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Mothering Without a Map: The Search for the Good Mother Within Paperback – February 22, 2005

4.7 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Black (In the Shadow of Polio: A Personal and Social History), whose mother became too ill to care for her when Black was four and died when she was six, questions how being a motherless daughter affects her ability to relate to her children. Starting from the premise that "nothing... exerts an influence on how a woman raises a child as powerfully as does her own mother," Black sifts through her own feelings, searches through psychological literature, and interviews 50 women between the ages of 20 and 70 about the effects of being under-mothered. Although Black acknowledges that others can sometimes step in to fill the void left by a mother who is absent from her daughter's life because of illness, alcoholism, drug abuse or death, her focus never waivers from what happens when the mother-daughter tie tears and the daughter is left without a role model. Unlike Hope Edelman in Motherless Daughters, Black is less interested in the loss itself than in its effects on mothering, which, in her case, made her wait until she was in her 40s to have children. Black views good mothering as satisfying a child's five basic needs laid out by psychologist Abraham Maslow ("physiological, safety, love, esteem and self-actualization") and is careful to concede "there is no right way to mother." While psychological jargon like "allomother" or "insecure attachment" can obscure Black's point, her interview subjects offer other women afraid of motherhood reassurance that it is possible to be a good mother without having experienced good mothering.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

Kathryn Black writes with personal and professional authority about an important topic. She’s an excellent writer with fresh, positive ideas. -- Mary Pipher, author of Reviving Ophelia
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (February 22, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143034863
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143034865
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.8 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #355,076 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Mothering Without a Map changed my life. Until reading this book, I knew that something was wrong with the way I was raised - that I never felt safe or unconditionally loved - but I couldn't pinpoint the problem. Kathryn Black put my feelings into words. This book helped me to work through my anger toward my parents and come to a place of greater compassion. They're still not good for me, but I now have a peace about the state of our relationship and about my past. I can appreciate and emulate the positive things they did for me while accepting and moving past the negative. Before I avoided any of their behavior all together for fear that I would repeat the cycle of "undermothering." After reading this book, I can move forward with greater understanding and confidence in my mothering abilities. If you want a book that can truly turn your life around, this is it. Thank you Kathryn for putting together such a wonderful book!
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Format: Hardcover
I recommend without equivocation. "Mothering Without a Map" by Kathryn Black is not only well written -- excellent structure, suspenseful writing -- it is eye-opening in its conclusions. It goes beyond the thesis in "Motherless Daughters." Even if you had/have an excellent mother, and even if you like your own mothering style, I guarantee there will moments of insight for you.

Most of all I marvel at Black's balance in her information; under any other writer, this book would feel like the usual blame-the-mother for all of the world's ills. But Black, through humor and empathy, makes the deficits all mothers have surmountable and understandable.

Plus, you've got to see this bibliography at the end of book --

thousands of sources.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I enjoyed reading this book. I picked it up looking for straightforward advice on how to be a better parent with limited role models available to me but instead found myself learning lessons of a different sort.
As many of the women in this book, I felt the pain of inadequate support from my mother. I have been forced to distance myself from an unsupportive and often destructive mother. The baggage from the loss of her own mother and the unresolved issues of her childhood have contorted her into an unhappy, joyless and often mean adult.
Through this book I have been given a different perspective on what it might have been like for her to grow up without a mother at all and why that would have been so difficult for her. I find my perspective has softened a little and my curiosity and sympathy have been awakened toward her. I find myself wondering about what she was missing and how it might have contributed to who she has become.
I think the best message that I received from this book is that it is possible to be an ordinary good mother even if you didn't have one yourself.
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By A Customer on July 16, 2004
Format: Hardcover
As both a mother and a therapist who works with mothers, I was thrilled to find this book because of the gaping hole it fills on parenting bookshelves. It provides hope and reassurance that becoming a 'good mother' even when we've been under-mothered is both worth doing and do-able. I was impressed with the way the author connects some of the women's stories with relevant research information in a gentle way. It is a unique and timely book written for a generation of mothers who want to raise their children differently than they were raised but are not completely sure how to do that.
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Format: Hardcover
Black has excelled in this beautiful exploration of motherhood, and of what it means to nurture, to give, to love and be loved. Her sensitive and forgiving insight into the tangled job of mothering - whether undermothered, abandoned, or still very present in our lives - gives us all a psychological glimpse into the patterns of past, present and future mothering styles, the enormity of the role, and its impact on our development - with Maslow's hierarchy as a strong foundation. Black gives us heavy, but digestable information, and follows up with the compassion, humor, wisdom, and soft space required for us to fall. My new number one resource on all things parenting - an essential read.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I grew up with a mentally ill mother and then in and out of foster homes and placement/girls homes. I now have three daughters of my own. I often find myself wondering what I am doing and if I am doing it correctly. This book was inspiring, it often put me in my place or "called me out', I found myself searching within myself for answers and after I finished it, I started it all over again. More than anything, I want to succeed at mothering my children. While I know that one book wont do this tasks for me, this book did help me answer a lot of personal questions and it shed some light on some of the darker thing in my past.
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Format: Paperback
I only gave this book 4 stars because, at a number of points, the writing did not logical conclude the paragraph or the point being discussed. Other sentences, that promised to provide strong conclusions, were vague and unclear. The strengths of this book are the summaries of research related to the topic, and the stories of numerous women in their own words. The book focuses on the mother daughter relationship and I was reading it from the perspective of parenting without a map because I felt that the bulk of my attachment issues were connected to my relationship with my father. I was able to infer similarities between mother/daughter to father/daughter, as well as gain insights into my relationship with my mother and how that contributed to the feeling that I entered parenthood without a reliable map to follow.
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