This, I think, could easily become my rallying cry and a motivating goal for any authentic feminist:
A greater presence of women in society will prove most valuable, for it will help to manifest the contradictions present when society is organized solely according to the criteria of efficiency and productivity, and it will force systems to be redesigned in a way which favours the processes of humanization which mark the ‘civilization of love.’ (para 4)
This comes from John Paul II’s 1995 Letter to Women.
Thriving, life-loving women can perform something vital for our culture: help move us away from systems and definitions that value only production.
A society worth living in–a society God wants us to live in–is a society that loves human life and celebrates a life of flourishing for all.
All people, all women and especially stay-at-home moms (who are all too often overlooked by well-meaning folks) can participate in this. Two huge strategies I see for moving our culture closer to a more human dynamic are these: (and they don’t even require a revolution)
1. Education. Education itself in most schools is set up like a factory: desks in rows, students grouped by age like expiration dates on products, lots of sitting, bells to announce shifts, huge group lunches, standardized tests and standardized curriculum. Unsurprisingly, the forms of public schools were developed during industrialization. They produce factory workers. Let’s change that.
Let’s make education more human, more child-friendly. This is the job of all parents and especially stay-at-home moms who dedicate their lives to their children because they know that caregivers are not interchangeable robots who wipe bottoms and spoon mush into baby mouths.
Homeschooling, unschooling, Montessori, new schooling–and hey it can include public schools if they are open to it. Parents forming groups of like-minded fellows to get together and teach or rather…to present, to incorporate the child, to let the child grow. One thing is for sure: segregating kids by age is out. Misleading benchmarks are out. Attentive, loving connection is in. Authentic discipline, guidance, virtue. These are what we want.
2. Bring kids everywhere. As a stay-at-home mom, I really want to break the taboo that forbids children from a lot of public places. Congressional Hall, for instance; libraries; nice restaurants; universities; art galleries; Target (they can come here, but they had better not touch anything); courtrooms; office buildings.
All the important places where adults get together and do important things are unofficial no-kid zones. Why is that? Surely many of the people participating must have children. Surely these people might be interested in sharing important things with their children.
I think it has a lot to do with that mindset of favoring only production. This production mindset says: “We can’t have kids here because kids have needs like eating and going to the bathroom, and we important adults can’t get distracted with that stuff because what we are doing is just so very important for all of us important adults.”
And that seems to make sense because our culture is very concerned with important adults and the things (and money) that they make. For this reason, we have compartmentalized society: the adults are on one side making, doing and saying important things. The kids are on the other side not interfering with the adults and simultaneously being trained to do important things, or so goes the narrative.
But perhaps this compartmentalization ought to be challenged. If we are indeed a unified society and children grow up to take over the reins, why exclude them? Why balk at the diaper changing mat?
So here is my one-woman revolution: there are lectures and conferences I would like to attend. I will attend them, and I will bring my baby. If she needs to be excused, I will take her out because I sincerely want all participants to benefit from the meeting. But as long as she is non-disruptive, why should she not come?
I saw this work very successfully at the Diocese of Arlington’s Risk Jesus event, which I attended with my baby. As did many mothers. All day long. It went just fine.
What if our society began to incorporate children? What if mothers and fathers could bring their kids to work? What if work places became learning places too? And corporate centers had playgrounds? What if CEOs taught leadership skills from 1:00-2:00pm to ten year olds right there in the building? What if engineers taught math? What if literature professors taught reading? What if people of all ages were seen as the rightful center of value, as different but beloved parts of a whole?
Well, for one thing, it would eliminate the stay-at-home vs. working-mom dilemma.
And it can start without policy changes or massive overhauls. A civilization of love can start with you bringing your baby to a lecture; you creating a curriculum of ideas you deeply value and sharing it with your children and your friends’ children. It starts with congresswomen bringing their children.
Italian MEP Licia Ronzulli is already doing it. She’s pictured above.
It starts with any of us. And the results could be staggering.
Reader Questions: Am I crazy? Where else is off-limits to children? What is the true purpose of society? And is it defensible to segregate the children and the elderly?