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Motherhood within marriage is a worthy choice

March 11th, 2010

Can we judge the status of a woman by her pay check? Have women arrived when they have half the seats in the legislature and their husbands do half the chores at home? This is Part I of a symposium by Mercatornet.com on improving the status of women by 2020.

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse’s take on the situation:

I have a radical idea for promoting the dignity of women: the idea that giving birth to children inside marriage is good and worthy use of one’s time and talent. This idea has come under assault from many directions.

We hear that intelligent women should use their minds, by giving priority to career. Taking care of children is for losers with nothing better to do.

We hear that independent women should not rely on men financially. It is better to have a child alone, or to be childless, than to be financially interdependent with the child’s father.

We hear there is no urgency to having children. If you haven’t found a husband, if you haven’t made the time to become a mother naturally, you can always use artificial insemination with donor sperm, to become a mother at the time of your own choosing.

If we accept these ideas, we lose essential features of being a female human: an appreciation of woman’s natural life-giving powers, of woman’s desire for lasting relationships, and of woman’s intrinsic delight in bringing forth new life.

Male and female are two different ways of being human. Without women being women, men too, are diminished. The uniquely feminine becomes obscured to us all, much to the loss of woman’s intrinsic dignity.

Read more from Dr. J at the Ruth Institute website.

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  1. Dina Barron
    March 16th, 2010 at 05:23 | #1

    Beautifully stated! I have a law degree but am at home raising six (so far) children. What a great life I have. It’s true that I would be financially vulnerable if my husband wanted to leave, but the gift of faith provides mutual trust that we are together for the long haul. I have a husband who is committed to me so that I can focus on raising the kids without fretting about meeting deadlines at work.

  2. March 16th, 2010 at 08:24 | #2

    I am a woman who made motherhood, within marriage, a top priority in my life, topped only by my faith. I will never regret this decision and I believe that my children benefited greatly from it. Although they have friends who have more materially, my kids have a home to come back to where mom and dad are still together – they have no memory of day care, because there was none – and they still love begin together as a family. My sincerest hope is that my two young adult daughters will understand the high calling of motherhood and will embrace it with joy and honor, apologizing to no one for their choice.

  3. Dorothy Ahlswede
    March 16th, 2010 at 11:19 | #3

    From a biological perspective, women face a far shorter “biological clock” than men in terms of conception and birth. Some women can expect to have children even into their mid-50s, but fertility rates in the general population decline sharply during the 30s. By contrast, men can produce children during the entire course of their lives. Of course, parents of both sexes assume a lifetime commitment with respect to their children.

    I agree with you that the important role of women as mothers deserves far more respect and recognition in modern society in the United States than this role sometimes receives from the media and sociologists. Often, women who either interrupt their careers to become full time mothers or who decide to postpone entry into the job market due to childcare concerns suffer lifelong discrimination in employment. Some women prefer to remain at home and offer fulltime care for their children during the entire course of their lives. This situation no doubt pertains with respect to fathers also. But in the United States, these families pay a heavy economic price in many cases for taking this pro-child option.

    While economic circumstances may compel many Americans to seek work outside of the home despite the presence of children, our society frequently has not recognized or noticed all of the potential costs this situation may impose upon youngsters. They are the unrecognized element in the significant transformation in the workplace which occurred following World War II.

    Given the markedly shorter “biological clock” which women face, probably in my opinion our society should become more accepting of parents entering and leaving the job market for protracted periods of time in order to care for their children. Every child deserves fulltime parental or familial care in my view. E.g. Grandparents or other extended family members also offer childcare to family members on a regular basis in some circumstances.

    Probably adopting some provisions for more generous parental maternity leaves by employers, increasing and extending family vacation times, maintaining sufficiently high wages such that working parents can support spouses who remain at home caring for children and encouraging social services not to penalize fulltime parents for purely economic reasons would be helpful in terms of promoting stronger family values and a heightened emphasis upon the wellbeing of children. Healthy societies around the globe place the primary importance upon parents serving the best needs of their children, including economic, emotional and intellectual support but contemporary U.S. society has imposed severe economic constraints on many parents in this respect.

  4. JMT
    March 16th, 2010 at 13:49 | #4

    While I agree that motherhood within marriage is a worthy calling and deserves respect, it is not going to be a very popular option unless marriage is taken seriously again in this country. When divorces are granted for any reason or no reason, and there is no social stigma attached to those who violate their marriage vows, people are naturally going to try to minimize the risks as much as possible and protect themselves from their own husbands/wives, or dispense with marriage altogether because it no longer offers the security it used to. Any family founded on such a shaky institution as modern marriage is a house built on sand. I appreciate Ms. Barron’s comment above–her decision to have a large family despite the risks shows her to be a very courageous person, but most of us are much less intrepid and would prefer a more stable environment in which to raise our children.

  5. TR
    March 16th, 2010 at 16:45 | #5

    As part of the generation of girls told that we can do anything we want to and be anything we want to, I’ve found that there’s one exception to this mantra: being a full-time mom.

    This is what I’ve chosen to do, with the support of my wonderful husband, but there are not a lot of kudos here. It seems like people think it’s a waste of one’s mind and time to devote a couple of decades to raising children. People who know how well I did in school always tell me I need to go to grad school and then I can have a great career, as though raising kids isn’t a worthy expenditure of my talents. So smart and talented women should either not have children, or should dump them in daycare while pursuing “greater things”? Then people wonder what’s wrong with kids.

    Thankfully, more and more women my age are starting to realize that our talents can be very well applied to raising our children, and that our children deserve our full attention. Women with degrees are staying home with their kids in greater numbers.

    During a period when I was having a hard time accepting my life as a SAHM, I was talking with a friend of mine from high school who is studying to become a doctor (not married yet, no kids). She is a Muslim and she encouraged me so much by saying, “you are the only one who can be your son’s mom and someday you’ll have to stand before God and answer for the type of care you gave him.”

    While I went through a period of difficulty accepting the mental atrophy and lack of kudos (why is approval so important to us, anyway?) I never really shook in my resolve to stay home. I worked for three years as a youth minister for a very large parish, and in my work with the 500+ families in my ministry, I saw that nothing beats having a parent at home for helping kids have confidence in themselves, resist peer pressure, and stay out of trouble. You can easily spot in a crowd the kids with a parent at home: they’re the ones who don’t seem to be so victimized by the barbarity that is the high school experience. They’re anchored.

    I figure that prioritization is a good skill to have, that’s what helped me do so well in school. So I’m prioritizing by importance and time-sensitivity: i’ll regret nothing more than not being there for my kids, and I’ll have plenty of time for a “career” after menopause.

    Thanks, Dr. J! Keep it up!

  6. admin
    March 16th, 2010 at 16:56 | #6

    I’m the husband of a mom who stayed home. As older parents who only got one, we agreed she would quit and stay home for five years….which stretched into seven, then ten. Looking at our daughter now, a senior at a Christian college here in California, we are so glad we did it. There was a price, but thankfully, it was not more than we could pay. (Except for the tuition, of course). TR, YOU keep it up. (from a Ruth staffer who couldn’t help but weigh in on your post)

  7. Richard Munro
    May 25th, 2010 at 21:02 | #7

    Very interesting comments thank you. There is no job more important than producing and raising (rearing and educating) children. If we don’t do well at this we wiil have no future as a society.

  8. barbara james
    January 5th, 2011 at 14:12 | #8

    We hear that independent women should not rely on men financially. It is better to have a child alone, or to be childless, than to be financially interdependent with the child’s father.

    We hear there is no urgency to having children. If you haven’t found a husband, if you haven’t made the time to become a mother naturally, you can always use artificial insemination with donor sperm, to become a mother at the time of your own choosing.

    If we accept these ideas, we lose essential features of being a female human: an appreciation of woman’s natural life-giving powers, of woman’s desire for lasting relationships, and of woman’s intrinsic delight in bringing forth new life.

    My reply:

    Hmm. So women who are married and are not parents are “less than”? Those who don’t feel any burning need to parent are not real women? There are women who don’t criticize women who have children but don’t have any of their own; attitudes like these only lead to bigotry.

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