This blog post by Jennifer Fulwiler , which I read ages ago and am only just getting my act together to blog on, says, with much better grammar, something I’ve been saying for a looooong time. In the comments thread someone else says something I’ve been saying for just as long – that until very recently mothers with young families had that help and didn’t have to feel guilty. It was pure coincidence that I saw a report from the UK a couple of days later, that said stay at home mothers are more depressed than those who go out to work and the reason – according to this report – was that SAHMs are left all day with little children and no adult company. In other words they have no support of any kind. I also wondered how many of these depressed stay at home mums had husbands who worked such long hours they were essentially single mums, and how many had no dad in the home at all – but it didn’t say.
The comments on Jennifer Fulwiler’s blog post show some of the problems all of us mums at home face. First of all, far too many mothers have no immediate family support. The days when families lived and grew together are long gone. Most adult children live quite some distance from their parents and so the old-fashioned support of a mother to her daughter when the babies start coming, just isn’t there for many. On top of that is the very real problem that far too many couples beginning family life have come from abusive and chaotic childhoods where even if mum did live round the corner, you wouldn’t want her near you or your children.
The other big problem that is newer, is that many SAHM find she is the only mother at home with her own children. All the other mothers are out at work and the children out at nurseries or child minders. For some of my friends this means that working mums think they are the fall back child care. This can happen even when the family are in crisis – but the neighbour wants her kids picked up from school anyway.
It was picked up on that in the past, before the end of the Second World War at any rate, even fairly poor families could afford a servant to help with housework and child care. In fact I have been reading the story of Ven Anna Maria Taigi and I was surprised to see that even though they were dirt poor, they still had a servant. Even people like us, who are not on the bottom of the financial heap can’t afford regular help these days.
One way I think that overcomes some of the problems, apart from shunting aside the guilt for needing help, is to form communities that will work together. In the UK I don’t think home educators are that good at mutual support over all, but if you can form a little group of mums and children who will share lessons, and help each other out in emergencies, it can take a lot of stress out of life and make the business of being at home with the children less lonely and frustrating.
A cultural shift in attitudes towards mothers who dare to care for their own children might help too, but in the meantime, we mums need to stick together.
Home educators, even in this country, seem to have more children on average than other families. I think as the children grow older and having been at home together, learning together and forming closer family relationships, that as they reach adulthood, they will more naturally look out for one another. I certainly hope so. I want my children to support one another through the rest of their lives, to be the good uncles and aunts to their nephews and nieces, and be close enough to us that we can be proper grandparents (God willing).
If you don’t have family, then you need to make an alternative family. Close friendships in HE can make that work.
There are a couple of items that came up in the comments of Jennifer’s blog that I want to return to. They seem to reflect a certain cultural understanding that seems to me directly opposed to a Christian worldview and I was a bit shocked to see them written ostensibly by Catholics.