Op-Ed: I'm hungry for more stories on the ambivalence of motherhood

the latest tech news, global tech news daily, tech news today, startups, usa tech, asia tech, china tech, eu tech, global tech, in-depth electronics reviews, 24h tech news, 24h tech news, top mobile apps, tech news daily, gaming hardware, big tech news, useful technology tips, expert interviews, reporting on the business of technology, venture capital funding, programing language

Op-Ed: I'm hungry for more stories on the ambivalence of motherhood
© Provided by LA Times There are few films and books that show not all women want to be mothers. (Avalon Nuovo / For The Times)

In “The Lost Daughter,” a new film directed by Maggie Gyllenhaal based on the novel by Elena Ferrante, the main character, Leda calls herself an “unnatural mother.” Is an unnatural mother a woman without maternal instincts, one whose “true” nature lies outside of motherhood?

the latest tech news, global tech news daily, tech news today, startups, usa tech, asia tech, china tech, eu tech, global tech, in-depth electronics reviews, 24h tech news, 24h tech news, top mobile apps, tech news daily, gaming hardware, big tech news, useful technology tips, expert interviews, reporting on the business of technology, venture capital funding, programing language

I was never drawn to having children and imagine I’d be an unnatural mother too. I understand Leda’s tumultuousness. To regret having had children, to have done it because it was expected, by one’s partner, or family or society sounds terrible. But it’s just as terrible, if not more so, to be the child damaged by that kind of regret. Leda’s daughters, Bianca and Marta, must be damaged by her.

It’s rare to see a film or read a novel that depicts ambivalence around motherhood, even rarer one that rejects that life completely, which I deeply appreciate about “The Lost Daughter.” I’m hungry for these stories. It’s important to make visible, in an honest way, a fuller spectrum of women’s experiences — of everyone’s experiences; trans men can and do give birth to children too — and to break any taboo that exists in talking about them.

Global Tech News Daily

There are plenty of people who’ve never desired children, or who have had such desires — but are forgoing it because of climate change and now the pandemic. Birthrates are down, especially among younger generations. Still, among my circles it sometimes feels the exception to be without a child. My young nephews have asked me with genuine surprise and confusion if I have a child, even though it’s clear my husband and I do not. There’s no missing cousin. They want to know why.

Sometimes I have what could be seen as “unnatural feelings” when my close friends tell me they’re having a baby. Unless I already know they’ve been trying to conceive, my first reaction has usually been shock. I’ve dutifully uttered my congratulations, which rings false because it doesn’t completely match how I feel in that moment. Though it’s the “correct” way to respond, it’s a cliché. I can’t say I completely understand the shock, since I want my friends to feel fulfilled.

Global Tech News Daily

In “The Lost Daughter,” Leda, a literature professor, abandons her daughters when they’re young, living apart from them for three years. My surprise at the news of a friend’s pregnancy is usually followed by a feeling of abandonment, as selfish as this might sound. It’s not in any way the same as being abandoned by a parent, but if I’m honest, I’m afraid that when a friend has a baby we’ll drift away. These feelings dissipate, but the truth is that some of these friendships do change a little. One good friend and I did grow apart, though now that her child is a little older, we’ve regained much of our closeness.

How could these friendships not be altered? Those who are mothers, or parents, often talk about how different they feel after having children, and about what a profound experience it is for them. Profound experiences remake us, and sometimes they affect the nature of our existing relationships. In addition to what is gained, there can be a kind of loss of who we once were. We don’t often acknowledge these losses and the ways in which a new reality can create a gap between people that can be hard to cross.

Until reading Sheila Heti’s novel “Motherhood,” I’d never heard anyone express these feelings. Heti describes being on an ice floe with all your friends that breaks apart bit by bit as they set off alone with their babies, leaving you on your own piece of ice. Of new parents, she writes: “Certainly I am happy for them, but I am miserable for the rest of us — for that absolute kick in the teeth, that relieved and joyful desertion. When a person has a child, they are turned towards their child. The rest of us are left in the cold.”

Perhaps there’s a self-centeredness in these feelings. It’s possible, however, they’re not as unnatural as I think. Heti is being playful in this passage, but she’s also being honest, and as I grow older, I crave honesty, realness. Have others felt this sense of isolation? I wonder if these unnatural feelings simply aren’t talked about, especially between friends who’ve had children and those who haven’t, because there’s a societal taboo around not only not wanting to be a mother, or being an unnatural mother or an ambivalent one, but even having a conversation about it in the first place.

I’ve never brought up these feelings with friends who are parents. Parents, especially new ones, especially now during the pandemic, are often overwhelmed. I haven’t wanted to add to that. And, though women who don’t have children are often seen as lacking “value” societally, so too have mothers been historically undervalued. Yet they’re held up as an ideal. I don’t want to devalue their experiences either. Still, I long to talk about the remaking of our friendships, not to dwell on it or live in the past, but to acknowledge the change. Maybe if we talked about this metamorphosis, we’d find communion instead of distance.

Some mothers, to my surprise, have liked or related to “The Lost Daughter” as much as I have. One friend, with a son, explained that she appreciates the resistance to and rejection of female passivity as well as the female rage she found in Ferrante’s novel. Another mother told me that she plans to watch the film with her daughter.

My imagination has been too small. Whether or not we have children, we are subject to the same types of societal expectations, the same stream of history that tries to imprint on us what it is to be a woman, what it is to be a person. And what it is to be natural or unnatural.

Amina Cain is an author in Los Angeles. Her book “A Horse at Night: On Writing” will be published in October.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

News Related


Third Ebola patient dies in DR Congo

The third Ebola patient in northwest Democratic Republic of Congo has died, the World Health Organisation says, the latest fatality in an outbreak first reported last month. The 48-year-old man ... Read more »

UK Labour leader probed on 'virus breach'

UK police say they will investigate opposition leader Keir Starmer over a potential breach of COVID-19 lockdown rules in 2021 after receiving significant new information, delivering an embarrassing blow to ... Read more »

Beijing nervous, COVID cases not dropping

Beijing residents are fretting over tightening COVID-19 curbs in its biggest district and dozens of new cases reported daily as China's leaders reiterated their resolve to battle the virus and ... Read more »

US health authorities warn of clot peril with Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine

Blood clots have ended high hopes for Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot vaccine vaccine. Photo: Getty Live US regulators are strictly limiting who can receive Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine due ... Read more »

Far West hospitality venues feeling impacts of COVID on staffing numbers and work

Far west hospitality venues say they are running on bare minimum staffing numbers as COVID impacts their operations. Key points: A number of local venues are considering, or have reduced, their opening ... Read more »

COVID in WA: Third dose vaccine milestone reached as daily cases fall below 10,000

WA has marked a long-awaited vaccine milestone, a day after COVID cases reached a record peak. The Health Department has reported the third dose vaccination rate has reached 80.1 per ... Read more »

FDA restricts use of Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine due to blood clot risk

The Food and Drug Administration put rigid limits on who can receive Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, saying the vaccine should only be given to people who ... Read more »

WHO says true pandemic death toll is 15 million — not six million

Live Nearly 15 million people were killed either by coronavirus or by its impact on overwhelmed health systems during the first two years of the pandemic,  the World Health Organisation estimates. ... Read more »

WHO links 14.9mln deaths to COVID-19

Nearly 15 million people were killed either by coronavirus or by its impact on overwhelmed health systems during the first two years of the pandemic, the World Health Organisation estimates. ... Read more »

Eleven African countries in 5th COVID wave

COVID-19 infections are on the rise in Africa but are becoming less and less fatal, an Africa CDC official says. Countries experiencing their fifth wave of cases are seeing tallies ... Read more »

Omicron 'just as severe', US study says

The Omicron variant of COVID-19 is intrinsically as severe as previous variants, unlike assumptions made in previous studies that it was more transmissible but less severe, a large study in ... Read more »

Elderly man in Shanghai wakes up in a hearse on the way to the morgue after wrongly being declared dead

COVID has taken a huge toll on the elderly all over the world. But it appears the authorities in China may have been a little over-zealous in the case of ... Read more »

‘No end in sight’: In Beijing, fears of Shanghai-style lockdown

Officials in Chinese capital have designated 518 coronavirus outbreak sites amid growing fears of a city-wide lockdown. Read more »

COVID in WA: State reports more than 10,000 daily cases for first time in the coronavirus pandemic

WA has reported more than 10,000 daily cases of COVID for the first time in the pandemic, just days after the mask mandate and other restrictions were dropped. WA Health ... Read more »

Western Australia records more than 10,000 new Covid-19 cases

Western Australia has recorded 10,000 new cases of Covid-19 overnight, surpassing the original prediction for the peak of the Omicron wave. The spike in infections comes less than one week ... Read more »

NSW push vaccines with flu on the rise

Cases of flu in NSW have more than doubled in recent weeks, leading to a spike of hospitalisations. Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said there were more than 1024 cases ... Read more »

Victoria becomes the first state to record over 3000 Covid deaths

Victoria has hit an unwanted Covid milestone after becoming the first Australian jurisdiction to record over 3000 deaths due to the virus. The Victorian Department of Health reported 14 new ... Read more »

IMAGE: Pilot program offers free flu vaccines

IMAGE: Pilot program offers free flu vaccines News Video Read more »

Can I get the flu jab if I've just had COVID-19? What you need to know about winter with both viruses

Flu season has officially arrived, with Australia already seeing thousands of cases of the virus. Both COVID-19 and influenza are now circulating in the community, and health authorities are pleading with people to ... Read more »

US Secretary of State Blinken has COVID-19

The US State Department says Secretary of State Antony Blinken has tested positive for COVID-19 after attending the White House Correspondents' Dinner and related events over the weekend. Spokesman Ned ... Read more »

Virus cases dip except in Americas, Africa

The World Health Organisation says the number of newly reported coronavirus cases and deaths globally has continued to fall in the last week, continuing a decline that first began in ... Read more »

COVID in WA: State tallies record 9782 daily coronavirus cases

WA has reported a record 9782 daily COVID infections less than a week after dropping the majority of restrictions designed to contain the virus. However, the number of people in ... Read more »

SA to change virus management

South Australia will change how it handles the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as it prepares to end the state's emergency management declaration. The new Labor government has introduced legislation to amend ... Read more »

Three new Omicron subvariants in Australia

Three new Omicron subvariants have reached Australia and health authorities say people who contract the virus should wait three months before getting their next COVID-19 vaccination. Associate Professor Stuart Turville ... Read more »

Outcome on COVID vaccine IP waiver: WTO

The four main parties to negotiations on an intellectual property waiver for COVID-19 vaccines have prepared an “outcome document” for approval by the broader membership. World Trade Organisation director-general Ngozi ... Read more »

Beijing tests, Shanghai eases some curbs

Some of Shanghai's 25 million people have managed to get out for short walks and shopping after enduring more than a month under a COVID-19 lockdown while China's capital Beijing ... Read more »

Regional post-COVID mental health crisis

The demand for regional mental health services has spiked since the coronavirus pandemic, forcing many psychologists to close their books because they can't keep up. It's been described as a ... Read more »

Beijing preparing for major COVID-19 spike

Beijing is preparing new hospital facilities to deal with a spike in COVID-19 cases, even though the numbers of new cases remain low. A 1000-bed hospital at Xiaotangshan in the ... Read more »

Experts warn of possible renewed flu spike

Health experts are warning of a renewed spread of seasonal flu after two years of COVID-19 restrictions left fertile ground for the potentially deadly bug to spread. The number of ... Read more »

Hong Kong to further ease COVID curbs

Hong Kong will further ease COVID-19 restrictions, allowing bars to open until 2am and doubling the number of diners permitted at a table, as cases in the global financial hub ... Read more »

ACT to drop COVID-19 vaccine mandates for healthcare workers, teachers in Canberra

Workers in healthcare and education settings across Canberra will soon no longer be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19, the ACT Health Minister has announced. Key points: Workers in disability and ... Read more »

Victoria and NSW record almost 20,000 Covid cases in 24 hours

Victoria and NSW have experienced big increases in their daily Covid numbers, with the states recording more than 19,000 new cases combined. NSW recorded 9656 infections in the 24 hours ... Read more »

COVID in WA: Infections track up with one historical death reported

Reported COVID infections tracked back up on Tuesday to 7929 with small increases also recorded in the number of people in hospital and ICU. One historical death was also reported, ... Read more »

COVID variants detected in SA for first time as health authorities also prepare for flu

South Australia's public health chief has issued a warning to parents about reduced flu immunity ahead of winter, as new COVID variants are detected in the state. Key points: SA has recorded its ... Read more »

COVID-19, flu winter resurgence predicted

Authorities are warning the easing of COVID-19 restrictions will see a spike in transmissions as well as a resurgence of flu this winter. Acting Australian Chief Medical Officer Sonya Bennett ... Read more »

Coronavirus Watch: Catch COVID this summer? Don't expect an Airbnb refund

If you catch COVID-19 ahead of your summer vacation, don’t expect an Airbnb refund. More than two years after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Airbnb says it will no ... Read more »

COVID setback for Shanghai, Beijing braces

China's commercial capital of Shanghai has been dealt a blow as authorities reported 58 new COVID-19 cases outside quarantine areas, while Beijing pressed on with testing millions of its people ... Read more »

Tourists return as NZ pandemic rules ease

New Zealand has welcomed back tourists from the US, Canada, Britain, Japan and more than 50 other countries for the first time in more than two years after dropping most ... Read more »

'Unprecedented' code white for three days as Mount Gambier hospital battles staffing shortages

South Australia's largest regional hospital was placed under a code white rating for three days last week, in what is understood to be a first for the facility.  Key points: ... Read more »

COVID in WA: Elective surgery opens up as virus cases remain steady

WA has recorded 5847 new COVID cases and zero deaths to 8pm on Sunday night, as private hospitals resume taking bookings for elective surgery for non-essential procedures. The numbers are ... Read more »