The following articles were in the May/June issue of Family Foundations. There is much to be said for those holy women that listen to God's call to give life and that do not let themselves be deceived by the secular media. Think where we would be if our Blessed Mother had not listened to her call and been fully submissive and obedient to God's will for her life of motherhood.
Motherhood Rewards for Going Against the Cultural Norm Are Great
Mary Ann Kuharski
I must confess, parenting a large family was never a premeditated plan on my part. I mean, who would deliberately set out to mother 13 children? In my young and carefree years I was the girl who cherished her freedom and independence. Working as a legal secretary, I enjoyed a modest wardrobe, drove a baby blue convertible, had a life of relative leisure, and dreamed of the day I would set sail and “see the world.” Little did I imagine then that I would end up married and viewing the world through the eyes of the seven kids born to my husband and me, and the six racially-mixed kids we adopted, (four of whom came from foreign shores – about as close as I’ll ever get to “seeing the world”).
Let’s be honest. It has its suicide moments. In fact, whether mom to one or to many, there are days when even the best of our ranks would eagerly trade places with a kamikaze pilot on a mission, rather than face another snarling teen, saucy 7- year–old, tantrummed and terrible toddler, colicky newborn – or the sheer boredom of doing the same monotonous chores done six times the day before. Yes, there have been times when I’ve been tempted to quit; to join an animal rights group, or just sit at home and study the crayon marks on Dominic’s bedroom wall, rather than go through another day of full-time mothering. But I’m willing to bet most everyone has had that “run-from-it-all” fantasy on occasion.
When I was a first time mother, I used to wonder how far parental love could stretch. How naïve I was! Shared love in a large family can best be described by the parable of the loaves and the fishes. The more passed around, the more there remains in the basket.
After 20-plus years of parenting, my husband and I have discovered that love does not always conquer everything – but it sure helps!
It’s hard to describe the added gifts that adoption brings to a family. We have all benefited so! When we first saw our 18-month-old Filipino throwing a temper tantrum as she spit at her brother and bit her new sister, I confess we may have wondered, “ Will it work?” The thrill of her first accepting smile and loving kiss was all it took to know “Of course, it will.”
Adoption is a privilege when the bed wetting, nightmares, stealing, and testing stop and the trust begins. A privilege? No, it’s a miracle! I cannot describe the joy at hearing our newly adopted Charlie (at age 5) speak his first English sentence or write his name for the first time.
No one will ever know the feeling of being handed a five-pound, 2-month-old boy diagnosed as “dying” form malnutrition, dehydration, and lack of stimulation, and then seeing that first family photo showing a chubby seven-pound bundle of love.
One of our sons came from war-torn Vietnam. At 5 years of age, he witnessed the loss of his whole family. Who can repair such hurt? We cannot, but God can.
Another son remembers a mother who abandoned him in the marketplace of India. After a series of jails, orphanages, hospitals, and street life, here he is. Who can heal those 10 years of scarred memories? We cannot. But with God’s help and prayer, we’ll not give up believing anything is possible.
There seems to be an intangible quality in a large family that cannot be documented or adequately portrayed. Call it a camaraderie of you will, but a certain common union works to knot us together even under the stormiest conditions.
Oh yes, we have our problems, just as all families do. But through illness, death, teen years, racial prejudice, financial worries, attacks from the outside, or rebellion from within, underlying is the knowledge that WE ARE FAMILY.
Next to the support for legalized abortion, perhaps one of the most shocking, if not repulsive, radical notions to come out of the feminist “liberation” movement is its wholesale rejection of the dignity and value of full-time motherhood. Even more appalling is the fact that this extremist element in American society, not only found a podium, but its dictates gradually became, first tolerated, then accepted, and then the “norm.”
Those of us who went against this “norm’ in choosing to have children and to nurture them full-time as stay-at-home mothers, found ourselves head to head with not only radical, anti-faith feminists, but – quite disappointingly at times – some members of our own faith and family.
For a time, the country was even brainwashed to believe that couples must limit the number of their children (no more than two), because there was an over-population crisis. The results of such propaganda were: an avalanche of school closings, “Help Wanted” posters displayed in most storefront windows today, and “below replacement level” U.S. Census Bureau statistics which reveal the top-heavy crisis approaching, with more elderly than employed to support them.
How and where along the way, did America – traveling its “progressive” and liberated trail to the 1990’s – abandon its once universal belief that children were a “blessing” – a gift from God?
It’s long past time that Christians band together in support of the unique role God bestows on married women, and to encourage those women, who, often at great personal and financial sacrifice, choose the career of full-time mother. Perhaps I’m just prejudiced, but I’m one of those homebound “traditionalists” who some would call outdated, out of step, or just plain old-fashioned.
My equality, and that of millions of homemaking professional moms like me, will never be measured on whether we can lift that fire hose, tote that barge, or achieve a corporate position, but rather in the mere fact that as women, we and only we, can bear the gift of new life within our womb, and can nurture our young at our breast.
By choice, I am a full-time wife, homemaker and mother, and I readily concede that – excluding flu season, car-pooling a Blue Bird troupe, spring cleaning our boys’ room, or enduring an out break of chicken pox – I love what I’m doing!
I admit, I would take in laundry, typing, other people’s kids, or a bunch of baby barracudas in order to stay home and care for my family. Sure, the work is tedious, uncreative, unfulfilling, downright boring, and financially unrewarding if measured by radical feminist standards, but not by my yardstick. It’s the most meaningful, creative, adventuresome, fulfilling, and rewarding thing this woman can do. I’m helping shape the future.
Because of popular folklore, a tragic stereotype has gone virtually unchallenged regarding the stay-at-home mother. Sadder still is the fact that much of the discrimination leveled at this chosen profession has come not from chauvinistic, unenlightened men, but from the very persons we thought would stand in out defense – “liberated” women who championed what they consider more “meaningful” outside-of-home careers.
To set the record strait, full-time homemakers, like myself, who deliberately choose the career of homemaker, are not overweight, overindulged, under-educated, uninvolved, or uninformed. The majority of us are not hooked on TV soaps, game shows, or re-runs of Lawrence Welk. We don’t sit around stuffing our faces with potatoes chips all day, mindlessly chattering for hours on the phone, or trying to “create a new me” at diet farms, “the club,” or spa.
No. Our exercise, stimulation, and “ladder of success” is measured by the smiles, snuggles, hugs, and love we give and receive from those we serve – our family.
Pope John Paul II, in an address to the United Nations (October 2, 1979) warned that “material goods by their very nature provoke conditionings and divisions; the struggle to obtain these goods becomes inevitable in the history of humanity. If we cultivate this one-sided subordination of man to material goods alone, we shall become incapable of overcoming this state of need.”
He reminds us too that the desire for spiritual goods “does not divide people, but puts them into communication with each other.” In his Apostolic Exhortation on the Family John Paul II insisted, “The Church can and should help modern society by tirelessly insisting that the work of women in the home be recognized and respected by all in its irreplaceable value.” The Holy Father challenges society to restore the superiority of the family and the individual over work. He suggests a “social reevaluation of the mother’s role, of the toil connected with it and of the need that children have for care.” He also proposed that there be “rants to mothers devoting themselves exclusively to their families.”
Don’t ya love it? Career moms themselves, know firsthand experience that no one – not a well-meaning relative, neighbor, friend or manufactured kiddie care – can do for hire what we do for free. Whether it’s an infant seeking the reassurance of a mother’s arms, an adolescent in need of a tender touch, or a struggling teen looking for a listening ear, a mother’s presence is vital.
After all, love builds like yeast. And love, like yeast, takes time, tenderness, aging and care. It can’t be scheduled, subsidized or put on hold. Three cheers for the mom who makes the choice for her husband and her young, to be a full-time homemaker and I’ll show you a woman of vision who is working to shape America’s future – for generations to come.
Vocational Call of Motherhood Is Far More than a Little Time Out
A few weeks ago I came across a feature in the lifestyle section of our city newspaper about a local attorney who became a new mother. Unable to make it to the hospital in time to deliver, she had the baby at home. Described as a “super mom,” within an hour of giving birth she was back on her laptop, taking calls and assisting her associates with an important case they were working on.
I have to believe that lawyer’s behavior is an anomaly. Perhaps emergency situations make it impossible for some women to spend an hour or two bonding with their babies – I know, for example, that Queen Isabella of Spain was back on her horse pursuing the Moors shortly after delivering Katherine of Aragon – but at the risk of sounding judgmental, I found nothing admirable or super-mommish in this lawyer’s behavior. Good heavens, woman, you just had a baby! Take some time to recover and cuddle. Have someone hold your calls.
I don’t think the newspaper reporter shared my opinion. Have you noticed how frequently the media refer to Hollywood starlets – and even average career women – who begin families as “taking time out” to have a baby? I find this absurd. When I consider my many friends who have had children, some of whom have continued to work outside the home, I can’t imagine a single one of them describing pregnancy, childbirth and parenting as a time out! Whether at home full-time or not, the view of mothering as a pause in the pursuit of our “true” vocation diminishes the most important task most of us will ever know: nurturing our little ones and raising them up to be Godly people.
Motherhood is not something that any of us can “fit into” our full and busy lives, like finding time for workouts at the gym or swing dance lessons. Rearing our children dominates our time and thought. Motherhood deserves a place among the bona fide vocations of the world, right up there with the religious life, skilled craftsmanship and medicine. Like any true calling, it requires self-sacrifice, patience, the humility to admit mistakes and work to better ourselves, and an unyielding sense of purpose.
Especially for those privileged to be at home full-time with our little ones, switching gears from career to the intense privacy of our new vocation requires a drastic emotional and spiritual shift. It is in many ways a cloistered existence. There is more quiet – if we allow it – than we experienced in the workplace. There is a rhythm to our lives: waking, changing, feeding, washing. Those of us who experience the joy of nursing our little ones have a dozen opportunities a day to stop and meditate or pray; we wake at night to repeat our rituals as the rest of the world slumbers. It feels like a parallel universe to the rest of the planet sometimes – occasionally even lonely, but very special. It is probably the most demanding experience any of us willingly undertake as we trust on faith that all of the tears and hard work will have ramifications beyond what the world can see. It’s an opportunity to suffer and to experience intense joy and love simultaneously. It is a tremendous Christian experience; perhaps that’s why Saint Paul writes that women are saved through bearing children (1 Timothy 2:15).
A pro-life OB-GYN once told me that motherhood was really kind of crazy by the standards of the world: what makes a woman long for the discomfort of pregnancy, the trepidation and pain of labor, the exhaustion of endless hours in the rocking chair soothing a little one at our breast?
I would posit that motherhood is as close to an experience of the Last Things as a person can be privileged to enjoy here on earth; Christ Himself refers to the precursors of the Second Coming as birth pains. Through motherhood we experience fear, pain and self-doubt, and through our weakness, He is made strong. When we allow ourselves to undergo these trials in an attempt to abandon ourselves to His will, we are rewarded with indescribable love: ours for our spouse and children, theirs for us and, ultimately God’s boundless love and concern for us.
Further, through our care and affection we offer a glimpse of Paradise to our dear little ones: “As a mother comforts her son, so will I comfort you; in Jerusalem you shall find comfort.” (Isaiah 66:13). The vocation of motherhood is an invitation to heaven. That’s the call any mother really must take.