I haven't written in a while not only because I have been incredibly busy but also because I've been incredibly angry. I really didn't want to write an angry blog but a few moms I know told me that they're angry about the same thing. Nice to know it isn't just me. Let me take you through my experiences. It'll be a bit meandering but there is a point. I promise.
I was in a store with my two young children. An older woman, a grandmother, approached me:
Grandmother: Oh, your children are so adorable. They're so well behaved.
Me: (never passing up a compliment) Thank you.
G: I can't take care of my grand kids, you know. They're so energetic. They're pistols. They would be tearing through the store. (laughs) I just can't keep up.
G: But you're lucky. Your kids are well behaved. What day care do you send them to so I can tell my daughter?
M: Well, my son goes to pre-k half day but other than that they're usually with me.
G: (In a shocked voice) What? There are plenty of good child minding places out there these days. Why on earth would you waste your time staying at home? I would never let my daughter do that!!!
M: (Thinks WTF??? Did I ask you opinion? You like the result but complain about the process? )
Now this isn't a complaint about moms who have to or choose to work. There are many amazing working mothers out there.
I have a couple of points: Children can NOT raise themselves. A great deal of time and effort go into turning a helpless, crying blob into a functional, respectful(and respectable) human being. And we're not even talking about turning children into geniuses. We're still at the basics of routine: naps, snacks, exercise, quiet time. You know, all of the things that, if neglected, turn good natured kids into crazy little monsters. Somebody has to put the time and effort in. And if it's not the mother (or father) you had better hope it is somebody who is trained, responsible, trustworthy, not overwhelmed, and affordable. Not to get too personal but I didn't know that I should bathe regularly and brush my teeth until I was almost a teenager. I still have health issues related to the neglect I suffered as a child. Just the basics takes work and attention.
Here is my second, very different experience:
It was the day before Hallowe'en and the local radio morning show hosted a Catholic priest who was talking about exorcisms. It was actually quite interesting and informative. Among other things, he mentioned that demons hate the Eucharist and Our Lady. He also mentioned that unborn children are particularly susceptible to demonic influence (if the mother is dabbling in the occult) because a fetus does not yet have free will. This might not manifest until the child is around three or four years of age. So, basically, the mother has to worry about prenatal vitamins, what she eats, drinks, breathes AND demonic influence??? No pressure.
One mother confided in me that a good friend of hers told her that she, the friend, no longer wanted to hear about her child. What is so interesting about hearing all about the milestones that come naturally, anyway? This mother was so hurt by this comment that she was actually crying. She felt that if she were taking care of other children or the poor that she would have been respected. This mother was, after all, devoting her life to the care of the most vulnerable of society. But since it was her own child she was suddenly weak, unambitious, and not very interesting as a person.
So these events (and a few others) got me thinking.
The problem is deeper than a woman deciding whether or not to work/study outside the home because many working moms I've spoken with complain that they are not "allowed" to be moms at work. They are not allowed to mention their kids for fear of derision. They are told they are not serious enough about their work if they have to take care of a sick child. I know one mom who visited her office the day after her child was born to "prove" that she wouldn't let the child get in the way of her career. One mom complained that her nanny got more respect than she did!
If this problem cannot be classified as stay at home vs. go to work, then how to approach it?
Or, to put it another way, what makes motherhood so difficult? I mean, anybody can change diapers and drive a child to the latest kiddie class. So why are mothers so vulnerable? (Other than working 24/7. A nanny friend of mine told me that I was doing the jobs of cook, maid, and nanny. How do working moms manage?? That's four jobs!!)
Answer: Because mothers are called to be life givers in all that they do. We are called to go beyond actions. We are continually challenged to go beyond our sleep-deprived, isolated reality and be "cheerful givers". We must always ask ourselves if our decisions are good for the family because the family is sacred. We are dealing with the most vulnerable in society. And more, from the moment of conception we are guardians of a child's body AND soul. We cannot do this without God's help, even if we don't realize it.
We are living in a society of death. We live in a society where women's bodies are overly sexualized and children are considered inconvenient, expensive accessories.
Ladies, I am now wondering if, like the Virgin Mary, Satan despises mothers. I am wondering if , (and I'm not sure about this spiritual warfare thing even if it IS theologically sound, biblical, and part of our own tradition), evil is attacking the family on the most fundamental level - between mother and child. I don't want to think this way. It sounds crazy to my modern, analytical mind. And yet, I am forced to consider the possibility.
So, Ladies, I am angry. I am angry that the world cares so little about our children that we as mothers are shunned (unless someone has something to sell us). I am angry that our children are shoved in a corner and told not to exist. I am angry that I am told not to enjoy my kids and delight in their successes. After all, they have come such a long way from being crying blobs. They have worked so hard.
Now, as with any angry rant, this is rather one sided and not altogether accurate or just. But I do have one more thing to say: You cannot ask or beg for respect. You must demand it. If you have a problem with the way I choose to respond to God's call to take care of His children, I will tell you what I tell my children: Neither of us gets everything we want in life. I can't do what you want right now. I'm busy working hard taking care of the family. Now I don't mind working hard because I love my family. But I WILL be respected for it.
Sit Deus Nobis. (May God Be With Us.)