MATERNAL DESIRE: On Children, Love, and the Inner Life

Daphne de Marneffe, Author . Little, Brown $25.95 (401p) ISBN 978-0-316-05995-4

"A professional friend of mine," writes de Marneffe, "says that every time she sees a new book about mothers... she feels mingled dread and hope as a question instantly pops into her mind: 'Is it for me or against me?'"—i.e., will the book say that children benefit more from the consistent care given by stay-at-home mothers or from the financial prerogatives provided by working mothers? De Marneffe, a clinical psychologist who divides her time between work and caring for her three children, wants to reframe the question. What, she asks, does the mother want? What if a woman raises her children because she finds it fulfilling? Rarely, purports de Marneffe, does the "public discourse take account of the embodied, aching desire to be with their children that many mothers feel." De Marneffe studies, among other things, feminism (which, she says, fought for the right to have children but neglected the right to care for children), the feelings of ambivalence and pleasure in raising children and the role of other care providers (including fathers) as she strives to evaluate a woman's need to nurture her children. By examining both sides—the corporate woman who yearns to be home with her children, and the full-time mom who finds the boredom oppressive—de Marneffe avoids sounding judgmental. Her book, with its academic tone, isn't light reading, and many of her ideas taken individually are controversial (e.g., her view that "domestic work complements caring for children"). But she offers a fascinating analysis that's a welcome addition to the dialogues about motherhood. Agent, Tina Bennett. (Mar. 22)

Forecast: The publisher plans to advertise in the New York Times Book Review, Real Simple, Parenting, BabyTalk and Time, and the author will do print, radio and TV interviews. Still, Desires probably won't have as wide a readership as Susan J. Douglas and Meredith W. Michaels's The Mommy Myth (Forecasts, Nov. 24); it lacks that book's spark and accessibility.

Reviewed on: 01/12/2004
Release date: 03/01/2004
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Paperback - 401 pages - 978-0-316-11028-0
Open Ebook - 978-0-316-07652-4
Hardcover - 401 pages - 978-1-84408-013-7
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