The new clinical element that Lacan introduces into the approach to the maternal position is the dissociation of the mother as mother from the mother as woman, as Jacques-Alain Miller indicates in his compass text “The child and the object”: “the mother is only good enough by not being too much the mother, and provided that the care she lavishes on the child does not turn her away from desiring as woman”.
The mother is therefore the one who has: she is abundant, she gives, she responds to demands… She gives the child all she has: her presence, her love, her care, her patience… But she is not only mother. She is also a woman: on this account, she is desiring, lacking. Where motherhood is marked by a plus, by a “there is” – womanhood is marked by a minus, by a “I lack something”, so I desire this or that… As a mother, the child satisfies her, but as a woman, what characterises her is that she is lacking. She does not know it all, she is not always available to do three days in one… in responding to each of her child’s demands…
It is pivotal that this relationship to lack be maintained and that the child “is not all for the mother-subject ”. There is a condition of not-all. The desire of the mother, as a woman, must diverge towards, or be called by, an elsewhere, by a beyond of the child. This is called the function of the Name-of-the-Father. “The paternal metaphor, with which Lacan transcribed the Freudian Oedipus, does not only mean that the Name-of-the-Father has to bridle the Desire of Mother by putting the halter of the Law upon it. The paternal metaphor refers to a division of desire, which entails that, in this order of desire, the child-object is not all for the maternal subject. […] This therefore requires that the father be also a man ”. We can refer here to Molière’s Tartuffe: “A mother though I may be, I am no less a woman”, in which a division of desire is uttered. It is essential that “the child object does not only fulfil, but also divides, [and therefore] that the mother desires beyond it. If the child object does not divide, […] he enters with the mother into a dual relation that suborns it […] to the maternal fantasy ”.
But no object is capable of satisfying desire. The mother cannot be satisfied, as woman. The child will not be able to fulfil the mother, as woman. There is a gap between the child and his mother – as between a man and a woman. And, in the clinic, we encounter the consequences, the ways of reacting to the confrontations with this lack. And we note that, as formulated by J.-A. Miller, “the more the child fulfils the mother, the more he makes her anxious, in accordance with the formula according to which what is anguishing is the lack of lack. The anguished mother is first of all someone who either does not desire, desires little, or desires badly, as woman ”. The Name-of-the-Father as being the one that forbids the mother is an outdated and abusive image. The true function of the father is that the child is not all for the mother. Therefore, it functions not on the side of the forbidden but on the side of the not-all. This function can therefore be occupied by a man, an Other woman, a friend, a lover… From this point on, all new contemporary forms of “being a family” can be inscribed. What counts is that the mother’s “Wanting a child” does not obstruct [bouche] her desire, and does not prevent her from continuing to desire, as a woman, something other than the child.
Lacan takes the reference to the phallus as symbol of this lack. In each clinical case, it is interesting to ask ourselves: What is the rapport that the mother maintains with this missing element? What is the mother’s rapport with desire? Which mother, and therefore which woman, does the child have to deal with? The child is marked by mother’s jouissance, by her singular way of loving, enjoying [jouir] and desiring. In what way did she address him? What place has she given him in her desire? These are the questions that will be unfolded during the Pipol 10 study-days.
Translated by Jeroen Sollie
Proofreading: Bogdan Wolf
Photography: ©Hensmans Catho : www.cathohensmans.org
 Miller J.-A., “The child and the object”, trans. B. Wolf, Psychoanalytical Notebooks Nr 28, London, 2014, p. 12. (L’enfant et l’objet in La petite Girafe, n°18, décembre 2003, p. 7.)
 Ibid., p. 13.