1st Edition

The Maternal Experience Encounters with Ambivalence and Love

By Margo Lowy Copyright 2021
    194 Pages
    by Routledge

    194 Pages
    by Routledge

    The Maternal Experience explores the powerful and dynamic nature of maternal ambivalence and disrupts the conventional narrative of the mother’s lived experience by arguing that encounters with feelings of hatred are both universal and have the capacity to stimulate and enrich her maternal love.

    The book draws on the author’s personal mothering experiences, those of other women, and examples from film to inspire new introspection about the everyday maternal experience. Lowy takes a psychosocial approach to weave thinking from selected psychoanalytic and contemporary accounts together with personal stories to explore how maternal ambivalence operates, and how mothering is sourced in psychic struggles between loving and hating feelings in an atmosphere that is rife with social and personal expectations and prohibitions. By reworking the experience of maternal ambivalence, the book secures an understanding of the mother’s feelings of hatred as a catalyst for her love and allows these maligned and taboo emotions to be named and reframed into acceptable and transformative feelings.

    Brought alive by examples from film and first-hand experience, this book is fascinating reading for academics and students of psychology, maternal and women’s studies, and sociology, as well as practitioners in the fields of psychology, social work, medicine and counselling.

    Preamble: The myth. 1. Opening: lived experience, storytelling and maternal ambivalence 2. What is maternal ambivalence? Conflict, contradiction, confusion and the maternal ideal 3. History of thought on maternal ambivalence: locating the mother’s voice amid patriarchy, taboos and feelings of ambivalence 4. Donald Winnicott’s good-enough mother: transformation through maternal love, failure, repair and moments of hatred 5. Melanie Klein: there’s no love without hate—movement between the rigid paranoid-schizoid and the integrated depressive position 6. Wilfred R. Bion: learning from experience as a source of maternal change, understanding and wisdom 7. Conclusions: the experience of maternal love and hate. Bibliography. Index.


    Margo Lowy is a psychotherapist with an interest in mothering and women’s reproductive health. She completed her doctorate and her research master's at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, investigating the fields of maternal ambivalence and infertility.

    "This accessible, scholarly book skilfully blends historic and contemporary theories from motherhood studies, and weaves in examples from film to illustrate their resonance in modern times. It provides a comprehensive overview of the concept and the realities of maternal ambivalence and provokes readers to question their understanding so that the notion of its existence can be tolerated and, perhaps, one day accepted. The book is a pleasure to read and will be of interest to motherhood scholars, mothers, and women everywhere." —Nollaig Frost is an adjunct professor at University College Cork, Ireland, and author of Practising Research: Why You’re Always Part of the Research Process Even When You Think You’re Not and Qualitative Research Methods in Psychology: Combining Core Approaches.

    "Margo Lowy takes on the often taboo but essential aspect of mothering in Maternal Experience. Written in an accessible style and using examples from cinema, she illustrates the many forms that maternal ambivalence can take. The idealization of motherhood often leaves many mothers feeling guilt and shame about hateful feelings they experience towards their child, that, somehow, they are failing as mothers. Lowy convincingly demonstrates the normality of ambivalent feelings and how these might become a transformative part of maternal love. With a critical eye, Lowy explores the development of maternal love in the work of Winnicott, Klein and Bion. She encourages us to think and to open a conversation with ourselves and others, which enhances our understanding of maternal love." —David Mann is a psychoanalytic psychotherapist in London, UK, and author of Love and Hate: Psychoanalytic Perspectives and Psychotherapy—An Erotic Relationship: Transference and Countertransference Passions.

    "Thank you for asking me to read your work…….it was both a confronting and relieving experience as I again revisited my own mothering of my daughter. My reflections: This is an engaging and well-written book about a topic that needs to be discussed; that alongside loving feelings are hating ones which together with joy, sadness, anxiety, etc form the mosaic of the real experience of the mother.  Engaging in all the feelings aroused by becoming a mother leads to the development of a real and authentic relationship between mother and child.  The idealisation of motherhood narrows the mutual dynamics between the mother and baby by trying to extrude the mother who has experiences of anger. This desire for perfection disallows the vitality, curiosity and generative energy of a fully engaged relationship!  Margo Lowy seeks to find a language of love that includes all these dimensions. This language includes the deep psychic challenges the mother experiences.  In creating this new context maternal mistakes are seen as a source of learning and repair so that getting it wrong is as important as getting it right and maternal wisdom is born. Motherhood by instinct and engagement….not by the book…..just what the world needs!" —Lorraine Rose is a clinical psychologist and psychoanalytic psychotherapist in Sydney, Australia, and author of Learning to Love and From Cradle to Global Citizen