An ‘orientation toward non-motherhood’; and the transition to motherhood
According to the hegemonic assumption, women want to be mothers as a direct and natural result of their biological capacity to procreate; and being mothers naturally leads to the evaluation of motherhood as worthwhile, despite the varying difficulties.
In practice, it seems that the emotional stances of women toward motherhood, and the decisions made as a result of their positions taken on issues of fertility and procreation are more complex. There are, for example, women who are emotionally interested not to be mothers (e.g. Morell, 1994) and prefer to avoid any relationship or quotidian interaction with children. Others are emotionally interested not to be mothers but are interested in the company of children and therefore turn to therapeutic or educational professions in which they can work with children, for example, or spend time with nephews, nieces or other children within their Cell Cycle Compound Library
(e.g. Donath, 2011). There are
those who are emotionally interested to adopt children but not to give birth to them. Some who are emotionally interested or are not interested in being mothers, do become mothers (biologically or by adoption) and feel content with the transition to motherhood, even if they experience various degrees of difficulty in this relationship (e.g. McMahon, 1995). Others who are emotionally interested in being mothers (biologically or by adoption), become mothers and regret the transition to motherhood; and there are those who do not want to be mothers, become mothers (biologically or by adoption) and regret the transition (Donath, in press).
I would like to suggest that these varied emotional stances toward the idea of having children with the intention of raising them span a continuum that ranges between ‘an orientation toward motherhood’; and ‘an orientation toward non-motherhood.’;5 Though the word ‘orientation’; might be associated with mere genetic or biological factors, my usage here is not meant to take a position in controversies concerning the binary categories of nature and culture, such as biological determinism vs. choice. Rather, I am referring to a woman\'s self-perception of her emotional stance (the integration of thoughts, feelings, desires and fantasies) regarding the idea of having children and raising them.
This stance may fluctuate, it may be fluid and inconsistent, as it may or may not change in the course of one\'s life. It also does not necessarily allow for a clear-cut separation of subject and society; that is, it may be the product of negotiations between personal and intrinsic feelings that can be felt as inherent and bodily, and the internalization of social expectations within a social atmosphere
that does not challenge them. Though it might be perceived as an essentialist trap, the use of the word ‘orientation’; stems precisely from this logic: I believe it will allow us to deconstruct the assumption that the desire for mothering is universal and indicates the existence of intrinsic natural instincts shared by all women. In other words, it allows us to problematize the ‘naturalness’; of the ‘orientation toward motherhood’; that is seen as neutral, as if it were preceding the discourse and independent of it. This discourse, in its turn, produces the pathologization and stigmatization of the desire to non-motherhood as a deviation from the ‘natural order.’;