Home By Choice: Facing the Effects of Mother's Absence, Brenda Hunter, Ph.D., Multnomah Press, Portland, 1991

Reviewed by John A. Speyrer

I first read about Dr. Hunter's book in a newspaper article written by family psychologist and columnist John Rosmond. He claimed the book changed his mind about the effects on children of their mother's working outside the home. Before reading this book, he was certain it could be done successfully. But after reading Home by Choice, he became convinced that it could not be done. The book is about proving the author's hypothesis that a mother's place is with her young infant.

It is always more convincing to read the writings of someone who has lived what she writes about. When her daughter was nine months old, the author went back to full-time employment as a teacher. This, coupled with a subsequent divorce a year later, resulted in her beginning an inner study of her own unnurtured past and early relationship with her own mother.

Home By Choice contains numerous quotes from various authorities which show that the infant forms very early attachments to its mother. It is through these attachments that the child learns whether the world is friendly or hostile. While attachment to the father is important, the author believes the mother's role is primary. A father has difficulty in relating to his infant the way a mother does. It's all biology, says the author.

But would day-care compensate for the time the mother does not spend with her infant? The author answers that question in a chapter entitled, "Mother Care or Other Care.'' In a word, her answer is an emphatic "No!" Let me add that she is very persuasive in her arguments as she discusses the pain of separation, day care research, long term effects of infant day-care and the problems of the single mother.

Next, Dr. Hunter looks into the question of why some women reject the traditional role of motherhood. Most working mothers, she writes, come from family backgrounds where they were "lonely only children.'' Their home lives were characterized by tension and marital strife. These women lacked close attachment to both parents. An investigation into the early childhood and background of feminists Betty Friedan, Germaine Greer, and Gloria Steinem is made.

The author, not surprisingly, concludes that these three chose the career of militant feminism due to childhood deprivations. A theme which ran throughout these feminists' early lives was a conflict-ridden family with much marital strife, she writes. Intergenerational influence is also studied as the mother's relationship with her own mother is examined.

Highly recommended reading.