3. We soon grew to see that mother-love has more than one channel of expression. I think the reason our children are so—so fully loved, by all of us, is that we never—any of us—have enough of our own.
Somel says these words to Van toward the end of Chapter 6, during one of their long discussions about the idea of motherhood in Herland. Gilman wants to show that even though the women have lived without men for so long, they are not less feminine than other women and not unnatural in their feelings. These women experience a desire for motherhood as great as any woman’s, but it is a desire likely bound to go unfulfilled to some extent. The vast majority of the women of Herland are allowed only one child, even though they might personally want to bear more. This great sacrifice is one of the elements that allows Herland to function as well as it does, and it represents the highest expression of their communal, socialist system.
Trapped on their plateau, uncontrolled reproduction by the women would soon lead to overpopulation, which would be fatal to the whole group. Although each woman sacrifices a bit of her personal motherhood, she does so knowing that the larger motherhood of the community can grow thanks to her sacrifice. Every duty, every responsibility undertaken by an individual in Herland, every creative or constructive act, is a contribution to the mothering function of society as a whole. The sacred nature of motherly love is the one unquestioned value of Herland’s women and the foundation of all of their other values. Everything from their religious notions to their agriculture is determined by a desire to place the raising and cherishing of children at the center of life. However, Somel’s admission that none of the women ever have “enough” children is an acknowledgement that life in Herland, as ideal as it seems, is not perfect.