Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Growing a Mother Heart

I wasn't specifically going to create a Mother's Day post, but after asking some friends about how to teach our daughters how to have better attitudes toward motherhood (read Heather's example here), I wanted to make a working list of everything I'd learned.  I think it will make for a nice Mother's Day post.  Here goes:

  • Be as positive as we can in our comments regarding marriage and child-raising.  Be realistic in that it is difficult, but don't be negative.
  • Create a happy, caring family that has physical contact.  Don't believe (or in my opinion, just don't even watch) media that sends the message that it's impossible to have a happy family, and that most families are dysfunctional.
  • This may be merely a United States-elitist culture one, but when possible, emphasize the duty of a husband to provide financially for the family (not always possible for this to happen, but we can hope for it and then do the best with what we get).
  • Don't focus so much on body image -- if we teach our girls to strive for perfect bodies, they'll not want to give up their hot little bods for baby weight and stretch marks.  Focus more on health and how amazing the body is (both female & male) and what a miracle pregnancy and birth is. 
  • Provide young women with positive experiences with children.  These days, most teen-aged girls do not have the opportunity to be around young children and develop a close bond with them.  I can invite young women to babysit and have (hopefully) positive experiences with my children that will help them have happy feelings toward children and motherhood.
  • Pay young women  more to babysit (or young men, if that's who watches kids at your house).  I bet many of my bad attitudes came from spending too much time on rotten babysitting assignments, and then not getting paid much for my work.  Of course, not everything is about money, but I wonder, when it takes a young man an hour to mow and trim a lawn, I might pay him $25; when a young woman babysits my children for an hour, I might pay her $6.  What does that say?  Because money is currently an indicator of value, that says I value the work of lawn mowing, more than I value the care of children (which is often more stressful work!).  I'm a cheap-skate, so this is a hard one for me -- well, maybe I should just pay the lawn-mower $6/hour.
  • Befriend young women.  Show interest in their lives.  They will come to know you and see you, as a mother, are still a wonderful, talented, fun, smart woman -- all your individuality didn't get thrown out when the babies came.
  • Give young women opportunities for real housekeeping, to know what it takes to run a household.  Housework is not very difficult, but it takes perseverance, which is the hard part. 
  • Give girls fun and amazing growing experiences in their lives, but make sure they know fun or amazing is not what life is all about. We have responsibilities, too.
  • Teach our daughters to receive personal revelation and be willing to give up the good and better things, for the best (recognize the things Heavenly Father wants for them).*
  • Teach them that marriage is not just about creating a cute family of two, but to grow that family.  Heavenly Father wants the human race to continue! (Teaching the Doctrine on the Family)
  • Teach young women that mothering is not the same for all women.  They can have their own preferences and methods in it.
  • Do household work together as a family and make it fun.
  • Journal about our mothering experiences and pass those onto our daughters.
  • Celebrate Mother's Day with ALL the women/girls in the family.  Whether or not they become physical mothers, they still can grow a mother heart.*
Happy Mother's Day!

If you have more ideas, leave them, so I can add them to my working list! :)

*Ideas from the Misfit Cygnet.

    The Touch of Human Kindness

    I recently read The Touch of Human Kindness:  Women and the Moral Center of Gravity by Bruce & Marie Hafen given at BYU Women's Conference, May 2001.

    There were a lot of good quotes in this article, but I'll jot down my favorites here.
    • Church members aren't immune from this confusion [regarding marriage, motherhood, and family life]. A Latter‐day Saint mother who was called to work with young single adults was expecting a new baby. One by one, several of her young women privately asked her how she really felt about having another child. In a spirit of deep womanly trust, they asked questions that reflected honest anxiety about being bound to husbands and assuming the burdens of motherhood. She told us she was surprised to hear concerns like this from young women who were believing, active Church members.
    • If being selfless means a woman must give up her own inner identity and personal growth, that understanding of selflessness is wrong. That was a weakness in some versions of the Victorian model of motherhood, which viewed women as excessively dependent on their husbands. But today's liberationist model goes too far the other way, stereotyping women as excessively independent of their families.
    • The critics who moved mothers from dependence to independence skipped the fertile middle ground of interdependence. Those who moved mothers from selflessness to selfishness skipped the fertile middle ground of self‐chosen sacrifice that contributes to a woman's personal growth. Because of these excesses, debates about the value of motherhood have, ironically, caused the general society to discount not only mothers but women in general.
    • "A woman's self‐worth depends not on how much other people seem to value her but rather on how well she is spiritually grounded. To depend on what others think of us lets them determine our sense of worth. When our happiness is based on someone else's choices, rather than our own, we become prime candidates for deadly hope. . . ."
    The Hafen's also stated, similar to Wendy Shalit's ideas:
    As scientist Leon Kass put it, "A fine woman understood that giving her body, even her kiss, meant giving her heart, which was too precious to be bestowed on anyone who would not prove worthy by pledging himself in marriage to be her defender and her lover forever." And so, "it is largely through the purity of her morals, self‐regulated," he said, "that woman wields her influence. Men will always do what is pleasing to women, but only if women suitably control and channel their own considerable sexual power."

    This view of female sexuality deplores abuse of women. It also celebrates the spiritual and emotional fulfillment of marriage for both women and men. Yet women have too long endured the unfairness of a cultural double standard that tolerated promiscuity in men while condemning it in women. A sociologist named David Popenoe writes, "Men the world over are more sexually driven and 'promiscuous,' while women are more concerned with lasting relationships." So, he says, women have been "expected to set limits on the extent of intimacy."

    A double standard that winks at this male laxness enough to excuse it is unequal and unfair. Society might have responded to this inequality by demanding fidelity of men. It is as if our culture had two hands, a female hand that was morally healthy, and a male hand that was morally withered. In the name of equality, we held up both hands and said, "Please make both my hands the same," and what happened? Both hands became withered. And so our generation has romped into history's most staggering sexual revolution, seeking male/female equality by encouraging women to imitate the habitual promiscuity of men.
    . . .
    And why is this a female predisposition [toward permanent pair bonding]? New evidence suggests that women have innate qualities that differ from men's, including a stronger desire for long‐term marriage. "Women, who can bear only a limited number of children" and who must nurture them through years of dependency, "have a great [inner] incentive to invest their energy in rearing [their] children, while men, who can father [many] offspring, do not."

    I found that last statement concerning women wanting to settle down because they have limited time to reproduce, and a man's lack of desire to settle down because he can father offspring his entire life rather interesting.  The concept seems true to me (for instance, if I had unlimited money, I would probably be more careless with it because it would never run out.  Since I have limited money, though, I am very particular with it and and try to spend it wisely); however, does the conclusion really matter when most people don't even view life in regards to how much time they have to reproduce (unless you've had fertility problems)?

    Well worth reading.  Gave me much to think about.