READ EXCERPT: 'Mean Mothers' by Peg Streep

It's my hope that this book will help change all that. The point-of-view presented in these pages is that of daughters, not their mothers. And while the book is deliberately one-sided so that stories of daughters can occupy center-stage and that their experiences can be illuminated in fullness, I've also tried hard not to demonize the women who were unloving or mean and I hope that I've succeeded. Calling a mother "mean", as I sometimes have on these pages, is obviously not a clinical description but underscores the mother's refusal to acknowledge or accept responsibility for her treatment of her child and change her behavior, even if confronted. By not responding to her daughter's complaints and observations, a mother undermines both the reality of her child's experience and her sense of self. In most cases, I've deliberately excluded stories of mothers who seemed to suffer from a definable mental illness.

Importantly, it's worth noting that I am neither a psychotherapist nor a social researcher so the stories in this book occupy a different place than they would if I were either. They don't constitute a survey or a scientific sample but are meant to illustrate by way of story, what science tells us about this most important relationship.

Almost every woman I've spoken to or interviewed has asked me the same question: Would I write this book if my mother were still alive? The answer is "yes" because there is nothing in these pages I wouldn't have said to her face. But at the same time, it's important to remember that these mothers, including mine, were daughters too. As Adrienne Rich so acutely observed, " It is hard to write about my own mother. Whatever I do write, it is my story I am telling, my version of the past. If she were to tell her own story other landscapes would be revealed. But in my landscape or hers, there would be old, smoldering patches of deep-burning anger."

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