Wednesday, August 02, 2006A Mother's Dark Night of the Soul, Part II
"This is the only society in the world where the woman is expected to do everything on her own. There is much pressure and it causes a lot of problems for many women." So said the psycologist at my first meeting with her during my post-partum depression. She strongly encouraged seeking practical help from friends since I don't live around family. How contrary to my pride, to my education since preschool in the way of "feminism"! I felt repulsed at the fact that I should not be doing every single aspect of homemaker, mother and homeschooler on my own. However, I allowed those kind souls who offered to help (like taking the children for the afternoon, picking up some groceries, schooling the children, bringing by a meal, etc.) to help me out, and they were happy to. Now, while I am not going through depression anymore, I've learned to still take people up on their offers. They feel good to be helping out and it is so nice to be relieved of some of this Grand Work no matter how small the assistance.
My neighbor, Miriam, mother of 12 children, recently moved her widowed mother in with them. She told me that her mother started doing the family's dishes all the time and cleaning up here and there. When Miriam told her mother she shouldn't be doing her job for her, her mother's reply was this: "A long time ago I heard Fulton Sheen give a talk and he said 'we need the poor more than they need us' and I need to do those dishes more than you need my help." It is so hard to accept charity! When my friend Amy's three daughters were all babies many people were helping her out. She spoke to a priest because she was having a hard time receiving help. He told her, "Part of charity is being able to receive it. It is not just giving it."
My spiritual Advisor, was telling me about a talk he heard by Sally Fallon (author of Nourishing Traditions and founder of the Weston A. Price Foundation). Part of the talk she was speaking about women assisting each other, historically and culturally. She said women are the only mammals that stop reproducing and it is in order to help out the younger generation of women. How beautiful! Our bodies are fertile for a short while compared to the big picture of our entire lives. When we are no longer fertile and we grow gray hairs and have wisdom from years of growing our family we can continue the honor of assisting, where needed, our daughters and daughters in law: at birth and shortly after, a little help around the house, taking the grandchildren while she shops and gets a cup of coffee once a week to revive, giving the couple much needed time together alone on a date once a week, helping out with meals, helping out with homeschool, helping out during pregnancy (especially the last trimester or early on with morning sickness), etc. I long for this help now with the phase of life I'm in. And I see myself as this woman in the future from the families that will grow from the beautiful love between my husband and me. Part of charity is receiving it and I've accepted that. I also give it according to my state in life: first and foremost in little acts for my family and then in reaching out, like a meal for a new mother, giving away clothes my children grow out of, visiting an old folks home with my children, visiting a family member in need, etc.
I just heard a mother of 11 children say that she always wondered why The Visitation (where Mary, while pregnant, visited and helped out her pregnant cousin Elizabeth) would be considered a mystery. She realized that Mary's first act as Mother of God was an act of charity (and St. Elizabeth received!). Miriam said when she and her sisters were having babies one of them would cart all their children and go stay at the sisters house who just had the baby. While it was chaotic (for there were many children as the years progressed), the new mother and baby got to get adequate rest while the needs of her house were taken care of. I think this is really sweet and I'm talking with my 3 sisters about doing this for each other.
Here is a quote by Pope Benedict XVI, in his first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est:
My deep personal sharing in the needs and sufferings of others becomes a sharing of my very self with them: if my gift is not to prove a source of humiliation, I must give to others not only something that is my own, but my very self; I must be personally present in my gift. This proper way of serving others also leads to humility. The one who serves does not consider himself superior to the one served, however miserable his situation at the moment may be. Christ took the lowest place in the world- the Cross- and by this radical humility he redeemed us and constantly comes to our aid. Those who are in a position to help others will realize that in doing so they themselves receive help; being able to help others is no merit or achievement of their own. This duty is a grace. The more we do for others, the more we understand and can appropriate the words of Christ: "We are useless servants" (Lk 17:10). We recognize that we are not acting on the basis of any superiority or greater personal efficiency, but because the Lord has graciously enabled us to do so. There are times when the burden of need and our own limitations might tempt us to become discouraged. But precisely then we are helped by the knowledge that, in the end, we are only instruments in the Lord's hands; and this knowledge frees us from the presumption of thinking that we alone are personally responsible for building a better world. In all humility we will do what we can, and in all humility we will entrust the rest to the Lord. It is God who governs the world, not we. We offer him our service only to the extent that we can, and for as long as he grants us the strength. To do all we can with what strength we have, however, is the task which keeps the good servant of Jesus Christ always at work: "The love of Christ urges us on" (2 Cor 5:14).
~Kerensa: Annapolis, MD