By Cathy F. Di Santo
North York Ontario Canada
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 17 No. 3, May-June 2000, pp. 86-87
We provide articles from our publications from previous years for reference for our Leaders and members. Readers are cautioned to remember that research and medical information change over time
I recently read the "Intellectual Pursuits" responses in the "Staying Home Instead" section of NEW BEGINNINGS (September-October 1999). All the suggestions were great. However, there is also a deeper aspect to this issue that I believe is worth exploring. I think there are attitudinal and philosophical obstacles that keep mothers from growing intellectually and enjoying motherhood to the fullest.
In our society, many people, including mothers, assume that staying home to care for young children is a dull, intellectually unsatisfying life. I once thought this way myself. I am a university graduate and before my son was born almost two years ago, I had worked in a culture- related field for 12 years. Since then, I have been a never bored (albeit sometimes frustrated, tired, and frantic) stay-at-home mother. I don't lack intellectual stimulation but my interests have changed. Instead of delving into history, I am now more likely to read books and articles on child development. I also try to read in other areas of interest. Thank goodness I decided to breastfeed, for that is when I have done much of this reading! Learning about breastfeeding alone (not just the mechanics but all the emotional, social and political implications of it) has been a valuable "intellectual pursuit."
Even so, there is more to avoiding boredom than just refusing to succumb to the culture of television and materialism. A person who is bored may lack vision or clear goals in life. Unfortunately, in our quest for women's rights and greater opportunities, we sometimes forget that children are our future and someone has to raise them. Our society gives lip service to the importance of motherhood. However, the media images that shape our attitudes send many subtle and not-so-subtle messages that smart women go to work while those who opt to stay home are somehow lesser creatures intellectually. We should realize that parenting children is one of humanity's highest callings and necessary to the continuation of a stable, civilized society. Every mother and father, whether at home full-time or also working outside the home, should stop to ponder the awesome responsibility she or he has in helping to shape the future.
Too often we see the role of mother/homemaker as being reduced to a series of tasks: laundry, scrubbing floors, changing diapers, wiping noses, running errands, chauffeuring children here and there, or playing videotapes. We need to remember the big picture. We are raising the next generation. Everything we do affects them. How will we teach our children about our values, our culture, our religion? What role can we play in their education? How can we help them to explore and fulfill their potential, now and later on?
Mary Ann Cahill, LLLI Founder, described her mothering role as "people building." Now that's vision!
I believe that mothering and running a home takes whatever brains you've got and are willing to use. The process of teaching and stimulating a child is in itself a mentally stimulating activity. Mothers sometimes have difficulty with motivation; or maybe inspiration is really the weak link in the chain. Perhaps this is because our society gives so little moral support to at-home mothers. Just as our children need positive reinforcement and encouragement to do their best, mothers would benefit from greater recognition that they make a valuable contribution not only to their own families but also to the larger community and to our whole society.