One of my favorite stories that masquerades as a children’s book is Deborah Guarino’s Is Your Mama a Llama. In the story, Lloyd is a baby llama separated from his mother. With determination and perseverance, he asks an assortment of mammals (a cow, seal, swan, kangaroo, even a bat) if they are his mother. Like Lloyd, we search for our mother so we can find ourselves. This little book’s wisdom is profound.
There is a collateral, cultural blindness to the reality of Mother Hunger; the search for missing maternal care. In the original ACE study (adverse childhood experiences) 10 questions included “a mother who’s a victim of domestic violence” illustrating how frightening this is for a child. But the study overlooked what happens to a child when a mother is neglectful, absent, or unkind. Like John Bowlby, the father of attachment theory who found himself shocked to discover child abuse, sometimes we miss the obvious.
When our first relationship informs us that lack of nurturing, or protection, or guidance is normal, the journey to find our mama takes us down some dark paths. We go through life with blinders on, hungry for maternal care but missing an inner compass that directs our choices.
To learn more about Mother Hunger, take a look at my working paper on this topic. You can sign up to receive it from the home page of this website.
We are rapidly approaching the season where family life is romanticized and many of us feel painfully alone. Sights, sounds, and smells trigger powerful feelings of loss and stir up pathological hope. At their best, the holidays bring us moments to rest and be grateful. At their worst, we find untapped wells of grief waiting for our attention.
Sending you hope for the best this time of year can bring, and comfort during the worst.
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