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). 🙂 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.
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