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For most of us, the word "mother" evokes a myriad of often conflicting images and emotions, expectations and disappointments, and gratitude and blame. What a mother is - our own mothers and the class of people who are mothers - means much more than that a woman has given birth. We expect mothers to provide their children with all the love, caring, nurturing, and emotional fulfillment that we perceive those children need and desire; we expect her to be all things that we want her to be when we need her to be them. A woman who can fulfill the expectations of her children and of her community is viewed as a good mother. If she cannot — or if she does not — she is bad. Mothers who are self-sacrificing, who place the needs or desires of their children before everything else, especially themselves, are the good ones. Mothers who decide that any aspect of their lives has greater value than, or is co-equal with their concern for their children, are the bad ones.



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