When S was still very small and orange, and I was still very unsure of what this mothering lark was all about, a friend lent me her copy of Naomi Stadlen’s first book, What Mothers Do. I loved it and so I was delighted to receive a copy of How Mothers Love for review.
The book takes the same sort of form as its predecessor, which is what makes it so wonderful. Stadlen uses quotes from mothers who attend her weekly meetings; while anonymising them and their children, she shows a very human, honest view of motherhood that you don’t see in traditional “parenting” books.
The beauty of this book is that it doesn’t tell you how to be a mother, how to love, how to… anything. It shows how other mothers feel, the language they use, the way they communicate. The book uses extensive quotes from these mothers, talking about their own experiences, and this makes it different from other books. While reading it, I found myself empathising with the women – but also, just wanting to go and cuddle S.
The concept of the book, the question of how relationships are born, is a very interesting one – and one that is handled perfectly. There is a lot of focus on the intimacy between mother and child – but also the lack of intimacy, the way many women struggle with that sort of thing. This is tacked in a very open, non-judgemental way, which I think is rare in a book like this. The struggle many women have to feel that intimate connection with their child is something of a taboo subject and one we usually just brush under the carpet or label as postnatal depression and move on quickly. Many mothers struggle with physical intimacy with their children, and feel that they are bad mothers because of it.
I loved the idea of heartroom, that we as mothers make a space in our hearts for this new child as it grows inside of us. I think that space is far more important than any physical space we may prepare with cute decorations and unnecessary furniture for our children.
Naomi Stadlen is clearly an expert in her field. For a start, she is a mother and a grandmother; she has also run a weekly discussion group in London for the last twenty-five years. Her expertise stands out in the very fact that she doesn’t go off expounding her views or telling us what we should be doing; she knows enough to know that mother always knows best, and I think that’s what makes this such a remarkable book.
I enjoyed this book. It made me think a lot about my relationship with S and what’s truly important about it.
Thanks for reading.