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Where Have All the Mothers Gone?

Once everyone had a mother. They were not only born from a mother but they had a mother who took care of them after they were born. Mothers, then, were especially important to babies since they could not live unless their mothers took care of them. At first, a baby did not know this. But it did know, or more correctly, feel that mother was warmth, comfort, fullness and completeness.

As the baby grew into childhood, mother became associated with goodness and rightness. Mother was good and it was good to be with mother. It did not feel right if mother was not there. But, once, mother was always there. Babies were nursed whenever they cried. They were continuously held in their mothers' arms and they slept beside their mothers at night. Mothers also took their babies with them wherever they went, to bathe in a river, lake or stream, to gather food and to prepare it, or to visit with friends. Mother was always there because her baby was with her when she worked, when she ate, when she played, when she slept and even when she made love.

And mothers did not mind that their babies were always there. They would have minded if their babies were not with them. Neither did mothers mind being mothers. Being a mother was good. It felt good and everyone else thought it was good, and it was good - good for mothers and for babies and for everyone.

All that I have said above was true a long, long time ago when human beings, like all other animals, lived in the natural world. Humans, before they made their own artificial world, were a part of nature. They were not separate from it as they are now. As part of nature, mothers cared for their babies in the ways that were natural for humans. They fed their babies from their breasts for many years. Babies thrived on the milk of their mothers and mothers were proud that they could make milk for their babies. Besides having healthy babies, something else happened because mothers nursed their babies for a long time. The babies, as they grew, knew that there was someone there for them, someone who cared about them and who wanted them to be happy and content. All children grew up feeling that they were safe and protected and certain that there was always someone to whom they could turn if they were frightened, unsure, or troubled or if they just needed comfort. They knew that they were not separate in the world.

A long, long time ago children were not afraid of their mothers. Mothers did not hit or spank their children. They never punished them. In fact, if the mothers of long ago saw how mothers of today hit and yell at their children or send them to bed without supper, they would think that such mothers were insane. The long ago mothers believed that mothers should protect their children and not hurt them - not even hurt their feelings.

The people of today have different ideas about babies, children, and mothers than the people of long ago. Today they believe that the main thing mothers should do is to train their children, starting when they are babies, to grow up right - even if that means hurting them sometimes. They also think that if mothers were always with their babies, sleeping with them and holding them all the time and never punishing or disciplining them, that, as they grew older, they would be spoiled and not be able to get along with people and not even know how to be alone. They would be used to always having their own way so they would not obey their teachers in school or other adults. They would also be used to always getting what they wanted so they would use up all their parents money by always buying toys and candy and anything that they saw and wanted. But more likely they would not even grow up because, for sure, they would run in front of a car and get killed because their mothers let them do whatever they want.

If they did live to grow up, they would turn out to be selfish, and they would never work or do anything worthwhile because they would expect everyone, including the government, to support and take care of them. They would even make us lose wars because, being spoiled, they would not be willing to fight for our freedom.

Some people think that if children were cared for by their mothers the way they were a long, long time ago, they would not want to grow up. They would remain attached to their mothers forever. Maybe they believe this because to them having such a mother would be so nice that they think no one in their right mind would ever be willing to give up such a good thing. What these people don't seem to know is that having a mother like that, the way nature intended, is the only way you really can grow up. You see, if you have had a real mother, you don't need one as you get older. You can go on to the next step of becoming a responsible, grown-up person like your mother, someone, who because they were cared for, finds it natural to be caring of others.

I think that people who believe that having a mother who is always there for you is a bad thing, never had such a mother. And I also believe that they don't want anyone else to have such a mother because they didn't. I also know that when people left the world of nature they lost something. A lot of people would agree with me on that one, but they would say that what we lost was paradise. But they're wrong. What we lost was mother and our belief in natural human growth through mothering.

One thing we can really be sure of is that once people began to become civilized, they began to see babies and children in very strange ways - a lot like they saw the sheep, pigs, and cows that they raised. It seems that children came to be thought of as naturally bad, and people began to believe that they wouldn't grow up right if you were nice to them. I guess that is where such sayings come from like, "Spare the rod and spoil the child," or ideas like, picking up a baby whenever it cries will spoil it. Even stranger to me, is why people began to replace mothers with wet-nurses, nannies, governesses, and formula or milk in bottles with rubber nipples. I guess they thought there was something wrong with natural mothering. Maybe, though, they knew what they were doing. They could have figured out that being nice to babies and children would make it hard for them, when they grew up, to live in the cruel, uncaring world that humans made after they left the world of nature. And maybe they also knew that women really liked breast­feeding and taking care of their babies and would get so involved in doing it that they wouldn't have time to wash the dishes or clean the house or even want to be with their husbands very much.

But I know one thing for sure. I wish I had a mother who took care of me the way mothers did a long, long time ago. Don't you? When I think of it, it makes me feel like I do when I hear the song "Where Have All The Flowers Gone?" - sort of sad and lonely. It makes me wonder "Where have all the mothers gone?"

Excerpted from Whatever Happened to Mother? by James Kimmel.