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Memories and Motherhood in Landscape for a Good Woman
The relevance and subsequent interpretation of memories as they relate to one's desire to mother
". . . refusal to reproduce oneself is a refusal to perpetuate what one is, that is, the way one understands oneself to be in the social world." -- pg. 84
In reading Carolyn Kay Steedman's Landscape for a Good Woman, two themes took center stage: Memories and Motherhood. As the book unfolds Steedman repeatedly points out that childhood memories are used by individuals for various purposes; rather than objective recollections dominated by facts, she proposes that they are more subjective in nature, likely to alter with time or as circumstances dictate.
Thus, fact has very little relevance, taking a back seat to the history we create for ourselves. ". . . childhood is a kind of history, the continually reworked and re-used personal history that lies at the heart of each present" -- pg. 128
Though she examined sociological, political, economic and psychoanalytic issues, one aspect Steedman fails to address is the biological, as in the so-called "biological clock". Frankly, her argument may benefit from this phenomena. Though women in their teens and early twenties frequently express an emphatic lack of desire for children, citing specifics of their personal histories to support these decisions, years later the same memories are given an opportunity to soften, recede or even disappear altogether. Thus, in light of this altered history, the individual in question feels more at ease reassessing her choices (in light of these memories) and considering motherhood a viable alternative.
"We all return to memories and dreams . . . again and again; the story we tell of our own life is reshaped around them. But the point doesn't lie there, back in the past, back in the lost time at which they happened; the only point lies in interpretation." -- pg. 5
Another point Steedman only touches on lightly is her sister's interpretation of the past. Personally, I find it fascinating to discuss childhood events with siblings who participated in the same events. The significance of seemingly unrelated experiences, occurring after the occasion in question, together with personal feelings, frequently cause siblings' recollections of the same events to differ. In light of Steedman's work, it is easier now to understand how children, raised by the same parents, offered the same opportunities and sharing the same historical events, may end up with radically different memories.
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Like memories, it is interesting how siblings use these historical events in tandem with current sociological phenomenon to create contrasting images of retrospective (as opposed to accurate) family structure. If, in creating a frame of reference, Child #1 uses TV's idealized mothers of the '50s -- a comparison few could live up to, while Child #2 utilizes Roseanne's '90s style version of motherhood, their interpretation of events and subsequent memories would show drastic differences.
In this light, assuming Steedman is correct, how important is fact? Since most people view memories as fact, yet we alter interpretation as our lives unfold, perhaps historical accuracy, as it relates to our personal lives, is of little importance.