Motherly love by its very nature is unconditional.  Mother loves the newborn infant because it is her child, not because the child has fulfilled any specific condition, or lived up to any specific expectation.  (Of course, when I speak here of mother's and father's love, I speak of the "ideal types" -- in Max Weber's sense or of an archetype in Jung's sense -- and do not imply that every mother and father loves in that way.  I refer to the motherly and fatherly principle, which is represented in the motherly and fatherly person.)  Unconditional love corresponds to one of the deepest longings, not only of the child, but of every human being; on the other hand, to be loved because of one's merit, because one deserves it, always leaves doubt; maybe I did not please the person whom I want to love me, maybe this, or that -- there is always a fear that love could disappear.  Furthermore, "deserved" love easily leaves a bitter feeling that one is not loved for oneself, that one is loved only because one pleases, that one is, in the last analysis, not loved at all but used.  No wonder that we all cling to the longing for motherly love, as children and also as adults.  Most children are lucky enough to receive motherly love (to what extent will be discussed later).  As adults the same longing is much more difficult to fulfill.  In the most satisfactory development it remains a component of normal erotic love; often it finds expression in religious forms, more often in neurotic forms.

The relationship to father is quite different.  Mother is the home we come from, she is nature, soil, the ocean; father does not represent any such natural home.  He has little connection with the child in the first years of its life, and his importance for the child in this early period cannot be compared with that of mother.  But while father does not represent the natural world, he represents the other pole of human existence; the world of thought, of man-made things, of law and order, of discipline, of travel and adventure.  Father is the one who teaches the child, who shows him the road into the world.

Closely related to this function is one which is connected with socio-economic development.  When provate property came into existence, and when private property could be inherited by one of the sons, father began to look for that son to whom he could leave his property.  Naturally, that was the one whom father thought best fitted to become his successor, the son who was most like him, and consequently whom he liked the most.  Fatherly love is conditional love.  Its principle is "I love you because you fulfill my expectation, because you do your duty, because you are like me."  In conditional fatherly love we find, as with unconditional motherly love, a negative and a positive aspect.  The negative aspect is the very fact that fatherly love has to be deserved, that it can be lost if one does not do what is expected.  In the nature of fatherly love lies the fact that obedience becomes the main virtue, that disobedience is the main sin -- and its punishment the withdrawal of fatherly love.  The positive side is equally important.  Since his love is conditioned, I can do something to acquire it, I can work for it; his love is not outside of my control as motherly love is.

The mother's and the father's attitudes toward the child correspond to the child's own needs.  The infant needs mother's unconditional love and care physiologically as well as psychically.  The child, after six, begins to need father's love, his authority and guidance.  Mother has the function of making him secure in life, father has the function of teaching him, guiding him to cope with those problems with which the particular society the child has been born into confronts him.  In the ideal case, mother's love does not try to prevent the child from growing up, does not try to put a premium on helplessness.  Mother should have faith in life, hence not be over-anxious, and thus not infect the child with her anxiety.  Part of her life should be the wish that the child become independent and eventually separate from her.  Father's love should be guided by principles and expectations; it should be patient and tolerant, rather than threatening and authoritarian.  It should give the growing child an increasing sense of competence and eventually permit him to become his own authority and to dispense with that of father.

Eventually, the mature person has come to the point where he is his own mother and his own father.  He has, as it were, a motherly and a fatherly conscience.  Motherly conscience says: "There is no misdeed, no crime which could deprive you of my love, of my wish for your life and happiness."  Fatherly conscience says: "You did wrong, you cannot avoid accepting certain consequences of your wrongdoing, and most of all you must change your ways if I am to like you."  The mature person has become free from the outside mother and father figures, and has built them up inside.  In contrast to Freud's concept of the super-ego, however, he has built them inside not by incorporating mother and father, but by building a motherly conscience on his own capacity for love, and fatherly conscience on his reason and judgment.  Further more, the mature person loves with both the motherly and the fatherly conscience, in spite of the fact that they seem to contradict each other.  If he would only retain his fatherly conscience, he would become harsh and inhuman.  If he would only retain his motherly conscience, he would be apt to lose judgment and to hinder himself and others in their development.

[Extracted from The Art of Loving, Erich Fromm]