Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I Am Sick of Hearing About the High Calling of Motherhood!

Kenya 2010 Planting Vetiver Grass

Don't get me wrong, I completely agree that motherhood is a high calling. So is fatherhood. But, like so many catchy phrases, it is often used to mean something beyond it's face value. It's often a coded way of saying that motherhood (and read between the lines, cook and cleaning lady) is the only appropriate employment a woman may have. This is a relatively recent myth, perpetuated among a certain class lucky enough to live on a single income, because throughout most of the world, and throughout history, mothers and fathers have had to work beyond their houses. But the world was much friendlier towards having children accompany their parents. Mothers would wear their babies to the fields or forests to farm and gather, and they would be in the company of other women and children. When boys were old enough, they could accompany the hunting parties with the men. In these hunter gatherer societies, however, home was the village, and much time was spent together in community life: making tools, preparing food, singing and telling stories around the fire. They were also mostly egalitarian. Although, for practical reasons, men and women had some separate roles, the aged and elders of both sexes shared their wisdom and helped make important decisions for the tribe.

I don't want to give the impression that I naively believe that hunter gatherer societies had a perfect life. But as we move forward in time, it is good to remember what we may have lost along the way in our scramble ahead. And to think about how we can get some of it back. The modern exaltation of the nuclear family has its drawbacks. It isolates women from their communities, families from their aging parents, neighbors from one another, and people from the land they walk on together. By having one or both parents work long hours away from their children, the current corporate economy also contributes to the breakdown of both family and community life.

I think the remedy must go far deeper than keeping mom shackled to the home. Mothers, as much as fathers, have a multitude of gifts they wish to share with the wider world. And fathers, as much as mothers, need lots of time to spend with their children in order to develop strong relationships and community values. And the land! The land is so tired of being trampled on, built and cemented over, and polluted by our mindless consumption. If you don't believe me, take some time, go into the woods alone, and just listen. Quiet all defensiveness, and just listen. Look at every detail. It does not take rocket science to figure out that if you keep extracting from a limited resource, and do not return what you take, the resource will run dry. I don't need any politician to tell me that.

So let's work together to re-imagine and recreate a new kind of economy, and a new definition of home. Let's treat the earth as God's house, which was made so that we would all dwell together as one family. Remember that the holy city with streets of gold comes down to earth, and it is a metaphor of the Bride, the people of God, who are living stones built upon the foundation of Jesus Christ. We are that city. Let us open the gates wide and invite others to sit down and eat together at one table, each sharing with all the gifts we have been given. Let's practice an economy of Jubilee, where debts are forgiven, slaves are freed, and the land is returned to the laborer. Let's equip all with tools not for building ladders to reach the top, but true tools for conviviality.


Jamie said...

I am so happy you wrote this. How do you always manage to put into words what I feel but can't express?!

I have been commenting recently on how we've individualized The Family within a community to the point that I, for one, feel completely isolated most of the time even though I live in a high population area. It is a challenge to find those who share a vision that is truly about Kingdom building. It is a challenge to keep that vision in the midst of trying to find a balance between said High Calling(the squeaky wheel) and "Love Thy Neighbor" with all that it entails. (Our pastor just spoke on a similar issue regarding the church/community and it really ties in with what you are saying. I love how God works like that!)

I have so many questions. Where to start? How to help? How to re-imagine and re-create? And I am excited about the brainstorming process. I think the answers are going to be messier than I could imagine, if that makes any sense. Life is not the clean, organized, suburban lawn it likes to pretend to be. I noticed this while pulling my jaw back up after observing the unfathomably long lines at the food bank in the low-income community we are moving to. Why, there's my start. (duh) Thanks for the encouragement and the example you set.

Sara said...

Lots of people I know online get connected with Food Not Bombs. You can check and see if there is a chapter near you. I've thought of trying to get one started here, but then my church is really feeling the needs of the poor and we just had a wonderful meal and conversation together to decide how we can help. We are going to try to adopt a few families, I think, among other things and so I'm excited to be part of that. I'm also dreaming of having a simple gardening class here at our farm for the kids in our neighborhood, which is also low income. But the path will open up for you. For me, it begins with food, and then moves into helping people have the ability to create positive things in their communities, not just be viewed as producers or consumers, and be part of something bigger than themselves. Then, when they ask, I can tell them about Jesus and the Gospel of reconciliation of the entire creation.

Grace said...

such a good article, Sara!

Luke said...
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