A Potent Spell: Mother Love and the Power of Fear

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Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Jun 8, 2004 - Family & Relationships - 289 pages
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Every parent has felt that certain dread: your toddler gets lost in the mall; your teenager isn’t home by curfew; your third-grader walks to school alone. The psychotherapist Janna Malamud Smith rigorously argues that fear of child loss has the keenest effect on mothers and has proven to be a powerfuly underrated motivation for them throughout history. Bearing the brunt of responsibility for keeping children safe and healthy, mothers constantly accommodate to the need to be vigilant. Their fears make them vulnerable in many ways, affecting their daily lives in the workplace, at home, and within the social hierarchy.
Smith takes the long view of this phenomenon, uncovering a buried message to mothers in advice books from the days of the Puritans to the present, in medicine and psychology, in art and literature. It is a history brimming with mothers’ stories from ancient times to today. Like Arlie Hochschild’s The Second Shift and Ann Crittenden’s The Price of Motherhood, A Potent Spell confirms women’s real experience of motherhood in America.

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A potent spell: mother love and the power of fear

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

A clinical psychotherapist and social worker, Smith offers a unique take on the experience of motherhood. She posits that a mother's all-consuming need to keep her child safe renders her vulnerable ... Read full review

Review: A Potent Spell

User Review  - Jada Roche - Goodreads

An interesting but unsatisfying read...possibly because many of the conclusions in the book are ones I found myself at years ago as I started parenting. It's a very dry read, and really wasn't what I ... Read full review


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Giottos Tears
Semele Remembered
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From Medicine to Psychology
The Free Mother
Worrying Mothers
Putting Children First
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The Psychoanalytic Searchlight

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Page xi - No, sir. -Ugly and futile: lean neck and tangled hair and a stain of ink, a snail's bed. Yet someone had loved him, borne him in her arms and in her heart. But for her the race of the world would have trampled him under foot, a squashed, boneless snail. She had loved his weak, watery blood drained from her own. Was that then, real? The only true thing in life?
Page 269 - A Token for Children. Being an Exact Account of the Conversion, Holy and Exemplary Lives and Joyful Deaths of Several Young Children.
Page 8 - When the Greek women married, they disappeared from public life; within the four walls of their home they devoted themselves to the care of their household and family. This is the mode of life prescribed for women alike by nature and reason.

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About the author (2004)

JANNA MALAMUD SMITH is author of two New York Times Notable books, A Potent Spell and Private Matters, which was a Barnes and Noble “Discover Great New Writers” pick. She has written for the New York Times, the Boston Globe, and the Threepenny Review, among other publications. A practicing psychotherapist, she lives with her husband and two children in Massachusetts.

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