Tag Archives: mothers

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…

Are Stay at Home Mothers wasting their education or using it to the enth degree?

This article in the Daily Mail was brought to my attention. One of the mothers mentioned is home educating her children. There was a time when such a deeply stupid question would never have been asked, but we have sunk so far from the days when motherhood was regardless as a great calling, a great vocation, that mothers who do not hand their children over to institutions or strangers soon after birth must defend themselves.

There are a number of strange issues with the article, not least the fascinating way the photos have come across. The first two mothers look happy and settled, attached to their children, while the woman in the red dress looks like she doesn’t want to be with her son. She in fact is the one who astonishingly said she is bored “watching Cbeebies all day.” I bet her son is bored too! If someone who is supposed to be highly educated thinks being a parent means sitting in front of the TV all day, what is the definition of “educated” I have to ask?

It’s a sad fact that the culture today has so massively undermined the important role of motherhood, and almost eradicated the role of the father, that this question is asked as though it is a sensible question. It seems to me this is all part of the undermining of the Sacrament of Marriage that began in the early years of the 20th Century.

Mothers and fathers who stay home and don’t put their babies and toddlers into institutional care are trying to ensure their children have a healthy attachment which will mean they have the opportunity to acquire language and then learn it fully; to learn early social skills while being happy and safe and are then in a good position to better cope should they go to school and have better life outcomes in general and especially mental health. Those of us who are doing this with and for our children are not wasting our education, we are using and fulfilling it.

I did face the “But you’ll be wasting all that education and all those skills,” mantra when I began the process of giving up nursing to try and be home more, because my children needed it. I was even shunned. I remember being at the park with the children with my husband when someone who knew us both met us. On learning that I was now a stay home mother he simply ignored me for the rest of the conversation. No eye contact – nothing.

If I can teach my children not to treat other people based on their job prospects (as Jesus actually demanded) but to treat all people with respect, I will have done something good!

Our children are the future of the country we live in. Even from a purely political point of view, well brought up children who are able to hold down a job and show a sense of responsibility has to be worth something to the economy.  The fact that Mrs Thatcher didn’t want to support stay at home mothers is indicative of the astonishing shallowness of thought and economic understanding of politicians.

There has been plenty of written reports from as far back as Victorian times that show the importance for child development of a bonding between babies and their mother and having a mum and dad around for you. Mothers in particular were recognised as having a fundamentally important role in the forming of children so that they could grow healthy as possible and able to attain their potential in adulthood.

Back when I had to work for money, it was very difficult to be there for the children whenever they needed me. It was very difficult to be there when they were ill and I was constantly torn between my responsibilities to my children and the responsibilities at work. I really don’t envy any mother who goes through this – and I would seriously wonder at the conscience of a mother who isn’t pained by these situations.

We really need to fight for a return to the proper respect for mothers, especially those who also care for elderly or vulnerable relatives. Margaret Thatcher’s refusal to support such hard working, solid women, without whom this country would have collapsed a long time ago, is simply a sign of how uneducated she was (and most Oxford grad politicians are no better).

Home Education the not-so-gentle beat yourself up art of learning.

I hate September. I think I have hated September ever since I started to home educate and what’s worse it’s my own silly fault that I hate September.

There are plenty of articles out there that explain how not to home educate, and what might lead to burn out, misery and abject failure, but I have managed to avoid most of those pitfalls and dug a new one, all of my own.

It’s the beat-myself-up approach. It’s based on a very silly version of keeping up with the Joneses. I look at all the events available, all the places we could go and all the stuff I could be taking the children to, and see all those home educating families going out and doing them all, and realise that we have neither the budget nor my health to allow it to happen. And then I start thinking I am letting the children down and I’m doing it all wrong and they are stereotype home educated children, sitting at the table with workbooks. It’s the stuff of home ed nightmares.

Just as I start the battle of beat-myself-up we get under way and I had forgotten some of the problems we faced at the end of last term and hit them again as we restart. I am also faced with new challenges as Heleyna does not learn the way the other two did and they didn’t learn like each other. I’m having to learn to be as flexible as Elastigirl. And like Mrs Incredible I have children with completely different talents and stumbling blocks.

Ronan is my classical cum Charlotte Mason child, while Avila is more Mason to Montessori and Heleyna is very hands on in a Montessori way.

September lurched along as we rearranged the daily rhythm of the family to take the lessons on board. We rearranged the rooms to make space for books, flashcard games and who knows what else.

Beavers Cubs and Ballet are under way again and we spent Wednesday at the MAC park with loads of home educating families for the “Not Back To School” picnic. It was a great day and the children played, talked and gathered a humongous amount of conkers. One lad suggested he might make conker stew! Hopefully his mum will curb that experiment.

A friend’s fiance was really kind and took us home before going back for his own family.

Tonight three of my 6 are off to Scout camp for the weekend.

So in actual fact they are going places, meeting up with friends and doing stuff. It’s just that there are so many events to choose from and so many of the mums I know go to loads of them, that I started to think I was doing it all wrong. There is a sort of pride in HE circles among the mums who are never at home and I fell for it, thinking that because we are at home a lot, that I was failing the children.

I have talked with a  HE friend and got my head in better order. My children don’t need to be doing every single home ed event. They are doing enough and having a tight budget and being limited in mobility and health is not a real problem. They are happy and learning and that’s what matters.

It’s interesting though. I would never even think of looking at the neighbours cars or clothes or expensive stuff and wish I could have that. While I have had kitchen envy occasionally and do have powered wheelchair envy (that’s truly sad isn’t it lol) it’s the area of what I would spend time and money on over education that gets me in the silly place. It’s also very annoying that something so small can immediately tip me back to the pit of “I’ll never get it right.” I suppose I never will get it perfectly right, but I know (on a sane day) that I am giving the children the best I can with all the graces at my disposal.

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.

Mother’s Day

590937b.jpgIt’s Mother’s Day and I got chocolate from Iona- real, honest to Goodness 55% chocolate. Oh how I love Green & Black’s! I also got flowers and jelly babies from the boys.

I also get the day off!! So this morning the biggies not only did their usual chores but did mine as well. Iona and Alistair cooked dinner and Alex was in charge of desert. I have to say I was impressed.

We went to Mass and as usual for today there were little bouquet’s for all the mums. The Scouts had met up at the Church hall yesterday to put them together. It’s quite a lot of work.118571830_27cdd1f3d3.jpgIt was a pink vestments day-okay rose-but we all know that means pink don’t we. I always like the pink Sunday’s, it shows the Church has a profound understanding of human nature. We all need a day off from the grind, from carrying the cross, from the sacrificial part of life.

Lent can be a bit hard going. All that dark purple and concentrating on sin and giving something up for God and our own well-being. All that putting things right; looking towards the Passion before the Resurrection; it can be hard. We are weak. So as in advent, we get a Sunday that reminds us of joy and of motherhood-life and comfort and chicken soup.

Enjoy your day mums-and all my dear mums in the USA and Oz who celebrate motherhood later on-God bless.