The Clamour of the Daimon- Motherhood

The Clamour of the Daimon- On Being a Mother

(Quilting Daughters)

Russian Fish Pie for supper!
Russian Fish Pie for supper!

The child is father to the man, each ensures
The safeguards to their hungers…
The correction of residual crimes…
Denial of appetites outgrown…
The shaping of their talents
Offers incense to the brazier burning
On the altar of mankind.

(Involution-An Odyssey…)

Blogs are supposed to have a focus. Mine, seemingly wide-ranging, is all allied to the book, Involution. A Book about Everything that needed all my living to supply its vocabulary and much of that living was motherhood. In this, like all mothers, I had to feel my way, and thereby come to encounter my daimon’s determination to wrest control.

My last post focused on my mother, and on being a single daughter, an only child.

As a perceptive comment to that post noted, everything recorded presupposed the book recently published; the early and necessary independence, into which a whirlwind experience threw everything into the air, rearranging all the components of life and leaving little but a bloody minded opposition to coercion or conformity. In every way I had to start afresh. In relation to motherhood one central pinion anchored resolve, the perception of what failing her daimon had led to in my mother, bitter regret. My inopportune arrival blighted my mother’s life, neither her fault, nor mine; a fact nevertheless.

Being inopportune, always too early, has been a constant. This book was conceived forty five years ago, forty years too early for its acceptance.  A better acquaintance with my daimon probably needed the necessary dislocation provided by time’s brake. It and I had an argument to undergo first. James Hillman’s extraordinarily powerful book ‘The Soul’s Code’ has helped put it all into perspective. Character finds wider cracks through which to enter as we age. The daimon or occupying genius (the active element of Soul) in each of us struggles against the distractions of middle age and of parenthood. It snakes its way through impediments and often disappears, reduced to a few remembered dreams, the inexplicable impulse, or sudden blinding shafts of recognition.

Between the book’s early failure (with two small daughters in tow) and its recent incarnation more motherhood intervened. That also required the mastery of house building, mixing mortar, carpentry, drains and daily doing at its most basic. I had flown too close to the sun, melted my wings, and fallen, badly burnt: the discipline of motherhood would re-connect me to ordinary life. It was the re-education necessary to render the sun a softer and more benign presence threaded on quiet days, sliced and apportioned by welcome oblivious nights of exhausted sleep.

Stone Crop, dereliction and one cold tap
Stone Crop, dereliction and one cold tap


Father doing Time. One day a garden.
Father doing Time. One day a garden.






The re-education also introduced a new realm of experience that would prove to be necessary to extend my vocabulary into architecture, design, music, the hunger for time to read and on being servant to necessity. The last was probably the most important.

In talking about my mother, I reverted to memories, and she, now safely dead, would be unable to correct them or to argue and be unlikely to feel aggrieved.  I feel I can count on her sympathy. Not so with my still very alive daughters. They would be mortified to be identified, and they have daimons of their own, refusing to be pinned, so I must confine their existence to what they did for me.

That seems sufficient, because I intend to examine the effect of both my childhood and theirs on the conceiving of a book. It is creativity at its broadest that draws upon everything, emotional and psychological, academic and philosophical, each intricately facets of the same enquiry. Who am I? Why am I here? Why did I come through that portal (my mother) or give birth to that child?

What shall I do with all this experience before I depart?

My own mother’s tight-lipped stoicism, which made my very existence a burden, had led me to take a vow at about sixteen. If I ever had children they would know, because I would share with them, all things: anger, impulse, confusion, and impetuous affection. Words would not be withheld. I would never have them say, as I had, ‘I would rather you beat me than stay silent, why won’t you tell me where or in what I have failed?’

If I had children I would also have more than one; they would have each other: An insurance against my own shortcomings.

I struggled to unite my four daughters in what I believed was a single family. Therein lay my failure to understand that unity requires the consent of all, to each. Much later I had to accept that I had two families, severed by the father of the first, whose refusal to include the second split us, as though with an axe. The father of the second family accepted all, in an almost saintly indifference to distinctions between his and another man’s children.

Daughters Part One

My first marriage had yielded two daughters, so different from one another they initiated the most essential lesson

Your children are not your children
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you.
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

(Kahlil Gibran- The Prophet)

The first at ten months walked away, escaped any lap, shunned hugs and kisses, threw herself into deep water, climbed up dangerous heights. She needed nothing from me, except the freedom to be left alone and watched from a distant eye. She asked for very little, gave very little. As an ingénue mother I mistook this for precocious advanced development; hurrah for independence!  Her sister was the exact opposite, needing a great deal of affection, constant reassurances and encouragement. Honing maternal skills required flexible adjustments between these extremes, one impervious, one hypersensitive, one over confident, one with only tentative questions.

The second, faced with living on a building site developed obsessional cleaning instincts and domestic virtues that manifested before she was ten, binging home the bacon for Thursday night suppers on her bicycle after ‘cookery’. She created order where none seemed to exist. Her sister, immune to labour, simply disappeared into a caravan where she painted her nails and revised for examinations in which she was determine to excel, and if possible exceed. Her fierce competitive instincts were equal to anything, from scrabble to chemistry.  It took her no time to persuade her father that her academic record would be much assisted by boarding away, away from the cold tap and the portaloo amidst the nettles. He obliged with alacrity. My vow needed pruning. Neither was like me, nor sought what I understood.

The refuge from labour.
The refuge from labour.

With both the vow was inappropriate. That is the hell of motherhood, you only have one to sample from, and without siblings you start completely un-apprenticed, learning only from sometimes serious mistakes. My mother was not ‘typical’. No mother is. She had taught me by default; I had been peripheral to her life, my children would be central and know always that they were. Pendulums are never a reliable pointer, but the circularity of existence is invariably reduced to the swing between extremes.

My oldest daughters did not want to know anything about me, but I had set a course of candour (hatched from my childhood of silence) and took much too long to realise its penalties. I lost both of them; not immediately, but later, when all that candour backfired and I was so very clear as target. Their father stripped me of them utterly, knowing how central they had been in every aspect of creative life. He waited until late adolescence with all its insecurity and resentment made them vulnerable to persuasion.  His revenge was served very cold, and wrapped with foreign travel and few returns.

They left, one for university in Africa, the other for training college in Switzerland and never looked back. I had served my purpose, with all the tedium of schooling, housing, homework and transport. Holidays had been treats with him, in exotic surroundings like Costa Rica, Kalahari or Galapagos. Half of my family were always severed from the other half, by money and partisan affection. While the older two were camping on beaches, or on film locations the second family stayed home and played with the dog or tolerated a Yucca plant as perennial pricking wicket.

Overwhelmed by labour and literally putting a roof over heads I failed to see this divide widening. The experience which had set in train both my divorce from him and the book took many years to develop its consequences, to alienate my children from me and from each other. I had complimented myself on a successful and benign divorce, (he and his new wife stayed with us occasionally) but instead merely provided labour and education, enabling him and his wife to live well under canvas, or in remote places without available schools, until his daughters were old enough to leave me without proving an imposition.

Self deception took a long detour, through illusion and dogged determination, but even this provided its salutary lesson; that one daimon (mine to foster unity) is powerless against another that preferred disunity, and could exploit every argument to make its case. The devil has all the best tunes, for sure.


But I had been offered a second chance ( to be continued).


Author: philipparees

A writer ( mostly narrative poetry) of fiction and non-fiction. Self publisher of fiction and Involution-An Odyssey Reconciling Science to God (Runner-up Book of the Year (2013), One time builder ( Arts centre) Mother of four daughters: Companion of old man and old dog: One time gardener, lecturer, wannabe cellist, mostly enquirer of 'what's it all about', blogger and things as yet undiscovered.

6 thoughts on “The Clamour of the Daimon- Motherhood”

  1. I enjoyed re-reading your post ‘Getting Up Close and Personal.’ And I love the passion in your writing. My work as a therapist over the years stripped me of the illusion that there are ideal families. Families are battlegrounds, fantastically surreal opportunities for unlearning and becoming a little more human. Our shortcomings are hardly ever of our making, and yet, in time, we can unwrap the story and arrive at compassion. Those tied in complexity to our wounds may not seem to get it, but healing happens. Anyone who makes the effort to find words for experiences affects transformation. It’s what writers are about.


  2. Thank you so much for your confirmation. I am only recently coming to terms with the recognition of your dispassionate distance, and feeling less responsible for what I could not have changed. The pain of nursing illusions takes much extraction, one hopes for so much, but has power over so little! But it is so good to have that understood, so thank you.


  3. Dear Philippa,
    Many thanks for another beautifully written glimpse into the depths behind apparently everyday events. Superficially, there would seem to be something almost tragic in your failed attempts at correcting for the shortcomings of your mother, your difficulty in divining and then meeting your daughters’ very different and perhaps inscrutable needs during childhood, and the distance that has since opened up between the three of you. Your attempt to give your daughters everything that they might want or need based on the experiences of your own childhood has something about it of the Maginot Line; we are adept at preparing for battles that took place in another time, and within the context of a world that has long ceased to exist.

    The question, of course, is whether it would have been possible for any of the people involved to have acted otherwise. As you say, perhaps much of this is determined by the agenda of the daimon that each person brings with them from the Beyond. Guilt, shock, or sadness are certainly reasonable responses to things of great importance not going at all according to plan. At the same time, it does seem that many things are meant to happen exactly in the peculiar way that they do. I have often puzzled over the vast gulfs—between friends, lovers, family members—that have sometimes unexpectedly yawned open in my own life. One day you are close, and the relationship has proceeded with the usual alternation of intimacy and arguments for a period of, let’s say, five or ten years, then, for no particular reason you are worlds apart.

    Here is the end of my essay “The Long Delayed Meeting,” which describes the labyrinthine path that led to my finally meeting my wife. Two mutual long term friends, Sterling and Raven, had gone out of their way for a period of six months in an effort to get us together. Finally, we did meet, fell quickly in love, and became engaged a short time later. The essay ends, “Thus began the first and the last great romance of my maturity. Sterling did, in a final, celebratory gesture, agree to serve as one of the bridesmaids at our wedding. Raven did not show up at all and, shortly afterwards, they both disappeared— never to be seen again. Perhaps we had become too respectable for their alternate-lifestyle tastes, or perhaps that part of the story was just over, and the page had turned.”

    It is much sadder, of course, when such distances open up between the members of a family, but there is no reason to think that the dynamics of family relationships are any less strange than those that govern friendship. That is to say, they may be very strange indeed! All we can do, perhaps, is to act as well as we can with the knowledge that is available to us at the time. As you point out in your wonderful quote from Kalil Gabran, “Your children are not your children/ They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself./ They come through you but not from you./And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.” Even with a bond as close as that of parent and child, in which it seems as though we should have some high degree of control, it’s possible that all we can do is to share the gifts that we have to offer, and then trust in Life to take care of the rest.


  4. It is truly wonderful when a reader is caused to reflect, and generous enough to share those reflections. I believe, as you say, that we, each of us, act as we feel we have to, at the time. Whether time heals or simply passes on to new actions without necessarily needing to look back, I have never quite decided. In each of my daughters I have understood their need to strike out alone, to establish who they were without reference to family, or me, which in a way made the cold departures seemingly needless, but perhaps my own childhood loneliness had fostered an unreal investment in the value of siblings particularly, yet they have very little in common with each other. That poses another question about choosing one’s parents, and the timing of that.

    Deep in this re-thinking of such a diverse group ( that do not even look alike) there is something else questioning the intersection between the individual and the Life offered. You were quite right in describing the experience that divided one life from the other as throwing everything into the air, but what was equally curious was the seeming repetition afterwards of components that existed before. It was like walking down a cul-de-sac and having to re-trace Life from a new (yet seemingly familiar) starting point.

    Perhaps the belief that these two halves should make a whole was my error, born of a fierce determination that that experience was never meant to harm anyone else?

    Thank you for writing so fully. Your encounter with your wife and the disappearance of the introducers thereafter, does chime with many experiences I have had. Perhaps we are all agents to varying degrees, even members of a birth family that obviously pluck much deeper.


  5. Phillipa, this is a very heart felt and powerful piece of prose thank you. Brutally honest and raw and real, soul and sorrow. Hillman’s book must have given succour – he is brilliant. I am chary and wary of any one who says they had a happy childhood or that their school days were the happiest days of their lives.
    Will there ever be a meeting of daimon and demon? Will your conflicts be resolved? Will the opposing extremes meet somewhere? Always a question ..
    Garden of Eden Blog


  6. Susan, so good to hear from you. I have been so warmed by the depth of understanding shown in these comments, that rescue the post from simple trauma and makes of it something universal. A guest blog I was invited to contribute to launched a whole new area of self-exploration, and as it was far more important to the writing of Involution than any intellectual research I felt it legitimate; but somewhat with heart-in-mouth. So the comments offered have allayed my misgivings. I feel that daimon and demons are already nodding at one another, and an earlier comment that suggested things were as they had to be, is beginning to seep through the greater detachment that confession always brings. I hope that Family 2 (to follow shortly) will make that evident. Thank you for reading so thoughtfully.


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