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Mean Mothers: Overcoming the Legacy of Hurt Hardcover – October 13, 2009
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From the Back Cover
An exploration of the darker side of maternal behavior drawn from scientific research, psychology, and the real-life experiences of adult daughters, Mean Mothers sheds light on one of the last cultural taboos: what happens when a woman doesn't or can't love her daughter.
Mean Mothers reveals the multigenerational thread that often runs through these stories—many unloving mothers are the daughters of unloving or hypercritical women—and explores what happens to a daughter's sense of self and to her relationships when her mother is emotionally absent or even cruel. But Mean Mothers is also a narrative of hope, recounting how daughters can get past the legacy of hurt to become whole within and to become loving mothers to the next generation of daughters. The personal stories of unloved daughters and sons and those of the author herself, are both unflinching and moving, and bring this most difficult of subjects to life.
Mean Mothers isn't just a book for daughters who've had difficult or impossible relationships with their mothers. By exposing the myths of motherhood that prevent us from talking about the women for whom mothering a daughter is fraught with ambivalence, tension, or even jealousy, Mean Mothers also casts a different light on the extraordinary influence mothers have over their female children as well as the psychological complexity and emotional depth of the mother-daughter relationship.
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Top Customer Reviews
What I loved about this book was that it validated my decision and a better understanding of how my mother has affected my life. The first part of the book, in which examples of mean mothers were described, was excellent - well organized, with a lot of very cogent insights. The second half of the book I felt rambled a bit, being rather more descriptive of various stories, and did not drive to any specific conclusions. Therefore, where the book fell a bit short for me was in delivering on the subtitle: "Overcoming the Legacy of Hurt" which is why I rated the book 4 stars and not 5 stars. I don't feel that this part of the story was told as well as the first part, perhaps because we never really do overcome the legacy of hurt - we just move past it. As such, I don't feel the subtitle was warranted.
This book helps me understand myself better. Why I shrink from relationships with other women, why I do not like attention focused on me, why I don't trust employers, why I am lonely.
What does a daughter do when she realizes her mother doesn't like her? It seems to be the psychological equivalent of getting a dog you don't want and leaving the dog in the yard. Some women move past the experience while others seem to be stuck.
I suspect the phenomenon is more common than many people realize. When I was in college, several of my friends had mean mothers. It was hard to watch their interaction.
Streep handles this sensitive topic well. She describes her own experience just enough to show that she's been there, without forcing the reader to get caught up in the author's life. She tells stories of women who have been through this experience. Some were able to "divorce" their mothers but others took care of their moms as they aged.
What's missing is more about how women grow past this experience of having lived with a mom who didn't want them. She talks about the experience of becoming a mother, but I wonder how many women with "mean moms" opted not to have children. Since the topic is such a taboo, I wonder if psychotherapists tend to be judgmental as well.
Overall, though, the book is well written. The author deserves credit for handling this topic. I think many readers wll relate to her examples.
The author talks about many aspects of dealing with such a mother (she does not have to be abusive in any way to be classified as unloving. Providing food, clothing and a roof over child's head does not instantly make one a good mother). She also discusses the effects growing up with a mother who is incapable of loving her daughter has on a woman. All that is set in the context of other family relationships (father, siblings) and dynamics.
The book does concentrate on mother-daughter relationship simply because the author writes about her own experience as a daughter (and a mother herself) and other women's experiences she can relate to. As a woman myself I can relate to that also. The chapter about the myth of mother's love we have in our culture was very informative.
It is a very insightful book that put some things in perspective and allowed for a deeper understanding of the subject. Not everything applies to everyone, each mother-daughter relationship is unique, but the author's observations and detailed examples were very useful.
It is not an attack on motherhood and she does not say that if a mother disciplines her child she is a bad mother. A loving mother does discipline her children, an unloving mother, on the other hand, constantly criticizes, embarrasses, makes her daughter feel bad about herself, and treats her daughters as an extension of herself.
The book ended on a positive note that a woman can be free from the unhealthy relationship with her own mother and does not have to repeat her mother's mistakes.
I would recommend this book to any woman whose relationship with her mother is and always has been difficult and painful.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I’m know for certain I’ve never read a book that took on such a difficult subject...one none of us probably have ever discussed openly. Read more
This book provided insight into why I had the kind of relationship with my mother that I did. It helped me understand so much and see things very differently. Read morePublished 24 days ago by Maggie U
I finally know I'm not crazy gir thinking the way I did when I was younger.
This is a great book!
Very helpful book. It's nice to know there really are other people who have or had mean mothers. Not much on how to recover from the experience though.Published 2 months ago by Regina Jones
A book, anyone who has endured a harmful relationship with their mother, will find some guidance and understanding. Read morePublished 3 months ago by M. Brandon
Very good book. Excellent stories. It made me feel that I was not alone for the first time in my life. I would recommend to anyone who grew up with a "Mean" mother. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Pam Gersh