- think about mothers in fiction,
- take a fresh look at your mother, and
- gain a more realistic understanding of yourself. Most of us are more like our mothers than we care to admit.
Monday, April 10, 2017
Over two-thirds of the women in the United States are mothers. Yet, much of the fiction written about them emphasizes their romances and careers. I thought the topic of mothers in fiction was a good topic for spring.
The writers of the TV series, The Brady Bunch and Leave It to Beaver, sold us a bill of goods. No mother is as perfect as perfect as Carol Brady or June Cleaver. Unfortunately, most of us wanted mothers like the ones we saw on television - pretty, funny, seldom tired or cross, and always wise enough to make fair decisions. Thank goodness, Roseanne Connor in Roseanne and Peg Bundy in Married with Children came along on TV.
However, it’s not fair to blame television programs for our unrealistic expectations of mothers and family life. Experts, like Sigmund Freud and Benjamin Spock, and authors, such as the children of several famous actresses, have stoked our tendencies to either glamorize or villainize mothers. Even Tolstoy over simplified the roles of families and mothers at the beginning of Anna Karenina. “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
In practice, no family is always happy, and no mother is perfect. Perhaps that’s good. Much of the diversity we treasure in others reflects the quirks of their mothers’ personalities. Think how boring life and literary fiction would be if we all had perfect mothers.
When I started to write short stories about mothers, I interviewed dozens of acquaintances about their mothers, aunts, and grandmothers. In several cases, I listened to stories about the same person from siblings or spouses. I also knew several of the women described. I quickly recognized that reality depended on the eyes of the beholder.Then I wrote The Good Old Days? It’s a collection of stories about mothers in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. My second collection of stories about more modern women is called Other People’s Mothers.
The women in these vignettes made choices. The narrators of the stories often didn’t understand the basis of the decisions because of incomplete information or personal biases. Accordingly, they warped the portraits of the mothers.
Accordingly, these tales are about the narrator as well as the mother. Think about it: Isn't that true for all fiction?
I hope you’ll read these stories. They’re short ten to fifteen pages (great bed time reading). The stories might encourage you to: