The Shame of the Kitchen: A Short History of a Woman’s Place

Recently I was visiting my mother, who lives in another state. I gain an average of five pounds every time I stay at her house because she makes the best sourdough bread on earth.  As I demolished a warm slice, I couldn’t help but exclaim, “Mom, you make the absolute best bread!” Rather than accepting my compliment, she seemed a bit annoyed and said sarcastically, “Oh yeah, I’m really changing the world, one peice of bread at a time!” I chuckled and moved on.  However, I thought about this reaction for awhile. My mother has many and varied talents and accomplishments, but for some reason she almost seemed ashamed of this particular skill- baking bread. This task seemed to her so menial that its mention was almost a reproach.  

The Shame of the Kitchen
It struck me how common this sentiment is.  The go-to response from women seeking independence or influence is, “I am not going to be just be a mom stuck in some kitchen!”  “I can do more than bake bread!” Hillary Clinton said, “I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but  I decided to fulfill my profession.” Miley Cyrus declared, “I don’t fit into the stereotypical wife role, I don’t even like that word…do people really think I’m at home in an apron cooking dinner?!”  

Why rip on the kitchen?  Why shame bread? Why the constant degrading of food preparation?.  We Americans are fat after all. Considering our obsession with food, you would think we would view the cooks as next to the gods.  When memes pop up in our culture, it is often illuminating to examine them and seek their origins.

Woman Baking Bread, Jean-Francois Millet

Back to the Dark Ages
If we look back in time, visiting the Middle Age of human history, we see men and women playing  vastly different roles. Women, tied down by children and menstruation, stayed near the home. They tended the chickens, cleaned the house, and prepared the food.  Their empathetic and nurturing natures aided them in raising young children. Women were Nourishers –  body and soul. The men went out into the world, unburdened by breastfeeding or physical limitation. Their strength and less emotional natures enabled them to do the harsh and dangerous work of hunting. They brought this food home to to be prepared by women. 

We see that in ancient times a man’s role as “provider” was not any more prestigious than a woman’s role as “nourisher”. They both made sacrifices and worked hard to survive in a harsh world.  Many men died in the hunt or in war. Many women died in childbirth. Roles kept the family stable. It meant everyone had a place. It meant boys and girls knew their future path.

Today, however, we don’t see “provider” and “nourisher” as equal.  No, as my mother’s shame for bread-making suggests, the pre-industrial woman’s place in the kitchen is disgraceful to modern-feminism and, progressively, society at large. However the historic male equivalent – a male hunter providing for his family, doesn’t affect disgust. 

The Hunter and his Dogs, Winslow Homer

Why?  Both are acts driven by biology to protect and nourish the family. Both are self-sacrificing.  The man wasn’t excited about potentially being eaten by wolves and the woman wasn’t eager to work over a hot fire.  But what has now made the woman’s role seem inferior? I believe it is the symbol of the hunter we now crave – access to the outside world, to the freedom and prestige it provides.    What mis-colors our view of the past? What do we now have that would influence our new perspective: Money. As the Bible says, “For the love of money is the root of all evil.”

Money as Motivation
The industrial revolution changed things dramatically.  Men began to have opportunities that were not there before.  There were new ways to provide for the family. Men transformed the hunting act into tradable labor, and money.  This money could exceed the amount needed for simple survival. Money was not made by Nourishers, but by Providers.  Women began to feel restrained by their home kitchen. Women were kept from this advantage – held back by their bodies, children, and social mores.

As men began to accumulate excess wealth and power, they gained freedoms women lacked. Survival and family stability were no longer their sole motivators. Women, as Nourishers of the family, decreased in influence as the family’s importance decreased, crowded out by commerce.  Local bakers could now supply our bread. The spiritual center, the home, had to compete with a material culture, capable of satisfying needs the home once met, and of creating new needs as well.

Plate with Bread, Van Gogh

The Bread of Life

Somewhere along the way, women, in seeing their lack, forgot their abundance. What’s interesting about my mom’s embarrassment at her bread-making is that she was blind to the true influence she has.  When I ask my children what they miss most about Grandpa and Grandma they always mention her baking. The smell of Grandma’s freshly baked bread brings warmth and comfort.

But bread is more than a physical nourishment. Bread has spiritual power. Christ called himself, The Bread of Life.  

“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

John 6:35

He did not use hunting analogies in describing his role. Many were disappointed by his chosen title as they had hoped for a Warrior Messiah, a man to overthrow Roman rule. But he made clear he had not come as a material provider. His mission was to the soul. He used bread – the domain of the feminine – to define His influence. “Whoever eats this bread will live forever.” Mothers can live out this symbolism in our own homes. Our love and sacrifice brings abundance to others. A mother’s influence exceeds any power that originates in a boardroom or on a battlefield. If we honestly look back on our lives and ask who has been the most influential, we think of our mother. This influence may be for good or evil. Olympic gold-medalists praise their mothers while others sit on psychologists couches expounding their mommy issues. The difference is in the bread. We all yearn for bread baked in love and kindness. We feel unsatisfied and neglected with Wonderbread. (Warning: this is symbolic, my own children often eat Wonderbread – but only because my mother lives a thousand miles away).

Modern Times: The Reason Shifts
With the invention of birth control, women gained some choice.  They no longer had to be “stuck” in the kitchen. They could limit the number of children they had.  They had personal hygiene products to allow them to work outside the home. The kitchen became a symbol of the past.  Independent-minded women did not have to be slaves to food prep – they could make money and gain power like men. Many women would have rather stayed in the kitchen, but shifting economies and weakening extended family structure forced many women into the workplace.  What initially began as an economic necessity, became the norm.

With new monetary opportunities came new sacrifices. The ultimate sacrifice was that of the feminine purpose. Rather than focusing on the spiritual benefits of a present-mother and warm kitchen, many, out of necessity or preference, prioritized material gain. Women had a new and paradigm-shifting question to answer, Are children a blessing or a burden? 

Sweet Dreams, Firmin Baes

“I love these little people; and it is not a slight thing when they, who are so fresh from God, love us.”

Charles Dickens

If a woman wanted to be successful materially, she would need to give up a large family. If she was truly ambitious, she could decide against children altogether.  Children, before seen as motivation for the sacrifice and work, now became, for many, an impediment to material and personal success. A woman’s kitchen, absent of her children, is a inglourious place indeed, with no nourishment or encouragement to be given and no bonds to be formed.  Single young women with no dreams of marriage or family have every reason to shun bread-baking. Who would it be for?

The materialistic and independent world taught to our young daughters leaves no place for the nourishing feminine traits of the kitchen. The modern hunting-ground of commerce requires neither nurture or compassion. Women drop their feminine strengths and trade them in for a cold heart and a modern bow and arrow.

What Happened in the Kitchen
But what did we leave behind? Perhaps the things left behind, through choice or necessity, are the same ones that prevented the now skyrocketing mental health issues, promiscuity, addiction, and general unhappiness and meaninglessness.  If we actually consider it – the neglected kitchen may be vastly more influential in the success of a society than any gains women have made in employment.  

So what really happened in that stifling kitchen? Well, some stifling. As I stated previously, I do not personally enjoy cooking. I can see myself frustrated, wanting to go out and explore the world but restrained by my place and expectations. I have compassion for the generations of women that did not have a choice. Women’s lot was certainly hard. But in the modern interpretation of history, the reason given is shallow and simplistic – men subjugated women. The fact is that life was horrific for both sexes – and often horrific in different ways. Men and women had to collaborate to survive. The little joy that was found in this life of hardship was often found in the family kitchen and in the bonds formed therein.

“Family not only need to consist of merely those whom we share blood, but also for those whom we’d give blood.”

Charles Dickens

The Soul of the Home

Considering that there is “nothing new under the sun”, we can assume that the same dynamics we see in our modern world, occured in the past. What happens in our own kitchens, happened in theirs, minus the electricity and basic hygiene. A mother is feeding her baby her first bite of mush. Children are playing with dough on the kitchen table. A teen-age daughter is crying over her first breakup. A father is expounding the meaning in a passage of scripture. The kitchen is where life happens, where love is given, where ideas are discussed, where bonds are formed. Kitchens are factories of childhood resilience. If we scorn the kitchen – if we ridicule the mother baking bread – we shame the soul out of families. Families without strong bonds, without a spiritual center, will fail. If our society loses the foundation of loving families, we are doomed to a purely material fate. The lack that is felt from a cold kitchen is shown in the psychology and self-worth of the populace.

The mother has the ultimate career. All other careers exist for one purpose only – and that is to support the ultimate career.

C.S. Lewis
Mother’s Little Helper, Eugene De Blass

Do I Need to Bake?

Does this mean that we can’t work outside the home, that we must handcuff ourselves to the kitchen counter and revert back to all the traditions of the past? Do I need to figure out how to bake bread to be a good Mom? Absolutely not. It means that we respect the kitchen, we glory in the symbol and the meaning of bread – familial engagement and nurture. We harness the nourishing power of this bread where we can provide it. A working mother can give encouragement to her children on the car ride to school. The bread of empathy can be given after our son’s hard day at school. It can be found in the warmth of embrace to our returning husband.

The next time you hear a woman denigrate the “kitchen” or unsung work such as “baking bread”, remember that generations of women poured their love and sacrifice into that bread.  That bread was a masterpiece of love and creation; it still can be. Our modern world could do with more bread-makers, more women who glory in their feminine strengths. As we go off to work, let’s refuse to pick up a bow and arrow and instead bring bread.  We need women who, before pursuing material gain or social prestige, seek ways to bring love and comfort to others. We have the power to bring the comfort of the kitchen to a dreary workplace, or to a sick neighbor. As women increase in responsibility and influence, let’s not shut the door on the kitchen.

Forgive the poor quality but this was too perfect not to share

The Glory of the Kitchen

My own mother, despite her own belittling, did have a place in her kitchen. Her glory was not found in the praise of men, but the love of her family. Her kitchen was a spiritual and emotional refuge from the material cares of the world. As a child, my own insecurities and anxiety were always left behind as I smeared butter on my warm, freshly-cut slice. In the end, education, financial gains, and the “glory of men” are insignificant contributors to my current health, perspective, and contentment. My happiness was baked in my childhood, in my mother’s bread.

-Ally

….and just in case…
Here’s a great receipt for Whole Wheat Bread https://www.melskitchencafe.com/whole-wheat-bread-step-by-step/

I love this site, Mel’s Kitchen Cafe, for simple and healthy recipes!  

Resources:

Fascinating perspective of Camille Paglia- reasons for, and potential advantages of, the historic roles of men and women. Start Minute 40:15

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And This, Too, Shall Pass Away

Elizabeth Nourse, La Mère – Mother

“It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence, to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words: ‘And this, too, shall pass away.’ How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction!”

Abraham Lincoln

As a weary mother, holding a crying infant in the early morning hours, we may find solace in these words – “and this, too, shall pass away.” We will not have this exhausting baby for long. We shall not long have this privilege. We are grateful for the acute nature of many of our trials, we would never mourn their passing. But parenthood is a burden of a different type. Rare is the parent that, in gazing on their growing child, does not feel a tinge of longing for the fussy newborn they once were. When we see our child growing into adulthood we wish it had not passed so quickly. We reach back into the past and see those early morning feedings in a new light, we see love where before there was weariness. Let’s allow this mantra to find a place in our hearts, “this, too, shall pass away.” If we value each moment all the more for its fleeting nature, we may at least look upon our grown-newborn without regret for the part we played in this fated passing.

-Ally

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I Change First: Avoiding Hypocrisy

“Foolish is the man, and there are many such men, who would rid himself or his fellows of discomfort by setting the world right, by waging war on the evils around him, while he neglects that integral part of the world where lies his business, his first business, namely, his own character and conduct.”

It is futile to attempt to change the world while remaining as we are. In a previous post, Raising Rebels, we discussed the need to rebel against our culture as it spurns traditional morality. Does this conflict with the above statement on the need to focus on our own wickedness before attempting to change the world? Not when the rebellion we seek is deeply personal, an individual refusal to yield to the calls of pleasure-seeking and moral compromise. There will be no successful rebellion if the rebels are themselves subverting the cause by supplying the opposition with ammunition. Hypocritical Christians are horrible recruiters; they have repelled many. In order to bring about the world we desire, we must live that world in our own relationships and in our own choices.

“…Were it possible – an absurd supposition – that the world should thus be righted from the outside, it would yet be impossible for the man who had contributed to the work, remaining what he was, ever to enjoy the perfection of the result; himself not in tune with the organ he has tuned, he must imagine it still a distracted, jarring instrument.” 

In order to be worthy of the world we desire, we must begin to build it in ourselves. This requires a humble and introspective nature and the ability to follow our conscience, no matter where it may lead. Recently, in trying to apply these profound words of George MacDonald, I pondered and prayed to discover what I could transform in myself. Shockingly quickly, the answer came – almost as if God has a long list of faults he is waiting to reveal, I only need ask. Luckily He restricted the answer to just one; He knows my pace is slow. I perceived that I need to stop complaining. Of late I have been quite negative about where we live. I would rather live in the country and nearer to family. I have been moaning quite regularly to my husband and as I pondered this fact, I could see that my negativity had been a burden on my family. I am still doing what I can to change my situation, but I am attempting to be more positive and joyful.

The Power of One

We hear many calls to serve and give consideration to a particular group – whether it be a certain race, gender, nationality, or sexuality. These pleas for assistance may be well-meaning. However, any efforts to serve groups must be primarily concerned with helping the individuals that comprise that group. Transformation occurs one person at a time.

“…The philanthropist who regards the wrong as in the race, forgetting that the race is made up of conscious and wrong individuals, forgets also that wrong is always generated in and done by an individual; that the wrongness exists in the individual, and by him is passed over, as tendency, to the race; and that no evil can be cured in the human race, except by its being cured by its individuals.”

It is fortunate that change is wrought at the same level that love is also given, and received; the individual. You may say you love dogs, but you transmit that love to your own particular dog. Your dog receives that love and returns it to you, he is obedient to his loving master.  

“…There is no way of making three men right but by making right each one of the three; but a cure in one man who repents and turns, is a beginning of the cure of the whole human race.”

All quotes above: George MacDonald (The Hope of the Gospel)

Virtue Signaling

O’ What may man within him hide, though angel on the outward side!

William Shakespeare
Angel, Abbott Handerson Thayer

The burden of responsibility which accompanies self-improvement is rejected by many. In exchange, they opt for virtue signalling and hypocrisy, or as Jordan Peterson says, “an abdication of personal responsibility with the mask of social virtue.” These are the people marching for climate change in the street, then after proclaiming their disgust for an uncaring society, drive home in their gas-guzzling cars. These would find it difficult to live in the car-less world they hope to create. We cannot ask others to climb a mountain while relaxing at base-camp.

“You don’t change the world by going and waving signs at people that you have defined as more evil than you. The probability that they are more evil than you is actually quite low because evil though they may be, you are in the same boat. If you have divided the world up conveniently so you can define the oppressor and oppressed and you are in the positive category, then the probability that you are part of the solution and not part of the problem is zero.”

Jordan Peterson
Excellent clip on Virtue Signalling and Protest Culture 5 minutes

Contradictory Truths

As I said in the last post, we see the world collapsing around us and we can’t just stand idly by; yet we also see that we have to transform ourselves before we can help. We all have gifts and passions given to us for the betterment of the world. We often feel a call to help others in a certain way. Wouldn’t it be a waste to sit on our gifts and passions until we reach unreachable perfection? How can we harmonize these two seemingly contradictory truths: we should use our gifts and love to help others, we must get “our own house in order before advising the world”?

When Christ was asked what are the most important commandments He said,

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

Matthew 22

The first and great commandment is intensely personal, love God.  Christ tells us exactly how we love God, “if ye love me, keep my commandments.”  This requires action, not words. We must live out the moral life we desire to see in the world. This is our rebellion – refusing to live as the world demands, living instead as our conscience directs. This is “setting our house in order.”  We must prioritize this above all else – on a daily basis and in our own perspective. 

However, we are also given a second commandment, to love our neighbor. It does not say to change thy neighbor, rather, as Thomas Aquinas described, it is “ to will the good of our neighbor”. We want good things for others, as we want them for ourselves. This love is often found as we journey up the mountain. We gain empathy when we fall, we gain faith when we succeed. We see the world more clearly as we gain the elevation of personal progression.

Mountain: Greenwich Entertainment

Don’t climb mountains so that people can see you. Climb mountains so that you can see the world.

David McCullough Jr. 

Charitable love is generally not directed at large societal groups. It is shown in the love and concern we share for a friend, or stranger. In this form of love, known as Agape, the highest form of love, the power of transformation is found. Agape is not judgmental or disapproving, it authenticity calls others to truth and light.

“You should not trust people’s whose primary goal when trying to change the world is to change other people.” 

Jordan Peterson

As we strive upwards in our own quest for perfection, we can share our struggles and successes with those around us.  We can share our gifts and knowledge with the a hope that in so doing they too can improve. 

When to Speak and When to Shut-up

But when are we exhibiting genuine love and concern for others and when is it instead a presumptuous and judgmental attempt to change others? I have personally thought a lot about this. Who am I to write a blog? What gives me the right? I am certainly not perfect and many are wiser and more qualified than myself. For years my husband told me I should write about the ideas I discussed with him. I thought his idea smacked of self-promotion.

However, I continued to hear the call. I was particularly concerned as I saw many young women casting aside motherhood without proper consideration. I wanted to provide more knowledge and insight to these women, gathered from great thinkers. Finally one day, after finishing a book by Andrew Klavan, The Great Good Thing, I decided to just do it. He had used his gift and passion to spread truth to millions. I trusted that he was doing it for the right reasons, perhaps I could as well.

However, I remained double-minded about the proposition.  I had also spent hundreds of hours listening to Dr. Peterson’s lectures, so his voice rang in my head – warning me of the dangers of “unearned wisdom” and virtue signalling.  I worried I was stepping into the hypocritical zone.

I decided to proceed with caution, understanding my many weaknesses. In my writing, I try to be completely honest about my own experience and imperfections. I often check my motivations. Am I trying to impress? Am I here to share truth and hope, or to gain praise? Am I speaking genuinely?

These answers have not always been yes. A few months ago I decided I wanted to write a piece on women’s feelings of inadequacy. I have known many women plagued with low self-worth and it seemed like a topic worth discussing. I found lots of good material and finally finished the post. I read it aloud to myself. Something felt off. I knew I was not the person to write it – I did not have the empathy or experience required for the topic. I decided it was better to chuck the whole thing and seek out a guest-blogger who could genuinely share wisdom gained.

“For knowledge to be yours, you have to see how it applies to your own case and then have a story to tell about how that’s the case. You associate it with the unique particularities of your own experience, you have acted out the ideas and tested them in the world.  That’s how you make knowledge your own. ”

Jordan Peterson

If we share wisdom we have not lived, our words will be unpersuasive and inauthentic. We each have insights to share, but let’s resist the urge to pretend expertise on everything. Tiger Woods can write a book on golf, not on marriage. This is not to say that we can not have opinions on things we have not experienced. However, the most powerful art comes from artists who reveal truth discovered in their own personal journey up the mountain.

Testa Di Fanciulla Detta La Scapigliata, Leonardo Di Vinci

“Where the spirit does not work with the hand, there is no art.”

Leonardo Di Vinci

In endeavoring to inspire others on their journey we want to utilize our creative gifts. If we are motivated by agape, the art we create can be transformative. If we instead seek our own glory, beauty will fail.

Conclusion

“The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart — and through all human hearts.”

Alexander Solzhenitsyn

As we seek our Rebellion against a degenerate culture, we must first commence a personal rebellion; against our own immorality, our own tendency towards hypocrisy and “unearned moral superiority”. As we seek our own perfection, we will increase in love for our fellow-man. We will want to share our gifts and earned-wisdom with others as we journey uphill together.

Ally

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Resources:

This piece is a follow-up to a previous post, Raising Rebels https://philosophyofmotherhood.com/2019/10/08/raising-rebels/

On Agape: The Four Loves and Our Ascent to God https://catholicexchange.com/four-loves-ascent-god

C.S. Lewis on Agape https://youtu.be/gaVaGGpeQKM

Jordan Peterson on Earning your Wisdom

*If you enjoy the work of C.S. Lewis or GK Chesterton I highly recommend checking out their “master” George MacDonald. The most profound writer I have ever encountered.

Raising Rebels

My oldest son, age 10, recently told me, “Mom, I kinda feel sorry for my friend. I think he has a hard life.” He explained that his friend is always sad since his parents got divorced and he is not doing well at school. We discussed how he might help his friend. For some reason, I couldn’t stop thinking about this boy – one of a million or more children in similar situations. These are not lives of material or physical hardship but emotional and familial distress – sufferings of the soul. How can we keep our children safe from the modern-day plagues of anxiety, loneliness, and nihilism?

Traditionally, children have been protected by a stable family structure and religious values. But increasingly these values are questioned and often discarded. Our culture is now experiencing moral chaos, old norms are going the way of the typewriter and powdered wigs. Concurrently, mental health diagnoses increase, opioid addiction skyrockets, and STD rates rise. The biggest influence on our psychology, morality, and perspective is our childhood home. As the typical home experiences the turmoil of shifting values, we see suffering in our society’s youth. 

“Over the previous half-century, an overwhelming collection of research studies in sociology, psychology, biology, child development, and medicine has pointed to one great and common truth: children predictably do best when raised by their two natural parents who are married. Any deviation from this model raises the likelihood of physical, mental, and social difficulties. This is why every healthy polity encourages the creation and maintenance of married-couple homes.”

Allan Carlson*

How do we go about saving our children and a society experiencing moral entropy?  In order to fight against our sinking culture, we need to adopt the proper plan of action – Open Rebellion. There is a quaint belief going around that there is a  “Silent Majority” that still believes in reasonable and long-held positions of morality. Frankly, the Silent Majority is useless; it is so quiet it might as well not exist.  It is either imaginary or it is submissively allowing the wolves to drive us like sheep off the cliff – but more of that later.  

Strayed Sheep, William Holman

Wicked majority

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”

Mark Twain

Sometimes we look at political and social polls – tracking what the majority feels on a certain issue, as if it were a gauge for its appropriateness. In a world that has abandoned its core values, the majority can no longer be trusted. The unhappy truth is that the majority of Germans supported the Nazis; the majority of politicians lie; the majority of high school students cheat. As we read history, we often picture ourselves in the role of hero, but chances are we would have been one of the “wicked majority”. Perhaps we would not have actively participated in evil acts – but our silence, immobility, or submission would have allowed wickedness to thrive.

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Edmund Burke

Parents and children must realize the reality of the “wicked majority”. If we want our children on our side, we must tell them the truth. Children have a strong desire to conform and be “normal” –  life seems easier that way. The dark potential of conformity is not initially obvious. Kindergarteners don’t form gangs. Children are hopeful and innocent to human malevolence. We may not want to darken their view of the world by telling them of the evil proclivities of the crowd. But as children age, and the power of peer pressure grows. They must recognize the tendency to justify immoral behavior rather than risk diverging from the norm. A naive view of human nature will not help our children avoid destruction – it may push them towards it. 

Uncovering a Monster

“You don’t have the strength of character to be good until you understand just exactly what sort of monster you can be.” Jordan Peterson. When we recognize our own potential for evil, the monster inside us, we begin to understand why the majority often chooses darkness. Our own potential Monster, foreshadowed by our daily vice, must be uncovered. It must be recognized and rejected – or we will begin to rationalize our immorality and the parallel degeneracy of our society. We may become so accustomed to our collective vice that it will no longer be a monster to us, but a friend. 

“Vice is a monster of so frightful mien

As to be hated needs but to be seen;

Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face,

We first endure, then pity, then embrace.”

Alexander Pope *mien = bearing or appearance. 

The majority is an increasingly dangerous place to be.  The monster is now out, and roaming the halls of the typical high school – casual sex, pornography, and recreational drug use are all “normal”. We need to stop ”hoping for the best” and arm our kids for battle. Our children are inundated daily with evidence of the destructiveness of the crowd and immorality. Their conscience directs them to choose right over wrong; they simply need the proper perspective so they choose to follow it, rather than the crowd. They need to know that they are capable of treading a new path, one more fulfilling than conformity.

“The person who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The person who walks alone is likely to find himself in places no one has ever seen before.”

Albert Einstein

Foreshadowing in Rome

Morality is what holds society together.  Throughout time most societies have come to similar norms of right and wrong. However, as societies age, they begin to degenerate and virtues are replaced with vices: materialism replaces humility, lust replaces fidelity, ambition replaces service. The fall of Rome was blamed by Roman historians on a collapsing social structure and morality.

“A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself within. The essential causes of Rome’s decline lay in her people, her morals, her class struggle, her failing trade, her bureaucratic despotism, her stifling taxes, her consuming wars.” 

Will Durrant

An example of the moral blindness of Rome is shown in their treatment of children.  Before Rome’s fall their birth rate plummeted. Pedophilia and child abuse were common. Roman citizens did not place value on infant life.  They would “expose” unwanted babies – leaving them on trash heaps to die. The Christians, refused to accept this norm. They believed in the sacredness of human life and began saving these children – taking them into their own homes.  The idea of “charity” was virtually unknown in the pagan world before Christianity. The new but growing sect of Christians drew the ire Rome.  

“Christians followed the example of Jesus, who had compassion for the powerless… Christian writers openly criticized Roman society for its superstition and hedonism.  This, combined with Christians’ refusal to participate in traditional Roman religion, meant that to pagan Romans, Christians seemed rigorously intolerant.”

Mike Aquilina (Seven Revolutions)

Today many pushing progressive values have resurrected the Roman claim of the “intolerant Christian”.

Destruction, Thomas Cole

Expect Suffering 

Resisting temptation will often make our lives more difficult – the road less traveled is less traveled for a reason. Any engaged young adult attempting to be abstinent until marriage knows how difficult resisting temptation can be – justifying premarital sex is much easier. Any recovering alcoholic knows the misery of resisting a drink. Any high school student knows it’s easier to cheat than to study.*  

The early Christians, including Paul, understood what was required of those breaking from the majority. They were burned at the stake or torn apart by lions as a reward for their intolerance and refusal to deny their beliefs. Disciples are called upon to suffer as a direct result of their attempts to be “good”, especially in times of moral degeneracy. 

But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.

1 Peter 4:13
Triumph Of Faith Christian Martyrs In The Time Of Nero by Eugene Romain Thirion

It is crucial that our youth expect that difficulty will come when they diverge from the majority. This path won’t help them be the “cool kid”, but their shining example could bring hope to the hopeless. They may not march in the crowd – but in attempting to model a virtuous and moral life they will bring back an Ideal lost to many. They must be willing to suffer and face their own monster, and be ready for a fight. They must understand that this battle is much more important than the trivialities of school and friends.

“Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”

Ephesians 6

Raising Rebels

My five-year-old daughter REFUSES to wear her hair in pig-tails.  But she is so stinking cute with her hair in pigtails that some days I will invoke my own stubborn nature and hold her still while I put her hair up. I quickly tell my other kids to heap praise upon her. Despite this flattery, after a few minutes she will have inevitably taken her hair out. 

I always wanted to raise obedient children. But, unfortunately, as toddlers each child has come to that crucial realization, they have their own will. A new existence of stubborn obstinance begins. However, now, as I recognize the degeneration of our culture, and people’s proclivity for conformity, I appreciate my children’s willful and independent natures. Who wants obedience to such a world? We need rebels! We need to encourage our children to rebel against the culture and defend truth and goodness. If my daughter can resist the pressure of pigtails, maybe she can reject the pressuring of a teenage boy; maybe she can resist the temptation to smoke pot or to tease the new girl.

The Opposition is Already Waging War

As I was researching for this post I wanted to see if the title I was planning, “Raising Rebels”, had been used previously.  I did a quick internet search and the top listing was of a podcast, with tens of thousands of views, with the following description: Raising Rebels: Raising trans and queer babies is a fundamental survival strategy for all possible futures. 

Considering my core thesis is that we need to raise children willing to rebel against the destruction of traditional morality, I found this quite ironic.  However, it also highlights something very important. We are losing this battle, and for one main reason – the opposition see themselves as Rebels, while we are lulled into a false sense of security.  They are engaged in cultural warfare while we eat grapes like the Roman aristocracy. They know that the Silent Majority is theirs for the taking if they make enough noise and appeal to our self-righteous, fearful and naive nature.  Now, I am not saying the producers of the above podcast are to be hated or that they are not sincere in their beliefs. However, I am saying that they are, in fact, wrong. Their “strategy” to dismantle the traditional family will not help society’s “survival” but instead hasten its destruction. We should be compassionate, but we must not acquiesce.  We must continually oppose their agenda. If we stay in the zone of no resistance we will continue to be pushed left – right off the cliff. 

“When the whole world is running towards a cliff, he who is running in the opposite direction appears to have lost his mind.”

C.S. Lewis

Enemy Tactics – Appeal to your desire for tolerance

A powerful tactic of any invading force is an appeal to the desire for peace. We don’t want the conflict an insistence on morality may bring. Women particularly fear being accused of intolerance. Almost weekly, I am bombarded on social media with another viral blog post stressing that “we not judge” others based on some moral decision. I agree that God is our judge, we need not concern ourselves with the lives of others because we are not aware of their particularities and should be primarily concerned with our own lives. But in reality, the accused we, by and large, don’t actually care about other people’s private lives – the cry “don’t judge me” is based on the presumption that someone was. It is more often the case that we are all too busy thinking about ourselves to worry what others do.

“You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do.”

Eleanor Roosevelt

But nonetheless, “Don’t Judge”, is the standard method of deflection whenever someone opposes the normalization of a previously stigmatized behavior.  It is another way of saying, “Stop talking, you just think you are better than me.” Nope. We just don’t want our culture to slide into the abyss. We can stand up for doctrine or morality without ruminating on your particular love life, or outfit, or health choice.  Love the sinner, hate the sin is still a thing, right? Perhaps you aren’t as concerned about our judgement as you are with rationalizing your own choices? Here’s the solution: First, stop caring what other people think. Second, care what God thinks.

(Informative, bold, and important clip on the necessity of putting children first in society)

My son’s friend is suffering because of his parents’ divorce. I am not judging his parents – I have no idea what the situation was that led to the decision – it is none of my business. But just because this is his reality, does that mean we pretend divorce is not a negative for children? Do we instead, to spare feelings, pretend that divorce is just as good as parents remaining married? You are not going to trick a child saddened by divorce into thinking he is living the good life, but in discounting his natural reactions to break up of his family, you may convince him that there is no good life to be found. In our attempts to avoid judgement we are throwing out the ideal and lying to our children.

Those that want to dismantle traditional values often come to us in sheep’s clothing. We should treat everyone with empathy and understanding – but staying silent and passive in the face of cultural disintegration is not kindness, it’s cowardice.

Enemy Tactics – Use the Lukewarm

Christ tells us that who is “not with me is against me”. But how do we know which side we are really on? Surely it is enough to attempt to live morally and avoid conflict? As a mother, I simply want my family to be free to live out our beliefs in peace. However, the unfortunate truth is that increasingly the fight is coming to us whether we like it or not. The question is, when the time comes, will we stand or lay down? The Romans came for the early Christians, the fame of their integrity before Roman immorality helped demonstrate the truth of the gospel; Christianity grew exponentially. The Romans, on the other hand, fell easily to the Visigoths, they had no strength to stand.

“I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.”

Revelation 3:6

This seems harsh.  Why such a rejection of lukewarm water? It could never harm anybody.  Exactly. Before their fall, prophetic Romans warned that their moral decay would lead to destruction. 

More savage than war, luxury burdened (Rome)

and avenged the conquered world.

Juvenal, Satire 6
Romans of the Decadence, Thomas Couture

The Silent Majority is the biggest asset of the opposition. Material ease and comfort have made us lazy and complacent. We need not struggle, we have even forgotten how to. The majority’s lukewarm nature ensures a non-confrontational march to wherever the progressive leaders desire.  

“Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one–the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts,..  

C.S. Lewis

The loud and aggressive minority quickly controls the Silent Majority into submission.  Children of the Silent Majority are left with no way of deciphering their parents true moral beliefs. They learn only from their parents’ words and actions– the willing acceptance of the dismantling of their culture. Yes, they may not have fully engaged their inner monster – but weakness is not goodness. Lukewarm water will never become warmer – it will only grow cold and quiet. 

Conclusion – A Dangerous Minority

“A harmless man is not a good man. A good man is a very dangerous man who has that under voluntary control.”

Jordan Peterson

Better to transform our monster into a destroying angel – capable of defeating evil and doing God’s work.  But how? By living out the values we are attempting to preserve. Anyone that resists vice and attempts to live a moral life is capable of defeating our cultural Monster, for they have faced their own before. Those that immediately submit to temptation and the demands of the enemy, will remain naive and weak. 

“No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good. A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. After all, you find out the strength of the German army by fighting against it, not by giving in. You find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down. A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness — they have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means — the only complete realist.”

C.S. Lewis

If we want to prevent another ‘sacking of Rome’, we must bravely rebel against a culture which is allowing our collective-Monster to corrupt morality and cast aside our children. Increasingly the act of simply living-out a Christian life is an act of rebellion. We must refuse to lose our souls to the Lukewarm Majority as it descends into moral entropy. We must boldly live out our beliefs, stand against degrading values, and teach our children to do the same.

Truth will win in the end. We may not know what “the end” will look like, or what sufferings will be required to achieve it – but heroes are always on the side of truth.

“This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.”

2 Chronicles 2:15

-Ally

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Resources


Rather than outline evidence of the negative impact shifting values have on children, relevant resources are found below. I highly suggest the book, Seven Revolutions: How Christianity Changed the World and Can Change it Again, for an in depth look at Early Christianity and Roman Times.

*Be Kind to Children.  https://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=29-04-003

Divorce Effect on Kids http://www.marriage-success-secrets.com/statistics-about-children-and-divorce.html

Opioid Epidemic https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates

Sex Before Marriage https://www.moralrevolution.com/blog/the-invisible-effects-of-sex-before-marriage

Premarital Sex Increases Divorce Risk

Pedophilia in Rome https://allthatsinteresting.com/pederasty

Fall of Rome https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/column/five-reasons-why-the-roman-empire-fell-1907

Excellent talk by Attorney General William Barr on religious freedom.

The Myth of the Mother-Type

A modern, romantic young woman imagines her future. She sees before her limitless opportunities and potential. She considers the foreign lands she will explore, the intellectual truths she will uncover, the suffering she will prevent. As her mind wanders, she passes a young mother pushing a fussing baby in a stroller. Suddenly she visualizes that unconsidered possibility: becoming a mother. Images flash through her mind of what that life might look like: a life of making sandwiches, driving children to soccer, weight gain, and cleaning up throw-up. A repressive feeling descends on her. She is made for so much more than that. She shudders at the idea of wasting her passion and talent on such ordinary tasks…she is not the Mother-type anyway. She returns to her dream of a life of influence and recognition.

Generations ago, a romantic young woman imagines  her future. She sees before her the path her mother and grandmothers walked.  She sees the handsome young man she will meet, who is kind and strong. They will fall in love, marry and eventually have their own small cottage.  She envisions her cute and obedient children…she will be more cheerful than her mother; she will ensure her children feel loved. This spirited girl imagines the merry home she will create – with laughter and music.  Her husband will hug her as he returns from work and they will tell each other stories in front of the fire while the children play.  

Both girls are honest and sincere in their desires.  Their dreams are largely a product of their time and culture. Both will find that reality will not match their imaginings.  The first girl has opportunities the second could never imagine. The second girl will face hardship and limitation – but those limitations bring a focused purpose that is easily lost in the first’s sea of potential.  

Each woman throughout human history is a product of her time, but also distinctly unique, with varying talents, interests, and passions.  Yet all women share one commonality. We are able to create and renew humanity. The perspective individual women hold of Motherhood determines the course our society will take.

I want to focus on the first women’s perception of motherhood –  one common among young women today. The idea that motherhood is a “limiter” is widespread in our modern affluent society.  With the invention of birth control, for the first time in history, motherhood is now a choice, not just the natural byproduct of life.  Rather than inevitable-motherhood being the driver of decisions – today it is often an afterthought. Increasingly, women are choosing against it.*  Women point to many reasons for forgoing motherhood, and I hope to elaborate on many of those reasons in the next few posts, but a primary rationale is the oft stated, “I am not the Mother-type.”  

The Imaginary Good-Mother

A recent post on Facebook featured the complaints of one typical young mother. She said, “Motherhood does not come naturally to me…people criticize my lack of knowledge in motherly things like cooking…I don’t really enjoy kid’s activities, I feel my soul gets sucked away with kids’ day to day demands and activities.” The problem is not that this woman is not suited to motherhood, it is that she has adopted a vision of it that she could never enjoy.

“Often what is refused is a straw-man caricature of Motherhood, raised for the purpose of rejection. Marriage and Fatherhood inevitably follow a similar fate.”

Patrick Webb

Being a “good mother” has nothing to do with “liking kids activities.”  I doubt Mary spent much time playing hopscotch with the young Jesus. Marie Curie didn’t play dress-up with her kids.  Mary did nurture and guide Jesus in light and truth.  Marie Curie did train her future Nobel-prize winning daughter.  She used her God-given passion and intellect to bless the world not only through her own work, but through her children’s.

“Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained.”

Marie Curie
The widowed Marie Curie with her daughters

 The stereotypes of mothers doing crafts, fussing over hairstyles, and continually running their kids to sports or dance lessons are modern-day inventions.  Throughout human history, women have not had time for such distractions. Generations of children got along without these luxuries. In the past, women didn’t ask themselves if they were the “Mother-type”. Instead they asked, “Will there be enough bread?”

We are fortunate in our lives of comparative ease to be able to focus on the emotional, social, and intellectual areas of our children’s lives. We have the opportunity to be more mindful and intentional in our mothering than any previous generation. Having more time to play with our children is wonderful. We are fortunate if we happen to have interests which line up with the demands of motherhood – such as homemaking. However the shallowier aspects of practical mothering are not what defines motherhood anymore than the church choir represents the gospel.

Our culture has narrowed Motherhood down to such an inadequate definition that it is no wonder young women are shunning it.  Constrained motherhood has never been, never could be, and never should be reality. The opposite is, in fact, reality. Good Mothers must be as diverse as the unique spirits born to them.  

“You can do what I cannot do. I can do what you cannot do. Together we can do great things.”

Mother Teresa

Cookie-Cutter Angel Moms

When I was a little girl I remember being upset by angels. I somehow extrapolated from various sermons and lessons that if I was a good person, I would someday become enough like Jesus that I would go up to heaven and become an angel.  I imagined a heaven full of clone-like angels, all reacting and conversing in the exact same manner. Being an independent and head-strong girl, I didn’t like this, and I even told my mom that I didn’t want to be an angel. I had worked out in my young mind that if we were “righteous” we would all unite as cookie-cutter angels. Even as a child, I was aware of my strengths and weaknesses, I rationally extrapolated that the old me would be gone forever, replaced by a perfect person, foreign to my current self.

My mother attempted to correct my misinterpretations but I think, unfortunately, this false idea of “common goodness” remained with me.  Part of the reason I initially was apprehensive about my new seemingly all-encompassing role of mother is that if I tried to do it right, which was my desire, I would find myself on the assembly line of “good mothers”.  I feared a loss of self. All my opinions, experiences, and idiosyncrasies would be lost to the “higher calling”. 

I had an underlying belief that motherhood would be a means of controlling my nature.  I saw my opinionated and strong-willed personality as an impediment to becoming a good mother; now I see how these attributes have aided me. Motherhood does not control us into submission.  Motherhood allows us to use our gifts to their most worthy ends.   

Unity of Mothers

We want mothers to feel a sense of common purpose and unity.  This unity is not found in the expectation that we will arrive at the same place, but the knowledge that we are rooted in a common one. It is not in our interests, or our personalities, or how we raise our children that unite us – but our motherly love and the divine desire to raise our children well. 

“We are not living in a world where all roads are radii of a circle and where all, if followed long enough, will therefore draw gradually nearer and finally meet at the centre rather in a world where every road, after a few miles,forks into two, and each of those into two again, and at each fork you must make a decision. Even on the biological level, life is not like a river but like a tree. It does not move towards unity but away from it and the creatures grow further apart as they increase in perfection. Good, as it ripens, becomes continually more different not only from evil but from other good.” 

C.S. Lewis

Our natures should not change because of our new position, they should be fully engaged in aiding us in our new calling. Rather than feeling like clones of a good mother, we can create our own unique form of motherhood.

There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord.

  1 Corinthians 12

If we feel inadequate or out-of-place in motherhood, we might be holding ourselves to some idealized version of motherhood that we created. We need to mother in a way that feels natural and utilizes our gifts. There is not one way to be a good mother, there are as many ways as there are mothers.

Bad Mothering

We should not judge other women, or “mom-shame”. Realizing the utility of diverse perspectives among women should help us resist questioning other mother’s methods .  However, just because motherhood takes many forms does not mean everything goes; subjective thinking is a dead-end. Validating statements like, “We are all doing the best we can,” are not accurate or helpful.  A more honest assessment is that none of us are doing the best we can, we do the best we are willing to do. However, it doesn’t follow that we are all worthless mothers because we fall short of perfection – but we do need to continually attempt to be worthy of the title “good mother”.

“Bad” mothering has nothing to do with discordant talents, interests, or personalities – but everything to do with their underlying philosophy.  (Hence the name of the blog). Improper philosophy (motivation and reasoning towards a purpose) is at the heart of our society’s misconceptions of motherhood.  What should be a mother’s underlying purpose? To raise resilient and capable children. What is her motivation? Her innate love for her child and selfless desire to maintain a good relationship.  In good mothering the child comes before self. When we sideline the best interests of our family to be “true to our self”, we have veered off course.  

Don’t Sacrifice Your Soul…

Yes this philosophy requires some sacrifice.  If we aren’t blessed with an innate love of cooking and organization, we have to adapt and do our best at developing those skills.  The first five years of a child’s life, particularly, require moderation of our own desires. But this reality should not be “soul-sucking” as the woman on Facebook suggested. Our soul can remain intact while doing things we don’t want. If we frame motherhood around purpose, and the areas where we are able to utilize our innate gifts- we begin to enjoy it. 

I hate cooking. With five hungry kids I have to cook a lot. I remember coming to the horrific realization that this would be a never-ending task. Once I finish one meal another is coming right up on my heels. This is a duty of motherhood I have to just buck-up and do. It is an area of growth and progression, that’s OK. I do the best I am willing to do.  I don’t believe magnificent meals are integral to a healthy childhood. I distract myself from the mundane nature of this task by listening to a podcast or reviewing spelling words with my kids. I am blessed to have a daughter who enjoys cooking, she is my chef-in-training. (Talk about the blind leading the blind). I am hoping she is my path to an early retirement.  What’s interesting is that if I look back on the last week I can’t easily remember one meal I have cooked. I guess it isn’t important enough to me to store in my long-term memory. If we really don’t enjoy an aspect of life, that doesn’t mean we don’t do it – but we also don’t waste a lot of brain energy and emotion dwelling on it.  

In motherhood it is best to focus on the positive. Let’s fill motherhood with things that are meaningful and engaging for us and drop or minimize what isn’t. We don’t have to be the source of all things for our children. My kids aren’t learning art from me, that’s what their aunt is for.

…Use Your Soul

The trick is to combine the pursuit of our interests with raising our children.  My artist-sister, rather than isolating herself in a quiet studio away from the distractions of kids, has made creative apprentices of them.  They go through a ream of paper a week at her house, the walls are continually plastered with artwork. Her teenage daughter, trained at her mother’s hip, is now an incredibly talented artist. (She recently surprised me with this pencil drawing of my daughter.)

My own mother loved to learn.  She was particularly fascinated by psychology and the brain.  After reading a book, she would excitedly tell us all she learned, regardless of our age.  She always managed to relate it to our level. I remember her explaining Freuden slips to me at the tender age of six – after  I began a prayer, “Dear Heavenly Candy…” My mother was able to use her interests and talents in the medium of mothering. Despite being a very intelligent, educated, and serious-minded woman, my mother never saw raising her seven children as hindering her talents, but rather the most important place in which to apply them. 

Two Woman

But what of the second young woman from years past?  There is no doubt that she lacked the opportunity and choice of our modern young woman.  That is certainly a shame. But let’s not underestimate this woman’s eventual contribution, poor and unappreciated as she may have been. She would use her talents, interests, and energies in raising her future children, she had little else to give them.  And for millions of mothers, that has been enough.

Perhaps our first “modern” young woman could reconsider her narrow vision of Motherhood. Instead she could imagine the limitless opportunities to be found there, the chance to expand and utilize her gifts towards a noble purpose. She could refuse to define herself by what mother’s “should” do, and decide instead to be fully engaged in sharing her love and gifts with her child. She may discover she is indeed, the Mother-type.

-Ally

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Resources:

Birth rates are at an all-time low in the US, and experts fear it could turn the country into a ‘demographic time bomb’ https://www.insider.com/record-low-birth-rates-could-cause-extinction-demographic-time-bomb-2019-8

Jordan Peterson discusses influence of Birth Control as well as the importance of family. Start Minute 12 – Highly recommend

Childhood Fun and Mature Misery 

“All that matters is that you are having fun.” The mantra that began the dissolution of a civilization.

How often do our children hear a variety of this phrase? “Just have fun!,” says the coach to a group of dejected players losing during halftime, or the art teacher as she examines the sub-par work of a student. Rather than speak difficult truths regarding mediocre performance, we go to the safer instruction, “Have fun!” It has become so ingrained in our psyche that the words are automatic, like a rote prayer. “Did you have fun at school?” “Mom, what are we doing fun today?” This constant striving for fun – will not serve our children well in the short or long-term.

“Are you having fun?” The problem is, the answer to the question is so often no. Simply instructing children to “have fun” does not make it so. Children cannot have fun on command. A kid losing at soccer is unlikely to find the experience fun – unless he doesn’t care about soccer anyway. The child who realizes, through direct comparison, that his artwork is mediocre, is too aware of his own inadequacy to have fun. Does the lack of fun now make the pursuit of soccer and art pointless? Perhaps we should point them to a higher goal. Considering we want our children to be capable of doing difficult things, and difficult things are rarely fun – we need to give them a measurement capable of satisfaction.

Sympathy, Brtion Riviere

Since parents are frequently calling their children’s attention to the supreme value of “having fun”, we cannot be surprised when they have an insatiable desire for it. Recently after a long day at an amusement park, my daughter walked in from the car, plopped herself on the sofa and said, “Mom, I’m bored!” Fun becomes a drug, children require more and more exhilarating experiences to feel satisfied. Because we fear our children’s unhappiness, our kids are not allowed to become bored long enough to create their own “fun”; the burden then falls to parents, teachers, and society to provide the sufficient amount of enjoyment.

This trend of “fun-seeking”, instilled in children, continues into adulthood.  The pursuit of self-fulfillment has overtaken all other values in the lives of young people.  A recent poll by the Wall Street Journal* shows that values have shifted dramatically in younger generations.  Patriotism, religion, and having children, previously seen by the majority as core values, are seen as unimportant pursuits by the majority of young people. The value of self-fulfillment, however, has sharply increased compared to older generations.  The sad reality is that, as Vikor Frankl said, “It is the very pursuit of happiness, that thwarts happiness.”  This truth is unfortunately confirmed in our modern “fun-seeking”generations. Mental health issues, loneliness, and drug addiction are increasing concurrently with the decreasing influence of self-moderating values. **

Are we inadvertently creating young adults dissatisfied with life by giving them a standard no one can achieve? A fun-filled life is not only rare, it is unsustainable and ultimately meaningless. As parents we are prioritizing the pursuit of something that is not only impossible, but destructive and shallow.

In the end it comes back to the age old question – What is the purpose of life? Increasingly the purpose is seen as the pursuit of “self-fulfillment.” This mentality is at the root of almost every social problem we see facing us today. If our goal in life is our own momentary happiness then all other values become insignificant. People and responsibilities are prioritized according to the enjoyment to be gained from them. Children are seen as a financial loss or hamper on freedom, marriage as a barrier to sexual fulfillment, religious morality is simply a means of bringing guilt and duty into an otherwise carefree life. But a world filled with independent selfish entities does not fill our innate need for connection and meaning. According to a recent survey, nine out of ten young Brits believe their life lacks purpose.

If we believe the purpose of life is instead personal and societal progression, then we need to change the way we speak to our children. If we want the next generation to seek meaning, then we need to actively question our children’s progress rather than their enjoyment. Rather than ask, “Did you have fun?”, perhaps we should ask, “Did you learn anything?” “What did you contribute?” “What did you create?”. We should teach our children to use “progress” as the judge an activity’s worthiness. If knowledge or experience was gained or shared then it was a worthy endeavor. As our children begin to see the world not as a place they can get enjoyment from, but a place they can add value to, they will see purpose where before there was none. With this shift in our children’s perception, we may be surprised by how often fun will be the by-product.

-Ally

Resources:

A great blog post for parents on de-prioritizing fun, for the greater goal of progression. http://brookeromney.com/2014/01/why-we-are-taking-the-fun-out-of-life/

*American’s Have Shifted Dramatically https://www.wsj.com/articles/americans-have-shifted-dramatically-on-what-values-matter-most-11566738001/

**Loneliness https://today.yougov.com/topics/lifestyle/articles-reports/2019/07/30/loneliness-friendship-new-friends-poll-survey?fbclid=IwAR139EclkgYHF5kqAIVYxTCm4ms98czhVMnMbX8HDMvVNRcc89h4SkX_Uok

*** Brits life lacks purpose https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/9637619/young-brits-life-lacks-purpose

A previous related post from Philosophy of Motherhod on how this fun-filled mentality transfers to parenthood https://philosophyofmotherhood.com/2019/02/22/happiness-is-destroying-parenthood/

Necessary Conflict

“Isn’t it absolutely essential to keep a fierce Left and fierce Right, both on their toes and each terrified of the other? That’s how we get things done.”
― C.S. Lewis, [That Hideous Strength]

Disagreement is uncomfortable, we yearn for peace and unity. But is there a purpose in conflict? Modern political divisions often seem unreasonable and unproductive; however, knowing that division is inevitable, perhaps with the proper perspective, differences could prove useful in building a better world. If each side is able to agree on a common goal, one which transcends the importance of their own “way”, then there is hope that each perspective can serve a purpose in achieving that goal.

In a recent interview Dr. Peterson explained, “You need liberals because, now and then, the right thing to do is to do something new. You need conservatives because, now and then, the right thing to do is to do what everybody has always done. And the reason you need political dialogue is so that the liberals and conservatives can continue to argue about which of those solutions is appropriate right now.” (Clip on need for liberals and conservatives minute 40)

School of Athens, Raphael

In our personal relationships we can apply the same perspective. If we are sufficiently humble, we need not fear conflict, but instead allow disagreements to progress our common goal, the relationship. Dr. Jordan Peterson explained, “Part of the reason you want the relationship isn’t so you are happy right now, it’s so that you can live a high-quality life across multiple decades, and so you are looking for someone that you have to contend with, who is going to push you beyond what you already are.” There is a time and a place for disagreement in a life of progression.

-Ally

A great video on conflict resolution and relationships.

Scars That Turn Boys Into Men: Parents’ Roles in Preventing Childhood Trauma

My family recently returned from a trip out West, visiting my parents in a small rural town. It was a wonderful adventure for my children to be able to ride Grandpa’s horses, climb mountains, and enjoy the soft green grass – a luxury compared with the bristly variety of Southern Texas. One afternoon, my kids and I drove into town to get ice cream. When we were finished, my eldest son, Calvin, 10, asked if he could walk back to Grandpa’s house. It was only about a half mile and with Dr. Peterson’s voice ringing in my head warning me against over-protection, I said he could. (clip on overprotection)

My little daughter, 5, with a similar independent streak also wanted to go but I decided against it. Off went my son, seeking sovereignty from his mother, while I gathered things up and loaded the kids in the car. A few minutes later, as I drove towards home, I noticed that my son was running full speed. I thought he must have decided to race us home. Suddenly, I saw that three ferocious dogs were chasing him and jumping up onto his legs and back. He is a fast kid but could not out-run them. Frantic, I sped up to him. As I approached him he ran across to my side of the road and the dogs backed off. He saw the van and jumped in. He was gasping for air and obviously very traumatized. He was holding his rear and he told me the biggest dog had bit him. My immediate reaction was extreme anger. I got out of the car and started storming towards the house the dogs were now gathered at. I was ready to kick the dogs and pound on the owner’s door. However, as they started barking at me, I realized that they would only attack me as well. I got in the car and went home. My son showed me the bite which was not serious. He was physically okay but he was obviously very emotionally shaken – despite being a very tough boy. I myself was shocked and disturbed having just seen my precious son attacked by dangerous dogs. I thought, What if I had agreed to send my five year old, she may well be dead! I was experiencing first hand the consequences of sending your children out into the dangerous world.

I called the police and the sheriff arrived quickly. He promised to speak to the owner, although without an animal ordinance in the town he said his hands were somewhat tied. I told him to do all he could because it was extremely unsafe for children. I was assured the dogs would be quarantined long enough to ensure there was no risk of rabies.

When I told my son I had to call the police, he said he didn’t want to speak with him, he was still very upset. However, when the sheriff arrived my son regained his composure almost instantly. The sheriff was very respectful and my son gave a thorough description of the event and dogs. I was amazed he could pull it together like that.

After I had done all I could to ensure my son was physically safe and to mitigate the risk these dogs were to others, my worries turned to his mental health. As the daughter of a therapist specializing in childhood trauma, I knew that if distressing experiences are not dealt with properly, they could show up later. I did not want my son to begin feeling anxious or powerless because of this experience. I did not want him to develop a fear of dogs or stop taking risks. I wanted to talk it out with him and make sure he was processed it all. However, my mother also reminded me that the more traumatized the parent seems, the bigger chance the child will be also. She said, “Sometimes the child can be more traumatized by the parents’ reactions than by the actual trauma.” I didn’t want to turn this unfortunate incident into something that would plague my son because of my own over-reaction to it. As the day went on, I discovered that although my motherly instincts were correct, I also needed a masculine perspective in order to successfully help my son overcome this traumatic event.

A Feminine Reaction

Because of the anger I was still feeling, and my angst at knowing how much worse it could have been, I discussed the incident with my family quite a bit that day. I tried to minimize it in front of my son but he overheard me exclaiming, “I just can’t stop thinking what would have happened if Laynie had been there!” My son said, “Mom can we please stop talking about this?” I could tell he was serious so agreed that I would lay it to rest. But internally I was still anxious. I thought, He didn’t do enough to work through it, he is repressing.

I called my husband who unfortunately was still in Texas working.  He was upset by the situation but remained calm. He spoke briefly to our son to make sure he was okay.  Calvin said his rear was sore but that he would be fine. We distracted ourselves the rest of the day and life went on as usual.

In the evening, my son was brushing his teeth with his siblings and I walked into the bathroom. Suddenly he burst into tears and hugged me. I took him into the bedroom because he could not contain his emotions. This was not like my son at all. He is a very tough boy. He is the strong and silent type. I was very surprised to see him reacting in this way. I held him for awhile and then he began saying, “If I had just stayed in the car! Why didn’t I just ride with you? Why did I have to walk?!” All the stress and regret was pouring out of him. I felt like I needed to help him see his success, he had taken control of the situation on his own, “Do you realize you were handling it before I got there? You were running so fast that only one managed to bite you. You knew you had to cross the street. As I arrived they had given up on you.” He needed reassurance that the next time he would succeed, he would overcome those dogs without assistance. He was still quite upset so I asked if he wanted to speak to his dad. I told him that his father had been bit by many dogs when he was a boy in South Africa so maybe he could help him feel better. He nodded his head yes. I dialed my husband and told him Calvin wanted to talk to him.

A Masculine Reaction

I went into the hall with the phone and told my husband that Calvin was very upset and suggested he could tell him about his own experiences with aggressive dogs and help him feel better. I handed the phone to Calvin, expecting his father to take a similar role in attempting to comfort Calvin. However, as soon as I handed the phone to Calvin he immediately stopped crying and composed himself, just as he had with the sheriff. His father must have said hello and asked about his day. My son listed through all the various happenings of the day – going to the lake, playing with his cousins, feeding the horses, but no mention of the dogs. My husband talked to him about sports and other everyday topics. In my head I was thinking “Come on, why isn’t he trying to help him through this.” After awhile they said goodbye and got off the phone. I asked Calvin if he was okay and he went down to bed, calm and collected.

That was the last time Calvin ever got upset about the dogs. The next day his Grandfather wanted to take him and me on a horse ride in the mountains. I resisted, saying he was injured and it was probably better for him to rest – but Calvin insisted that he wanted to go. My father said it would be good for him. As he galloped his horse up the trail, I saw that he was right. Calvin had a look of strength and control as he governed his horse. Calvin had overcome those dogs like a man.

A Stereotype of Roles

Freedom From Fear, Norman Rockwell

Preventing trauma in children requires two important steps from two contrary perspectives. First, children need to feel safe again. Then, children need to regain the courage to face a dangerous world, having learned to persevere. Typically the mother will fulfill the first need, and the father the second, but not always. Different personalities and situations may result or necessitate a shifting of roles.

Dr. Peterson explains the need for two perspectives when raising children.  He explains that witnessing a helpless child,

“…should invoke a desire mostly on the part of males to encourage and mostly on the part of females to nurture.  But males and females are quite cross-wired among human beings so there is encouragement from the women and there is also nurture from the men. And of course those curves overlap so there are more nurturing males and more encouraging females but the opposite is roughly the archetype (typification).”

Dr. Jordan Peterson (5 minute clip)

For the purpose of this article we will stereotype feminine as comforter and masculine as strengthener. However, who plays the role is not as crucial as ensuring both roles are played out and in the correct way for the prevention of psychological distress. Each parent must be humble enough to realize their own limitations and the strengths of a contrasting perspective. 

Feminism and Masculine: Contrary and Complementing

As I observed the interactions my son had with the men around him that difficult day, the sheriff, my father, and his own dad – I realized the necessity of the masculine influence as Calvin overcame this small, yet potentially significant, tribulation.

“Masculinity is bestowed. A boy learns who he is and what he’s got from a man, or the company of men. He cannot learn it any other place. He cannot learn it from other boys, and he cannot learn it from the world of women.”

John Eldredge, Wild at Heart

I would have had a different conversation on the phone, I would have forced the issue and given advice. My husband is not lacking compassion or empathy – but he was exhibiting these traits in a masculine way. As women, sometimes we see the tough and silent way men interact with each other as repressive and unfeeling, when in fact it may be strength and understanding.

“A woman means by Unselfishness chiefly taking trouble for others; a man means not giving trouble to others…thus, while the woman thinks of doing good offices (kindness) and the man of respecting other people’s rights, each sex, without any obvious unreason, can and does regard the other as radically selfish.” 

C.S. Lewis (The Screwtape Letters)

When attempting to examine the actions of the opposite sex,  we are naturally drawn to pass judgment on differences. Many of these judgments are uninformed and shallow. However, as we seek to understand the strengths of each perspective, and the advantages of differing approaches to common difficulties, there can be unity and cooperation rather than division. Parents must join forces and utilize their unique gifts towards the common goal of parenting emotionally healthy children. 

Because feminine and masculine perspectives are needed, children raised with both parents tend to thrive. Due to the often conflicting nature of the roles “Nurturer” and “Strengthen-er”, it is difficult for one parent to play both roles. However single parents who are cognizant of their own proclivity to either over-nurture, or overexpose – and take the steps necessary to ensure their child has the proper balance, can be successful in raising emotionally healthy and confident children. The Strengthening role may also be filled by grandfathers and other males in the boy’s life.

However, if we honestly look at the outcomes of children raised in single-parent households, particularly the fatherless, the statistics are bleak. Aggression, anxiety, depression, risky behaviors – all skyrocket in single-mother homes.* The mother may do her best and use the tools she has, but without the supporting, and when necessary, counter-acting actions of a father – many children are not able to successfully overcome the trauma common to youth.

The Role of Nurturer

Mothers tend to be nurturers. We are able to empathize and comfort our children. We express our feelings of approval and admiration for their areas of strength and express our faith in their ability to overcome their trials. Strength is found in a mother’s touch.**

 “A mother’s arms are more comforting that anyone else’s.”

Princess Diana

An important aspect of nurturing is allowing the child to freely and openly discuss the trauma.  Women are great communicators. We talk through the offending scenario to find solutions for next time, and amplify the positive choices they made. We problem-solve and dig deep to find any underlying misconceptions or distress.

Mother with Child, Elena Kokin

These are gifts and they have great power.  I was grateful to be able to share this gift with my son.  I am grateful that when the stress began to bubble over that night, he could seek my comfort. 

However, as women we need to place limits on our gifts. A mother’s comforting role comes first, but does not last forever. After initial trauma, comfort and safety must be there. Nonjudgmental empathy are crucial for a child to feel safe and valued. However, extending these sympathies for too long can lead to weakness and victimhood. Rumination on negative experiences does not help us overcome them, but rather enables us to use them as an excuse. When we continuously revisit old sufferings or injustices we justify extending emotional states beyond their usefulness.

We may need the nudge of our husbands, someone to tell us it’s time to let go. With my son, I could have continued discussing the shock and potential outcomes with everyone I met.  I could have attempted to get sympathy or outrage from others.  I think, if I’m honest, I did do a bit of that. In the absence of my husband, my own son had to step in and say, “Mom can we stop talking about this.”  Moving on and moving forward is encouragement, it enables the child to use the experience to become a stronger self.  

The Role of EnCourager


Men tend to be Doers. Men are able to push aside problems and worries to achieve. Fathers are able to distract and laugh with their children despite hardship. Rather than brood over struggles, fathers seek out opportunities for children to toughen-up and face their fears. They wrestle with their kids so they understand their strength and how to hold back aggression in interactions with others. (Surprising importance of rough-and-tumble play.)

Fathers tend to show, rather than verbally communicate to their children how to interact with the world. Fathers are the model for children, especially boys, of behavior and socialization.

“My father didn’t tell me how to live. He lived and let me watch him do it.”

Clarence Budington Kelland
Father and Son, Bruce Greene

Fathers take their ready-children out of the arms of their mothers and push them into the adventure of life.  Fathers enCourage their children.

But father’s must also avoid the masculine propensity to chasten their children for their emotions or perceived weakness. After an upsetting experience, the mother must be allowed to do her comforting work without judgment. Sweeping things under the rug will never work. Pushing children too early and too hard can cause either aggression or detachment.

Parents who shame their children for their pain and apprehension will become “unsafe” actors in their children’s lives. Parents who coddle and pity their children will become restrictors of their freedom and potential. The roles of Nurture and Encourager must be played out in the proper balance. It is easy to detect when the that balance has been struck, our children thrive.

The Strength in Scars

The pain and tribulations of life are a necessary part of turning boys into men, our children into strong adults. The nurture of mothers and strengthening from fathers can protect them from the dark side of pain, and instead help them turn their distress into triumph. (Post on utility of suffering).

“Holy places are dark places. It is life and strength, not knowledge and words, that we get in them. Holy wisdom is not clear and thin like water, but thick and dark like blood.” 

C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces

“The world is a brutal place and much wisdom comes out of catastrophe.”

Dr. Jordan Peterson

As I look back on the incident with the dogs I remember the fear, the anger, and the anxiety. I remember doubting my parenting method. Am I being too laid-back? Am I giving my kids too much independence? But as a few weeks have passed and I have seen my son bravely seek out the adventures of life like never before, I realize that his dog-attack this summer was just one more adventure, one more notch on the belt of manhood. Rather than regret that I did not prevent this painful experience, I am grateful for strength and perspective he has gained. A few days ago I asked Calvin if I could write about this story and asked, “Do you ever think of that day and those dogs?” He laughed and said, “Mom, at least I have a cool scar! Too bad it’s on my rear so I can’t show it off.”

-Ally

*The Consequence of Fatherlessness http://fathers.com/statistics-and-research/the-consequences-of-fatherlessness/

**Fascinating article on children’s different reactions to mothers and fathers Can Dad’s Comfort Kids as Effectively as Mom? https://www.fatherly.com/health-science/comfort-dad/

A Great Discussion of Fatherhood

Postscript: I hope to do a follow-up post on overcoming Childhood Trauma for those of us who may retain painful memories.

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Small acts lead to great victory

The sacrifices we make today equal peace and happiness in the future. For parents this means: resisting the impulse to anger and instead patiently working out a conflict with our disobedient child, putting down the phone and cuddling with our toddler, encouraging our sensitive child to face a fear – these small acts will lead to a brighter relationship and stronger child. Similarly small, yet conscious acts of parenting, done day after day, will lead to a life of victories for us and our children.

“The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of.”

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (quote posted by JBP)

Mothers’ Righteous Pride

“Pride is one of the seven deadly sins; but it cannot be the pride of a mother in her children, for that is a compound of two cardinal virtues – faith and hope.” Charles Dickens

“The Positive Mother gives birth to the Hero,” says Dr. Jordan Peterson. This is the “hope” in Dicken’s quote – hope that we can produce a heroic child. Dr. Peterson explains the faith we must have in our role as mother, and in the relationships we can build. The mother/child “relationship is the only relationship you will ever have in your life where you have a chance of creating something close to perfect. When your child is delivered to you, in some sense, they are perfect, and your job is to maintain that perfection if you can…it can easily be the best relationship you ever have in your life…it’s a real gift.”

The Modern Shame of Motherhood

In today’s culture we rarely encounter this attitude of hopeful and proud motherhood. Instead we see depictions of tired mothers, bratty children, and dysfunctional families. In the past, shows like Leave it to Beaver or The Andy Griffith Show portrayed happy families with respectful children. These depictions now seem naive and erroneously idealistic. Instead modern women are discouraged from any of the self-sacrificing aspects of motherhood. Helen Gurley Brown, the Editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan, women’s current source of enlightenment, wrote, “Hard work and sex will set you free (as long as you don’t have children)”, and if you do have children… “Never waste time feeling guilt, never agonize too much, and have a lot of paid help at home, and never, ever, let them interfere with the long climb to the top.” Rather than the “faith and hope” of Dickens pride – modern mothers are told to be ashamed of the years wasted at home and to assume their children will become disrespectful and rebellious. But the modern interpretation of womanhood is only successful in producing unhappy women and dissatisfied mothers, as well as children unworthy of a mother’s pride*. Mothers who dismiss the hope of motherhood and faith in its purpose, and instead focus on their own sacrifice, will lose their ability to raise strong and respectful children. These women are unlikely to find pride in their calling.**

Power of Positive Motherhood

If we find we may have swallowed some of these lies about the insignificance of motherhood, how do we begin to regain our faith and hope? There is some truth in the modern-woman’s interpretation of motherhood; it is full of sacrifice and little appreciation. But what are they leaving out?

The reality of work and hardship in motherhood need not prevent us from experiencing the incomparable joy and love to be found in our role. However, we should be aware that negative emotions and experiences are more powerful in altering our perceptions than positive. The concept of “negativity bias” explains that in order to feel content and happy we need at least three times as many positive emotions as negative emotions.*** Therefore we must amplify the positive aspects of Motherhood in our minds and conversation. We must make a conscious effort to notice the highs of motherhood -a child saying “I love you”, our nervous son bravely climbing a tree, our daughter comforting a crying sibling – these every-day experiences should give us pause for gratitude. We must recognize the spiritual and emotional advantages to be found in a life of sacrifice and service, advantages oft-forgotten by the childless or self-obsessed. If our eyes are open to the rewards of motherhood, we look with pride upon our children and we will begin to see our lives in a different light.

Pride as a Mother

Women that glory in their children, and their role as mother, can be content and fulfilled. But are we communicating this joy to our children and other women? Are we perpetuating the stereotype of the unfulfilled mother because we consciously avoid discussing our pride? We are ambivalent in sharing our successes and happiness, fearing we may inadvertently “mom-shame” or seem arrogant. We don’t want to make others feel insecure in their own parenting, or offend those without children, so we undermine the value of our position. We relate to other mothers through our common hardships rather than our common joys. As we grumble we begin to listen to our own complaints, we begin to form a mentality of mothering which emphasizes the sacrifice while trivializing the meaning.

It is not easy to successfully communicate the love we have for our children, or the fulfillment we feel when we see them progress, but we need to try. We need not boast or use our children’s successes as measurements of our own worth, but speaking positively about our children can make a big difference in our own perceptions of motherhood. If our children overhear us praising them rather than complaining, they will feel confident in their mother’s love and feel they are worth the sacrifice. If we begin to take pride in the unselfish title of Mother, pride in the unique opportunity placed upon women to influence the future, pride in the hope brought by our precious children, pride in our natural proclivity to love and nurture – perhaps society will begin to discover Motherhood’s righteous-pride as well.

-Ally

Relevant Resources

*Women’s Unhappiness

https://www.eviemagazine.com/post/are-women-more-unhappy-than-ever/

**Feminism against Motherhood
https://www.huffpost.com/entry/when-did-feminism-become_b_13666536

***Power of Positive 
https://kidshealth.org/en/teens/power-positive.html

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