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Idealization of Motherhood

  • By: Jean-Anne Sutherland
  • In: Encyclopedia of Motherhood
  • Edited by: Andrea O'Reilly
  • Subject:Sociology of Gender, Parenting, Maternal Health

Several things happen when something is idealized. First, it begins to exist only as an idea. Second, when something is regarded as ideal, it becomes dichotomous: right or wrong; good or bad. In the case of the idealization of motherhood, both of these happen. As the idea of the perfect mother permeates the culture, a disconnect occurs between this myth of mother and the realities of everyday life. Also, when an ideal is culturally agreed upon, as is the idea of the perfect mother, then one either succeeds or fails. A woman is a good mother, or a bad mother.

Adrienne Rich wrote of being “haunted by the stereotype of the mother whose love is unconditional” as depicted above.

In contemporary Western culture, motherhood has come to ...

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