Lisa Marchiano is a Jungian psychologist and the author of Motherhood: Facing and Finding Yourself. We caught up with her recently to ask some questions—about her book and her writing process—and here’s what she had to say:
How did you come up with the idea for your book?
The idea for this book first occurred to me when my son was a few months old, and my daughter was two. I had really enjoyed being the mom to one baby, but I found being the mom to a baby and a toddler overwhelming. We had moved to a new neighborhood where I didn’t know many people and I had been forced to take a leave of absence from my training program in which I had been studying to become a Jungian analyst. I was lonely, stressed, and professionally adrift.
My kids used to wake up very early when they were little. On this day, they woke up at 4:30am and by 8:30 it had already been a long day, though all we had accomplished was breakfast. The hours stretched on before me. How would I ever make it until bedtime? I decided to take them for a walk around the block just to get out of the house for a few minutes even though it was quite cold out. I got them bundled up and strapped in the double stroller and started pushing them over the rough sidewalks and up hills. At one point, I found myself thinking “Everything about motherhood is just so hard.” And then my next thought surprised me. “Yes, and I’m changing so much as a result.”
It hadn’t before occurred to me that the challenges of being a mother could kindle self-growth, but that day it suddenly seemed obvious they would. In my Jungian training program, I was learning about Jung’s notion of individuation, the term that he used to describe the lifelong development of the personality. It seemed clear that motherhood was a real opportunity for increased self-knowledge and transformation. When the kids eventually napped later that day, I got online to see who had written about this—and discovered that very few books existed on the topic. I wouldn’t say that I decided to write the book that day, but I did feel excited to consider my motherhood journey in this new light. I began writing and thinking about it, and even started running a workshop for mothers. Eventually, these explorations turned into Motherhood: Facing and Finding Yourself.
How long did it take you to write the book? What was the hardest part/most challenging part of the writing process?
For the most part, the writing process wasn’t difficult. I had been living with these ideas and thinking about them for so long. It often seemed like the book wrote itself. One thing that was very hard indeed was believing in myself. Writing the book meant taking time away from the kids and the family. It meant that I didn’t vacuum the living room and I cut corners when making dinner. All with no monetary remuneration or any promise that there ever would be one. I think it can be especially difficult for women—and maybe even harder for mothers—to give ourselves permission to follow our creative calling. It felt a little crazy or foolish to spend so much time on a project that might not bear fruit. There were times when I thought about giving up, but whenever I checked in with myself, I always found that I had a strong inner urge to see the project through.
What did you learn about yourself when writing the book?
I first had the idea for the book when my daughter was two and my son was a few months old. I started writing it when my daughter was seven and my son was five. The book was published the same month my daughter turned 19 and my son turned 17, so it really grew up with my kids! I learned so much from mothering, and I learned so much from writing. It’s hard to tease the two things apart. About six months before the book came out, we moved out of the house where I had raised my kids. I thought I would feel very sentimental about leaving there, especially as the sale of the house roughly coincided with my kids leaving home. In fact, it wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it might be. Writing the book had given me an opportunity to integrate many of the complex feelings and experiences I had while mothering. It gave me a chance to find clarity and peace about many things that otherwise might have remained unresolved. This has made transitioning into the empty nest phase much easier than I would have expected.
Are you working on anything else?
Yes! I am working on two new books. The Return will explore a woman’s psychological journey to come home to herself. As I did in Motherhood, I’ll use fairy tales, films, dreams, and clinical vignettes to explore themes such as desire, sexuality, rage, and authority. It is due out in early 2024 and will be published by Sounds True. I’m also co-authoring a book called The Key to Dreams. I have a weekly podcast with two colleagues called This Jungian Life. We discuss a different topic each week and we also interpret a listener’s dream. In 2020, we started Dream School, an online learning platform that teaches participants how to understand their own dreams. It’s been so successful that we are writing a book! The Key to Dreams is due out in the fall of 2024 and will also be published by Sounds True.
What books are currently on your nightstand/bedside table?
I’m currently reading The Strange Situation by Bethany Saltman and really enjoying it. It’s about her exploration of attachment theory and how it relates to her own mothering experience. Next up is The Heroine with 1001 Faces by Maria Tatar, because I love fairy tales!
Lisa Marchiano, LCSW, is a clinical social worker, certified Jungian analyst, and a nationally certified psychoanalyst. She cohosts This Jungian Life, a podcast devoted to exploring current topics through the lens of depth psychology. She lives in Philadelphia. For more, see lisamarchiano.com. And you can get a copy of her book here!
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