As Mother’s Day approached I had several client’s reminiscing on their youth. Some looked back with fond memories of a loving, warm, attentive mother. Others, those who were not so fortunate, felt grief and disappointment. They were neglected or abused. One client in particular inspired me to write this blog. He stated that he did not know love, how it felt, or what it is. If he had a mother (a woman who has raised a child), how could this be? This is her primary job-to give love.
A mother provides the scaffolding for adult-love relationships. She should be our first love. If she is remise in her duty than the fall out is catastrophic. A child does not grow into an adult who is self-assured, capable of giving love, and knowing that they are deserving of it. This is why so many go astray when it comes to choosing a person to love and be loved by. I don’t want to minimize the role of a father in the caregiving of a child. However, his role is different. In my book, The Recipe for Ecstasy, I liken the difference between the mother and father to the difference between a chef and a sous chef.
The Chef and The Sous Chef
Our preparation for lifelong loving takes place from birth. Our love capacity starts with the love that we received from our primary caregivers. “It means that something goes on between an ordinary baby and ordinary mothers and fathers that creates and ensures the capacity for love in infancy and in later life. It tells us that love and pleasure in the body begins in infancy and progress through childhood and adolescence to a culminating experience, ‘Falling in love,’ the finding of the pertinent partner, the achievement of sexual fulfillment” (Fraiberg, 1971). For many of us, our first love is the center of the universe known as “Mother.” Although Father is an important piece of this pie who we should not discount, his role is usually secondary to the role of Mother.
To “make love” you need to be able to create an experience of strong affection, warm attachment, and attraction based on sexual desire. A mother provides these key ingredients by way of nurturance. Once we are born we need to be nurtured. If this need is not met it is like being starved to death. Death is the extreme consequence of emotional deprivation, neglect, and abuse. We often think of death as a physical ending of life. However, the death I am referring to is emotional.
So, now that I have your attention, let us talk about the more common consequence of neglect: failure to thrive. This is a condition that is characterized by delayed physical and emotional development. It has many determinants, is often the result of medical problems, malnutrition, neglect, poverty, or abuse. For our purposes I will focus on the emotional stunting that occurs and manifests as a result of neglect and abuse (poor nutrition). Poor nutrition can lead to poor self-esteem, feelings of inadequacy, poor body image, and immature sexuality. The individual fails to develop a sense that they are worthy of love and the feeling that they are able to give love. When a child is malnourished he/she will be insecure, feel inadequate, and have low self-esteem. Thus, he/she grows into a person who acts out of desperation or ignorance. He/She is unsure of oneself and this uncertainty leads to poor mate choices and unstable relationships.