What Casey Anthony Tells Us About The Dark Side Of Motherhood

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Casey Anthony‘s trial is turning into nothing short of a “classic Greek tragedy” to quote Nancy Grace. The young and pretty mother was considered a suspect after her own mother pointed the finger at her for her missing granddaughter, Caylee Anthony. Stoic in the court room with occasional bouts of emotion, Casey has been speculated to be a psychopath who plotted to kill her own daughter. With even her own parents convinced that she’s guilty, Casey’s story is not only unique in the narrative of murdering mothers but also reveals the more sinister struggles of motherhood.

Dr. Gilda Carle begins her assessment of Casey Anthony by separating birth from motherhood.

“Just because somebody gives birth doesn’t make her a mommy,” points out Dr. Gilda. “She’s a girl. She’s not a mommy.” Pointing to Casey’s much publicized partying and drinking in the wake of her daughter’s disappearance, Dr. Gilda says that as an audience what we’re really being confronted with is an example of a woman who “should have never become a mother.”

“What happens to a lot of women is that their hormones change and they settle into being a good mother. The hormone oxytocine drugs their system and they are very committed to their child. This girl remained a girl,” she notes. When pressed as to what accounts for those women who don’t experience this change in hormones, Dr. Gilda explains that chronological age aside, women who are not emotionally ready for motherhood tend to experience the lapse in hormones.

Dr. Jenn Berman observes that Casey’s tale is unsettling for mothers in particular because her actions, although extreme, tap into universal parental frustrations.

“We have all had moments where we have lost our cool with our kids –where we wish we didn’t have kids,” Dr. Berman says, “but to see someone who acts out on the impulse is shocking. It’s hard to wrap your brain around.”

Calling Casey Anthony’s trial the “Hannibal Lecter of motherhood,” she describes the public’s fascination stemming from a simplistic understanding of motherhood. By assuming that the experience of mothering is solidly joyous, we actually leave ourselves culturally vulnerable to stories like Casey’s.

“We like to put motherhood on a pedestal. We like to think motherhood is purity, virtue, all loving, all things good,” she muses. “Motherhood does have a darker side. It’s not usually this dark. Sometimes you don’t parent in the ways that you wish that you could.”

When considering that the majority of mothers who kill do so in a moment if desperation, Casey stands a part as a mother who may have planned the murder and cover-up of her daughter’s death, indicating her to be “a different animal,” according to Dr. Berman.

“We’re talking about a killer as opposed to someone who snapped,” she says. “For the public subconscious, we  assimilate that differently. We have compassion for mothers who snap.”