In the column I wrote in October (October 8, 2001: How to Win in Music Therapy Work?), I referred to the patriarchal value and the matriarchal value. At that time I was in my 8th month of pregnancy, and now I am writing this with the twin-baby-boys sleeping beside of me.
At this moment I am on the maternity leave from my music therapy work, trying to adjust myself to this first experience of life. And it gives me a chance to reflect upon my therapy work that seems to have a lot in common with motherhood. In this column, I would like to introduce some of it to the Voices readers.
For a long time, both from personal and professional standpoints, I have been wondering how it would be to become a mother and to raise one's own children. People say several common phrases to express motherhood (probably common world-wide?). For example: "Mother's love is incomparably noble. ", "Mother-child relationship is very special in which nobody else can intervene.", "Mother has mysterious ability to know what her children's crying means.", "When you become a mother, you are reborn to be extraordinary strong.", "For a woman, raising children is the best life-work which makes her truly mature." From these phrases I used to have a sort of a special/great image of motherhood, which women without such experiences or men could not even touch the door. In other words, these phrases used to suggest to me a threatening and high wall to the "sanctuary."
Well, after the babies arrived and I had started my own "motherhood" in my home, I realized that these phrases are quite true to a certain degree, but they are also wrong. To put it more precisely, now I recognize these phrases not as the "sentences" but as the experiential realities. When one knows about something in an experiential way, the fragmented information starts to reorganize into a new concept. In my case, I reinterpreted the above phrases into the following two new concepts. 1) "Human-being is unbelievably hands-, time-, care-, attentiveness- taking specie, and as a result we pursue love." 2) "Motherhood can be 'special' but it should not be so in a closed way. "
1) "Human-being is unbelievably a hands-, time-, care-, attentiveness-taking specie, and as a result we pursue love." I hardly slept or ate for the first two months to take care of the two babies. Especially one of the twins had a habit to vomit milk caused by the immature stomach function, and I had to hold him at least one hour after each nursing, which was repeated every three hours! He cried a lot probably with indisposition, but there was little that I could do for him. I was so exhausted that when I nursed him in the middle of the night I myself often felt asleep holding him in my arms. And surprisingly enough, in raising children, this is just another example of so many unreasonable tasks that are taken for granted. I realized that the human being is such an incomplete creature, which needs so much help, and it is already a miracle that it has survived the harsh struggle for existence in the ecosystem.
Then, while holding the crying baby and thinking of these things, another surprise hit me. It was the new affectionate feeling, just for him, that started to grew in me. Of course I cherished both the babies right from the start, but a different kind of attachment developed as I spent my energy for this troublesome boy. This experience taught me that the essential of the human being is "troublesome," and this "troublesomeness" makes us unite each other. This "troublesomeness" is something that cannot be solved in a smart high-tech way. (That is why it is "troublesome".) It demands from us extremely "low-tech" relationship with time, care, hands, and attentiveness. And any child, any human being is made of such care from countless people around him/her. In Japanese language, "human-being" is "ningen" which consists of two characters of "mankind" and "within". It tells us that the essential of human being is to co-exist.
And then I thought of health care work including music therapy. If our work is something we do for human beings, we need to face this fact: "human being take time, hands, care, and attentiveness with unreasonable patience, and therapy is born right in that relationship." Suddenly I realized why I always feel strange about the ideas such as "to heal mass of the people by one CD", or "to develop the commonly effective healing method." Therapy for human beings cannot be something "convenient", and this makes our work unique. In baby care, nobody thinks of inventing an "auto-milk-feeding-machine," but we rather enjoy the time and energy it takes to do it. And in that way we build a "relationship. However, for example in the elderly care, the ideas already exist to invent a robot to watch and help the dementia. Isn't there a basic misconception about human beings? If I say, "the essential of therapy is 'low-tech troublesomeness' ", is it a too extreme conservatism?
2)"Motherhood can be 'special' but it should not be so in a closed way. " First of all I realized that the mother's love in me was much simpler than I had imagined. Yes, it is strong and special, but it was more like simple happiness, natural physiology, and a light but continuous warmness than a great, noble, or complex attachment. Probably this is the so-called paradox of two-sidedness of the truth; the essential of the great is in fact simple. I remember my friend, the Zen monk's words: "Nothing is special, everything is special. Cerebrate the ordinary thing..." In any case, enjoying this new feeling of love in me, I turned my eyes to my husband to see how he was doing as a father.
My husband is a kind of man who is very much involved in the child raising, not only because of the double busyness of the twins, but also because he takes a great interest in his children. Of course he has experienced many transformations as a new father since we first knew about my pregnancy, and now he does almost any work except nursing them from his breast, which he feels very sorry for.
But as I wrote in my previous column (October 8, 2001: How to Win in Music Therapy Work?), Japanese men in general tend to step out of the daily work of child raising even though they also love their children. They tend to concentrate their loyalty to their children by supporting them financially. The family/society encourage this attitude too. For example we can see, in a typical couple, that the mother goes back to her own parents' house right after the child's birth to start the child raising, and she stays there for a few months while the father keeps commuting to his work alone (!) from his own house. It is changing with the younger generation, but still there is a certain distance between the fathers and their children that seems to be originated from (or creates) their unconscious barrier and hesitancy. Watching my husband getting increasingly involved in raising the children, I was so curious what in fact divides fathers (and of course some mothers) into the two groups: participation and avoidance.
So, a few days ago I "interviewed" my husband, asking "when you look at your male friends who do not participate in the child-raising as much as you do, what do you see happen in their mind?" His answer consisted of the two points. One is that men in general tend to understand or deal with things through cause-result, and are not good at handling irrational phenomenon. And he confessed that he too was very much shocked to know how children demand things irrationally, and was panicked to experience his existing value system collapsing. He thinks many men stops at this point and hands the "irrational phenomenon" to the women.
Another reason for a father to avoid raising the children, according to my husband, is that by facing his children he is forced to see his own realistic personalities inherited by the children. A man who are accustomed to live with only a mask of strength and pride, he cannot stand the realistic figure of himself including the weak, funny, and contradictory sides in his children. In a way I sympathized with this, because I remember that I felt a little tense when I held one of the twins, he is very much a resemblance of me. The other boy only gave me a peaceful loving feeling. Our twins are fraternal and very different: one is the copy of my husband, and the other is the copy of me.) It was as if the boy could see through everything in my mind with his clear eyes and I felt almost fearful.
Through these comments from my husband I further created an assumption why men tend to be outside of the child-raising circle: To accept fatherhood there are several hurdles for men to overcome, and some choose to stay with the easier way protecting the "old self." In order to justify this position, they call women's relationship to the children "noble," "mysterious," and even "sacred. With the similar reasons, men praises mothers as "strong," and encourage women to achieve the hard task of child-raising alone. In parallel, women also use these "titles" to build their closed fantasy-world of domination--to keep the men away from it. They might do so because they do not have enough confidence as independent persons in society (not necessarily financially, but psychologically). I've heard many times mothers saying "ONLY I can know the kids' needs and men are never good enough to take care of them", "Women who had not raised children can never understand how HARD it is (and therefore are inferior)." Well, it is flattering for mothers, but my honest impression of these two and half months is that my husband has equally sharp eyes to our children, and has equally skillful hands to take care of them. Interpreting babies' crying is not a mysterious ability that only belongs to me, but both of us can do it through concentration, attentiveness, imagination, and experiences. In fact, exchanging each other's interpretation of the boys' crying became a new amusement for us to play with. It gives us a chance to communicate and to know each other better.
Here I see a similar misunderstanding and danger in the relationship between our therapy work and society, alternating "women" to "therapists", and "men" to "society. " There has always been a certain distance and lack of understanding from a modern society to the therapy kind of work. Even the society that has a fairly good relationship to us tends to put our work in a sort of special position by naming us "ideal" or "beautiful". The society might support our work financially but in a way it avoids its own natural responsibility to truly unite to the people in needs. Probably men avoid his children for similar kind of reasons --- deeply rooted fear for the irrational and the weak side of human beings. On the other hand, therapists too tend to take on that virtual role, in order to feel special about themselves. In the worst cases they intently create the mysterious image of themselves to get rid of intervention of common sense. However, I think the true therapy-mind is something very ordinary and basic to everybody's life, and it should not be kept in a closed world or a "sanctuary." It should always be open and understandable to the ordinary people, and this attitude makes both therapy and general society more healthy and enjoyable.
Ikuno, Rika (2002) Some Reflection on Motherhood and Therapy: What Is Special About Them?. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy. Retrieved June 15, 2013, from http://testvoices.uib.no/?q=fortnightly-columns/2002-some-reflection-motherhood-and-therapy-what-special-about-them