I believe there is an incredible phenomena in this generation of young mothers. I will call it the "domestic deficit." It has the potential to cause young women to become incredibly guilt ridden, overwhelmed, and depressed, perhaps more than any previous generation of young mothers. (Of course, this is based not on extensive research, but on anecdotal evidence, although maybe I'll research this one day?)
I have had numerous conversations with mothers over the last few years and many have the same theme. We were raised to be strong women with independent dreams and goals. We were told we could do anything we wanted, and to some degree this is true. We can go to university and college, be doctors, be politicians, be entrepreneurs, be astronauts, be police women, etc. We can go and do, see and be, whatever we want. It is a gift, an incredible gift. Many women around the world are not afforded an education, let alone career opportunities. My cousin-in-law said that her daughter is reading the bible. That statement alone is unbelievable when you step back and look across the globe. Her daughter is a girl, can read, and can read the bible. Wow.
Yet, there is a problem with all of this. We pursue education, we run after careers, we are told to dream big and we do. But we are not really equipped to be mothers. Not domestically, not practically, and not emotionally. Most importantly, we are not told that we even have what it takes to be mothers (we are not empowered to be mothers). Where do we get the confidence to take on such an endeavour when everywhere we look we are told that we must consult with the 'experts' giving us the impression that we don't innately have what it takes to figure it 'all' out?
We enter our late twenties, our thirties and enter a new world of starting families. We love our children, we love being mothers, but we often struggle. Struggle with being at home and learning how to do the seemingly mundane, ordinary tasks of taking care of small children. We wrestle against postpartum depression and isolation. We feel like islands in a vast sea of the suburbs and wonder how in the world we got here when we were on the career path.
We desire to be good mothers. We feel like we have vocational skills and passions that we want to pursue. We are told we can do it all, but have a hard time figuring out how to do it all. Or, were we even made to do it all?
The pressure we place on ourselves, the expectations of our culture, is huge. And few of us are holding up under it.
Enter: guilt. Frustration. Stress. Feeling overwhelmed, and burdened. Add to that the financial strain of childcare costs, and the high cost of living in many urban centres (vancouver is insane, how does any mother afford to stay at home with her kids?), trying to navigate the complex world of juggling work and commuting, helping support the financial needs of our family, and being involved in every and all aspects of our kids education and extracurriculars
we are run ragged.
We feel like we cannot pursue our career how we want, and then cannot be the wives and mothers we want to be. We lack mentorship, we lack encouragement, and we are surrounded by ideologies, opinions, and social media that tells us everything we don't need to hear, namely, that whatever we are doing, we are doing it wrong.
"I never feel like I'm enough."
"I don't know who I am, or what I'm supposed to be about"
"I feel like I am failing, in all areas"
Social media and the wide world of the internet has compounded our problems. We spend hours looking for answers 'out there' asking experts and forums for answers to our dilemmas. When we really lack supportive community of mothers- from all seasons of life, who can help encourage and guide us.
We are given no skills to learn how to navigate this world that we live in. The past generation and their mentorship can be confusing because the world we live in is so different. But yet we so desperately need mentorship- the loving support of the older generations who can give us a bigger perspective.
And as a Christian, I think in some ways the waters can be even muddier. Over-spiritualizing and placing moral values to choices that are not about morality can be conflicting. We face a lot of judgment for our choices about work or staying at home, even if we have laboured hard over them, prayed and sought God's will and believe we are doing the best we can.
What are we to do?
Does any other mother feel this tension, this pressure, the overwhelming demands of our culture and ourselves?
And the symptoms of this phenomena look like this in my life: lack of confidence. Depression. Confusion. Decision-making paralysis. Fear.
So how do we get out of this? How do we find our identity in Christ alone, irrelevant of the choices we make as mothers, as passionate professionals, as wives, as christians? And how do we make those choices anyways?
I don't believe that women should be confined to the home. I believe we are meant to be participating members of society. I also believe God gives us gifts and abilities that are meant to serve the Church, meant to serve the community and our families. But how do we balance all these demands?
I hope this will be the beginning of some great discussion....
Part 2 I hope to address what I am trying to figure out might be some good 'solutions' to this? (Please e-mail me if you have solutions.) Or maybe it will be just a discussion of what we might be missing as a segment of society.