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America Is Anti-Motherhood
But a very happy Mothers' Day to all the women who are mothers in spite of that!
Postmodern America is very anti-motherhood. (America is also very anti-fatherhood, but this is Mothers’ Day!) Being a mother is natural and beneficial for women, so American culture, which devalues practically everything that is natural and beneficial, devalues motherhood. In spite of that, there are people brave (or foolish) enough to become mothers anyway. God bless them!
Being a parent is extraordinarily difficult to do well in today’s culture. Sure, anyone who copulates without birth control — well, any heterosexual couples who haven’t mutilated their bodies to change genders — can procreate. But actually raising your child well is extremely challenging, because practically the entire mainstream culture opposes the development of healthy relationships between parents and children. Nevertheless, being a parent is something that is still very much worth doing — and very much worth trying to do well, even if you frequently feel like you are doing it badly!
Motherhood Is Uniquely Challenging in American Culture
American culture is calibrated to make motherhood difficult. Whether this is by design or by accident, I don’t know, but the effect is the same.
Although your children will have access to better healthcare and more abundant food than many children who have lived in other times and places, you, as a mother, will probably have far less social support than your grandmothers and great-grandmothers did.
Motherhood can be profoundly isolating in America, especially while your child is an infant. This has certainly not always been the case. Prior generations of women usually had strong support systems of family and lifelong friends who were typically going through parenthood together. In traditional societies, being a mother would bring you closer to your peers; in America, it often separates you from them.
Having a baby can be like going through your own personal COVID lockdown. This is especially true, and jarring, after the birth of your first child. One day, you’re spending the bulk of your waking hours working and socializing with other young, childless adults, and practically the next day, you’re stuck at home, alone, with someone who is essentially an invalid: a needy and demanding person who cannot do anything for himself.
At first, you will hopefully have your family stay with you to help out, but they are busy with their own lives, separate and apart from yours, so their presence will likely be temporary. Few people live in close proximity to their family and lifelong friends, so most of the time, so if you are like most people, your family and friends will be limited in the amount of help and fellowship they are able to provide. You will probably have a lot of visitors in those early days, especially if it’s your first child. Everyone will want to see the new baby. But after the first couple weeks, the stream of visitors will slow to a trickle, and you will probably spend the bulk of your mommy time alone with your baby.
Motherhood will probably represent a profound and very sudden change from how your lifestyle used to be, just a short time earlier. Eventually, you will adjust and find friends among fellow mothers of young children. Your social life will revolve largely around your new identity as a mother. There is nothing wrong with this, but it will be a very dramatic change for you; and dealing with very dramatic changes is stressful. But that’s not the only thing that’s stressful about it.
While you are dealing with your own personal COVID lockdown, you will also be extremely sleep deprived. (This is usually true for new fathers too, but if you are breastfeeding, you will probably be missing more sleep than your spouse will.) It is one thing to deal with stressful situations while well-rested, but quite another when you’re missing sleep night after night. Add to that, the physical toll on your body from pregnancy and breastfeeding and all the corresponding hormonal changes, as well as the fact that you will never have a day off to recover — as the mother of a newborn, you will be on-call 24-hours a day, seven days a week. You will probably find the whole experience more challenging than anything else you’ve ever done.
Being a mother of young children requires that you sacrifice yourself constantly for the good of another. That is something natural and necessary for humans to do, but it requires real strength of character and a robust sense of duty, both of which, in turn, require a kind of moral preparation that most people do not undergo in the postmodern West. This means, you will almost certainly find yourself terribly unprepared for the demands of motherhood, and you will have to learn new skills and develop new virtues on the fly.
American culture is profoundly atomizing. Ours is a mercantile and hyper-financialized culture, where anything that can be commodified and sold will be, and anything that cannot be commodified and sold will be devalued. The foundation of our culture is the extreme existentialist ethos of “existence precedes essence” — meaning, that you are purportedly free from all bonds not consciously chosen (up to and including the bonds imposed by your own biology): you are supposedly a blank slate, and you are encouraged to believe that you, and you alone, have the pen and can write anything you want upon that blank slate that is your life. Obviously, that’s a load of lies.
If you came of age in a culture with an ethos like that, you will be very ill-prepared for the reality of motherhood. Motherhood will break down misconceptions you never even knew you had, and you will realize the extent to which you built your entire identity around these misconceptions. That is very healthy, in the same way that quitting smoking is healthy; but it is also a similarly harrowing process, and not everyone makes it. Some people relapse and go back to their self-delusions, even at the cost of developing unhealthy relationships with their children.
As your children get older, you will find many of the initial challenges eventually subside. Some do not, and other, different challenges will take their place. But gradually, your sleep schedule will return to normal. Your body will more or less recover — maybe not completely, but for the most part. Your hormones will level out. Your children will become more independent, requiring less hands-on care and supervision. Your life will more or less reach a new equilibrium.
Of course, as your children grow up, you will need to shape their development, so that they grow into good people: healthy, virtuous, strong, resilient, and competent human beings who will one day be capable of raising their own children well. This will require that you actively swim upstream against the powerful undercurrents of our depraved culture, which seems designed to make people sick, vicious, weak, fragile, incompetent, and completely incapable of raising their own children well (or even having children in the first place). So the challenges of being a mother will change, but they will never completely disappear.
As Hard as It Is, Motherhood Is Still Very Much Worthwhile
Most mothers in America would probably agree that I have not exaggerated, at all, the challenges they have faced. Nevertheless, those same women would probably also agree that those challenges are very much worth facing for the opportunity to be a mother.
The challenges of motherhood are real, and almost nothing else you have ever done will really prepare you for any of them. You will have to dig deep. There will be days when you feel like there’s no way you can do it. Sometimes, you will feel like you’re losing your mind. You will have moments when you are very much annoyed and angered by your own children, to the point that you will even feel resentful of them. To rise to the occasion, which you absolutely can do, and to overcome those feelings of resentment, anger, and annoyance, you will have to exercise your character “muscles” like never before; your character will grow and strengthen. In other words, being a good mother will help you attain your full stature as a virtuous human being.
Sure, you could go the wine-aunt route, as Chelsea Handler boasts of doing, where you live like a perpetual unmarried and childless 20-something your entire life, until you die lonely and forgotten in some poorly-run nursing home somewhere. You could finish your life without ever having developed the virtue and maturity that motherhood would have forced you to develop. But is that really a life worth living?
And in addition to the character virtues that you will be forced to develop, thereby improving yourself in important and lasting ways as a person, you will also have the opportunity to form a unique and irreplaceable bond with another person, a person whom God has given you a role in creating!
If you have an option to participate in the vocation of motherhood, why would you want to pass that up? Just to get a promotion and that corner office, where you can spend endless hours replying to stupid emails about stuff that has no lasting importance? Just to pursue an active social life with your contemporaries, so that when you all grow old and need someone to care for you in your old age, you will have to rely only on those people you can afford to hire — or worse, those the state can afford to hire — to care for you?
Instead of a job where you can be replaced as soon as some executive decides his bonus will be a little larger if you are laid off, why not become a mother, where you can never be replaced? Sure, adoption is sometimes necessary, and God bless people who are willing to adopt children; but nobody else can be a perfect replacement for what God intended a mother to be for her child.
I know that for too many women, work is no longer an option. You may want to stay home with your child, but finances are such that you have to keep working a BS Job. That is truly tragic, but being a mother in spite of that is still worth doing. When you’re on your deathbed, it will be your children and grandchildren, NOT your former coworkers, who will be there with you. I’ve even heard of near-death experiences where people say that departed relatives were there with them; I have never heard anyone say they saw their old bosses and coworkers as their soul left their body — if that happened, it would probably be a sign that you were going straight to hell.Being a mother will be an immense sacrifice, but it will be a sacrifice worth making.
How Can You Prepare for Motherhood in America?
To prepare for motherhood (or fatherhood), do whatever character-building things you can do ahead of time. Anything that will challenge you to sacrifice yourself, in ways that are meaningful and beneficial, for the good of others, will help you. Obviously, that’s hard to do, because you will probably have to seek those opportunities out — our culture does not present children and young adults with such opportunities as a matter of course, unlike more traditional cultures.
Try to get plugged into a strong social support system. In traditional cultures, this would be your family and lifelong friends, almost all of whom would live nearby. If you can live near family and friends, that will give you a huge advantage. If you don’t, then the next best thing is to join a church (or the equivalent place of worship for your faith) and be active in it. I know this can be difficult if your beliefs don’t align with the available churches in your area, but having that “church family” is really one of the greatest benefits of church membership (assuming it’s a good church — of course, the normal caveats apply here).
After you have your child, try to connect, in person, with other mothers who have young children. They are going through the same challenges you are, and just having someone else that you can talk to about it will help tremendously. We are social creatures, and it is vitally important that you know you are not alone.
Keep the big picture in mind. You will find yourself tired and drained and lost in the weeds of diapers and feedings and messes and constant chaos, so you will have to remind yourself why this is all worthwhile; and then you will have to remind yourself to remind yourself that it is all worthwhile. This is where having a strong social support system can really help you: you need other people to remind you and keep you accountable for doing the things that will help you stay sane and grounded.
Also, make use of the resources that are out there, the wise people who are or have been making the same journey you are doing, folks likeand the women she interviews on her YouTube channel.
Summing Up: God Bless the Mothers out There!
America is extremely anti-motherhood, but you can still do it and do it well. Being a mother will be the most challenging thing you have ever done, and practically nothing you have done beforehand will adequately prepare you for it, but you are not alone. By rising to the challenge, you will develop your own character and become a better person, and you will form a deep and irreplaceable bond with another person whom God has given you a role in creating! So God bless all the mothers out there! The work you are doing is of the highest importance!
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Okay, I can appreciate the humor in Chelsea Handler’s bit, but . . . what is crystal clear from her lifestyle is that hers are truly luxury beliefs, meaning they are doable for the very wealthy, but absolutely disastrous for working-class women to emulate.
Imagine your Bill-Lumbergh-like boss greeting you as your soul leaves your body, saying, “Hey [insert your name], what’s happening? If you could just go ahead and come into the office for the rest of eternity, that’d be great . . .” Talk about a fate worse than death!