you dozens of letters as proof of that). But a nuanced read will reveal that this isn’t about self-centered women neglecting their children. It’s an honest discussion about how women who didn’t automatically embrace motherhood see the world, and how they work to become good parents.
As always, we’d love to hear your opinions and feedback, raw and gritty as it may be. Let’s just keep in mind that if being warm and nurturing is a goal for all of us — whether it comes naturally or is cultivated — we should try to direct some of that warmth to each other.
-- Bassi Gruen
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