Mothers who know best

I will be taking a hiatus from the fictional sections I began writing on Stella Carmichael and Teressa Brighton to write on motherhood and attractive personality. 

 Partly because of where I have moved and partly because I have been asking for years what it means to be a “good” daughter, a “good” woman, a “good” wife, and a “good” mother, I have bumped into quite a few women with an attractive personality.  When I say “attractive personality” I mean they have a common personality that catches my attention in an affirmative way. By affirmative I mean to say they have each revealed something true of themselves and, in turn, I may begin to see how the same may be true also for me.

To illustrate, I have written a few characteristics of their personality.  Disclaimer: These women have been incredibly informative for me especially now as I wake up and rediscover every day what it entails to be a new wife and new mother.  What I’ve written is in no way exhaustive of all that has been a valuable insight or outlook, but it is what I begin again with every day.

A good wife and mother knows she is not perfect but she gets up knowing for certain the day is meant for her to find how she is being made perfect.  So many women may be good examples by their expecting need for forgiveness and are not scandalized by it.  One friend in particular I am thinking of has spoken on several occasions about how she’s forgotten her children and has had to return to them only to admit her mistake and see how to be forgiven. It is then that she has noticed that she shows them how to seek attentiveness as well as a way to proceed, knowing her forgetfulness does not completely define her.  She has a need for help in gaining perfection and mindfulness but it is not out of her own effort alone that will accomplish this sort of task or goal.

A good wife and mother trusts that her desires are given to her and she looks for a reasonable way to care for the real criterion of her judgment, i.e. the criteria of her heart.  Within the culture that I live and know fairly well, to talk about desire or want is to describe two opposite extremes: to seek the fulfillment of all of what I want in a selfish, not humble way or to seek guidance from anyone who has an opinion on a given topic.  But where do we often hear about the fact that we don’t make our own desires? Nothing written have I found to be as helpful or adequate as what Luigi Giussani has spoken on this: “this criterion does not free us entirely from the circularity of inquiry, even as it suffices nonetheless to make judgments reasonable, that is ‘objective’” (A Generative Thought: An Introduction to the Works of Fr. Giussani).  This lived out has been most noticeable for me when a wife and mother is trying to see whether she ought to work outside the home and raise children during the same period of her life.  In order to find the solution to this problem (which, I might add, is for her and not against her) and in order to be objective, she may best take all of the factors into account and ask her question leaving out none of her person nor her circumstances.  She can find a fair way to integrate her reason, intellect, and freedom in action. 

What most often comes about are questions about how her needs and desires, the needs and desires of her family, and how those persons ahead of her on the road have found solutions before her.  In keeping with a sensitivity and clear objectivity of her self in relation with to whom she belongs, she can best ask herself, “how are my desires serving me in the context of family and the wider community?”  By taking a certain course of action eventually she may then continue to ask how reality speaks to the needs she carries as well as who speaks with authority, who knows her heart inside and out.

A good wife and mother expects that the world is full of others with an opinion and she humbly asks for those who speak with authority be visible to her.  With the “DIY” trend comes the possibility for the masses to assume reading a couple of articles or asking a couple people makes a person an expert.  If there is no discretion (might I say discernment?) of the voices which speak to us, confusion may very well result.  It is not the end of the world to trust someone who is not worthy of trust.  What is fantastical is meeting a woman (or any person for that matter!) who knows the real relationship between things.  The desires we have, even if uninformed or unformed are a way to see ourselves better, to test what we think is the case in order to know what actually is the case.  It is helpful to know causal relationships, for instance, when dealing with tensions with a spouse or children but it is also a kind of genius to know what attracts the other in the first place.  Quite simply, how often do we look at punishment rather than what the child really wants before all else? 

Today we can send someone who would have been thought to be a criminal a hundred years ago to a place for medical or psychological help rather than to a jail.  Why?  We have found someone who can give the right name to the difficulty and who may continuously find better ways to name and treat the original problem and not solely reference a given symptom.  Thus, we are not naively following someone else's thought and we are not victims of any one popular or presently prevailing ideology.

A friend identified this gift and I soon came to recognize how many mothers I know who are asking to live this way, even if they had never heard it described as I wrote above.  They live with the awareness of a relationship to the ones who are an authentic help.  They stay with others who help them ask their questions and do not try to replace judgment rather than inform judgment.  I have known mothers who are able to quell a child not just to get him to stop screaming but to show him what he REALLY was after (affection, attention, food in his belly… you name it).  I have known mothers who expect to be told they are neglectful for going to work and not staying at home with their children and others told they are wasting education by staying at home. Neither case takes all of a woman into account.  A gross understatement it is to say education only serves its purpose to land a job and the same goes for mistaking a woman's person for her "function" at home.  The complexity of the question is a help to women and those they love, through asking we can better articulate the question and be sensitive when the reasonable solution is presented.

How nearsighted to think that another can answer the original question for another person!  It has been in these moments that mothers may view herself as daughter and ask again, “what is being asked of me and how ought I take everything into account?”  Every one of these daughters/mothers I write of can return to the question and the ones who are a real help with ease, without hesitation, and with a joyful heart.