I was listening to the Diane Rehm Show the other day. She was interviewing author Zadie Smith about her new novel “NW.” They got onto the topic of motherhood and how Smith’s two female characters have an ambivalence towards motherhood. I found what Smith had to say interesting. Here’s an excerpt from the transcript:
SMITH: I think for a lot of young women it was a kind of crisis in my generation though. And it’s like something of a shock that we were also not only meant to be women with careers and women who took care of ourselves and were intelligent and self reliant, but we were also meant to be in some way animals that did something else, that reproduced. That was really news to us.
REHM: But, you know, today happens to be our wonderful son David’s 52nd birthday.
SMITH: Oh, wow.
REHM: So I’m thinking about the idea of ambivalence and it seems to me that young mothers of my generation were perhaps no more, no less ambivalent about motherhood…
SMITH: I totally agree.
REHM: …than your generation, giving birth at 35 is…
SMITH: I completely agree. I think the ambivalence is absolutely constant. I think the difference is that my generation thought they were meant to feel something very strongly. And that’s what threw them into this loop. They looked at their mothers and thought, they must have really wanted those children at 19 or 20. They must have had a great maternal passion. They looked at their mothers with kind of fear and anxiety because they felt, well I’m not like that. What’s wrong with me?
What do you think? Do you feel there is an overall ambivalence towards motherhood from our generation? Did you feel it for yourself? As Smith said, did you wonder “what’s wrong with me?” if you didn’t feel that maternal passion?