I’ve been going on (and on and on) for some years about the terrible lack of support for mothers in today’s culture. Both the nuclear and extended family has broken down in many ways. Coupled with the lack of children born to many families over the last couple of generations – or perhaps only the last generation for those who held on to the Faith, means there isn’t much support for mothers, like there was in the old days.
It has been noted that one of the reasons young mothers in particular feel isolated with their new borns and toddlers is that they are at home in a ghost town. Every other person in the street has gone to work. They are simply alone and too often that can lead to post natal depression and anxiety problems. Many mothers who would have chosen to be home and care for their children then feel forced back into the workplace.
The Anchoress writes on this suggesting that parishes need to set up some kind of network of older mothers, with experience and now less responsibility, could help the newer mums coming through. I think there is also an absolutely desperate need for parish support for families in crisis. I do know that thankfully a lot goes on under the radar.
Have a pray about this. Is God asking you to do more to support someone in your family or parish?
Dad’s need to be on the ball with this too. Adam’s role as Bridegroom and father was to care for and protect his wife and children.”Husbands love your wives as Christ loves the Church pouring Himself out for her” (Eph 5:25). That pouring out was His Passion (which literally means to pour out), where He poured out every drop of blood for us.
Dad’s need to be aware of when their wives are struggling and not expect her always to be able to give well thought out coherent instructions about what help she needs. When things get rough dad’s who have to go to work and leave the wife to it should be phoning around and asking for someone to help her.
The same goes the other way around. When I knew in advance I was going to be in hospital for a long while I phoned around asking people to help my husband with food and support while he was left caring for the children and still needing to come up to the hospital. It worked well. People really responded beautifully, making offers and accepting requests.
Having a parish based group of people who will help out, going over and spending time with a mother, or reading to one child while the mum gets the baby settled., or even something as simple as holding the baby so she can go to the toilet ALONE.
It’s not just mothers with young children who need help. I was talking very recently with a mother who is in a long-term crisis situation. She desperately needs a fellow woman to just help with the children so she can get all things done and care for her husband. Her father is brilliant and does a lot, but taking care of teenagers is full-on parenting and just a second pair of hands could make all the difference to her.
We actually discussed the possibility of putting out a plea in her church asking if anyone feels God nudging them towards this sort of pastoral care.
There is also an absolutely desperate need for something like this to help those of us who have had crisis situations with seriously ill children. I wish someone could have helped me during all those times I was in the Children’s with a very sick child. The experience has left deep scars I’m afraid. Ironically after one of the most difficult admissions with a very sick child, when I was pretty ill myself with a roaring chest infection, it was a fellow mother with lots of children who came to my rescue. After being told over and over by nurses that my fever was keeping my daughter’s fever high – what was I supposed to do!?! she finally became well enough to be discharged. We had been in hospital over a week. The following day my friend took me to the doctors. I was so very ill the doc said she was calling an ambulance to have me sent into hospital straight away! Thank God – and I do- my friend was there and she promised to take care of me; which she did and I escaped admission. She took us all to her house and kept me in a chair while she ensured meds and fluids were put into both my daughter and me. Bless her for that.
In Japan there was (perhaps still is) a system where relatives sit with a person in hospital to take care of their needs. It means that sick people don’t dehydrate or starve for being too weak to feed themselves. It’s a beautiful service that is an extension of the family cohesion found in the Shinto religion.
As Catholics we are called to this sort of thing. To be fair, while I don’t know about “official” parish programs, (which we do need) there is a lot of quiet support going on under the radar. We are all called to be Simon of Cyrene at some point in the journey, and to accept a Simon when we need to. Maybe we just need to be a St. Veronica. Whoever we choose to be in the face of someone else’s suffering, let it not be Pilate.
On a slightly side note, I think the way home education works can offer this sort of support automatically. Those of us with older children will help out with younger ones in lessons or groups so that there is support. Perhaps some of the best home ed groups do work like extended families a little.