Mother leaves for some time

The mother who abandons her children chases our family narrative. He has been turned into a Lorraine tabloid figure, an external exception to the typical Deadbeat father. Or he is portrayed in the background of a plot, his absence lending the story of an enthusiastic source to a hero. This image arouses our ridicule (consider Meryl Streep’s baby American president in “Don’t Look Up”, who forgot to save her son when he escaped defeat) or Our Mercy (see “Parallel Mothers”), where an actress Stabbed his daughter for bad television parts). But recently the missing mother has sparked a new reaction: respect.

In Maggie Gillenhall’s film “The Lost Daughter” she plays Leda (who has acted for two decades, Jesse Buckley and Olivia Coleman), a promising translator who abandons her young daughters for several years for her career (and courtesy of an Aden). Scholar). In Inger Bergman’s 1973 miniseries, a gender-abstract remake of HBO’s “Scenes from a Marriage”, she is Meera (Jessica Chastain), a Boston tech executive who travels to Tel Aviv, Israel for a relationship in the guise of a work project. And in Claire Way Watkins’ autobiographical novel “I Love You But I Have Seen Darkness” she also plays Claire Way Watkins, a novelist who lets her child sleep with a man in a van to smoke a ton of weeds. Faced with his own problematic upbringing.

In each case, her children are not directly abandoned; They are left to the care of parents and other relatives. When a person leaves like this, he is exceptional. When a woman does this, she becomes a monster, or perhaps an antiheroine, the fantasy of a dark motherhood. Feminism has provided women with alternatives, but a choice also represents a foreclosure and women, because they are human, do not always know what they want. As these heroes beat against their own decisions, they also jump against the limits of that freedom, revealing how women’s choices are rarely socially supported but always thoroughly judged.

Liana Fink / The New York Times

Losing a child is a nightmare for a mother. The title “The Lost Daughter” refers to an incident when a child disappears on the beach. But a mother is leaving her children – a daydream, a fictional but repressed alternative life. “Sex and the City” reboots and just like that, “Miranda – now the mother of a teenager – is advising a professor who is thinking about having a baby.

“There are many nights when I want to be a judge and go home to an empty house,” he says.

And on Instagram, the airbrushed mirage of motherhood is being challenged by the display of raw frustration. The Not Safe for Mom group, which reveals the anonymous mothers’ confessions, vibrates with passive threats to reject the role, such as, “I want to be alone !!! I don’t want to have your lunch !!”

Living alone: ​​This is a reasonable and practically impossible dream of a mother. Especially recently, when escape routes have been closed: schools closed, day care centers suspended, offices closed, jobs lost or abandoned in crisis. Now the house is never empty, and you can never leave. During an epidemic, a restless middle-class girl can still “have everything” until she can simultaneously manage jobs and children from the floor of an illegal sitting room.

TABLE CARD: I’m struggling to draft this article on my phone as my pantsless kid – someone has been banished from day care for 10 days because of COVID – running a relentless campaign to operate my device, hold it close to his ear and say hello . I feel fascinated, annoyed and involved because I’m wondering if her needs are responsible for some parental error, probably related to my own constant phone use.

Do I want to abandon my child? No, but I’m re-attached to the psychological head space of a woman who does. Auden Scholar of “The Lost Daughter” (played by Gileenhall’s husband Peter Sarsgaard in Beat Casting) tempted Leda by quoting Simon Weil: “Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.” Attention is a loaded term: it can mean taking care of another person but a strong emotional focus and a parent can rarely apply both definitions at once.

Leda wants to be involved in her translation work, but she also wants anyone to pay attention to her. To be blunt, she wants to work and have sex. Often in these stories, the two are tied together in a hyper-individualistic fusion of romantic careerism. In “Signs from a Marriage”, Mira plans to tell her daughter, “I have to go away for work, which is true” – simply because she has a professional obligation to facilitate her relationship with an Israeli startup brother. His gateway drug to abandon, as is often the case, is a business trip. Mira first strays to a company boat party; Leda tasted freedom at a translation conference; Claire embarks on a study tour from which she never returns.

The journey of work is the romance of motherhood. In “Are You My Mother?”, Like a mama’s bird, a woman is allowed to leave the house to rescue an insect, although somewhere someone is noticing her absence with schoolmarish disapproval. Caitlin Flanagan’s 2012 lawsuit against Joan Didion, revived after Didian’s death, prompted Flanagan to leave his 3-year-old daughter at Christmas and dance to Didian for a film job across the country.

Yet, there is something irrational about the fashion of work as the ultimate salvation. If our desperate mother enjoys a high-status creative position (translator, novelist, thought leader), it is only remotely admirable. When other mothers of fiction leave, their fantasies are quickly expressed as illusions. In Nicole Dennis-Ben’s novel “Patsy”, a Jamaican secretary leaves her daughter in New York to pursue an American dream, only to become a nanny and take care of someone else’s child. And in Jasmine Chan’s dystopian novel “The School for Good Mothers”, Frida is deprived of sleep and drowned in work when she leaves her baby alone at home for two hours. Although Frida feels “a sudden joy” as she closes the door behind her, her fantasy life is short and dark: she escapes to her office, where she sends emails. For this, she has been admitted to a re-education camp for a bad mother.

Each of our missing moms has its reasons. Leather Academic Husband prioritizes her career over hers and this makes her decisions clear, even sympathetic. But “I love you but I chose the dark,” Watkins did not lend his Doppelganger any arrogant situation. Claire has a dula, day care, Obamacare breast pump, term-track job, several therapists and the most understandable husband in the world. As she begins to sleep on a ham on campus, her husband says, “I think it’s great that you’re following your… heart, or… whatever’s going on… out there.” Nothing obviously prevents her from becoming a capable mother, but like Bartleby, the birth mother, she simply chooses not to.

Liana Fink / The New York Times

With a pile of privileges on Claire, Watkins suggests that there is a burden of motherhood that cannot be resolved with money, lifted by a co-parent, or cured by a mental health professional. The problem itself is the ideal of motherhood and complete selfless devotion. Motherhood turned Claire into a “zero”, a person who “didn’t think much” and “had trouble completing her sentences.”

As these women discover, the menu of their life choices is not so wide. They want to get a different location offer: Dad. Claire wants to “behave like a human being, something bad.” As soon as Mira leaves, she reassures her husband, “Men do it all the time.”

These women may leave, but they do not move away from it completely. Mira eventually loses both her job and her boyfriend and begs to get her old life back. Leather abandonment turns into a dark secret in a thriller that creates a violent sequel. Only Claire is curiously impenetrable to the results. She follows her selfish tendencies in the desert, where she spends her days crying and masturbating alone in the tent. She then calls her husband, who flew to her, tot tut to happy; Finally, Claire claims a life where she can “read and write and sleep and teach and get wet and smoke” and see her daughter at break. Without any cosmic punishment on Claire, Watkins refuses to facilitate the reader’s judgment. But he makes it difficult to care.

When I was pregnant, I also had a fantasy. In it, I was unmarried, childless, still very young and living an alternative life in a van in Wyoming. The mantra “I love you but I chose the dark” is broken. When Claire Bong broke up and circled new sexual partners, she hit me not as a monster or a hero but perhaps something worse: as annoying. Even as these stories serve to unravel the complex psychological truth of motherhood, they indulge in their own little fantasy: that a mother becomes attractive only when she ceases to be one.

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