‘Motherhood' as I see, is a gift. It is a calling and a vocation from God. But, like all gifts, we have a choice of appreciating it, accepting it, and cherishing the responsibilities and joys it brings, or considering it an encumbrance, a duty or even a burden. Our attitude must be examined.
Motherhood begins at conception (as does fatherhood) and so, to ensure the unborn child is healthy, parents need to live healthy lives avoiding anything that may harm themselves and the unborn child. Motherhood therefore demands a sense of responsibility throughout, and how we carry out our responsibilities towards our children would naturally vary according to circumstances.
The questions to ask are; How much time– quantity and quality, do I spend with my child? Am I communicating love and joy as I bathe and feed them? Do I watch my child with the loving concern of a mother or do I just do things for them and to them? Am I sensitive to their feelings and am I also developing sensitivity towards them? Are we communicating in an atmosphere of love and trust?
Motherhood is demanding, especially if a mother has to work outside the home. But it is not impossible to be an effective and caring parent so long as we get our day organised and gear our children into a routine or pattern.
While we need to ensure that father also plays his role and that we get his help and support, mothers should not minimise their responsibilities just because they also bring home a pay check. We need to cut out on non-essentials in order to make time and space for our role as mothers.
We need to learn how to relax with our children so that we do not get stressed out and what better way then to enjoy them even while we care for them and their needs. Relax together!
Children understand selfless love, devotion and meaningful discipline. When this is communicated in a loving and consistent manner by mother to child, all the other imperfections will seem unimportant.
Question 1: What do you think of placing children in child-care centres so mothers can work?
Safe, clean, loving child-care facilities is a necessity in today's culture. They are especially needed by the millions of mothers who are forced to work for financial reasons. They are particularly vital to the many single parents who are the sole breadwinners in their families. Thus, we need not question the wisdom of providing well-supervised centres for children whose mothers and fathers require assistance in raising them. That debate is over.
What can be argued is whether children fare better in a child-care facility or at home with a full-time mom. Personally [and others may disagree], I don't believe any arrangement for children can compete with an intact family where the mother raises her kids and the father is also very involved in their lives. There are at least four reasons that are true.
First, children thrive and learn better when they enjoy one-on-one relationships with adults rather than as members of a group. Second, you can't pay an employee in a child-care centre enough to care for children like their own mothers will do. Children are a mother's passion, and it shows.
Third, research verifies that kids at home are healthier than those who are regularly exposed to diseases, coughs, and sneezes from other boys and girls. Fourth, a bonding is more likely to occur between parents and children when the developmental milestones are experienced firsthand. Families should be there when the first step is taken and the first word is spoken and when fears and anxieties arise.
Certainly, others can substitute for Mom in those special moments, but something precious is lost if a surrogate witnesses them.
In short, I recognise the need for healthy child-care facilities in situations that demand them, but group living is not in the best interests of kids.
Question 2: You've talked about being a full-time mother versus having a full-time career. Give us your view of a woman handling both responsibilities simultaneously. Is it doable?
Some women are able to maintain a busy career and a bustling family at the same time, and they do it beautifully. I admire them for their discipline and dedication. It has been my observation, however, that this dual responsibility is a formula for exhaustion and frustration for many others. It can be a never-ending struggle for survival.
Why? Because there is only so much energy within the human body, and when it is invested in one place it is not available for use in another. Consider what it is like to be a mother of young children who must rise early in the morning, get her kids dressed, fed, and set for the day, then drive to work, labour from nine to five (or later), go by the supermarkets and pick up some stuff for dinner, retrieve the kids at the child-care centre, and then drive home. She is dog tired by that point and needs to put her feet up for a few minutes. But she can't rest. The kids are hungry, and they've been waiting to see her all day.
"Read me a story, Mom," says the most needy.
This beleaguered woman then begins another four to six hours of very demanding "mothering" that will extend into the evening. She must fix dinner, wash the dishes, bathe the baby, help with homework, and give each child some "quality time." Then comes the task of getting the kids in bed and bringing six glasses of water to giggling kids who want to stall. I get tired just thinking of a schedule like this.
You might ask the married woman, "Where is your husband and father in all this exertion? Why isn't he carrying his share of the homework?" Well, he may be working a fifteen-hour day at his own job. Getting started in a business or a profession often demands that kind of commitment. Or he may simply choose not to help his wife. That is a common complaint among working mothers.
"Not fair," you say.
I agree, but that's the way the system often works.
The most difficult aspect of this lifestyle is the constancy of the load. Most of us could maintain such a schedule for a week or two, but the working mother must do it month after month for years on end. On weekends there's housecleaning to do and clothes to be ironed and pants to be mended. And this is the pace she maintains when things are going right. She has no reserve of time or energy when a member of the family gets sick or the car breaks down or marital problems develop. A little push in any direction and she could go over the edge.
Admittedly, I have painted a more stressful scenario than most families have to endure. But not by much. Over committed and frazzled families are commonplace in our culture. Husbands and wives have no time for each other. Life is nothing but work, work, work. They are continually frustrated, irritable, and harried. They don't take walks or do anything that is fun. Their sex life suffers because exhausted people don't even make love meaningfully. They begin to drift apart and eventually find themselves with "irreconcilable differences." It is a tragic pattern I have been observing for many years.
The issue, then, is not whether a woman should choose a career and be a mother, too. Of course she has that right, and it is nobody's business but hers and her husband's. I would simply plead that you do not allow your family to get sucked into that black hole of exhaustion. Whenever you choose to divide the responsibilities of working and family management, reserve some time and energy for yourselves and for each other. Your children deserve the best that you can give them, too.
Question 3: What answer do you have for those who say being a mother of small children and a homemaker is boring and monotonous?
Some women see the responsibility that way – but we should recognise that most other occupations are boring, too. How exciting is the work of a waiter who serves food to customers every day – or a medical pathologist who examines microscopic slides and bacterial cultures from morning to night – or a dentist who spends his lifetime drilling and filling, drilling and filling – or a lawyer who reads dusty books in a secluded library – or an author who writes page after page after page? Few of us enjoy heart-thumping excitement each moment of our professional lives. Even the high-profile jobs have their boring dimensions.
On a trip to Washington, D.C., a few years ago, my hotel room was located next to the room of a famous cellist who was in the city to give a classical concert that evening. I could hear him through the walls as he practised hour after hour. He did not play beautiful symphonic renditions; he repeated scales and runs and exercises, over and over and over.
This practice began early in the morning [believe me!] and continued until the time of his concert. As he strolled on stage that evening, I'm sure many individuals in the audience thought to themselves, What a glamorous life! Some glamour! I happen to know that he had spent the entire day in his lonely hotel room in the company of his cello. Musical instruments, as you know, are terrible conversationalists.
No, I doubt if the job of a homemaker and mother is much more boring than most other jobs, particularly if the woman refuses to be isolated from adult contact. But as far as the importance of the assignment is concerned, no job can compete with the responsibility of developing and moulding a human being in the morning of his or her life.
This article was written by Focus on the Family Malaysia and the Questions and Answers are extracted from the book entitled "Complete Marriage & Family Home Reference Guide" by Dr. James Dobson with permission.
Focus on the Family 90-second commentaries is aired over TRAXX FM at 6.30 a.m. Monday to Friday