There were a couple of responses on the mums need help blog that I thought were pretty worrying. One woman, who presumably is in a comfortable, financially secure situation, with all the help she needs and no seriously ill person to mess things up, insisted that mothers should never have to work because a sensible woman would not marry a man until he could show his ability to provide adequately for a family. Now, I think I get where this view comes from. A man should be working and have a living wage before he can marry However we now live in a situation in the UK and increasingly in the USA I believe, where having a wage that can support family is very difficult indeed. Having any job at all is getting harder and harder. Many of the dads I know who have been providing the single income for their families are either now out of work, or facing impending unemployment. One comment on the blog pointed out that her husband had become disabled at work and now she was the bread winner. These things happen.
I was concerned by the comment, which presumably had little thought behind it, because it is just the kind of eugenics argument the Galton and Malthus followers make, that lesser people should not be allowed to have children, and has nothing whatsoever to do with Christ. The idea that marriage should be rooted in how much money the man has is frankly the antithesis of Christian thought.
I strongly believe that we need to build a culture where families care for one another and enable one parent to be at home for and with the children. I am afraid this “get married when you have the money” attitude comes from a post Christian individualism which has no sense of love of neighbour in it at all. It also leads to the equally soul-destroying, no children until we can afford the most expansive pram in the world mentality.
This comment was followed by one, from another mother (presumably Catholic but perhaps not) who said “My parents don’t owe me anything.” Now, on the surface, that statement may simply mean, her parents have been wonderfully supportive and she couldn’t ask for more, but it didn’t read that way. It read as someone who had no need of support and was not going to offer any in return. I also wondered at what point she would decide she owed her children nothing.
It is very evident indeed that far too many parents believe there is a cut off age at which they no longer owe their children the love, care, time and consideration God commands us to give. For some parents the age is around 4 or 5 when it’s all the job of the school. Others wait it out until the child reached 13 and shrugs it all off with a “What can I do about it?” mode. For the long standers they dump their children’s needs at about 16. After that the child is someone else’s responsibility. Bizarrely this refusal to continue loving care is often coupled with a giving them loads of stuff attitude as if that in some way replaces the relationship. It doesn’t.
There were other comments there, some profoundly bitter and angry that just left me sad. We are mothers and as my dear friend Donna once said, “We mothers need to stick together.”
Why do so many mothers need to pull each other down? If a mother has to work, she has to work. It’s hard enough being a working mum without being told how awful you are. Now obviously there are mothers who work because they want to feel fulfilled and have that kitchen extension, but most of us who worked and had to ship our children out to strangers did so because at that time we had no choice.
If a mother can and does make the massive sacrifices involved in being at home with the children, through thick and thin and often with no help, we should support her, not accuse her of being a wimp for wanting some help now and them.
That’s not to say that there are incidences where mothers do things to get support or who demand support in ways that are selfish and damaging of others. But if you have enough money to afford paid help and will pay fairly, go for it. You are giving someone a job who needs it.
And if you are fortunate enough to have family support, people who will help you when the kids are ill and be there when you are ill, or just babysit now and then so you can go for a walk – that is great and nothing to feel guilty about, It is, I really believe, the way God made families to be.
For the rest of us, as Alison says in the comments in my last blog entry, we can build a tribe. As home educators we are in a specially good set up to do this. We can gather with our children and get to know one another. Then if we really want to, we can support one another and not knock each other down. It surely can’t be that hard.
And finally, about the bitterness. I am very acutely aware of how a mother who has struggled and struggled with next to no support and had to face overcoming some absolutely horrendous situations very much on her own, might be bitter and angry. Give it to God. Giving it out in com boxes to innocent people you don’t know, is not helpful, not therapeutic and surely doesn’t make you less angry. In fact I would say, those who have had such enormous odds to overcome should be more sensitive to those who are able to have the support they need, rather than wishing their own load onto someone else.