Poverty of intimacy: the greatest sickness

May 19, 2006 | Birth Control, Motherhood | 15 comments

Sorry the comments to my second to last post got heated, but I think the overall discussion was good. It cheered me up to read a note on Jennifer’s site from a woman who said that after reading the comments over here and there she feels like, “God is working on my heart regarding my future fertility through you and your commentors.”

Anyway, as much as I’d like to stick only to feel-good subjects that don’t lend themselves to debate, the topic will probably be one of the more commonly discussed themes on this site, because it’s something close to my heart.

Not the theory I posited about society’s mobility and its effect on women per se, but the glaring fact that many women today (dare I say the majority?) are not happy making staying at home with their children their primary vocation. As a housewife I feel dragged down daily by the fact that I don’t know a single woman who has found fulfillment in staying at home with her children (some stay home but don’t like it, others just go the daycare route as soon as possible), and that pop culture just reinforces the message that being home with kids is a huge “sacrifice, ” holding up the bizarre notion that sitting in a cubicle under fluorescent lights all day is the path to personal fulfillment.

For all of human history mothers didn’t even consider doing anything other than raising their own children, and it would appear they mostly enjoyed it. (In fact, I’m sure they did — anyone who knows women knows it wouldn’t take us 20, 000 years to change something we didn’t like). ๐Ÿ™‚ Then around 1960 they suddenly started joining the workforce in droves, turning up their nose at being housewives and even motherhood in general.

As you know, my theory about this is that it’s because humans are inherently social creatures and we hate isolation. And in modern society most women are very isolated when they stay home. Take a walk down any suburban street during the day and you practically expect to see a tumbleweed roll by to make the tableau of desolation complete. (Sure, you can pack the kids in the car and go to a playgroup, but they’re usually pretty lackluster since nobody really has anything in common.) I think it’s the psychological pressure of not having any significant day-to-day social network that drives so many women into the workforce whether they need the money or not. (Ask 10 women who put babies in day care to go back to work for non-financial reasons what’s so great about working and at least eight of them will say something about “adult conversations” right away.)

I should note, though, that I should have been more clear in my previous post when I said that it’s much harder to raise kids today than it was 150 years ago. Of course it’s vastly easier physically, but it’s much harder mentally, because of the isolation and not having help with your children. Not that women usually had people who functioned as “babysitters” and would completely take care of the children, but they did have a bunch of trusted female relatives in and out all day, so they could at least turn their back for a moment. [In another post I’m going to write a bit more about some conversations I had that started me thinking about this, one with a 94-year-old female relative and another with a good friend who recently moved to the U.S. from a traditional community in India.]

Steve G. provided a great observation from Mother Teresa on this point: “In the developed countries there is a poverty of intimacy, a poverty of spirit, of loneliness, of lack of love. There is no greater sickness in the world today than that one.”

But anyway, I’m happy to be wrong. The mobility/isolation idea could be way off and that’s fine. But it doesn’t change the fact that I look around at the world and feel like I’m one of a dying breed because I find children to be an astounding blessing and hope to have many of them and I genuinely enjoy taking care of them and my husband. If I lived in a previous era I would not feel like an outcast for those opinions, and that’s not a utopian fantasy, it’s a fact.

I would love to see all those of us who care about fostering a culture of life in our society put our heads together and think about why it is that so few women are happy to make their primary vocation raising their children. Is it social isolation? Is it economics? Greed? Maybe contraception?

I am blessed to have so many intelligent, thoughtful, well-spoken commentors on this blog so I’d love to hear your thoughts. I understand if you’re all commented-out from the last few posts and nobody wants to have this discussion here and now. But I encourage you to think about it as I believe resolving this issue is a cornerstone to building a culture of life in America.

15 Comments

  1. Elena

    I’m one of a dying breed because I find children to be an astounding blessing and hope to have many of them and I genuinely enjoy taking care of them and my husband.

    Me too. I have six children here, and one in heaven. I had a baby last year three days after my 46th birthday. I love her with all my heart and can’t imagine not having her. I’m also not the type of person to say I’m done. If I am, I am, but I’m not going to say it and I’m certainly not going to close the door on that by myself. My husband and I feel much more confident in God’s providence in that regard.

    All that said, four things have helped me in the area of socialization.
    1. Our local homeschool group. Once I found that group of like-minded folks, I made friends for life. Women have even come to our meetings with babies, so you don’t necessarily have to wait until your child is school age to seek such a group out and attend meetings.

    2. Church. We just got more involved with our local parish. Since the same people usually volunteer for everything, we were readily welcomed and have been busy ever since!

    3. Kids sports teams. Yea, the sports are for the kids, but you start bonding with the parents. You have to when you are standing out in 50 degree weather, wet from head to toe, cheering for your team that is down by 10 points. It definitely brings you together!

    4. The internet. I have made friends in cyberspace. They are real people, I just don’t see their physical bodies.

    Judging from what you’ve said, I think you might enjoy some of these blogs.

    http://largefamilylogistics.lifewithchrist.org/

    http://3acres.blogspot.com/

    http://humblemusings.com/

    http://mommylife.net/

    And the blogs on this blog ring

    http://www.ringsurf.com/netring?ring=reallearning;action=list

    You will find likeminded folks there! I promise! : )

  2. KatieButler

    I feel very blessed to have an extended network of friends through my moms’ group at church, most of whom are full-time homemakers and moms. We all may have slightly different reasons or routes to how we came to be at home. Some, like me, are home because I saw that example growing up, another is home because her mom worked full-time; some had full-blown careers before becoming moms and others had their children relatively young (by today’s standards). We are all unified, though, in our love for our children and our belief that being home with them is a worthwhile endeavor.
    I agree regarding the stereotypes out there about being at home with children–either we are portrayed as glorifed babysitters, or martyrs who sacrifice self and marriage, making our children’s happiness the center of our universes–neither of which comes close to any at-home moms that I know.

  3. Hannah

    Hi Jennifer,

    I totally agree with you. The lack of support makes what should be a joyful vocation of motherhood such a lonely drag. I watch Everybody Loves Raymond with envy. I’d take Marie and Frank any day.

    I think of it as the collective effect of sin on society. When everyone is sinning it places more of a burden on the few who don’t.

    A few examples:

    Because too many women are contracepting, the smaller family sizes result in adverse pressure and disapproval on non-contracepting women.

    Because too many people are doing cosmetic surgery, it makes an ugly person who chooses not to to stand out more.

    Because too many women are unchaste and unprincipled about stealing other women’s husbands, that makes it that much harder for a woman to attempt chastity.

    I should be able to think of better examples but it’s late and I’m a little muddle-headed right now.

  4. Anonymous

    Ok, so here is the crux of the problem I found when I had children. What if you DON’T like being around children? Nobody ever really seems to want to address this issue because I have found that women (and trust me, I know plenty of stay-at-home mothers, most of whom homeschool) who DO love being around children can’t possibly understand how anybody else could NOT enjoy it. Not that I’m naive enough to believe all stay-at-home mothers DO love being home with kids, all the time. I know everyone has a bad day every now and then. But what if, like me, you go into marriage totally believing in the Church’s teaching and planning to let nature take it’s course, totally believing that God will definitely instill in you at least SOME motherly instincts when you start having children of your own, only to find that it was NOT TRUE for you? This experience completely through me into a tailspin, one that I am not really fully out of even 13 years later.

    I don’t know what women way-back-when thought about having kids, I honestly don’t. I suspect, human nature pretty much being unchanging in it’s frailty, that many of them would have jumped at the chance to contracept had it been available to them on a widespread and socially acceptable basis. But for thousands of years, life and society generally changed fairly slowly, the lower classes worked their fingers to the bone and didn’t have much time to think about what they really wanted out of life. They worked 24/7 just to keep a roof over their heads, food in their mouths, and the huns (or whoever the enemy happened to be at the time) at a distance. Why is it that, as far as I can tell, anybody and everybody who was wealthy and could afford it had nannies, nurses, governesses, etc, to raise their children? This tells me that even way-back-when, women who had the choice did not devote their lives solely to raising their children. I will be the first to admit that I am NO anthopology expert, and though I’d love to devote time to studying such things, I have no time due to raising my six children.

    I DO love my children, by the way. I think each of them is beautiful, talented, and downright amazing in their own individuality. I do not, however, enjoy the presence of children on a daily basis and am happiest when I am either at work doing what I feel truly called to do with my life or alone with my husband, whom I love dearly and greatly enjoy spending time with. I do enjoy some moments with the children (our toddler is a total love right now—-who can’t enjoy a baby boy kiss and hug?!), but overall, I spend most of my time around the children taking very deep breaths, counting to ten (or maybe 100!!), and pretending I’m interested in what they’re saying. All that pretending gets exhausting, let me tell you.

    The first five years of motherhood, when I was a stay-at-home mother, I cried more than I have in all the other years of my life put together, and then some. I had honestly thought I would enjoy breastfeeding, being a stay-at-home mother (it never even entered my head going into marriage that I would do anything BUT stay at home and homeschool, having come from a very traditional Catholic background), and raising children. I didn’t go into it thinking it would be EASY, mind you, but I did truly believe God would give me what I needed to be able to do it and not be a miserable mother to my children. I prayed very hard during those years, and it was truly a dark night of the soul. It was very confusing and lonely because I didn’t really have anybody I could talk to about it without sounding like some awful wretch of a human being. My poor husband did the best he could, but I think he was totally thrown for a loop by the whole thing as well.

    When financial need came upon us (and I do mean REAL financial need, as in being homeless one summer and having to live with family and nearly having to file bankruptcy), I went back to work and school. For the first time in nearly 6 years, I felt like ME again. It was like coming out of a coma. I discovered I really could feel happiness again, and that did wonders for my self-esteem (six years of being down-in-the-dumps does a real number of the self-esteem, let me tell you!) AND made me able to be happier around the children. Suddenly my life changed, and my family reaped the benefits in a big way because I was no longer crying all the time and throwing dishes against the kitchen wall in frustration. It was like night and day.

    I think it is because at least some women feel like I do that contraception was so eagerly accepted when it became widely available during the 1900s. Women who DO find some kind of pleasure and fulfillment out of raising their children can’t really understand where women like I am are coming from. Indeed, I often get something to the effect of, “Just suck it up and DO IT!! Don’t you realize how blessed you are? Shut up with the whining already” when conversations such as this come up. And I totally respect the right of people to say that or feel that way; however, I think if the very fact that not all women find this motherhood thing to be so wonderful is ignored, nobody is ever going to be able to convince our society to suddenly stop taking the Pill and starting having herds of kids.

    Remember, I went into this from the opposite perspective of most people these days due to my traditional background—-I totally EXPECTED to find motherhood a huge blessing. Now, when I read such things as the letter from a priest to a mother of six that another poster placed on this blog a few days ago, I am rather flummoxed by the whole thing because it’s so NOT what I have experienced. It’s like I can read the words, but it’s a totally different language being spoken. Sometimes I have priests talk to me in such a fashion: “How joyful you must find your position as mother!” And I generally keep my mouth shut because I don’t want to make them sad and throw them into a depression by telling them how I really feel. However, I do have a few priest friends who don’t mind either telling it or hearing it like it is for some of us, and to them I can be totally honest.

    I may just be a completely lesser creature than other women who have large families, who knows? But God knows my heart and knows I have tried—-oh, how I have tried!!–every day for the past 13 years to be the best mother I can be to my children given my own personality and weaknesses. I do, however, think that most women who feel like I do probably wouldn’t go this route of having a lot of kids. My husband and I have really tried to do what is right according to Church teaching. We were both virgins (and I do mean virgins, having not even gone so far as to french kiss while we were dating for two years) on our wedding day, have had 10 pregnancies (we have four precious babies in heaven), have been in the NFP trenches for years, and both work very hard to be able to provide a Catholic education for our children as well as make home life as happy as we can in our particular circumstances. We pray, we attend mass, and we try to instill Catholic values in our children.

    Still, as I recently said (only half-jokingly!) to my husband after a particularly bad parenting moment: Why in the world would anybody have this many kids without the fear of burning in hell forever hangning over their heads?!!! It’s been a rough road. And to pretend otherwise and to suggest that if everyone just started having more kids, they’d be a lot more joyful just seems to fly in the face of the real experiences at least some of us faithful Catholics have had.

    I do think Jen is onto something in that it WOULD be easier if we had a stronger support system in place. I’m not sure that it would change the fact that at least some women (like me!!) find motherhood not to be enjoyable, but it would probably make it much more do-able. Women are definitely social creatures, and being with other women doing the same thing can be a very strengthening experience.

    I’m totally not into bashing each other on blogs, so if anybody feels like bashing me for my feelings about motherhood, go right ahead, but I’m not going to respond. I’m just sharing my experience because I think it’s very important to try to understand how some women, even women who were raised traditionally Catholic, find great difficulty in mothering many children. If we don’t acknowledge that and try to find ways to alleviate the problem, the culture-of-life will be hard pressed to make its case in a society where couples have any number of contraceptive choices available to them. In the end, most people do what feels right to them in THEIR experience, not what can be argued to philosophically or theologically. If having a lot of kids doesn’t feel right because the mother is in danger of losing her mind (Andrea Yates is a good example) or is totally miserable, not many couples will be making that choice, no matter WHAT can be argued to in a blog someplace ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Anonymous

    If you find fulfillment in having a large family and staying home with them, what does it matter what other people think?

    So much of this unhappiness in the “mommy wars” and in these discussions is because of comparison games and because people have forgotten that unity and uniformity are two different things.

    The great, ubiquitous “they” will always be telling you what you’re supposed to do or how things should be, but it doesn’t matter what “they” say. Never did, never does, never will.

    It can be lonely at times when you don’t bow to the current conventional wisdom, or the most recent social trends, but it is infinitely more rewarding in the long run to not have lived someone else’s idea of what your life was supposed to look like.

    God didn’t create clones. He created individuals and he gave us free will and consciences to temper that free will. Exercising one’s free will and choosing to live as you believe in conscientious manner will never steer you wrong. OTOH, nothing will catapult you down the wrong path faster than worrying about what other people think.

    People go on and on about the temptations of this century and that century, and so on, but the real temptation out there, the one consistant, never-failing temptation that has caused more strife than any other is the temptation to do what the crowd is doing, to shy away from doing the right thing because of what other people will say, or to bend to the will of others.

    It’s never between you and “them”. It’s always between you and God, and you are never going to hear what God has to say to you until you get rid of the other voices.

    Have the family you desire, stay at home, and be happy. What Jane Smith down the street thinks about large families and stay at home mothers doesn’t matter.

  6. SteveG

    Anon2:
    I couldn’t disagree more. I am not arguing for conformity for conformities sake, but your ideas are built on the notion of hyper-individualism that pervades modern western culture.

    From our (Catholic) perspective it is most definitely about more than ‘me and God’. We believe that the church at heart is a family, that we are part of a unity. We are meant to live in community (communion anyone) with God AND one another

    And that fits into the normal human mode which is that we are by nature social creatures. It is not normal or natural for us to live in isolation. Itโ€™s is a purely modern, and anti-social concept to spend oneโ€™s entire day in a house, isolated from extended family and with few if any people with anything in common living in you very neighborhood/tribe/village.

    It’s not about worrying about what others think, it’s about not feeling isolated. The simple fact of sharing a common experience with others is a great consolation.

    It could be something as simple as when you have your first child, and the baby starts making these odd grunting noises and has strange breathing patterns at night. And as an isolated parent something like that can really stress one out with worry. Is my baby OK?

    Now insert a group of trusted women for a mother noticing this with herr baby, and when all the women say ‘oh, that’s totally normal, all babies do that.’ a sense of relief can be got. Something so seemingly small like that happens a thousand times in marriage and parenting. The lack of a support network to share, and have shared these kinds of common experiences can indeed make things more difficult.

    Anon1 mentioned that not all mothers in previous ages loved mothering either. Even if that was the case, again, the shared experience, the comradarie, the common struggle that they faced probably made even that struggle more bearable. My understanding is that those who fight in the trenches together during war form a very special bond. Even if life in previous eras was a battle to survive, at leas there were people fighting along side with you in the trenches who you could bond with. That makes a huge difference.

    And today? It seems to me that we are fighting a spiritual battle for the culture of life. I think what Jen is talking about is that she doesnโ€™t feel that she has met many other soldiers in that battle upon whom she can lean and be leaned, with whom she can bond.

  7. Elena

    I think it’s worth pointing out that anthropologically speaking, childhood and certainly adolescence i.e. “teen agers” are a relatively new phenomenon. Childhood now goes from birth to high school with some extended childhoods into college!

    In my grandfather’s day (born 1902) and my mom’s (born 1929) once children in farm families got old enough to work, they became part of the family team and worked with the family instead of being the focus of the family. My grandfather had many fond stories of he and his brothers working the fields and tending the cattle, as well as walking back and forth to school and they had a tight family relationship among the 10 siblings. My mother too did her share of helping the family with her brother and I think that made the family closer.

    When I read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Farmer Boy” I was really struck by what an effort the entire family put into the welfare of the entire family.

    Moving that forward to today, the most successful families that I see in terms of togetherness, happiness and holiness, tend to be the ones that work as a unit, where the kids have lots of chores and responsibilities and privileges are earned and not expected. WHen I visit large family blogs, that is also the main thread that seems to keep these moms satisified with their home life.

    On a personal note, I agree that it is difficult many times to be interested inwhat my 8 year old or 6 year old want to tell me. I remember having a very similar feeling when I was a girl and my grandfather wanted to tell me something about his work. Must be a generational thing. My eyes would glaze over and I’d day dream, but I was respectful. I don’t think we necessary have to be interested in every aspect of what our kids say or do, but just respect them as people and give encouragement. One of the upsides of having a large family is that someone else (another sibling) will probably enjoy the details of what happened on some kid show today, than I will.

  8. Anonymous

    SteveG.

    I’m not arguing for isolationism, although chosen isolation has worked for some of the Church’s greatest saints. Not that they’re family people, of course.

    I’m not anti-individualist, though. I’ve never been a joiner, and I’ve never enjoyed being around other women much. That’s just me, though, and I don’t expect other people to change to suit me. I’m happier when I’m alone. It’s just my nature. I am married and have kids, however. My husband is like I am. We’re not socially outgoing people. We enjoy each other’s company, mostly because we’re both quiet and contemplative types, so we don’t bother each other much. My kids are pretty gregarious, to varying degrees.

    I think people confuse selfishness with individuality. I hardly think anyone can call modern culture one based on individualism. Personally, I find this one of the most herd-like cultures you’ll come across in any point in history.

    People have mentioned various reasons for the isolation of the young mother in today’s culture, but I don’t think two important ones have been mentioned yet.

    The first is the great “melting pot” myth. Nice theory on paper, doesn’t happen in reality. People used to live in communities where everyone shared the same ethnicity, the same culture and the same beliefs and values. If you consider what the great American cities really looked like several generations ago, you’ll see why people felt less isolated then and more isolated now, even though the population has grown exponentially.

    New York, Boston, San Francisco, Chicago were all divided into highly monogamous ethnic neighborhoods. The Irish lived in one area, the Germans another, the Poles yet another, the Jews in another, and so on. But once we were all expected to forget who we are and where we came from and the values and sensibilities that held generations and families and neighbors together, it all fell apart. Statistically, NYC of, say, the late nineteenth century may have been pretty ethnically diverse, but it didn’t look anything like the NYC of today. Neighborhoods aren’t known because of their ethnic flavor anymore. It’s all about desireability and park and river views. It’s all so superficial.

    Add to that the post-WWII flight to the ‘burbs, and now you saw an even further breakdown of ethnic, religious and cultural ties. The birth of the suburbs, too, I think, is where conformity and uniformity began to be the driving values. It was all about keeping up with the Joneses and how things looked from the outside.

    And now, we throw modern technology into the mix. Theoretically, a person could live out the rest of his or her life and never come into physical contact with a single other human being again. We can shop via TV or the internet, we can email and text each other, and we can work from home or from wherever there’s a wireless connection.

    There’s also a difference between being isolated and feeling isolated. If you live in a geographically isolated area, there’s not much you can do other than move, but if you feel isolated while living in a fairly highly-populated area, then you have to bear some of the responsibility for those feelings. Are you outgoing enough, are you off-putting because you’re rigid or preachy about your values, are you unaccepting of others who don’t share your faith or your views on family size, etc.?

    Personally, I think one of the reasons women feel isolated and unhappy in stay-at-home motherhood is because they’re expected to meet these ridiculous, modern Hallmark-fantasy standards of motherhood. They’re expected to want to be with their children 24/7 and be happy about it all the time. This is ridiculous. Women of generations past, no matter where they lived, or how surrounded they were by other people who shared their values, didn’t spend nearly as much time with their kids as women (and men) are expected to today. Kids beyond the toddler years were left unsupervised much more than they are now. The notion of scheduled, supervised play would have the mothers of generations past thinking you were all nipping at the elderberry wine, actually. Women were too busy to play with their kids. Laundry alone was a daunting task. Food had to be purchased every day, water drawn, heated and carried by hand, and keeping fires and furnaces going was an on-going job. Yes, there was help, but it was “help”, not someone coming in to do it all for you while you romped with the kiddies.

  9. Anonymous

    *homogeneous, not monogamous. But people were more monogamous, too. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  10. majellamom

    Elena, I think that this hits the nail on the head!!!

    “In my grandfather’s day (born 1902) and my mom’s (born 1929) once children in farm families got old enough to work, they became part of the family team and worked with the family instead of being the focus of the family.”

    What a hard line to walk in modern society…kids are more difficult to raise in that society expects mothers to entertain/nurture them FAR longer than generations past. I think this is a lot of the reason why many moms I know with several young children just count down to the time their kids will be in school!

    My hubby was raised on a farm, and he did work a lot. But even when he wasn’t working, his mom (who is the greatest, this is NOT a bad thing!) didn’t spend a lot of time entertaining him. He didn’t have any lessons (compared to me, raised in suburbia, who had at least 1-2 lessons per week in misc. stuff!) he only got to hang out with his cousins who lived on the farm…His mom was in charge of taking care of the little ones and fixing meals (probably should have been in charge of cleaning, too…but if there is one thing my MIL HATES to do, it’s clean!)

    My mother worked, put me in lessons, sent me to babysitters, and spent a lot of time and money on entertaining/nurturing me…and do you know who I think had a better childhood? My hubby!

    Responsiblity is good for kids. I am not sure how we are going to structure things for our kids when they get old enough for chores, etc (20 month old picks up her toys, etc. but is still a lot of work!) but I do know that our kids will have responsibilites…and hopefully get to spend some time at the farm helping grandpa with all the work!

    Motherhood can definately be a strain (and I’ll admit that not all mothers like being parents that much! Doesn’t make them bad, just makes parenthood a little more of a cross for them!) and if you have 1) no support system, and 2) a lot of social pressure to entertain your kids…well, it’s just that much harder!

  11. SteveG

    Anon2,
    I may have simply misunderstood what you meant by individualism and conformity. From your second post I see that actually we are largely in agreement.

    I even had the same thought about ethnic neighborhoods but didn’t have the time to comment on it.

    Great comment!

  12. Tony

    I would love to see all those of us who care about fostering a culture of life in our society put our heads together and think about why it is that so few women are happy to make their primary vocation raising their children. Is it social isolation? Is it economics? Greed? Maybe contraception?

    I think the main reason so few women appear to be happy making their primary vocation raising children is because of the bill of goods that feminism sells them.

    Feminism tells these women, you could have it all… A fulfilling career and children if only you could find an enlightened man to split the housework with you 50/50.

    Add the rampant consumerism that makes couples think that the wife has to work so they can afford the latest SUV, raised ranch house and a boat.

  13. Jennifer F.

    Elena – thank you for those resources. I will definitely check them out!

    Tony – I agree that feminism is selling women the wrong idea, but what baffles me is that “having it all” these days involves working. Work sucks! If it didn’t, you wouldn’t get paid to do it. ๐Ÿ™‚ Maybe it’s because I’m a lazy person who hates to be bossed around, but I think it indicates that something is really wacky in our society if everyone’s fighting about who gets to work more.

    But yeah, I would agree that consumerism has something to do with it. A lot of people talk about how they “have to” work while they’re sitting in their 3,500 sq. ft. house with a fully loaded SUV in the garage.

    Majellamom and Anon2 – Yes! I didn’t want to go into it in this post, but I couldn’t agree more about the crazy notion that you’re supposed to play games with your babies and toddlers all day and enjoy it. I actually had a friend call me crying last week because she feels like a bad mom because she can’t entertain her 20-month-old all day long. She honestly thinks that what makes her a good mother is sitting on the floor and giving her toddler her undivided attention for every waking moment of the day. Of course it’s a blast to play with kids sometimes and they do need some of your undivided attention, but not all day! That would drive anyone crazy.

    I used to try to do that with my son. Then for a couple months I had to get a nanny to help me out while I worked from home to get our family business off the ground. She is a very old school lady who doesn’t even understand the concept of sitting around and playing baby games all day, so she would cart my son around with her and have him “help” her do the laundry, make the beds, etc., breaking up each activity with a little while of time when he had her undivided attention and they just played with his toys. I was nothing short of AMAZED at how my son took to it. He went from being kind of cranky and fussy all day to being so happy and chipper, and as soon as he could talk he loved to anticipate what they were going to do next and tell her how to do the laundry, sweep the floor, etc.

    Now that she’s not here much I do all that myself, and it’s amazing to see how much my son thrives just watching me follow our little daily routine. He’s a lot happier than when I used to bend over backwards to amuse him all day.

  14. Anonymous

    Mommies who feel the need to entertain their babies 24/7 aren’t helping themselves or their kids. They’re going to go crazy trying and their kids will never learn the ability to entertain themselves. Two words I can’t stand: “I’m bored”. As my mother used to say, only boring people get bored.

    I think the newer generation of young mothers are suffering because they were catered to and entertained as children and, now, as adults, they expect life to be one long fascinating thrill ride from start to finish. They’re frustrated staying home because the truth is that staying home and doing nothing but playing cruise director for your kids is boring. It’s boring for you and ultimately boring for them.

    Maybe they wouldn’t be so unhappy if they let the darned kids bang on the Tupperware with a wooden spoon while they spent some time exploring a subject that interested them, or did some work for a night or weekend course they might be a able to take.

    That said, and while I don’t think anyone can have it “all” (you can have enough, and even a lot, but no one gets it all), we do live in a society in which women can be mothers, be primary caretakers, and still have interests of her own and even still have a career. You just can’t do it all at the same time.

    My sister in law, for example, is a physical therapist. She has a large family, was a SAHM for many years, but always attended seminars and kept her license updated and stayed on top of her field, and when the kids were all school-aged, she was able to start working again on a part time basis, and now works full time (her youngest starts college in the fall).

    There are ways to work from home when the kids are little, too.

    It’s not all about the 9-5 office job anymore. With a little creativity, I don’t see why any intelligent woman can’t figure out some way to use her mind and her education and still be a SAHM. It won’t be the job you had when you were single, or the job you still may have sometime in the future once the kids are grown, but it’s something. You can’t sit back passively and whine about being bored if you’re not willing to do something about it. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. And you never know – in giving up that 9-5 office job and staying home with the kids, you just might stumble across a new interest that is more rewarding and lends itself to your new situation. Gotta keep your mind open and use the brains God gave you.

  15. knit_tgz

    Why did women suddenly decide they wanted to do other thing instead of raising their children?

    First: it is not true that women only raised their children in earlier generations and did nothing else. I can guarantee you both my grandmothers (the peasant one and the haut-couture seamstress one) had their jobs beside raising children. Mind you, the seamstress had 10 children, though unfortunately more than half died early, before the antibiotics age. What I mean is: women worked the fields, spinned, weaved, made clothes, cared for animals, washed clothes (sometimes were paid to wash other people’s clothes). Women were not all day with their kids (unless they were babies or toddlers). You may love your kids, but maybe it is best for them and for you if you don’t spend all your time together, even if the mom works at home and not outside the home. I am not a mother, so maybe I’m wrong. I’m simply concluding this from thousands of years where this did not happen.

    On the other hand, women of my mother’s generation taught their daughters they should never, ever quit their jobs and stay at home. Why? Because our mothers are the women who couldn’t trust men. Our mothers are the generation of divorce and abandonment. Our mothers are the women who must earn money outside the house, because they never know if tomorrow they will become a single mom. It’s not just a matter of needing a job to find the company of other adults. Women need a job to earn money to raise the kids, because the man won’t be there. (Unfortunately, in my country a lot of women need a job even if the man is there and earns money, because some jobs are not well-paid and houses are becoming outrageously expensive).

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