Last night I stumbled on Jennifer Fulwiler’s recent post, “Stay-at-Home Moms Need Help” on the National Catholic Register (she also blogs at Conversion Diary). In it, Jennifer is asking the question of whether it’s self-indulgent for a woman who stays home to have help with housekeeping or childcare.
I thought what she had to say was too good to not be discussed:
When I studied anthropology in college, one of the things that stood out to me the most was the element of community: In pretty much every time and place outside of modern Western culture, people lived around family all their lives. The average person was surrounded by brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews. For women, the work of raising children was not done alone: Younger nieces and cousins would help with the little kids, the women would socialize as they gathered water or washed clothes, all the children playing together around them. This is the kind of life we were designed for.
In contrast, the average modern woman who is out of the workforce lives her life on a suburban desert island. The nearest family member lives miles (if not thousands of miles) away. She doesn’t know all the people on her street, and not many of them have kids anyway. If she’s like many Americans, she’s moved within the past few years, losing any sense of community she’d built in the last place she lived. Any opportunities for socializing with other women involve the herculean effort of packing up all the kids in the car to drive somewhere. She doesn’t even have the age-old mother’s release valve of banishing the kids outside and telling them to come back at mealtime, since safety concerns mean she has to keep them within sight at all times.
This is an incredibly unnatural way to live.
I found myself saying, “Yes! That’s true! I do need a community. I do need to live in a big happy compound with all the people I love so I can shoo the kids into the grassy commons while I hang out with my friends and family and scrub laundry in wooden barrels!” And then, I remembered that 1) No matter what I do, I can’t gather all my people into one commune, and 2) I’m thankful for washing machines.
What do you think about this? Are we living unnaturally? And is there anything we can do (other than paying for childcare and housekeeping) to raise children in a less demanding, communal, natural way?
(I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on this…)