Tuesday, January 29, 2013

“enshrouded” in a family

A couple months ago my brother-in-law forwarded me a link to this article.

It’s been mulling around in my mind ever since. 

It’s not necessarily the content of the article that has me thinking (although I really thought it was poignant information and I was cheering David Brooks on for writing it down).

But what really got me thinking were the comments. 

So much so that I just have to write about them.

In the article, Brooks talks all about how he believes people around the world have entered what he calls “the age of possibility” where they have become “intolerant of any arrangement that might close off their personal options.”

He kind of translates this to mean that people are gradually closing out the “family option.”

He gives statistics of how many single-parent families there are, percentages of how many people all over the world are are trying to keep score when it comes to school, jobs and income.  How many see getting “attached” as a parent or family as a hindrance to getting ahead.

He says, “Under the social and economic systems of developed countries, the cost of a child outweighs the child’s usefulness.”

What???  Do we have children because they are “useful?”

I loved his concluding remarks:  ”My view is that the age of possibility is based on a misconception. People are not better off when they are given maximum personal freedom to do what they want. They’re better off when they are enshrouded in commitments that transcend personal choice — commitments to family, God, craft and country.

“The surest way people bind themselves is through the family. As a practical matter, the traditional family is an effective way to induce people to care about others, become active in their communities and devote themselves to the long-term future of their nation and their kind…”

I was cheering when I read those paragraphs.  I believe with all my heart that if we don’t take families seriously, our society dies.  Plain and simple.

Families are the foundation of society.  In my mind, they are the bedrock.  If we don’t take care of them, life as we know it will crumble.

And to take it even one step further, the article made me so grateful for motherhood.  The sacred responsibility we have of nurturing children.  To raise them up as contributing individuals who will some day BE the future. 

I quickly scanned the comment section…there were hundreds of them and I figured they would be filled with people applauding and appreciating the words in the article. 

But when I read the first one I stopped short.

It took me completely off guard. 

It was not only not agreeing with David Brooks, it was chastening him {this one is in response to his phrase that people are better off “enshrouded in commitment”}:

"Enshrouded" - as in a shroud, such as a burial shroud?

“So long as the cultural norms and resulting societal expectations are that women have full responsibility for child-rearing and housekeeping and are defined by their relationship to a man, we have no personal choice. This is what makes the right so fearful of equality for female persons. We may choose to limit the number of children we birth or even - Heaven forefend! - chose not to have any at all. Or, even scarier, we may choose to have them by ourselves -the boogeywoman Murphy Brown is so last century now!
“Get over it. Women in this country are not going back to the traditions that put a shroud on our lives long before we were dead.”

It made me sad.  Really?  Is she relating motherhood to deep, dark traditions that keep us in shackles?  Like making a commitment to a family is going to cut off a limb or something?  And who says just because you are part of a family women have full responsibility for child-rearing and house keeping?  I so rarely see that in today’s society.

As I scanned over more of the comments I realized this was person was not isolated in how she felt.  There were hundreds of them there, sneering at me in my apparent little bubble of “families are awesome!” naivety.  Comments from women screaming out for attention and equality and freedom.  They were from people not happy in their “jobs” as parents.  As Mothers.  People who don’t seem to understand the sacredness of parenthood.  Of managing a family.  Of the joy that comes from reaching outside of your own needs to take care of someone else’s.  Of having the opportunity to shape and educate and love the little souls that are the future of our world. 

Here’s another one:

“Mr. Brooks seems to have problems imagining human species' existence in any other way than the 20th century model. Marriage with children may have worked well for mostly agricultural centuries of our recent history, but it seems to be not so efficient a system for a large portion of the newer generation. Why should our public policy be skewed to favor an old and increasingly irrelevant institution such as marriage? It would create a class of people unfairly advantaged over others.”

Is the “family” old-fashioned now?  Do these people envision themselves in the future happily going to work every day and coming home alone to make a microwave dinner and settle into the couch to catch up on their latest TIVO?  Do they not realize that many of the people doing that right now are dying for a chance to be part of a family? There are so many who yearn with all their hearts for those commitments to “enshroud” themselves in.

My Dad brought up an interesting point when he was in town last week:  It is so interesting how the gay and lesbian communities are pleading and begging and lobbying with all their might for the “right” to have that marriage commitment while so much of the rest of world is starting to wave it off with a flick of their wrists in lieu of their so called “freedom.” 

Another comment:

“If having a child could mean $200,000 for the cost of college, then I would elect not to have one….A life of chronic economic pressure isn't fun.”

It just made me sad.  Are we really inching slowly away from family units?  Are those of us who believe in family dinner and human connections being crazy to want that?  Are we going to just keep going down the path where life becomes so busy that we become completely self-obsessed? 

Yes, marriage and family can be difficult.  Children make messes.  Marriage takes work.  putting children through college and just plain life in general can be expensive as all get-out.

But have these people ever fallen asleep next to someone they are committed to forever come what may and felt that velvety feeling of safety and commitment right there?  Have these people never nestled a tiny newborn in their neck and drunken in that fresh-from-Heaven smell?  Have they never had the rush that comes from watching a child say their first words or take off on a bike for the first time?  Have they ever heard the laughter and goofy-ness of their children coming muffled through to where they sit and fill their heart til it feels like it’s about to burst with love?  Maybe they have never looked into the eyes of their child and seen part of themselves, but better, and realized right then and there that they would do anything to help that child find joy and happiness in life. 

“Motherhood was viewed in advice literature, particularly by the 1890s, as one of the most important contributions women could make to her family and to the nation.” (not sure where I found that quote, but it’s interesting.)

What has changed?  Just that we want more “rights” and “equality?”  Do people not realize that the opportunity to be a mother and to be part of a strong family is a “right” beyond any that we can possibly comprehend?

Now, I know that there are many mothers who have to work outside the home.  I know there are single-parent families that work their hardest to function.  I know that there are circumstances where mothers cannot be the main nurturers of their children, but most of those mothers I’ve met are no less of “mothers” in my mind.  They still wear that motherhood title as a badge of honor and soak up those children of theirs with all they’ve got. 

So where in the world did all these commenters come from? 

I’d just like to tell them that when I think of being “enshrouded in commitment” I think of this:


…and also of this:2011-06-23 anniversary 31299

And I thank my lucky stars each and every day that I get to be in those “shackles” of motherhood.  I get to hear sweet voices calling me “Mama.”  I get to catch Dave’s eye across the table and smile.  And we get to create our own special entity called “our family.”  And we have a stewardship over it that helps us forget ourselves and learn to love in ways we never imagined before.

mother and child full and colorfull - perlinger

Together we have the power to fill up our children’s [sometimes] angelic heads with knowledge and fill their sensitive hearts with love.

I have the power as a mother to make them feel safe.  To make my husband feel safe. To make a family that is a functioning, wonderful building-block for society. 

Will it have problems?  Of course.  Will my husband and I get in fights?  Absolutely…we had a wing-dinger one yesterday.  Will I sometimes talk disrespectfully and snappy with my children?  Yes!  But will I still kneel down and pour out gratitude to a wonderful God who gave me these “commitments” every single night? 

With all my heart I will.

Because I get to be a mother.  

And a wife. 

And I don’t want to ever take those ”commitments” of mine for granted.

How grateful I am to be enshrouded safely with them by my side. 

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