Against Children as Burdens: A Response To Amy Glass

Motherhood

The author of a recent blog, pseudonymous Amy Glass, admits to looking down on married young women with children.  “Do people really think that a stay at home mom is really on equal footing with a woman who works and takes care of herself?” She asks in “I Look Down On Young Women With Husbands And Kids And I’m Not Sorry.”

Glass promotes the widely accepted, but less often spoken views that children are burdens, paid employment matters more than anything else, and the choice to stay home is genuinely inferior to the choice to work. The piece has made its rounds around the web, and there have been several responses, but I thought I might provide one as well.

I thank this author for her honesty. No more to beating around the bush, indeed.

I would like to respond to several of the main points, especially based on the question mom-writer, Danielle Bean, asked in her reflections: “Why are we mommies such easy targets?”

Easy: young mothers and stay-at-home mothers particularly, are sitting ducks because we have consciously rejected the wisdom of the world for the apparently “foolish” alternative. The worldly wisdom is that stated by our author: job, delayed marriage, delayed or no children. The alternative of home life, marriage, child-rearing, and *gasp* even cooking and cleaning appears foolish because it rejects the former goods which are loudly and also subconsciously promoted in our culture.

But even back in the first century A.D., Paul knew that those who follow Christ necessarily reject the “wisdom” of the world:

Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe … We preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. (1 Cor. 1:20-25)

The world’s wisdom doesn’t know God, but His truth, His wisdom goes far beyond the world—even calling us to things that look like errors from a worldly point of view. There is a huge reason to make that foolish seeming choice, and it’s not just because God wills it, although He certainly does will it for many women, not all of course, as everyone’s call is truly unique.

The reason is that there is abundant joy in home life as it fits well with our human end of flourishing. The life-giving end of flourishing has largely and sadly been forgotten.

Conversely, while certainly many women may not be called to have children, I insist that it is no more inherently a joyful path than the other, despite how they are painted. And if we are really honest, isn’t joy and happiness the real point of it all? Not just items that look shiny on a resume. We all know too well that the most prestigious of resumes and accomplishments don’t necessarily bring peace or joy with them.

With that in mind, here are responses to a few of her statements:

 “I want to have a shower for a woman when she backpacks on her own through Asia, gets a promotion, or lands a dream job not when she stays inside the box and does the house and kids thing which is the path of least resistance.”

I want to have a shower for these women too! But not because the former type of activities are superior. We throw parties to celebrate milestones and callings. And a woman may be called to the single life or to married life or religious life or all sorts of different things. And for many women, the call to marriage can be unexpected, intentional and significant. We should recognize the important steps people take in their lives regardless of how prized they are by society. The woman who lands a great job or plans an arduous trip shouldn’t look down on the woman expecting her second baby because the former might be called to have a family one day too.

“I hear women talk about how “hard” it is to raise kids and manage a household all the time. I never hear men talk about this. It’s because women secretly like to talk about how hard managing a household is so they don’t have to explain their lack of real accomplishments. Men don’t care to “manage a household.” They aren’t conditioned to think stupid things like that are “important.” “

Haha, that’s because men don’t usually play the same role in managing a household. Often, the husband and wife play different roles that both contribute to the well-being of the household, viewing the family and its functioning as a unit rather than a zero-sum game of personal accomplishments.

Additionally, it really is hard to manage a household. Bill paying, food-inventory management, scheduling etc are very similar to the tasks involved in running a small business. None of the tasks required are unimportant or stupid.

Of course, the accomplishments the author values such as getting a promotion or landing a dream job or completing a hiking trip are genuinely hard too. Her idea of “real accomplishments” is simply a bias of more glamorous things. The more-hidden difficulty here is the assumption that a human life is less valuable or worthy based on certain types of outer achievements or deeds. Gone is the notion of the inherent dignity of woman (or man). I think this is dangerous and especially can bring on feelings of inferiority in anyone who must work for a living at something not-so-trendy or inspiring.

The reality is that the value of human life is in being a good human person—that’s right, just plain being. We can’t all do wondrous things; some of us have disabilities; some of us are poor. Fortunately, we need only to do as much as we are able, given each of our individual circumstances. All of us can be, and we can be very well.

Nevertheless, the most problematic thing in this essay, I think, is illustrated well by the last quotation: it’s a type of feminism that assumes being a man or the way men do things really is better. What type of pro-woman theory actually affirms that the male way is superior and that women must perform in exactly the same capacities as men in order to be valuable? Something truly pro-woman can see that woman bring a unique perspective and way of doing things. It would also recognize that men and women are not the same. There is nothing truly feminist or pro-woman about calling men/the male perspective superior. A true feminism recognizes the inherent dignity, complementarity and equal value despite differences of the sexes.

“Doing laundry will never be as important as being a doctor or an engineer or building a business.”

As I hope has been made clear, “important” is relative and being matters more than certain types of doing. Also as mentioned, the type of careers Glass mentions and values are the flashy ones. And those really are great jobs. But there is inherent classism in this statement. Most women (and men) who do hold jobs don’t hold top-tier, stimulating, “important” jobs. What about the woman (or man) who works at the laundromat, since she mocks doing laundry? Is the value of her paid position less than that of the doctor? I think the author would have to say “yes.” In which case, she isn’t just insisting that having a job is better than being a mother. She is also insisting that being upper class is better than being working class. While many people work admirably to change their circumstances, others choose harsh jobs in order to support loved ones or for other reasons. Is such a choice not also admirable and fulfilling in a different way?

As I hope has been made clear, joy and flourishing is the purpose or end that we strive for in life. Big accomplishments may bring us there, but often they do not. Each person’s path to flourishing may look different, but as long as it includes genuine goodness, there is no reason to look down on anyone else.

What do you think? Are Glass’s opinions common? What do you think captures the true purpose or essence of a life well-lived?

Recent Pieces by Me from Elsewhere on the Web

Recently I’ve had two essays posted to the Truth and Charity Forum at Human Life International.

As I sent them there instead of posting them here, I’d like to include a link to them:

Ideas matter: Eugenic Ideology in Germany and Abortion in America

“The film [Nazu Medicine ]ponders “how could these doctors” have carried out such unethical experiments, treating human beings like mere lab rats, often leaving them disfigured or dead. Near the end, one astute commenter concludes that given the environment in early 20th century Germany (and America) that was saturated in pro-eugenics ideologies and the scientific (though actually pseudo-scientific) emphasis on the superiority of the Arian race, that the doctors under the Nazi regime were actually following through on their ethics, not violating them. He points out that many of them bought into the German rhetoric of superiority and viewed themselves as saving the world through purifying it, which was the highest aim of eugenics as a theory.”

Whole essay here: http://www.truthandcharityforum.org/ideas-matter-eugenic-ideology-in-germany-and-abortion-in-america/

Catholic Social Teaching in A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol has been famously reproduced so many times it can seem trite. But there is an enduring wisdom to its pages that keeps the tale significant: it offers insight into human nature, the value of the person, the true worth of money, and the purpose of society and even life. As simply an honest man of good will, not himself a Catholic, Charles Dickens draws many timeless principles into his narratives, which dovetail nicely with elements of Catholic social teaching. A Christmas Carol’s general agreement with Catholic thought reveals how these principles really are evident to the human mind, if it reasons well.

Solidarity

The story opens on Christmas Eve with Scrooge in his office with Bob Cratchit, his employee. Scrooge receives a few visitors and his response to them serves to demonstrate just how far astray from human values he has erred and simultaneously highlights what his proper attitude should be.”

Whole essay here: http://www.truthandcharityforum.org/catholic-social-teaching-in-a-christmas-carol/

So what do you think?