Insanity and the Overwhelmed Modern Mother

Posted on December 2, 2011 by

When insanity becomes the normal way of doing business, is it still insane? I think so, but I may be alone on that.  Specifically, I’ve been pondering many of the challenges mothers face in an era when there are few, if any women available who, having gone before us, can help navigate through the treacherous waters of raising our children in this 21st century. So much of what we call empowerment has done more harm than good. And the older generation is as much to blame for it as the younger.

While much of what ails the modern wife and mother can rightly be blamed on the modern feminist movement, just as much of it can be blamed on the lack of parental foresight over the past 40 years. This includes Christian families and parents who embrace more traditional values. Families have done a horrible job of passing on true and timeless values to the next generation, opting instead to discard them in favor of all the new “wisdom” the world has produced. Which brings me to the first insane idea.

Insane idea #1: The notion that, upon our 18th year of life, packing up, leaving our families to travel to a distant place and learn doctrines hostile to truth is a rite of passage that all must experience to have lived a full life.

This is the beginning of insanity because in my estimation, it usually ushers in all the rest of it. I think it is safe to say that the reason most young mothers find themselves lonely and floundering when they have children is because they bought into this first insane idea. They leave Loving Security, GA to go to college and meet Mr. Right, who hails from God Knows Where, NV. They fall in love, get engaged, and job prospects lead him, and thus them, to Big City, IL where they excitedly jump into their careers and all the hustle and bustle of life as newlyweds. They also build a lifestyle based on their double income, no kids’ salaries. All is well, until they find out that they are expecting. Reality immediately starts to set in for her when she is unable to jump in the car and take a 10 minute drive to share her excitement with her mother. He reassures her, as he well should, that everything is going to be great. And it is, until she has her baby and is faced with insane idea #2.

Insane idea #2: That it is perfectly logical to hand your newborn baby over to a minimum wage hireling for 8 hours or more per day while you work build a career, make ends meet and pay off the debt incurred from insane idea #1.

Again, leaving aside exceptional situations if you please, why do we think it makes any sense at all that a person who is responsible for a minimum of 4 or more newborns in addition to your own is going to see to it that your child gets the love and care that he or she needs? We have no reason at all to believe that, but this is so much a part of our culture that the insanity of it has been totally lost. It is the normal way of doing business. So much so that I am accused of being too protective, of not having a life, of sheltering my children too much, simply because I have taken seriously my God-given responsibility to train up my own kids. Of course, making the decision to be at home means that “sacrifices” must be made. We drive older cars, vacations are few, short, and close to home when we do go on them, and eating out, that great American pastime, is a big deal around our house because we don’t do it much. And again, we are looked at as if we are strange because we think the “sacrifices” really aren’t sacrifices at all. You can’t put a price on a being there for your children. Or on having something of yourself left to give to those you love most at the end of the day. That of course, brings me to insane idea number 3.

Insane idea #3: That living the good life has anything at all to do with the zip code you live in, the car you drive, or how much disposable income you can dispose of entertaining yourself at the end of the month.

Let me be the first to note that it does feel good to have all your bills paid, a few bucks in the bank, and still be able to do dinner and a movie of Friday night. Like Paul, we’ve been abased, abound, and everything in between. But our culture has painted it almost sinful to just be able to make ends meet. Further, there are incalculable spiritual blessings when we are more acutely aware of our need to trust that the Heavenly Father will  provide our daily bread. This idea of uprooting ourselves and our families solely to chase bigger salaries has reached epic proportions in America and is a major contributor to the fact that mothers feel isolated and alone, and stay at home mothers in particular. Most cities are full of folks with no roots, no family nearby, and no lifelong ties or support for families to lean on.

While I certainly realize that I can’t keep my children tethered to me forever, and have no intention of trying to do so, I have always been thankful that both my husband and I live and raise our family in the city where we were born and raised. Even though most of the women in my extended family work outside their homes, I am still in a position to call upon someone I trust in the case of an emergency, and I even have a few fellow at home mothers I can get together with on those rare occasions that I have hours to spend outside the house. It is possible to build a close and trusted circle of friends no matter where you are, but the insanity is so pervasive that very few people stay in any one place these days long enough to do so.

Sometimes life takes us far away from home. Sometimes our Heavenly Father opens doors and sends us on missions that demand we let go of those things that make us feel most secure. I am fully aware that there are twists, turns, and bends in the road of life that take us places we never planned to go. But that is wholly different from running to and fro chasing a more affluent lifestyle. Mothers of generations gone by were blessed to be able to raise their children with proximity of their mothers and grandmothers, their aunts, and their cousins. Churches were more than just a pit stop on Sunday morning where everyone filed in, did their religious duty, feigned love, and went home, never to see or even think about another member of the congregation until came back next week. And that was because even there, everyone there had a history with one another. The deacon may also have been the postman. The Sunday school teacher may also have been the midwife who had delivered half the babies born in that church during the past 30 years. The church I attended as a child growing up was one very much like that. Connected.

This is the root of the loneliness many young mothers face: The lack of connection. The overwhelming feeling of having to do it all on your own. Of not being close enough to anyone close by that can drop by and sit with the baby while you take a nap during the harried hours and sleep deprived weeks of early motherhood. Of not having anyone you can relate to and trust enough to share your deepest struggles without having to pay them $150 an hour to listen and not judge. Everyone wants to live a reasonably prosperous life. But I think what we have come to expect as reasonably prosperous isn’t reasonable at all, but greediness. The fact that we’re willing to trade real riches in exchange for it simply proves my point. Most of what the world offers will ring painfully hollow when you’re trying to raise a family in the midst of people you’re not sure you can trust.

There is something to be said for staying put, for growing roots that go down deep. It’s one of the things I want to instill in my daughters. That it’s okay to stay in one place. You don’t have to feel pressure to experience everything that the world has to offer. Some things are more important. Being able to relax and watch a rented movie with your husband while the kids sleep over at grandma and grandpa’s is priceless.