Mothers as 'Models' to their Daughters
In some cases, the definitions of my interviewees' identity were presented as strongly related to their own mothers. In other cases, the mother–daughter relationship was illustrated in quite the opposite way. Pryce and Samuels (2010) have examined how childhood history and the personal experience of being mothered have impacted the meaning attributed to motherhood among young mothers ageing out of the child welfare system. According to them, the young mothers often identified their biological mothers as 'models of what not to do' with their own children (Pryce and Samuels 2010, 217). Some of my interviewees made similar comparisons when they described how they bring up their own children or how they had or had not managed as mothers.
D4, a 34-year-old woman, has three children, and she has been clean for 10 years, which is the longest period in my data. She began to use cannabis and prescribed drugs as a teenager and continued mainly with amphetamine. Just like D1, she has gone through several treatment periods, and NAmeetings are important to her. The mother of D4 was a heavy drinker, has divorced and remarried, and has children from several men. D4 has taken major responsibility for taking care of her little brother as a child and later as a teenager from her mother. She stated that it took a long time for her to understand her life as separable from her mother's.
D4 It took a long time. / It was sort of, I mean just before I was twenty / something until I was advised / I mean one social worker told me that / you are not responsible for your mom's life. [/
D4 Not until that I realized that's right. / I am not. /
And now, I mean today / I got very clear model of my own I mean / My kids don't have to watch no one's, I mean anyone's drinking. My kids don't have to listen to my stories, I mean we live just a fairly normal life.
D4 makes a clear contrast between her own childhood and the childhood of her children. Her mother's style of upbringing included drinking alcohol and acting incoherently in front of her children. Her own style of mothering seems to be constructed in quite the opposite way, as she can offer a sober, normal parenthood to her children.
It could be interpreted that in order to become a 'normal' mother, D4 had to grow out of her past childhood life. Just as in the case of D3, a social worker played an important role when D4 was trying to become emotionally independent from her mother. The context of the psychotherapeutic setting is quite strong in this explanation, since one has to learn to deal with one's past experiences to be able to create better and more functional self-knowledge (for example, Bateman and Holmes 1995).
The next case of D5 deals with the same kind of situation as just described, although D5 reacted differently to the model that she was given. D5 is 28 years of age and has two children, aged eight and nine. She had been sober for two years after several years of amphetamine use. Her parents used alcohol and divorced when she was five. Her mother had several male partners who were violent and abusive. In the next extract, she describes her relationship to an abusive man after her divorce from the father of her children.
D5 And then that period in that situation between them (the births of her daughters) I mean / hmm // that time / I managed to be, you know, I was pregnant all that time, I mean / but after my children, I mean after Maria was born, my youngest / and in fact I was short of, I mean, I dated / of course / one hubby who was 10 years older than me / I mean I could not / in a million years today I cannot understand how I could / but then on the other hand I understand that very well, I mean, that was a straight model / I mean /
D5 And a sort of, I mean, the road has just taken me there.
D5 does not mention her own mother in the extract, but it can be very clearly interpreted that she refers to her own mother when she says 'that was a straight model'. She separates her present life from the past when she dated suspicious males at the same time as she was caring for her newborn child and becoming pregnant again. In D5's account, her formal behaviour resulted directly from the model her mother gave her when she was a child. The connection is defined as so
essential that she could not have behaved differently: there were no other roads
The lack of options due to the model given by one's own mother might also be seen as a rhetorical tool of justification for morally questionable behaviour as a mother. The identity of one's own motherhood and womanhood might be negotiated in a new way through considering the behaviour of one's own mother. The result of this kind of negotiation might offer support and a chance to feel more acceptable as a woman.