You May Have To Die: My Transformation from Feminist to Feminine

From our Guest-Blogger Erin:

This story is for independent women out there: the ones who think travel and new adventures are the height of fulfillment, that wanderlust is a deep-seated craving that must be fulfilled. You may not picture yourselves in a traditional role, ever—it would be too constrained, too much of a sacrifice, too much boredom and compromise. You are too unique to be confined by such a small, conventional model.

The Unicorn in Captivity (from the “Unicorn Tapestries”), 1495–1505.

That was exactly my mindset…. and why shouldn’t it have been? The picture of a traditional feminine role is nowhere glorified. Try it yourself—do a Google image search for ‘drudgery’. Even without prompting from other keywords, the most commonly recurring image is a worn out woman, surrounded by housework.

Will the drudgery of wash day ever cease?;Yes woman when you use Pearline” by Boston Public Library is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

I am from a liberal, progressive-values family and a liberal, progressive-values city. My family was, however, somewhat traditional; parents never divorced, bills got paid, the kids played sports, we all ate dinner together. That was about it for family culture, though. We had no organized religion (that was for people who couldn’t think for themselves), no larger community involvement, no large family tree. We were, well, nuclear.

Both my parents worked full time. To me, this was perfectly normal—but I point it out to mention that I did not have a mother who stayed at home with children. My mother did everything well, or tried damn hard. She had a career, a beautiful home. She was, and is, a creative. Everything she makes—food, art, clothing, floral arrangements–puts Instagram to shame. She was the epitome of the Martha Stewart feminine, where women can and should do everything and do it well. She used to iron the sheets….…yet I also remember that she didn’t want to play. She was tired. Most of the time her craft space was filled with stuff that needed sorting, laundry, bags of junk. She was on hold, while she raised us, worked full time, and made everything appear lovely.

At 17, I left for college and hardly ever returned. I wanted nothing to do with the security of ‘home sweet home’. I exploded into freedom and adventure after adventure. I wanted to try everything and go everywhere, read everything, and never be held back. I worked outdoors for the US Forest Service in the summers, traveled in fall and winter, then enrolled in school just long enough to qualify as a student for rehire the next summer. I backpacked alone, road-tripped to Central America, jumped out of planes, ran a marathon, met a goal and then picked another and tried to reach it.

I was concerned with ideas too—traveling showed me a very different world than I had been raised in and I became interested in inequality, environmental problems, governmental corruption, and global politics. I was busy having fun, but I wasn’t a hedonist. I wanted the world to be better and I was willing to work at it.


MairiChisholm using binoculars at the First Aid Post at Pervyse, 1917. The Women of Pervyse used to spot crashed aircraft of the Royal Naval Air Service in no man’s land, and travel out to retrieve the dead and wounded crew. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mairi_Chisholm

However, I really struggled to curb my enthusiasm for all things and pick one. I was worried that I would have to leave things I loved behind and that I would lose out on new or better opportunities. Jordan Peterson has a brief clip on what that feels like—the process of moving from pure potential into a being that is disciplined. He equates it with moving from childhood to adulthood, where, after a period of ‘narrowing’, the sky opens again and your transformed being can accomplish much more than it could as an unformed entity. You become ‘somebody’ rather than potentially ‘anybody’.

When I was 21 I was married for the first time—rather impulsively. I fell in love, and believed that was the key to a successful relationship. I dropped out of school and moved to follow my husband’s career. I was isolated though, and quickly unhappy—we lived on the far edge of an island in the middle of the Pacific. He worked sometimes 16-hour days and had our car all day. I paced the apartment, then the bit of beach nearby and the tiny strip mall. I had no job, no friends, no purpose.

I found out I was pregnant and when I told my husband, he just said—no, we can’t. Years later I still don’t quite know how to understand that, but I relented and scheduled the procedure. (It may sound I am glossing over the fact that I had an abortion- it’s a point in my life I have tried very hard to forget, or maybe to not see, so I apologize if I sound distanced. It is not because I don’t care, it’s that I haven’t wanted to let myself for so long.

That marriage ended rather quickly in divorce. I was treated more as a roommate and not as a wife. There was no priority it seemed to make a life together, only to have fun. He did not want children yet, and so I returned to college. I realized that my intellectual needs were not met, and that it was already as good as it was going to get. There was not room for growth. I thought I could do better, and at 24 I certainly had time to look around. And it seemed to me that before I was married, before I tried to rely on someone, I had done more, had been more of a real person. I felt invisible after a few years of marriage


Necrophiliac Springtime’, Salvador Dalí, 1936

I initiated the divorce by having an affair with a close friend of his. Because I was a rather modern lady, and relativistic in my thinking, I thought that breaking social conventions wasn’t that big of a deal. I was very wrong. I can’t begin to tell you the amount of suffering I caused, not only to others but to myself. Peterson has been ripped in the press for discussing an idea called ‘enforced monogamy’ and he takes pains to clarify that he means ‘socially enforced monogamy’, not legally enforced monogamy. It is the idea that we reinforce the social codes through our reactions to others when they break them. I can tell you firsthand that this is a real thing, and if you break social conventions, at least one of the big ones (think Ten Commandments), you are going to pay.

It was the first time I saw that the code of social norms was a real thing, that I couldn’t simply make up the rules and ignore the ones I didn’t like. Once you’ve transgressed in a big way—you can’t just shrug it off. You inhabit a different mental space than other people, and your encounters with the social world are colored by that transgression as well—you are handled differently, even by those who love you. There were only two people who treated me the same despite my behavior, and knowing that someone thought I was redeemable absolutely carried me through that time. It was the first time I ever considered the notion of redemption, or that I might need to be forgiven to be able to clear my own head and heart and move forward.

Not only did I feel myself separate from the social fabric, I had somehow also proven to myself that the conventions I had followed weren’t useful– love doesn’t conquer all, marriage is a trap where your soul dies, and if you try to escape and manage it badly, you will suffer all the more. I couldn’t see a way to move back into anything like a traditional lifestyle–it didn’t make sense to try and make something work that just, didn’t work. I would try to live outside the norms instead.


Christina’s World, Andrew Wyeth, 1948

I reasoned that I would be better off if I stayed unattached romantically. I spent the next five years being ‘free’: traveling, moving, seeking, studying, saving nothing, planning never farther ahead than the next few months, and living in a sort of amoral wilderness of my own making. Marriage had proven unreliable, so maybe ALL the conventions of dating and loving another person were up for examination, Maybe they could be discarded.  I dated serially but never wanted to commit to anyone. It just didn’t seem safe. I might lose myself again.

I moved around a lot, to different apartments, different towns. I drove up and down the coast and studied at different libraries just to escape. I finished another degree. I studied literature, but what I recall most were heaping doses of critical theory, postmodernism, deconstructionist thinkers, etc. I mention the imposed philosophical leanings of my time at university because I believe they entrenched my sense of being lost even further. I was steeped in the idea that no version of a text, or a life, was better or more valid than another–and that truth claims were just patriarchal voices drowning out those they had colonized.


Duomo Lucca cathedrale Lucques labyrinthe
Photo: Myrabella / Wikimedia Commons

It was an elaborate study in nihilism and the unraveling of western culture’s belief in itself. For someone already existing on shaky ground, this was not a good footing. Literature had seemed a place to find an historical exploration of big ideas, of truth. But then, under postmodernism’s gaze, nothing was objectively true. I couldn’t claim that I found anything true or good at all: my job was to dismantle the text, to criticize the writers for their withered attempts and point out the obvious class divisions, the sexism, racism, etc. After I finished my master’s I walked away. I didn’t read another novel for six years.

I lived in different states and two different countries, traveled here and there, and just could not find a way to rest my head or be found. I loved cities, I loved the country, I loved people, I had a great time. But I was lost. I was using the serial shift in spaces and in relationships to cover the fact that I was not okay. Yet I don’t think that I ever gave the impression of being unhappy in a deep way. I appeared to others as a free-spirited wanderer, a lifestyle highly prized by modern cultural standards. I don’t think anyone looked at me, ever, with pity. Most of my oldest friends would comment that I had all the fun, while they worked, stayed in one place, lived more conventional lives.

My ‘last hurrah’’ was still rather interesting– I was living in New York City, in the middle of endless options for fun. I was working multiple part-time jobs, having crazy adventures, and I even had a plan. I  had taken the LSAT and applied to law school. My application essay was on my goal to be an immigration lawyer and offer clinics and services in the US and Southern Mexico, so that families who had loved ones trapped in the legal system in the US could make sense of what their options were and how to navigate the immigration process. I had many close friends from Mexico who struggled with immigration issues and was truly passionate about my plan.

I was offered an interview for a chance at a full ride scholarship and I got it. And when I received the offer letter, I was thrilled. But then something just felt wrong. I did a quick bit of mental math that had honestly never occurred to me before. I was 29. If I started law school in the fall I would be finished at age 32. I would need to prove myself at a firm or establish my own, find capital for my project, dedicate myself to it for at least 3-5 years just to get going. That put me at 35-38. I realized I would probably never have a family. Was that what I wanted? If I became a successful lawyer, would it matter to me that I never had a family? I sent a thank you email and declined the offer.

In this short clip, Peterson discusses the shifting priorities of women who DO find success as lawyers and professionals. Once they become mothers, they focus on parenting rather than climbing a ladder. Even highly competitive, career-minded women who choose to become mothers prioritize that role.

A few months later I packed up a rental car, quit everything and moved home to my parent’s basement. I didn’t know exactly what to do, but I just wanted to start from a sense of the known. I still was having trouble ending my wandering patterns and didn’t have a way of orienting myself. Often I felt like a worldly, educated failure.

I went online and wrote a dating post and kept it simple and honest. I am looking for a partner- not just fun, not serial dating. I want children, I want goats, I want acreage. That was about it. The first person I went on a date with was my husband of now going on 7 years. We have three children, 60 acres, goats, sheep, and projects from here to eternity.


The Crystal Ball, John William Waterhouse, 1902

I have to say, I wonder at the absolute miracle of finding the kind of partner I did from a single dating post. I was looking for a man who was not only responsible enough to have children, but successful enough to be able to support them and me, educated enough to keep me interested, serious about rural living AND capable at it, conscientious yet also open to new things, empathic but also masculine enough to attract me…. and who was ready to have kids RIGHT NOW. Not everyone on a dating site would fit that list. When I met my husband for the first time I liked him, but the impression I most remember is: ‘this is an adult’. I wasn’t even one by my own standards— but that was coming.

Here is a clip of Peterson describing what women at 29 who want families are up against:

Switching over to being a wife and a mother was very difficult for me, because of my own attitudes toward those roles. I was still highly suspicious of conventional life– for years. I refused to get married until our second child was on the way. I was adamant that I would keep my independence, so when I had our first and second child I didn’t quit my job, in fact I ‘leaned in’. I wanted to feel competent and to keep up with my husband’s schedule. I saw the measurement scale of worthiness as one of productivity. I never valued the work I was doing in our home.

The real failure of the model of ‘strong women can be anything a man can be’ is that it reduces the true value of what women as caregivers bring to the table, to zero. Women then internalize that model. People often try to ask if you do something besides parent, or are you ‘just a mom’? I’m not offended by this–I just think it’s time to move on from this standard of measure.

It’s ridiculous to assume that since there is no monetary value there is no actual value to home and child-focused labor. Is there any greater spiritual task than supporting lives with your own? Seriously– no yoga teacher, no trip to Bali or India, will get you to the level of self-awareness that having children can. There is no way not to see yourself clearly- all your faults and limitations- when your child reflects it back to you, or pushes you to your limits, day after day.

My notions of independence crumbled when I left my job to stay home with our kids—once there were three of them. I had been clinging to my identity as a ‘modern female’ through work outside the home. I did not really relate to moms who loved being home all day with their children. It didn’t ‘fit’ me. I liked my kids, I loved them. But I did not love monotonous days of food prep, clean up, poop, bathing, laundry, etc. It felt, often, like I was suffocating, like I was dying a bit today, and a bit the next, and that every day was going to be like that.


Found Drowned, George Frederic Watts, 1867

I felt powerless and started to act strangely—lashing out and starting fights with my husband for seemingly minor issues. He would bring home groceries on his way home from work to help me out and I would loudly criticize the brand of lunch meat he’d purchased (So sorry honey). To him it was just ham, to me I had lost control over every part of my life. All of a sudden the food I put into my body became a war for the last thing I had any control over.

It sounds Cray-zy. I know. I did seek counseling soon after. Then we went to counseling together, and then we worked out a basic schedule that went like this: Tuesday night was date night, Wednesday was mom’s night out, Thursday was dad’s night out. We both started to get some freedom back, and our kids still had a set schedule they could rely on.

I know now that the dying a little every day was true. It was the formation of someone else coming into being. I was narrowed, limited, feeling that old self losing out to someone who was more patient, less willing to run from difficulty. I could stand to do something day after day for a longer term payoff, for another person’s well being. My former self just couldn’t exist side by side with the person I needed to become. I hear other moms talk about ‘getting their groove back’ and I’m happy for them. But that’s not how I feel. That lady died. And now I’m here. I don’t miss her life, and she never would have been able to handle mine.

I discovered Peterson’s lectures in 2015, after hearing his first Joe Rogan podcast. When I listened to them, I felt like I had already lived through so many of the psychological realms he explores. Archetypal stories often sound archaic to the modern sensibility–do they even function?? But anyone who has lived through a day with toddlers knows that ‘beating back the chaos’ is very real. Anyone who has watched themselves lose their temper with a tiny person who can’t possibly defend themselves can understand the need to integrate the shadow, and learn to manage their own inner monster.

There was a lot I already sensed, the magnitude of the shift for example, yet he could articulate it in a way I hadn’t been able to. I found the lectures on suffering, the lectures on mythology. The Maps of Meaning series totally changed how I see the function of religion. It helped me move from a period of intense re-formation to a point where I could begin to see a bigger arc in my own life, and to talk about it.

A few years ago we sold our farm and moved across the country to live nearer to my husband’s family. We found a small church we love. We reorganized our priorities. The sense of life as drudgery has lifted as the kids have become a bit older and I can see the enormous potential of what we can make of our lives, and the self respect that comes from shouldering a heavy load.

We bought another farm and are now shepherds, homeschoolers, and run a small plant nursery. We have taken on the animals and the nursery because that fits in with our goals of supporting our community through sustainable farming, and for me of being a (mostly) full-time mom to our children. The nursery is open two months of the year and that two months is electric for me. I get enough adult interaction to counteract that lingering sense of being ‘just a mom’.

I am a creative type and a homemaker like my mother, but it takes last priority after family, farm, and exploring faith. I still struggle with limiting myself to a few tasks, and I often have to re-calibrate and push some things off the table. Long trips, long books, backpacking and brunch still don’t get on the schedule very often. I try not to get so overbooked that I can’t do the first things well.

At the same time we were leaving our other farm, my family went through a particularly difficult time. We lost my nephew just before he was born, and my sister in law was very ill. The gift my nephew gave me was a realization that I was able to carry others through hardship. I found that I was a lot stronger because of the work I had done- the caring for others, the limiting of my own impulsivity and personal desires for a longer term plan.  It was incredibly helpful to have heard Peterson’s lectures on the nature of suffering. There is a point, maybe the most important one from that time, where he says something like this: that who you might want to aim to be is the most together person at a funeral. Here is a bit of that lecture:

That time completely changed the landscape and the way I view myself in regards to others. I saw that I could simply do more now, that I had come through fire, that I was tougher. I am no longer outside the social fabric- I create it and uphold it when others need it. Becoming a mom did that–not having a classroom, or a job outside the home. I already had confidence from my earlier life experiences. I had sought my own capabilities but I never found their limits elsewhere. I have never felt more fully capable, or less limited, which is testament to that strange paradox of the narrowing of your potential selves into an actual future self.


The Veiled Virgin, Giovanni Strazza, circa 1850


Peterson has said that we are at a point where the feminine archetype needs to be re-articulated, where the woman who is not ‘simply a caregiver’, so to speak, must be accounted for. I also think he is sensing it should come from women speaking about it themselves, and has hesitated to attempt it himself. I appreciate having that space to move into. Many women end their thoughts on the feminine at the idea that it has been historically oppressed and requires reclaiming, but then they reclaim it in reactionary ways– hating masculinity, disrespecting women who embrace traditional roles, or justifying their own hedonism in the name of a grand cause; aka chocolate, wine, and shopping as an identity.

There is something else, something deeper than consumerism and a ‘you deserve to have it all’ lifestyle. I’ve offered here a look at what that original transformative process of the feminine might still hold for modern, independent women. It is still valuable to let yourself be narrowed and re-formed, even if you end up at your wit’s end arguing over lunch meat. It is still a valid pathway for women to find challenge, meaning and purpose, and a career is not necessarily an equal substitute. (And how on earth could it be?)

A second look at motherhood, as invaluable for the mother, is necessary before we can modify that archetype. Modern feminism is not helping, proposing models that undermine the traditionally feminine and women who make life choices on that spectrum. It does very little to ‘revivify’ the culture, as Peterson often says, and more often tears at the social fabric in ways I find unsettling.

Thank you so much for reading. I want to thank Ally for inviting me to share some of myself here. After some correspondence we found that, although we agreed on many things, we were coming from two very different backgrounds— I was not planning a traditional family or marriage and ended up with both. I could not have arrived at where I am without the love, trials, and inner searching that was becoming a mother and a wife, even with–and perhaps especially because of– the drudgery of staying at home when I pictured myself as ‘so much more’.

Please follow us on Facebook for more post notifications. https://m.facebook.com/philosophyofmotherhood/

A Beginners Guide to Dr. Jordan Peterson: Clip Collection – Political and Controversial

Dr. Jordan Peterson’s political views are often misunderstood. He is often taken out-of-context and misquoted. He is, in fact, quite moderate, independent-thinking, and fact-based.  He can get rather animated and passionate during his lectures/interviews; however, if you listen to the content you will see his positions are well researched and thought-out.  I have listened to hundreds of hours of Jordan Peterson, there are no secret videos with extremist content, it is all freely available on the internet.  I have never heard him say anything discriminatory in any way.  Generally his message is reserved for each imperfect individual, himself included, in their quest for improvement. I have collected clips of some of the more controversial subjects he discusses and you can judge for yourself.  Please share this with anyone who may have a faulty view of Dr. Jordan Peterson, or anyone who wants to learn more about his actual beliefs.  I will post the short clip of each subject as well as some longer-form discussions on the same topic in hyperlink.

1. Gender Pronoun controversy: JP rose to fame due to his refusal to use government-mandated speech – in the form of gender pronouns.  Some accused him of being trans-phobic, however he maintains his resistance was due to the forcible manipulation of language by those with ideological agendas.  (3:49)

Longer form: JP before Canadian Parliament I know it sounds boring, it is actually very entertaining. Relevant @ minute 16

 

2. Inequality and Hierarchies: Some say JP is part of the oppressive patriarchy. Jordan Peterson explains the existence of hierarchies and their relations to inequality.  (5:40)

Long Form: Oxford Union Address discusses many things but his speech focuses on hierarchy.

 

3. Masculinity: Why do many young men follow Jordan Peterson? His emotional response shows the reality of his character.  (7:02)

Long Form: Great interview with Warren Farrell about Fatherhood and Masculinity 

 

4. Men and women: Jordan Peterson discusses the differences in personality between men and women and what divides us.  (4:29)

Long Form: The entire interview is absolutely fascinating

 

5. Gender Pay Gap and Gender Equality: There is some overlap with the above but he explains his position on gender pay differences and how men and women view career. (13:34)

Long form:  Spanish interviewer on variety of subject but @ around minute 52:40 it focuses on gender issues.  One of my favorite interviews with JP.

 

6. Enforced monogamy: Jordan Peterson got into some hot-water over a misinterpretation of the term “enforced monogamy”.  He explains his stance here.  (3:08)

 

7. White privilege, safe spaces and transgenderism. (6:12)

 

8. Postmodernism and the new culture of entitlement.  (13:19)

Long form: Full Harvard talk – excellent on social issues and our role in changing society.

 

If there are any other topics you would like me to include please contact me. I plan to do our next clip collection on topics relating to mental health.  Please share this with your friends/family and check out our other blog posts for more in-depth discussion of Jordan Peterson relating to femininity and motherhood.  Follow on Facebook or this website for updates.

Allyson

Jordan Peterson and Motherhood #6: Envy, The Great Tormentor

Pastries of Envy

I would like to start with a little unsolicited advice to all the new or future moms out there. Never buy assorted donuts.  It never ends well. You think you know each kids’ favorite, but trust me, you will get it wrong and it will all end in tears.  Our family has had a hard couple weeks due to the death of a family pet. Please allow that to explain the behavior of my daughter in the following story.  I believe this incident perfectly illustrates the road from envy to bitterness.

Because of our rough week, I thought the kids could use a little pick-me-up.  After school, I presented them with a box of 12 assorted donuts. For one brief shining moment I was a hero in their eyes. Then, I told them they each got one after they finished their chores.  My oldest son finished first and grabbed his standard maple. My eight-year-old daughter finished her chore next and went to claim hers, when disaster struck – apparently she had also wanted the maple one! (I always took her for a sprinkles-girl).  She found her older brother and completely unloaded on him. “You know I wanted that! I told you I wanted it!” she cried. To which he responded he had not heard her say that. After her brother collected eyewitness testimony proving she had not said anything, she actually admitted she had not verbally claimed it, but… “You saw me looking at it – you knew I wanted it!!!”  He responded that he thought she liked sprinkles. “You do stuff like this to me all the time. You know what I want and you take it from me!” She become so upset she ran into his bedroom and tore his basketball poster off his wall. (Again I promise this is not typical behavior for my normally kind-hearted daughter; she had a lot of built-up frustration). She then stormed into her room slamming the door while yelling,  “You all just hate me!”. She was completely irrational. I let her calm down for awhile and then went in to speak to her about the incident and deconstruct it a bit. As we walked through her thoughts and reactions, I realized it was the all too common pattern that starts with covetousness and ends in irrational bitterness.

Envy as a Mirror

Envy is unique in its ability to hide and decay our lives internally. We may not even realize we are consumed by it. It keeps women apart with distrust and its competitive nature. It encourages us to hide our failures and strengths from other women for fear we will not measure up. Let’s be honest, we all have women we envy.  The mom of five who looks like Gisele, or the woman who runs a NGO while producing concert-pianist children. We can benefit from evaluating our envy, as it can rapidly descend into other vices of resentment, anger, and self-justified malevolence. Women who are consumed by resentment have difficulty seeing the world as it really is, as well as putting their best-self forward for the good of their children.

1200px-william_bouguereau_-_el_primer_duelo

From the very foundation of mankind, Envy began its destructive work. Dr. Jordan Peterson speaks of the rapid descent from jealousy to Hell which Cain pioneered for us all – ending in the killing of his brother, Abel, who was the “ideal”.  JP says, “If you destroy your own ideal – which you do with jealousy and resentment and the desire to pull down the people who you would like to be, let’s say, then you end up in a situation which is indistinguishable from hell.”  So let’s break down this descent, the same one that sent my daughter storming into her bedroom with the belief that “everyone hates me”. Let’s see if we can stop it in ourselves before it becomes a monster.

An Abundance of Scarcity

A lot of women’s resentment may stem from a deeply-held belief that there is inherent scarcity in the world.  Jealousy is different from envy in that envy covets what others have, while jealousy is the fear that what you have, or may have, will be taken away. We view the world as a place where we must fight to get what limited resources there are before they are gone.  But is this really accurate? As the population grows, resources should become more scarce. However, the fact is that people are being pulled out of poverty at a faster rate than ever before in history.  Knowledge and innovation grow as more people have access to them. Mothers with multiple children know their capacity to love grows with each additional baby – and siblings’ lives benefit from the addition as well. My daughter knew there was only one maple donut – but there is not a limited amount of wealth, happiness, or love to be spread among the masses.

Rachel, the rightful first-wife and true-love of her husband, was long-barren while Leah produced six sons.  Genesis 30:1, “When Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, she envied her sister. She said to Jacob, “Give me children, or I shall die!”  I can only imagine the anguish she experienced at the arrival of each of her sister’s sons- guilt for not being happy for Leah as well as a vivid reminder of her own want.

leahandrachel

We all have had the experience of the guilt of being envious when something good happens to someone else.  Is this partially because we believe we are now less likely to receive such a blessing?  JP recently answered a question from a reader who honestly admitted to being consumed by intense envy, but who wanted to “turn this around”. JP advised:, “Figure out how you would like to feel about the world, Let’s assume that you would rather be pleased about other people’s success’ and not envious. Think about why you might be happy about other people’s happiness.  It’s not like Happiness is a zero-sum game. Lots of people can be happy at the same time. Do you really want to live a world where other people are less happy? In what possible manner would that be useful and good for you? It might make you feel grudgingly satisfied in a dark way, temporarily, but it is not a good long-term strategy.” 2 minute clip 

The 7th Deadly Sin of Covetousness

Os Guinness said, Traditionally envy was regarded as the second worst and second most prevalent of the seven deadly sins. Like pride, it is a sin of the spirit, not of the flesh. Its uniqueness lies in the fact that it is the one vice that its perpetrators never enjoy and rarely confess.”

The last of the 10 Commandments, “Do not covet”, is a commandment about our “internal life”  and how we frame our own consciousness. It seems comparably simple to control our “sins of the flesh” by avoiding temptation, but to keep ourselves from covetous thoughts seems almost impossible.  However, as JP says, it is important to look at our envyings and see where they originate. If we honestly recognize the things we covet and those conditions which light the fire of jealousy in us – we find what we most desire.  

I have often proudly thought of myself as not “being the envious-type”.  When women are prettier or richer or more popular than me it doesn’t really bother me.  For years I have fooled myself into thinking I am not burdened by covetousness. However, I now know I congratulated myself too soon.  The truth is, I am not bothered by some of the common causes of envy afflicting women – but that is no virtue – those are not the things I value most; they are not my “ideal”. Years ago, I remember having to shut down Facebook anytime someone would post photos of their international adventures. I resented the fact that I, who love traveling, was stuck in a freezing Notre Dame basement apartment watching babies while my husband got the graduate degree I always wanted. I hid my envy from myself but I see now it expressed itself in my inability to glory in others experiences or achievements. As I started to realize the meaning of motherhood, I found my ability to be happy for others increase.  

Author Tim Challies says, “One of the most horrifying aspects of envy is that we are most likely to feel envious of those who are similarly called, equipped and gifted. Those people with whom we share the most, from whom we stand to learn most, are those we most resent. Guinness reminds his readers ‘we are always most vulnerable to envying those closest to our own gifts and callings.’”

For me, the key is to label envy when I feel it, and stop it before it reaches the next stage of progression.  If envy begins to consume me then I know I need to look at trying to make progress in the areas in which I am exhibiting envy.  Jordan Peterson has helped me see that where my interests direct me, I can make a great contribution to the world. I need not shut those avenues down because of the demands of motherhood. Sometimes I need to take a trip with my husband, or read a challenging book.  I try to temper my need for self-fulfillment with patience and a recognition of the preeminence of my current responsibilities as a mom. When I am out of the “little-kid” phase I will have even more time for travel and reading.

The Actualities of Envy

As we acknowledge the things we envy, we can also recognize that those we envy are likely not in reality living the lives of perfection we imagine.  I had a bite of the maple donut and it was nothing to write home about. Everyone’s life has tragedy. The perfectly-put-together mother might in fact have depression; the world-traveler may contract cancer in four years. As JP often reminds us, “Life is often suffering” and if we get respite from that we should enjoy it because “the flood is coming.”  Perhaps, if we saw the full reality of people’s lives we would not begrudge them those bouts of happiness and success when they come.

Envy is rooted in the other “internal sin”, pride.  A focus on self will always lead to comparison – the fuel for pride and envy.  C.S. Lewis said, “Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. We say people are proud of being rich, or clever, or good-looking, but they are not. They are proud of being richer, or cleverer, or better-looking than others.” Pride is feeling superior for having more than others and envy is disdain for those who have more than you.   Envy is competitive.  Women can find competition threatening, we would rather cooperate.  Women need unity; we need to feel we are working together for a common goal.

Assuming the Worst in our Fellow-woman 

As we progress from covetousness to envy, we reach the point where we can really start misconstruing reality – we start resenting others.  My daughter went so far as to imagine her brother knew her internal thoughts. “He saw me looking at it, he KNEW I wanted it!”. Now I don’t believe the average woman lets her envy run to the point of intense resentment toward an innocent mom trying her best.  However, envy can have an ugly descent. It can bring bitterness and anger into our lives as we start reshaping reality after its own design. This is where current “Social Justice” causes can turn ugly, as they single out entire races or genders as “oppressors”. Consumed by resentment, we assume the worst intentions in others and believe all their gains were ill-gotten.  

One of our biggest mistakes is assuming people are thinking about us at all.  As the saying goes, “You probably wouldn’t worry about what people think of you if you could know how seldom they do. ”  My son was not thinking of how he could upset my daughter; he was thinking “Yum, donut.”  It is rarely the case that someone is intent on your destruction. They are too busy trying to navigate away from their own.

My husband is South African, so my children are biracial.  People ask me if we have had any incidents of racism. The fact is in our 12 years of marriage, living in 6 states, we have not had any such experiences.  Now, I am not saying people haven’t had racist thoughts towards us or even that we haven’t been treated differently than other couples, however, we have not noticed or remembered it.  You will generally find that which you are looking for, and we have no desire to look for racism. If we took the time to analyze every new acquaintance for signs of bias, or compare my children’s treatment to that of other children, perhaps we could dig up some evidence. But why would we go to that trouble?  Why not live our lives unburdened from such inquiry?

Victimhood – Perhaps Justified but Not Advisable

The truth is we are all victims, as a powerful clip from JP below shows*.  We all have reasons to blame Being (Life) itself. However, instead of doing this, JP advises,  “Look to yourself first, before you criticize Being”. If I teach my kids that they will be treated unfairly because of their race, they will have every excuse to see the bad in others.  Why would I want to burden my children with such perceptions? I am not denying that there is great injustice in the world. Some racism is so blatant it is difficult to ignore. Some people’s lives are full of so much malevolence, how can they possibly rise above it?  Those are deep questions and not something to go into now. However, there is great power in trying to elevate yourself above the level of victimhood. I love the movie ‘Life is Beautiful’. The movie depicts a Jewish man during WWII taken to a concentration camp with his son. Wanting to shield his child from the horrific injustice and malevolence of their situation, he pretends it is all just an orderly game.  Even as he is marched to his death, for the sake of his son, he pretends it is just part of the funny contest. Now, of course, this is an extreme and fictional example, but as mothers, we could ask ourselves in those moments of seemingly understandable resentment and envy – if I let this go, will my children and I be better off?

Justified Revenge

If we decide to allow our envy and resentment to run our lives, we can descend into a “justified” revenge against the perpetrators of our injustice. My daughter felt justified in destroying her brother’s poster.  That same “righteous indignation” amplified exponentially resulted in the killing of millions of successful farmers in the Ukraine – perceived to be selfishly profiting off the labor of the poor. We also should remember JP’s Rule Six, “Set your House in Order Before you Criticize the World”.  Where do we fall in terms of being a perpetrator of our own misery? Is our resentment really directed towards the proper perpetrator or are we shifting the blame away from ourselves? In our own lives as wives and mothers, resentment may exhibit itself as the endlessly snippy communication we exhibit with our spouse, or our unwillingness to invite our mother-nemesis to book club.  If we keep going on this path, we will be plagued with guilt. Deep-down we know we haven’t done all we can to make our situation better. We know we may be misrepresenting the part others have played in our misery. And even if we are fairly judging others, we know that holding onto resentment is self-destructive.

Overcoming Envy

visitation_-_the_meeting_of_mary_and_elizabeth_-_carl_heinrich_bloch

As I sat down with my daughter, we walked through the experience.  She said she felt bad for how she misrepresented her brother and for tearing his poster.  She admitted that she acted irrationally and she asked her brother’s forgiveness and he freely forgave her.  As she hugged him, I saw her bitterness melt away and she went about her day a new girl. I think her episode was simply a result of pent-up emotion and tiredness, but I believe the solution to her envy is the same as it has to be for us.  

We need to look honestly at our envy and our resentments.*  We need to admit that some of our perceptions may be faulty – perhaps the object of our envy does not have the life we think, perhaps the world is not out to get us, and perhaps we are not justified in our bitterness.  But just as we would deal with a bad habit, we should not attempt to stop it with our own will-power, but to replace it with something more powerful. If we fill our lives with meaning and an attempt to elevate ourselves and our family, we need not ruminate on the lives of others.  Also, if we find ourselves jealous of another’s accomplishments, perhaps we could make a concerted effort to gain compassion for that person. Pray for them, get to know their struggles, begin to see them as a fellow Child of God with unique talents as well as weaknesses. Instead of an idol for worship or disdain – allow them to become a real person, and one deserving of love.

Starting this blog has been a wonderful experience for me as many extremely accomplished and intelligent women have contacted me with impressions and suggestions. I am not threatened by these women because I believe we share a common goal of spreading the message of “meaningful motherhood”. As we take the competition out of femininity, we open up the door to friendship and cooperation. We can now glory in the successes of others because we realize their success is a net-benefit for the world.

But above all, the cure for envy is dropping the comparisons and instead looking to the true Ideal: Christ (post 2). As we attempt to live our lives oriented towards attaining that ideal, we will be filled with love for others. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud” 1 Corinthians 13:4.  Let us recognize that we are all daughters of a Heavenly Father, and as such are deeply loved. He has an individualized plan for each of us and will aide us in accomplishing our missions. As long as we keep our eyes fixed on Him, we will feel no need to look at others for a reference. Freed from envy, we can glory in the victories and successes of others.

* This clip (5 minutes) describes how to prevent the ruinous envy of Cain

 

*Thank you so much for reading and please share, comment, or complain:)  I am starting to hyperlink relevant videos into the text to try and keep the posts more concise. If you see a highlighted word you can click it for the reference or applicable video.  I am currently working on a short clip collection of JP’s political ideas that can be shared with people hearing mixed messages about his beliefs.  Should be up next Thursday.  Thanks again.

 

Artwork:

The First Mourning, Bouguereau, 1888

Leah and Rachel,  Jean Francios Portaels, 1862

The Meeting of Mary and Elizabeth, Carl Heinrich Bloch

Jordan Peterson and Motherhood #5: Defeating the Devouring Mother

When Parenthood Sucks

hugues-merle-the-poor-motherThis week a Hollywood director, Duncan Jones, tweeted out a rather depressing, and all too prevalent, view of parenting. “I have two kids, 2.5 and 9 months; the are exhausting, frustrating, and life-destabilizing.  They are rarely fun. Sure, smiles are great, hugs are lovely, but its HARD and not obviously a good choice in life. This is where people feel compelled to say, ‘I wouldn’t change it for the world!’ But you know, of course I would reconsider!  Its exhausting! It banal!…What it is, is that it is. And they are mine. Hopefully they will turn out okay.” (That seems doubtful).

Now as frightening as this tweet is, especially considering it was applauded as courageous by many, it is an honest representation of the now-mainstream view of parenthood.  I really enjoyed Ben Shaprio’s breakdown posted below.*

Due to the material ease of life in modern times, we have the luxury of selfishness. Producing an heir used to be important enough to tear down religions and nations.  As life becomes easier, our priorities shift, our own importance grows, often at the expense of children. Our choices are now focused on our own perceived happiness rather than creating a posterity.  Today children are a choice, and one that often disappoints. But why? Isn’t motherhood supposed to be ultimately fulfilling? Why are so many mothers fed up and so many children unprepared for adulthood?

The Burden of Ease

This weekend I discovered the root cause of our current plague of joyless parents and unprepared children: modern dentistry. I had a horrific toothache.  The pain was excruciating, especially when my pain meds wore off. Luckily, I have an Endodontist friend who did a root-canal Monday morning. I am now recovered, only slightly traumatized from the experience.  Now, I want you to picture yourself as a new mother in the Middle Ages. After a painful birth, you are handed your precious newborn. You gaze upon her sweet innocence and it dawns on you that multiple times in this child’s life she will have an agonizing toothache and – with no pain relief – have her teeth torn out of her jaw. Now, do you think you would worry about your kids school-master being too strict?  Do you think you would escort your 10-year-old son to fetch water? You have much bigger worries than that. Hopefully you are more concerned with strengthening your kids against the agonies of life. Our female progenitors knew full well there was no protecting their children.

Because of our lives of relative comfort, we mothers naively think maybe we can protect our kids. So instead of, as JP says, “facing the challenge of life forthrightly”, we worry about them hurting themselves cutting the lawn, or we allow them to waste hours in front of video games – subverting their preparation.  As JP says, “You can’t protect your children, you can only make them strong, and then they can protect themselves.”

Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to go back to the Dark Ages.  No one appreciates Novocaine more than I do. I don’t think it was good to send 15-year-olds off to war and I doubt most Dark Age mothers were model parents.  But I do think the pendulum has swung too far the other way. Rather than raising hardened toothache-ready children, we are raising children unequipped for the intrinsic difficulties of life.  Evidence suggests that incoming college students today experience greater levels of stress and psychopathology than at any time in the nation’s history. They might not have to fight in the Crusades but they do need to succeed in life, develop relationships, and confront threatening ideas and people.  Our children encounter trials our ancestors never faced – such as attempting to maintain integrity and virtue in the face of Twitter and internet porn.  

In our modern times, kids have become sovereign. Since the introduction of birth control, we are having fewer children and later in life – and that increases their value and our ability to hover.  In the past, there was no rearranging your life for kids; they had to contribute and fall in line. This does not fit in with our modern view of the “compassionate mother”. A good mother protects and selflessly serves her children, right? As my previous post (#1) stated, I do believe a mother should sacrifice for her children. I believe how and why we sacrifice can mean the difference between enjoying motherhood and regretting it.

When motherhood feels like a burden it may be our own doing. The other day I was at my son’s soccer game.  One of the boys was put in as goalie and his mother spent the next 30 minutes on the edge of her seat screaming instructions at her son – “Get the ball out of there!  Stand in the middle of the goal!” It was truly exhausting to watch. She was completely frantic. After that kind of effort, I have no doubt she went home and took a nap. Why?  What good was done?

Mothers as Artists or Gardeners?

When we are handed our precious newborn, we see in them limitless potential.  We may think of them as a blank canvas – the life and experiences we create for them working together to produce a masterpiece.  However, this perspective can put undue pressure on parents to be artists; one wrong stroke and the masterpiece is ruined.  This also assumes that children come into the world as a blank canvas – but their nature comes with them.  We parents can have a remarkable influence on our children but their personality and interests are their own.   

A more appropriate metaphor and mindset might be to view our child as a seed – of unknown variety.  We are the gardeners, responsible for nourishing our young sapling. We take extra care as it puts down roots.  As the plant grows, we consistently watch for weeds and add nourishment. However, as it matures, if we continue to shield our tree from the wind and rain, it will actually prevent the development of strong roots. Strong roots are made in adversity. Our seed may grow into a orange tree or a palm tree but the strength of the tree is dependent on our nurturing as well as its own experience persevering in the storms of life.

quotefancy-1539163-3840x2160

The Ying/Yang of the Devouring Mother

Jordan Peterson calls pathological version of motherhood the “Devouring Mother”.  This mother devours her children’s potential along with her own fulfillment. JP focuses a lot on the danger of the overprotective mother, protecting her children out of their own competence.  However, I would like to add another, and seemingly opposite, proclivity of the Devouring Mother that JP rarely mentions: neglect. Neglect is equally destructive to children and does, in fact, result in the same ill-prepared and unhealthy young adults.  The Neglectful Mother abdicates her responsibility of clearing the weeds from impeding the growth of her young seedling. Her children are left mentally unprepared for the challenges of life. Overprotective and neglectful devouring mothers live in each of us.  They are the ying/yang of motherhood.

What’s interesting is that as bad as over-protection and neglect seem, they are necessary as well.  There is a place for protection and there is a place for neglect in proper parenting. A 6 month old desperately needs to feel safe in the arms of her mother.  A 10-year-old boy needs to be “neglected” so in his boredom he can think deep thoughts or construct forts in the woods. However, used improperly, protection and neglect can make motherhood unbearable. One may, in fact, lead to the other. Push too hard one way and there will be recoil.  Overbearing Mom quickly burns out from a hard day of unproductive micromanaging and control. Guess who’s there to give her a break? Neglectful Mom. All this imbalance and misplaced priorities lead to the sentiment of the Hollywood director, “Of course I would reconsider having kids.”

Devouring the Roots – Over-protection

Our culture needs to rethink our concept of a “good mother”. Often we see the ideal mother as a kind-hearted woman endlessly concerned for and serving her children.  However, this mother often ends up producing shiftless little monsters with no respect for her. This is the bad side of women’s “agreeable” nature. This is compassion turned to vice.

Jordan Peterson often speaks of this Oedipal Mother complex. Freud described the danger a smothering mother can do to her children (clip 6 minutes).

In an interview with Former Australian PM, John Anderson, he said, “Look, you have to understand that you are a danger to your children no matter what.  You can let them go out in the world and be hurt, or you can overprotect them and hurt them that way. Here’s your choice, you can make your children competent and courageous or you can make them safe. But you can’t make them safe because life isn’t safe.  So if you sacrifice their courage and competence on the altar of safety then you disarm them completely and all they can do is pray to be protected.”

The problem is that we mothers HATE to see our children suffer. It is our biological urge to protect them. Sometimes women take their role as protector of infants too far and make motherhood much harder than it needs to be. When mothers extend the timeline of compassion beyond its necessary borders it impedes competence-building time.  We don’t want to make infants out of our children.

Modern moms unnecessarily complicate life. Babies can be an incredible burden if we make them that. We can let them sleep in our bed and disrupt our romantic life. We can buy every contraption possible for their clueless benefit, draining our resources. We can give-in to our toddler’s every irrational demand to avoid a tantrum, creating an unlikable child. These “compassions” result in a child who drains our good-will. When my husband and I lived in Hawaii as poor college students, we had a tiny apartment on the North Shore. When we had our first child his possessions included: one laundry-basket crib, 5 pair of PJs, and a pacifier. He was the chunkiest, happiest baby I have ever seen – and easily fit into our meager budget and lifestyle. In my experience, babies need very little other than loving and unselfish parents. If we give them much more than that, we are creating our own burden.

There is also another kind of overbearing mother though – and if we are honest we are all guilty of it – controlling. A lot of controlling behavior is passed off as a virtue.  “Let me make that sandwich for you sweety”, says the mother looking to maintain her spotless kitchen. Your child’s development is more important than your clean house. Jordan Peterson says you should never do anything for your child that they can do for themselves, even if it means waiting 10 minutes for your toddler to get her pants on. You sacrifice time and expectations but the reward is that the child actually matures. My 6-year-old still puts his shoes on the wrong feet literally 75% of the time. Did I think at this point he would have mastered it? Yes. But doing things for our kids actually keeps them from learning. Jordan Peterson said in a recent video, “For knowledge to be your own you have to integrate it with your own experience. You have to see how that applies to your own case and then have a story to tell about it. “ We must find the answers within ourselves for them to belong to us.  If we shield our children from potentially difficult lessons, we are keeping them from integrating this knowledge into their own character.

Children love making their own way and resent mothers who hover. My 4-year-old daughter gives me a death stare if I attempt to buckle her seat belt.  My physically-capable son wants to climb the tree unhindered by my warnings. Kids know they are better off doing it themselves.

The Encouraging Mother – Producing Resilience

edmund_blair_leighton_-_a_little_prince_likely_in_time_to_bless_a_royal_throne

In our day of “Snowflake” young adults, retreating to their safe spaces and coloring books at even the hint of tribulation, we need to get serious about building resilience in our children.  “A resilient person is capable of standing up to things in the face of fear and moving forward voluntarily, convinced of their own competence and ability to prevail,” JP. The idea of “building” anything in our children sounds like a lot of work.  However, the unexpected surprise of motherhood is that less is often more, particularly in teaching our kids resilience.

Jordan Peterson’s Rule 11 is, “Don’t bother children when they are skateboarding”. For me that translates to: don’t interfere with the fight breaking out in the front-yard football game over pass interference.  JP says parents must have a certain dimension of “detached harshness”, allowing for the development of independence and unchecked mistake-making. Creativity and learning only happen when kids make mistakes and resolve them independently. Having mom around greatly reduces the chances of that.  Sometimes it is difficult to know when our presence is needed. The question I try and ask myself is, “Is my involvement helping or impeding my child from learning a lesson.” I am surprised by how often the honest answer is that the child is better left alone. This is a step in the right direction towards more joyful mothering; managing the trifles of a child’s life makes mothers want to just disengage entirely.

Although our modern children have vastly different worries than those our ancestors, and are missing fewer teeth, there are still a multitude of fears and hurdles in front of them. Fortunately, when we overcome one trial, we gain the courage to face others.  As JP says, When you face a fear forthrightly “you don’t become less frightened, you get more courageous, which is way better than being less frightened because there are lots of things to be frightened of, so if you are more courageous that does the trick.” The tribulations faced by the children of the Dark Ages likely strengthened them for the responsibilities of adulthood.  Today, we should allow our children to face and even seek-out challenges, teaching them to return to us for encouragement.

Devoured by Weeds – Neglect

I do have sympathy for parents like this Hollywood director; his kids are so young and little kids are hard.  It’s more difficult to find fulfillment in the early duty-filled days raising young kids. As JP said, “If mothers didn’t fall insanely in love with their babies they would throw them out the window.”  However, if we are patient in the early years and attempt to build a strong relationship with our children, the blossoming of our little trees is truly glorious to behold.

If we let selfishness drive us to neglect our responsibility, weeds of vice and addiction will quickly build up around our children and choke their potential.  These weeds are become increasingly prevalent as modern society degenerates. Everyone else is letting their boys play hours of Fortnite and their girls waste life on Instagram;  can it really be that bad? Yes. I won’t site the studies here, but I believe we need to be rebels against a culture that is intent on producing the narcissistic and addicted. But some may say, “Isn’t that overprotective of you? – you can’t protect your children from our culture, you must socialize them into it.”  I believe that it is parents’ responsibility to shield our young children from the “weeds” that could damage their soul and lead to bad habits and possible addiction. As my children get older, if I have passed values on to them, I am confident they will use their reason and courage – built through personal experience – to be rebels against the destructive elements of our modern age.  

The Encouraging Mother –  Building a Pristine Relationship

Selfishness is the common lot of man. However, having a child is God’s way of pushing us out of our natural state.  Suddenly, with our God-given love, we push our selfish desires aside and re-prioritize our lives. This can be a painful process. It is more difficult for some that others (as the Hollywood director demonstrates).  Some people can take things too far and make their children supreme, inadvertently turning them into narcissists. The balance is found when we shift our priorities and make the sacrifices needed to produce competent and virtuous children. This “reorienting” process will not be as painful as one required to produce a “masterpiece” child of our own creating.

If you are not enjoying spending time with your kids, you are doing something wrong.  JP says, “You need to keep your relationships with your kids pristine.” This stuck with me. I have found applying it makes motherhood easier.  This may seem counter-intuitive since keeping something pristine is difficult. But because of the sovereignty of the relationship, I know I need to let everything else go. It is impossible to maintain a “pristine” relationship while simultaneously criticizing children’s every imperfection, or while micromanaging the dream of getting them into Harvard.  My focus is the relationship above all else. This does not mean I give my children their way for the sake of the relationship, quite the opposite.  Children who don’t have boundaries don’t respect you, and that is no relationship at all.  But I do accept them for the “variety” they are, orange tree or palm, and replace previously-held expectations in exchange for appreciation of their unique traits.

The truth is, it doesn’t take much. JP weeps when he explains how little encouragement people actually need, but often don’t get. I don’t need to be involved in the daily minutiae of my children’s lives.  The key is to keep our limited interactions optimal and meaningful. As we do this, our children will grow in character and moral fortitude. As we parents attempt to improve ourselves, we can let our example do much of the teaching for us.   

Check Our Motivations

Why did we decide to be mothers, considering that we now have the luxury of that decision? Do we want our children to leave as capable young adults, or subconsciously want to keep them near us always? Do we want to be gardeners, tending a growing tree for the greater good of mankind?  Or are we attempting to selfishly paint a masterpiece for our own glory? If our attitude is the later, we will very shortly become frustrated with parenting. If we attempt to make our child’s life a work of art, it would be folly to include suffering in the landscape. When the underlying desire for children is selfish, we quickly get disenchanted with the often-selfless reality of the undertaking.  

As a woman of faith, I firmly believe that my children were sent to me for a reason.  I believe God choose me as their mother to help them fulfill their unique propose. I have many failings and there is much my children will have to learn from other sources.  However, I have unique talents and sharing them with my children brings me so much joy. My son and I watch WWII documentaries together; my daughter and I plan adventures. As I attempt to use my God-given talents and interests to raise my children, I notice something miraculous start to happen. As my children grow, I see myself less as their gardener and more as a fellow tree, growing beside them and experiencing the peace and storms of life together.  

Motherhood as Joy

We need to defeat the Devouring Mother in us all.  Let’s stop attempting to shield our children from the difficulties of life. Let’s stop retreating into selfishness in the face of self-imposed expectations of motherhood. Let’s allow the trials of life to be the teacher of competence.  Let’s have our love, talents, and “pristine” relationships do the work in developing our children’s character. Let’s let-go of the rest.   And then, when it comes time for our children to face the toothaches and pains life, their mother will have prepared them well.  

Inspirational clip from Jordan Peterson on parenting and potential.

*I appreciate hearing any impressions or criticism you have of this article.  I genuinely want to produce something that is helpful to parents and your input is helpful in that production.  Please follow The Philosophy of Motherhood on Facebook or this blog and share with your friends if you think they would benefit.  Thank you.

Allyson Flake Matsoso

A Beginners Guide to Dr. Jordan Peterson: Clip Collection – Motherhood

Dr. Jordan Peterson has a remarkable breadth of knowledge as well as an ability to distill his scholarship into practical advice. I believe his insights could be useful and potentially transformative for anyone willing to listen. The problem is, when you combine that much wisdom into one person – it takes awhile for him to impart it to the rest of us. Therefore, I am attempting an index, of sorts. This is my first of a series of posts for people who are intrigued by Jordan Peterson’s ideas but can’t (or don’t want to) sort through the hundreds of hours of videos online to find the content that interests them. I am focusing on short clips, most under 8 minutes. Due to the wide-range of his ideas and expertise, I will do several posts in the coming weeks, each focusing on a particular theme or topic. If you are already a Peterson “fan” this may be a good resource for you to share with those you think would benefit from JP’s ideas.

We will start with six short videos I believe would be extremely helpful for all wives and mothers. At first glance, some of these videos may not seem to directly relate to motherhood/marriage, so I briefly break down why I think these ideas are important for us to hear.

 

  1. Perfectionism as a hindrance to development. (5 minutes)  We mothers need to admit our fragility and weakness, and that of our children and spouses. Accepting fragility means recognizing and appreciating our differences and unique roles to play. I see many mothers who hold on to the idea of perfection and, as JP demonstrates, become bitter and envious.  When we fall into this trap, we are unable to progress as a person and help the world at-large.

 

2. Destructiveness of Overbearing Mother (6 minutes).  In another clip JP explains that if we have to choose between safety and competence for our children, the correct choice is always competence.  This is going against our very nature so we must be conscious of our proclivity to shelter and protect children and choose to strive for the greater goal of instilling independence.  “You can’t protect people, you can only make them strong.” (This is the topic of my next blog post.)

 

 

3. Mary as model for Ideal Mother. (12 minutes)  Rather than fall into the trap of over-protection, Mary knew full well the reality of the suffering her Son would face, yet she faced it voluntarily.  We need to face the reality of suffering and rather than protect our children from it, prepare them for that eventuality.

 

 

4. Lie of Career and Family as a Supreme Goal. (4 minutes)  “Young women in today’s society are not told the truth about what their lives are likely to be like.” We need to change our society’s outlook on the optimal life-path of young women. Life is long, there is time for career but there is a short window in which to have a family.  Let’s start being honest about what will really give women’s life meaning and purpose.

 

5. Raising children: “Do not do allow your children to do anything that makes you dislike them.” (8 minutes) This sounds harsh but there is truth in this statement.  I do believe this is a complex topic that I hope to break apart in future posts. I think it is important to be honest about this issue. We need to be aware of how we react to our kids misbehavior and how others react to them.  “We have the proclivity for tyranny.”

 

6. Changing behavior in children and spouses through positive encouragement (4 minutes). Lasting behavior modification in children comes from looking for the positive in their behavior and reinforcing it.  This requires parents to be extremely cognizant of when our children make good choices and reward them appropriately. “You have to keep your relationship with your kids pristine.”

 

*If you are interested in more videos on these topics, there are many.  Jordan Peterson’s interviews with Dr. Oz, Joe Rogan (beware of profanity), and Dave Rubin all cover a breadth of issues.  His university lectures on his YouTube channel can give detailed information on a particular topic. There are thousands of videos online compiled by fans of his work.  However, if you need help finding specific content please contact me and I may be able to help. Also, please follow The Philosophy of Motherhood on Facebook or this blog if you would like to be notified of posts.  

**I highly suggest this article written by one of our readers, Nikita Coulombe. The amount of research that went into this is truly staggering. It systematically dismantles the idea of the modern-day feminist “utopia” free from the burdens of family life.

https://medium.com/@NikitaCcoulombe/why-feminism-wants-to-dismantle-the-family-long-4695d45bcf88

 

 

 

Jordan Peterson and Motherhood #4: The Truth Will Set You Free

Dr. Jordan Peterson claims to have found the antidote to suffering: the Truth. This is a bold claim. If it’s true, we better start immunizing ourselves with truth because we have a pandemic of suffering. I have a four-year-old girl who has a neurological speech disorder.  She is very smart but is extremely limited in her speech and often gets frustrated at being misunderstood. The other day my five kids and I were in the van and she was highly upset with her older sister. I kept telling her to be quiet and calm down but she was uncontrollable.  Finally, after listening to the chaos for awhile, I had the thought that I should just repeat to her what was happening. I said, “Laynie, you are upset because you want to play with Kyla’s toy but she won’t let you, huh?” She instantly stopped crying. She calmed right down without even getting her way.  As I was pondering this later, I realized speaking the truth of what was happening was enough to calm her.  

If the truth calms a child in the storm of perceived toy-injustice, there is great hope in its utility in our genuinely strife-filled lives.  JP says, “What is there, then, that’s going to help you fight against suffering? That’s easy: It’s the Truth.  The truth is the antidote to suffering.  The reason for that is because the truth puts reality behind you, so that you can face the reality that’s coming straight at you without becoming weak.”  There is something about simply stating the truth that brings safety and peace to a situation.

dore_ae-paradijs_grt

JP says truth speaks order out of chaos.  I like to conceptualize this more as truth being the mediator between justice and mercy.  In the Garden of Eden, God gave both Adam and Eve the opportunity to tell him what happened. He wanted to hear the truth from each of their perspectives.  

Genesis 1:12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” 13 Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

Eve speaks the truth about Satan tempting her and takes responsibility for eating the fruit. Adam tells the truth of Eve offering him the fruit and takes responsibility for eating it.  God cares about circumstances that lead to sin, but he always wants us to admit our own part. God, in perfect fairness, delivers proper justice by removing them from the garden, and mercy in guarding the tree of life and sending their Savior. Trusting in the fairness of God makes speaking the truth safe.

Cain did not follow his parents’ example. When asked by God if he had seen his brother Abel, Cain said, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”.  Dishonesty has been the norm ever since. I can think of several reasons why, in that moment of choice given to each of us, we choose to lie:

  1. We don’t trust fairness will occur

                 -OJ was acquitted after all

     2. We don’t actually want fairness

                – I want Notre Dame to get all the breaks and USC all the penalties

      3. We are so steeped in lies (ideology) we don’t remember the truth anymore

               -“If you tell enough lies, often enough, the truth will become hidden from                                 you…and then you are in hell.” Jordan Peterson

      4. We give in to temptation

                -“Sin has many tools but a lie is a handle which fits them all.” Oliver W. Holmes

Truth in an Age of Lies

eat-u-c-c

Abraham Lincoln credited his unlikely election on his reputation for honesty.   “All through the campaign my friends have been calling me ‘honest Old Abe,’ and I have been elected mainly on that cry.”   In medieval times the Knights Code of Chivalry stated “At all times speak the truth.”  Times have changed. Honesty is a rare commodity in today’s society and deceit is expected of even our most influential leaders.  The only thing to trust is that truth is rare, and therefore valuable. One English poet said, “An honest man’s the noblest work of God.”

Dishonesty is our commonality. Men lie, women lie. Feminists lie, stay-at-home moms lie. Despite our community of dishonesty, I believe it is the Truth that can unite all women. If we are honest with ourselves and about our own perception, we can learn from one another.  It’s not an easy thing to even know the truth; it can be buried and blurred. JP suggests it is much easier to recognize when you are lying because when you speak a lie it makes you weak.  I suggest watching this clip as he highlights how to “burn off the deadwood” of deceit so we can start on the path of truth.  *Clip most relevant at 2:18.

Feminists as Liars

I hope I don’t come across as a feminist hater.  I know feminism, at least in theory, is directed at a real problem.  However, I do believe feminism, in its modern form, is a negative force for women and men. I believe that women are swallowing up lies left, right, and center at the great expense of  society and their own meaningful lives. When women decide to make careers supreme, or that marriage will oppress them, or that kids would burden them, they feel the need to justify these self-centered choices as faultless. One day these women may look in the mirror and realize perhaps they made the wrong sacrifices for the wrong rewards. They may feel as my daughter did, distressed without the ability to soothe themselves. But before they can speak the truth they must be able to delineate the lie. The lie is that happiness results from the pursuit of self. I am not blaming these women necessarily- they have simply accepted as truth the deceptions others have spoken.

I was quite disappointed to hear Michelle Obama perpetuating some of these lies in an interview with the actress Ellis Ross. Ross lamented the fact that boys and girls are taught to dream differently. Michelle Obama agreed: “Unfortunately I think that our girls still dream of weddings and the security of the Prince Charming…but I think we are working on it.” (applause)  She then praised the actress for not getting married or having kids and pointed out her resultant accomplishments.  It seems a little disingenuous of Michelle when she has previously stated, “My most important title is ‘mom-in-chief’. My daughters are still the heart of my heart and the center of my world.”

Preserving the Feminine Spirit

Winged_Victory_Side

“Suffering is a promise life always keeps.”  Many women will find disappointment and rejection. The trick is to not allow ourselves to become haters of the things we don’t have.  Women are built to take care of others. If we don’t do that in the “traditional” ways, we find other releases for it. We can use our feminine traits to bring healing to others. There is a lot of power in women who don’t have kids but still value femininity. One of my friends has never gotten married, mostly because she hasn’t found the right guy.  She is not sitting around getting bitter or resentful. She literally travels the world helping at-risk children. She is making a difference I cannot. She also doesn’t pretend marriage and kids are not valuable. The attitude Michelle Obama expressed in her interview is different; it does not simply allow additional opportunities for women, but downgrades a woman’s choice to get married and have kids. Some so-called feminists even encourage women to forgo marriage and family despite their own experience proving its value.  

I have received several emails from women describing their “deprogramming” from negative-feminist lies. One woman said that Jordan Peterson helped “give her permission to be traditional without feeling inferior.” I highly suggest watching the clip below from a podcast between JP and Jocko Willink describing the similar necessity of deprogramming from communist ideology.  JP details the plight of committed communists; dragged into the gulags and made to face the fulfillment of their own ideology. (Clip posted at the end, the applicable section starts at 41:40-44:05 but the first half will blow you mind if you compare the Soviet era to some modern-day ideologies.)

If a young woman that you care about is on the path of negative-feminism, have the courage to speak the truth as you see it.  If she dismisses marriage and family, defend that path as one of significance. JP says, “If I am forced into a position where I have to validate your identity… What if your identity is wrong? What if its pathological? What if it doesn’t serve you well?…and if I start validating you, do you think I am your friend?  I am not your friend at all, I am a mirror for your narcissism.”

Mothers as Liars

Feminists often claim stay-at home moms are fake.  They say we project perfection, but are really unfulfilled and insecure.  We could be offended, or like JP’s rule #9 we could “assume the person you are listening to might see something you don’t”.  It’s not easy to face our pathologies. Since we are all very far from perfection, any attempt to portray it is dishonest.  The subtle deceit between 1950’s housewives at the local bake-off is now digitized, globalized, and commercialized by social media.

So I will start with a little honesty. I am a below-average homemaker. I lose my temper with my kids. I tend to be judgmental. I don’t plan on posting photos of my sink full of dishes or take  pride in my inadequacy – but I am not going to pretend I’m perfect. If I am living in an honest way then should I clean up my living room before I snap a photo for Instagram? Should I be overly patient in public but yell in private? Should I act accepting when inside I am judging?  

When we dishonestly hide our weaknesses instead of being real and vulnerable, we miss an opportunity to help each other.  I ask advice from my friends who are good cooks. I call my patient sister when I am frustrated with my kids. I try to remember the words of scripture when I hear myself being critical. Our fear of someone discovering our weaknesses might keep us from seeking help in overcoming them, and helping others in the areas we are strong.

When we live in a deceitful way in order to be admired, we deceive ourselves. It goes back to the beginning – Adam and Eve decided to be honest before God; Cain decided to play the world’s game of dishonesty. Look how that turned out.  If we are honest about ourselves, we trust that God is ultimately the One who matters. Next time you are tempted to portray yourself dishonestly, remember, “The moment you stop caring what other people think is most likely when you start doing what God wants,” St. Patrick.

Lastly, truth can help us feel more  fulfilled as mothers. As I spoke about in post #1 – my dream as an idealistic young woman was to move to Africa and to “save the world” – I had the chance to walk that path but I choose the path of motherhood. As I look at my single friend, traveling to India and Africa helping vulnerable children, I could be jealous of her life unburdened by laundry.  Or, I can speak the truth – she is walking the path God has for her and I am walking my path – the one that raises His precious children. As God’s plan for us progresses, we may have new callings. As we continue to speak the truth, we will be able to clearly see His path.

The Truth Will Free Us From Suffering

As JP says, “There’s no better way to bring a better Being into Being than to speak the Truth.” Sometimes we are stuck in a place where we are suffering. We may find ourselves resentful or insufficient.  Like my daughter, we can’t even articulate what has gone wrong. We need to cut away the lies we have accepted, and those we are perpetuating.  Only then can we start to gain sight of the truth. Ultimately, as my daughter did, we will feel safe in the arms of truth.

 

*Side note: I was blown away that Dr. Peterson shared my blog.  I am still in shock and awe, and incredibly grateful. I believe it demonstrates his esteem of motherhood.  I started writing because I took his advice to follow your passions and they will lead you on the proper path.  I would appreciate you sharing this blog with your friends if you feel these are messages the world needs to hear.  I now have a Facebook site you can follow where I will notify of posts.  Thank you for your support and I welcome all comments and suggestions.

https://www.facebook.com/philosophyofmotherhood/

 

 

Jordan Peterson and Motherhood #3: Moms Versus Man-haters

painting_piombo

Disdain for Men Becoming Mainstream

2018 has been a bad year for men.  The #Metoo movement and Kavanaugh hearings have been bad publicity for masculinity. It seems that “man-hating” has now been normalized.  You know it’s a toxic environment for men when a sitting U.S. senator says of recent controversies, “Who is perpetuating all of these kinds of actions? It’s the men in this country. And I just want to say to the men in this country: just SHUT UP and STEP UP, do the right thing for a change.”  That’s harsh.  Personally, I feel bad for all good guys out there lumped into the “toxic masculinity” category with the likes of Harvey Weinstein.

Looking at my life, I am surrounded by good men who work hard, love their families, and do so with very little recognition.  The vast majority of men are just everyday guys who don’t get any glory.  Many of the women marching in the streets fail to see the weaknesses of our own sex and the strengths in the opposite. The truth is we are all capable of evil and goodness. The world is not as black-and-white as protesters like to imagine.  Boys are hearing a very destructive message in today’s culture. 

However, let’s be honest, there are a lot of men falling short and many women have good reason for their prejudice.  There are abusive husbands, power-hungry leaders, and shiftless young men.  We should not give these men a pass for their failures- and we will discuss the female side of the issue in another post.  However, as society becomes increasingly hostile towards men’s natural proclivities and traditional roles, boys take note.  Boys who do not feel respected tend to disengage.  What we are seeing is a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Jordan Peterson is on the front lines.  He isn’t simply sympathizing with young men, he is giving them a clear path out of nihilism and self-pity.   In one of his Biblical lectures JP emotionally stated, “Its necessary for men to stand up and take responsibility, and they all know that and are starving for that message.  And the message is more, that that is a good thing – to stand up and take responsibility.  Because now you are cursed from a young age with the notion that you’re part of what is wrong with the world and you’re adding to the tyranny of the social systems…that is soul deadening; its anti-human.  My sense is instead, if you were able to reveal the best of yourself in the world then you would be an overwhelming force for good.”

Jordan Peterson’s rise to fame was upon the backs of starving young men.  Young men were the first adopters of Petersonian philosophy and they have stayed loyal to him throughout.  He is the father-figure many have never had. In interviews he often gets broken-up speaking about the plight of young men in society.  This extremely emotional five- minute clip shows his genuine concern for them.

Feminists Attack

Jordan Peterson is constantly on the defensive about the “patriarchy”.  Feminists tend to view him as the leader of the evil gang of men oppressing women at every opportunity.  But this is not the way the world works. As JP explains; men and women have had unique roles throughout human history but they have, by and large, worked together to overcome great suffering.  Nonetheless, it is difficult for modern feminists, many of whom have not themselves seen a family structure involving good stable men, to shake this idea that all suffering in the world is a result of the oppression of wicked men.

In a GQ interview the feminist interviewer stated, “The patriarchy is a system of male dominance…the fact is that the vast majority of wealth is owned by men, and the vast majority of capital by men.”  Jordan Peterson responded, “You are talking about a very tiny proportion of men. (The fact is) a huge proportion of people seriously disaffected are men, most people in prison are men, most people who are on the streets are men, most victims of violent of crime are men, most people who commit suicide are men, most people who die in wars are men, people who do worse at school are men.  Where is the dominance here precisely? What you’re doing is taking a tiny substrata of hyper- successful men and using that to represent the entire structure of western society. There is nothing about that that is vaguely appropriate.”

You Hate What you Don’t Understand

JP discusses the most statistically significant differences between genders:

  1. Men are more interested in ideas and women in people.  
  2. Men are more aggressive and women more agreeable.
  3. Men are less emotional/neurotic and women tend to be more emotional/neurotic.

I find it fascinating that these main differences are all related to the three most hot-button issues and buzzwords for feminists:

  1. Patriarchy = Men more interested in ideas (inventing pays more than teaching).
  2. Toxic Masculinity = Men want respect – and will use aggression to get it – and women want to be loved.
  3. Rape Culture = Women view sex more emotionally than men and this can cause conflicting expectations/traumatic experiences.  

A lot of the anger you see from feminists toward men comes from a lack of understanding of their internal worlds.  There is a rampant lack of compassion for men’s unique struggles and a resultant lack of appreciation for their strengths.  

Sane Women’s Appreciation vs Men-Hater’s Bitterness

So let’s just take a look at the differing perspectives on men from appreciative wives and mothers versus man-hating feminists seeing evil behind every rock.

Thanks to the millions of men who died in wars to protect our freedom.

It was men who started them; women rulers would usher in utopia.

Thanks for doing all the manual labor and dangerous jobs that women can’t or don’t want to do. Girls interests are socially constructed by the patriarchy because men want to keep their “boys club”. If men are stronger it is only because historically they stole all the meat from women (real feminist theory).
Sorry for the burden of hyper-sexuality due to a biologically-driven need to propagate humanity. Men are just pigs and women should be able to walk around half-naked without being leered at by creepy men.
Thanks for protecting your family from outside threats. Men are insular and violently hostile to any diversity. Women don’t need protecting!
Thanks for working hard all day to support your family. Successful men are power-hungry and part of the patriarchal tyranny trying to subjugate women.  

Nope, there is no winning when you’re up against a worldview clouded by envy and bitterness.

Envy, thy name is Feminist

Why can’t these angry women come to appreciate men?  I think a lot of the feminist man-hating is based on envy.  I attempted to watch the movie Ocean’s 8 the other day. It is similar to the other Ocean’s movies except worse and all the men are replaced by women pretending to be men.  I have never seen such an obvious attempt to rectify a childhood grudge at being rejected from your brother’s boy‘s club. Couldn’t they have come up with their own idea? There is simply an inability of feminists to realize the strength of their own gender and perspective.  Stop envying the lives of men and appreciate the life you could have as a fully-actualized woman!  

The saddest part for me is the message all this “man-hating” sends to our impressionable boys.  Boys are lost; they have no sense of purpose. JP is out there working hard trying to show these young men that adopting responsibility and trying to improve themselves will give them meaning. Improving the world starts at the level of the individual- man or woman.  The now-antiquated notion of men being protectors and bread-winners for their families used to give young men an ideal and a goal. Now, fatherhood is downgraded and deemed unnecessary in society. In schools, boys are treated as “defective girls”. Ambition is squashed in young men because it reeks of the patriarchy and perceived competence is only due to“male privilege”.   We cannot expect boys to find anything but discouragement from our culture. Mothers have to step-up and teach their sons why being a strong man is crucial for the salvation of mankind.

Who Will Conquer the Man-Hater?

It has to be us.  In an interview with Camille Paglia, proponent of individualist feminism, Jordan Peterson speaks about why it needs to be “sane women” to stand up against their crazy man-hating sisters (clip attached below).  Men are simply defenseless against the attacks of bitter women. JP explains that in contentious interactions between men there is always the underlying threat of physicality which keeps men civil with each other but also in positions of respect towards one another.   However, in dissension with women, men are unable to use the same methods of discourse because physicality is off the table and even argumentativeness is called “toxic masculinity”. When Trump calls a woman “a dog” it just feels worse than when he says a man is “dumb as a rock”. JP says it is “sane women” who must fight the tide of feminism. Mothers have a vested interest in men’s success so we must be their fiercest defenders.

Mothers get a front row seat on the development of boys and the inner-lives of men.  We get to see what they are really up to. When we raise our own beloved sons we see all men in a different light.  When we see the constant aggression between brothers we look forward to the time they will beat up their sister’s bully.  When we raise teenager boys with raging hormones we gain sympathy for the weight of heightened sexuality in men. When we see our boys intently kicking a soccer ball against the garage after a devastating loss we understand that often men don’t want to talk about their feelings, they need to “work” them out.

We also get the pleasure of seeing our husbands take the role of fathers.  We realize they can give our children things we can’t, or don’t want to. I have no desire to wrestle with my kids on the floor – that is Dad’s job.  I don’t teach my boys math through football scores or to “toughen up” after being pegged by a baseball. Fathers are able to be the calm, stable presence kids need.  When I see my husband make the sacrifices he does – going to work everyday and still coming home and finding time to play with the kids – I love men all the more for quietly doing the grunt work and never demanding much appreciation.  

3556Share the Good-News of Masculinity

Men and boys need mothers help in reaffirming the virtues of masculinity. We need to speak out in defense of men when they are being collectively bashed. We need to inculcate our boys with a sense of purpose. We need to recognize men’s differences and appreciate their strengths. We need to value the unique and irreplaceable role of fathers in our homes. We need to help reaffirm in our culture a love of masculinity in an increasingly man-hating world.  

*Below is a portion of an excellent conversation on gender relations between Dr. Jordan Peterson and scholar and author Camille Paglia.
*I would greatly appreciate you sharing this blog with anyone you think would be interested.