Thursday, May 30, 2019

An Unholy Martyrdom of Mothers

When mothers begin to question whether their burden is heavier than God intends for them to carry, they're often met with dismissive or detached advice to "offer it up," "find the joy," or "trust that God won't give you more than you can handle." Well-intentioned Christian blogs suggest the problem is all in their heads.

However, if her concern is taken seriously - recognizing that a mother's exhaustion and eventual death are not the goalposts of a motherhood well-lived - our communal Christian response might be to affirm her concerns as valid, to outsource some of her responsibilities, and to bolster her mental and physical health.

For a lesson in maternal guilt, pay attention to the moments before and after a woman confesses that she hires a cleaning person, a mother's helper, or a meal planning delivery service to alleviate her workload. Before: she glances around uncomfortably to check who's within earshot. After: she justifies the expense by quickly rambling through a description of current extenuating circumstances (as if family life itself weren't extenuating enough).

Do men feel the need to justify similar actions in this way? Do they duck when driving through a carwash, embarrassed that the family budget subsidizes their decision not to scrub and wax the car themselves? Are there whispered confessions in men's locker rooms about hiring a lawn service? For some reason, work traditionally done by men doesn't have the same social stigma when it’s outsourced.

Why would outsourcing be seen as a staple for men, but a luxury for women?

Please read the rest over at FemCatholic!


  1. I'm so sorry that you've experienced this attitude. I have encountered exactly the opposite. No one is telling me to be self-sacrificing (or self-giving as you want to say). Rather, every way i turn I'm told it's all about me, i need to make time for me, take care of me, etc. I completely agree we need to the care of ourselves mentally, physically,emotionally and spiritually. But i have NEVER experienced any shaming when it comes to needing this support.

    1. I think I understand your experience -- I've seen it also -- that there's a push for parents (mom and dads alike) to ignore the necessary and legitimate call to give of ourselves for our families and instead, to pursue our own happiness. 

      I hope I haven't communicated that message. Hopefully, in the full article over at FemCatholic (linked above in the article), I better contextualize and fully discuss my concerns about the other end of this spectrum -- the pressure on moms, especially Christian moms, to relentlessly and unnecessarily push ourselves to unhealthy limits, even death, in the name of “holy motherhood.”

      If you have the time, please share more about your experience. I'm fascinated by your confidence and support system, and I'd like to learn from your situation. When you're sick, what does your support system look like that allows you time to rest and recover? When you're overwhelmed, how do you ask for help -- or do those around you intuit the stress you're carrying and step in to alleviate what they can? Do you spend time with friends or take time alone to enjoy a hobby or interest? If so, who watches your kids? 

      What advice would you give to moms who are feeling overwhelmed but don't feel they have a support system in place to help? What advice would you give to those in potential roles of support around mothers?