Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Miserable Mothers

I'm a little late commenting on this Newsweek article on the misery of modern motherhood, but better you receive my profound thoughts late than never--right? Right.

The gist of it is that modern youngish women (it seems to be geared to women a tad older than me) lose their sanity in attempting to be the PERFECT MOTHER, get their children in the RIGHT classes, schools, etc., all while maintaining their job skills and trying to keep their career from being entirely derailed. The solution, of course, is better day care.

Is this frenzied activity the unselfish outpouring of a mother's love and devotion? Is this what happens when you love your kids too much? Is it a unique problem of our day and age?

To answer the last question first: No. Women who devote themselves to achieving perfection in all areas of life, at the expense of their actual lives and the lives of those around them, are a hackneyed stereotype. "She's the sort of woman who lives for others--you can tell the others by their hunted expression."

It's a natural, but twisted, outgrowth of the way God made women to be: multi-taskers, responsible for making sure that nothing gets left behind while the men press forward with their one-track minds bent on slaying the wildebeests.

But it doesn't get to this level of misery by too much love. I know, because I feel this pressure on me sometimes. What if I do X, Y, and Z wrong? What if my children miss out on something critical I should have given them? What if I never get the closets clean? (maybe I'm a little too obsessed about that).

It has nothing to do with loving my husband or children. It has to do with stroking my own ego. I want to be the person who can do it all well. I want to be the mother who has a spotless house, eight children all dressed in handmade and modest, yet stylish and unique clothes, all classically educated and fluent in three languages. It will look good on my own mental resume.

This explains, too, why such matters as tending to the mother tend to be categorized as "selfish" (even if a "good" selfish). There's nothing selfish about working to make sure my husband has a beautiful wife and my children a happy mother. But taking showers and naps doesn't check anything off on the "I AM THE PERFECT MOMMY" list.

It's just pride. Yet it camouflages itself so well: as love, as unselfishness, as motherly devotion.

I am blessed with one thing these women apparently do not have: a husband who will lovingly tell me when my attitude is wrong. Plus one even more important thing; the grace of God that reaches down to me even though I am a helpless sinner.

Thinking about this has helped me realize why all our righteousness is as filthy rags. Whatever righteousness we seek for ourselves, we seek to make ourselves feel good about what wonderful people we are. (We can even feel good about feeling humble.) Yuck. What a stinking mess.

Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift.

No comments: