Mom, please stay home for me
BUT WHERE IS MY MOTHER?
Imagine your child asking this question about you. William and Wendy wrote about daycare and parenting: “Full-time day care, particularly group care, is not an adequate substitute for time spent with parents, and can be especially harmful for children under the age of three. For two years we watched day care children in our preschool/day care center respond to the stresses of eight to ten hours a day of separation from their parents with tear, anger, withdrawal, or profound sadness, and we found, to our dismay, that nothing in our own affection and caring for these children would erase this sense of loss and abandonment. We came to realize that the amount of separation—the number of hours a day spent away from the parents—is a critical factor.” (William and Wendy Dreskin, The Day Care Decision, p. 18). Ironically, daycare is the order of the day now. Most young parents merely divide their times in terms of picking up their kids from daycare and school, not staying with them. Some parents seem to underestimate the value of physical presence with kids, especially moms. That’s too bad.
Psychologists and experts maintain that the first three years of infancy is the most crucial stage for developing a child-mother intimacy. This period demands physical presence. The breast-feeding, body-to-body contact brings not only physical nourishment but also nurtures the child’s mental, emotional and spiritual development. “But where is my mother?”, asked a seven-year old kid. “I never stay with her”. This kid’s young mom recently told me that she barely could make out time to be with her child, same as the husband. As nurse, she worked two different shifts: the eight-hour day shift and then the six to eleven (6:00 – 11:pm) evening shift. Often times, she said she came home when her kids had already gone to bed. She usually would get off her first job, rush to pick her kids from school, drop them off at home and then leave for the evening. These kids would always cry each time she left the house, but she couldn’t help the situation. According to her, one challenge was that after graduation, she had heavy student loan on her head and struggled to pay off her debts at the expense of her motherly care and role in the home. Regrettably, her kids almost grew up without the needed attachment to her.
Growing up myself, I knew my mom worked so hard with my dad. But the amount of time we spent with mom was three times the time we spent with dad. Although she was a business woman like dad, she tried to do the things that would bring her closer home and much earlier than dad. The memories of being constantly tied with wrapper at mom’s back are still alive. Telling me, “Look, don’t let me tell your dad what you did” when I messed up in my little way would never erase from my head. She was my first point of contact when I had struggles. Mom predicted me accurately, much more than dad. She knew the food that I liked most. She did my home work with me even though she was barely educated. Usually, she brought me and my sisters and asked us to do our school work together. She would ask my elder sisters to assess my work in the end and see if I got them correctly. She would be the one to report to dad how well we did in school. Most times, she handled our little mistakes behind dad, but then shared them with dad in the form of stories and jokes. Dad would be aware but the gravity would be lessened by then. Dad was like the highest authority in the house.
“But where is my mother?”, is a great question that demands much reflection by mothers today. Does this question implicate you as a mom who barely stays home with your kids? You can still adjust your understanding of being a mom. Although the process of giving birth is crucial, it is only the first step towards motherhood. Think of the Blessed Virgin Mary. She gave birth to Christ and accompanied him all through his lifetime. While addressing the January 7 General Assembly in Rome, Pope Francis said, “In this sense motherhood is more than childbearing; it is a life choice entailing sacrifice, respect for life, and commitment to passing on those human and religious values which are essential for a healthy society”. We don’t mean to underrate the role of fathers in the family, rather to stress the need to be family together.
The truth is that there are things that cannot be substituted in the act of parenting. The breast cannot be substituted by the bottle, maternity never by daycare. It is a relationship that flows naturally. Sheilah Kippley wrote an article in 2005 titled, “The Importance of the Presence of the Mother During the First Three Years” in which she quoted Eberstadt thus, “As medical experts and experienced mothers agree, breastfeeding works best when baby and mother are in constant proximity to each other. The typical breastfed baby eats every two to four hours, often around the clock and sometimes for months on end. In fact, nothing could be more inimical to full-time, out-of-the-house employment…It would be better for both children and adults if more American parents were with their kids more of the time. That is to say, it would be better if more mothers with a genuine choice in the matter did stay home and/or work part-time rather than full-time and if more parents entertaining separation or divorce did stay together for the sake of the kids” (Mary Eberstadt, Home-Alone America, pp. 47-48, 172).
What are the causes of the gap?
Misconceived Feminism: Undoubtedly, most issues in the family today’s society arise because the young generation either has a wrong notion of feminism or seems to downplay the role of women in the family as mothers. Be it known that the greatest role given to the woman to exhibit her feminism by God is to be mother. No man can be mother or even play the role of mothers.
Unhealthy Competition: The sense of competition among couples can give rise to neglecting the role of mothers. Some couples compete on who makes the greater money in the family than the other. They compete on whose turn it is to babysit. They compete on whose turn it is to take kids to school, monitor their homework, etc. That’s a negative one. Couples should rather be collaborators, “For they are no longer two but one”.
Emphasis on material wealth: Remember Christ’s saying, “What shall it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?” (Mk.8:36). It would be the height of parental idiocy to lose the proper moral, emotional and spiritual welfare of your children in the pursuit of wealth. If you train them well, they in turn take care of you later in life. If you lose them, they lose you later. No compromise.
Lack of sacrifice: The sense of sacrifice seems highly deemphasized in most marriages nowadays. Everyone seems to be on the run. That’s dangerous. As mom, tell yourself it’s your family first, and you’ll make it what it should be. Be willing to sacrifice for your kids. Sacrifice may warrant limiting your acceptance of job offer. Some ladies quit school for their kids, give up pleasures, etc. Kids will never forget the sacrifice of a mother.
During this lent, think about this special privilege to be mom; “Children are a blessing from God” (Ps.127:3).