Category Archives: mum time

On the desperate need for support for mothers with youngsters or a crisis.

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.


The moral minefield of being a mum

From the moment that extra line appears on the dipstick a mother has decisions to make about how to best take care of her child. There are some moral absolutes in there, but many decisions about how best to be a mother fall into the prudential judgement area, and that can be more difficult. Starting with what you put into your body. It is obvious that ingesting some kind of poison that will be detrimental to the baby is bad – but then is drinking any alcohol really bad? Or should all pregnant mothers really avoid soft cheese and prawns because some minor studies say so?  Once you have tiptoed through that little minefield and the baby has arrived, what about breast feeding?

Is breastfeeding a moral issue? In some ways yes, but again it’s in the prudential judgement area. Putting aside for one moment the obvious non-moral case of a mother who can’t breastfeed thanks to medical problems faced by her or her child (reflux, tongue tie, needing very strong meds such as chemo etc) there is still the question of breast verses bottle and how long to do what. I have seen some people make the strong sweeping statement that bottle feeding is immoral. But it isn’t intrinsically immoral, any more than needing a wet nurse is.

This is followed by what has been dubbed the “mummy wars” where a row breaks out over what is best, stay at home or work outside the home? If a mother has to work outside of the home, what is she morally obliged to do with her children?

Then there’s the education war between home education and send them to school. When, if ever, is it morally right to put children into institutional education? Is there ever a time when it is immoral to home educate?

Among this comes the question of when or whether to have the next baby.

We also are called to guide and teach our children to live good moral lives and that means using discipline. So what kind of discipline should be use?

When there are so few absolutes in being a mum, where do we turn for guidance, truth and strength? Is there a design for the family that we can try and follow so that we offer the best for our children growing up, while retaining some level of sanity?

Lots of questions. Now I have to try and work out some answers…

Mums need help and should not feel guilty for it. Some responses.

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.

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Mum’s need help – and shouldn’t feel guilty for needed it.

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.

Over a nice cup of tea – mum conversation.

My friend J came over yesterday with her children. While all the children went off to play we had some mum and a cuppa time. We had a quick chat about starting term and as her oldest child and my youngest are about to begin their Home Education “officially” we talked about how or whether to mark their first day of term.

I have bought a pencil case set for all three of the younger ones so that they will start term with a sort of freshness. As it happens both Heleyna and E are already used to the learning business as it happens organically in a home education setting. It’s what Charlotte Mason describes as “education as an atmosphere.” Even so we want to make the first week special for the girls.

J then went on to tell me how a Sky salesman had come to her door trying to sell her the Package. She declined as they have their phone and internet set up thank you. He asked about her TV package.

“We don’t have TV,” she explained.

He was stumped and seeing she is pregnant asked about children.  He noticed the other three coming into the hallway behind her. He then asked her what she would do with her children without a TV. His parting shot to her as he left was that she would find things hard work.

The upshot of this strange little tale, seems to be that the gentleman from Sky believes that parents must have  TV to put their children in front of or else life will be “hard work.” The definite view that adults should be free to do as they please unencumbered by responsibilities towards their own children.

On the same theme really she noted that many parents are longing for the beginning of term so they can finally have their lives back when their children go back to school. I have come across this attitude a lot over the years and I really don’t get it. I have been there when a mother said how much she didn’t want the summer holidays and how the schools were unfair to expect parents to “entertain” the children for 6 weeks. She said it all in front of her children.

I vaguely remember hearing something about a poll of parents over TV. A shocking number of parents said they thought letting their children sit and watch TV for hours was good for them.  I am afraid I think they meant that leaving their children in front of the TV was good for them-that is for the parents. Let’s face it – they are not fighting (unless it’s over which channel) and they arent making a mess by playing, and sitting on the sofa ticks all the ‘elf’n’safety boxes. A modern dream.

Now, that’s not to say there are not genuinely good things to watch on TV. We have one, in fact we even have Sky (the bog standard, no extra’s package that they have finally given up trying to get me to improve). But it’s not the baby sitter and I am very strict about how long the children watch it and what they watch on it.  I am still horrified by the memory of the 4 and 5 year olds sitting in the hall of the middle class school I worked out and nearly everyone of them said they watched the truly nasty soap Eastenders, which is frankly unsuitable for adults let alone children.

One major advantage of home education is that most of us have a grip on what screen time and content our children have. When they all get together there is no peer pressure or isolation because one child doesn’t watch the trendy, but toxic programmes or play the right console games.

I am not saying the HE community is full of perfect parents with perfect kids. Far from it. But the imperfections and difficulties are not made worse by the culture, because we do tend to shun it. That doesn’t mean (sadly) that all HEd children grow up to be good adults. We have been burned by bad HEers. But overall, we are up against far less pressure and as we are with our children, who are with each other more often, bad influences can be mitigated.

Lesson for home education mum: know your limitations.

THUD! That was the sound of me metaphorically hitting the brick wall. Time to step back and sit down methinks.

I feel  a bit like St Barnaby of Compiegne having just dropped all the balls. (Tomie dePaola re tells the story beautifully in his book The Clown of God- without mentioning the saint by name though).

I think I’ve been trying to keep too much going for too long. We are, as I’ve mentioned before, financially stretched to the utmost, so like the eejit I am I thought I had better find some way to earn money. Now I home educate full time and there has been rather a lot of ‘other stuff’ to handle over the last year or so, but that didn’t make me see sense.

Then something else happened recently that made me think I could start to solve the financial stuff side of things-only it was here one minute and gone the next. Did I wonder what God was trying to say? No, I was too busy.

So in my busy-silly state I thought I could write a book. You see it would solve lots of problems- I would be writing my own Language Arts curriculum which could be used with the children AND I could sell it so I could afford other stuff curriculum wise. Aha! So then there was the small, but rather important factor of TIME. I don’t have any spare. In fact I am so tied up time wise that my elderly friend can’t even get a phone call from me when I was supposed to give her one and I ended up sending the photos I promised her via Josh. So.

Yesterday-having not stopped to think this over much- I decided that the afternoon would be curriculum and book writing time. As it happens it is nigh on impossible to write a book or anything very coherent when stressed out and surrounded by questions such as;

“Can I have a drink please?” ” I can’t reach the book” and “I need a WEEEEEE!” (trans. put me on the toilet I’m too small to get up there myself).

Now I know there are homeschooling mums out there who manage to write, publish and sell books, but I just can’t for the life of me see how they do it if they are surrounded by their children (especially a 3 year old). Any ideas?

Then I spent some time teaching Josh -who wants to be a paramedic- how to take blood pressures the old fashioned way without batteries, and we discovered my BP is 165/120  Whoops! It was still like that the next day hovering around 170/110 and  more. Of course if I hadn’t been teaching Josh I wouldn’t know this and would probably continue being an eejit.

Right then. Decision time. I wont be writing a book. I’ll do the worksheets for That Resource Site and their brilliant blog- but no book writing.

I’ll concentrate on home edding with whatever I can and forget buying other books for a long time. We’ll have to manage without. Anyway I would have to fall a long way before the children were getting a worse education than a school can offer.

I am going to try and go back to the promise I made myself ages ago (that disappeared) that there will be Mum Time at least once a week where I sit quietly with a book and no interruptions for 15minutes.

And I will learn-slowly probably- to be a bit more realistic about what I can do.

Home educating the children is important and it means I have to be with-it to do it. So. Time to get to grip with my limitations so I can juggle those balls again without dropping them.

St Barnaby say a quick one for me 🙂

‘Young people’ night at our house.

I am having quiet time. Shh! Can you hear that? No. Neither can I! The smalls are at the park with their dad and I am sitting by the fire with a book and a blog. OOH it’s lovely. I am glad to have this bit of time more or less to myself. The constant feeling of being exhausted can wear a girl down-so an hour or two of quiet can make all the difference.

Tonight we will be invaded by a number of young people. The plan had been, apparently, that they would have a Saturday night out somewhere. But after discussion it has been decided that they are all off to 5pm Mass (one of them is reading) and then back here to book a canal trip for the Scout group, followed by a wild night of eating scones (Iona has been baking) and drinking tea and chocolate Horlicks -one of the girls is bringing the Horlicks. They may get really wild and toast marshmallows over the fire as well.

As they will be here I have no doubt that reading stories to small people may have to happen as well.

Ah the youth of today.

I know I should be blogging about more serious things-and I will. But for now, back to The Restless Flame.