“A mother would have always been present. A mother would have been a constant friend; her influence would have been beyond all other. ” Jane Austen
Happy Mother’s Day to my amazing Just Jane 1813 readers! I hope your day is filled with happiness and that you find yourselves surrounded by the people you love.
As we know, Jane Austen was not a mother herself; although I am sure she felt a deep sense of love and pride for her own beloved characters! However, through her stories, she demonstrated her beliefs regarding the great importance that mothers played in their children’s lives. Whether she wrote about the overzealous mother, such as Mrs. Bennet from “Pride and Prejudice,” or the kind-hearted mother, such as Mrs. Dashwood from “Sense and Sensibility,” the surrogate mother, Lady Russell from “Persuasion,’ or the absent mother, Mrs. Woodhouse from “Emma,” Austen had a knack for understanding the inner workings of the mother-child relationship.
Throughout her stories, she provokes her readers to think about how various parenting styles can shape a child’s life and how even from her earliest days as a writer, mothers were at the forefront of her mind, especially as she created the devious and scheming Lady Susan Vernon, whose deficient parenting skills have led her to experience a rather contentious relationship with her own daughter, Frederica. Was part of Austen’s own intentions to show her readers how these kinds of manipulations can backfire on a parent, even one as “skilled” as Lady Susan?
As I think about the mothers that were created by Austen, I am struck by how different they are from one another. I believe part of what Austen accomplished was that she painted a variety of pictures of motherhood in an attempt to say that there are many ways to be a good (and bad) mother; you can be soft-spoken, or a bit boisterous, assertive in your role or serve more like a friend when necessary. Motherhood doesn’t have to be defined in only one way.
When I look around and see all of the ways we parent today and all of the opportunities that mothers have to define for themselves what motherhood is, I am always grateful to women like Jane Austen. Although she wasn’t a mother herself, through her characters, her stories and her own life, she attempted to redefine the possibilities women had for their own lives, which essentially often boils down to also shaping our own ideas, values and expectations towards motherhood.
Happy Mother’s Day to my readers around the world and thank you to all of the women who have paved the way in redefining the joys and the opportunities afforded to us in motherhood.