“In olden times, the blessings of the wildish nature normally came through the hands and words of the women who nurtured the younger mothers. […] This woman-to-woman circle was once the domain of Wild Woman, and it had open membership; anyone could belong. But all we have left of this today is the little tatter called a ‘baby shower,’ where all the birthing jokes, mother gifts, and genitalia stories are squeezed into two hours’ time, no longer available to the woman throughout her entire lifetime as a mother.

“In most parts of industrialized countries today, the young mother broods, births, and attempts to benefit her offspring all by herself. It is a tragedy of enormous proportions. Because many women were born to fragile mothers, child-mothers, and unmothered mothers, they may themselves possess a similar internal style of ‘selfmothering.’ […]

“A woman with a child-mother within takes on the aura of a child pretending to be a mother. Women in this state often have an undifferentiated ‘long live everything’ attitude, a ‘do everything, be everything to everyone’ brand of hyper-momism. They are not able to guide and support their children, but like the farmer’s children in ‘The Ugly Duckling’ story who are so thrilled to have a creature in the house but do not know how to give it proper care, the child-mother winds up leaving the child battered and bedraggled. Without realizing it, the child-mother tortures her offspring with various forms of destructive attention and in some cases lack of useful attention.

“Sometimes the frail mother is herself a swan who has been raised by ducks. She has not been able to find her true identity soon enough to benefit her offspring. Then, as her daughter comes upon the great mystery of the wildish nature of the feminine in adolescence, the mother too finds herself having sympathy pangs and swan urges. The daughter’s search for identity may even inaugurate the mother’s ‘maiden’ journey for her lost self at last. So in that household, between the mother and the daughter, there will be two wildish spirits down in the basement holding hands and hoping to be called upstairs.

“So these are the things that can go awry when the mother is cut away from her own instinctive nature. But do not sigh too hard or too long, for there is help for all this” (191-193).

from Women Who Run with the Wolves  by Clarissa Pinkola Estés.