From Demeter and Persephone, to Big Edie and Little Edie, the complicated relationships between mothers and daughters loom large in our culture. There is an inherent tension in two people who are so similar and yet so different. Some choose to break that tension by rebelling, some try to resolve it by never fully breaking away. The real struggle is to figure out how to separate from this other being who was once you, so that you can find your own self while remaining close to your mother or daughter.
In her memoir My Mother, My Daughter, My Self, Dr Jane Goldberg explores how our relationships with our mothers affect our entire lives, including our other relationships and our very sense of who we are. In a marvellous combination of personal narrative and professional perspective, Goldberg explains concepts of psychoanalysis in an engaging way, to show how they apply to the fundamental relationship between mother and child.
Goldberg thoughtfully discusses what it’s like, in her mid-40s, to adopt an infant and form a strong bond with her that reminds her of the bond she shared with her own mother, who passed away ten years prior. The cyclical nature of life is made clear, but Godlberg also goes into loving detail about the particular people involved – her mother, her daughter, and herself – so that this is no generic story.
As well as asking what motherhood means and how we all engage with that primary relationship in our lives, My Mother, My Daughter, My Self also ruminates on topics as varied as the history of New Orleans, the meeting of souls, diary keeping, what it’s like being a psychoanalyst, and alternate worlds.
Goldberg’s writing is clear and heartfelt:
‘I feel the depth of our eyes meeting (as well as experiencing this emotional meeting/contact visually). It is the same eye contact that I experienced with my dying mother. There were then, and similarly now, are no defenses, no holding back; there was/is just pure meeting, seeing each other and looking into the deepest selves of one another. The closer my mother came to death, the more profound the contact between us became. Similarly, Molly’s closeness to her birth gives her the same innocent, trusting openness.’
My Mother, My Daughter, My Self is a beautiful, moving memoir that anyone who has even been a mother or a child will find fascinating.