At first glance, many people jump on those "valuations" of motherhood. You know, the ones where someone quantifies all the tasks that a mother does and gives it a dollar figure. So mother cooks, cleans, drives kids around, does the grocery shopping, organizes the drawers, etc. etc. I have seen many pro-life, orthodox, Catholics fall into this trap!
Yep, I said "trap". Trying to put a monetary value on a mother should degrade most mothers, but alas, it is a symptom of how us modern folks look at life. We monetize everything, and yet value little. I can tell you how much that double cheeseburger costs at the fast food joint, but I would have a hard time valuing its worth. I know that sounds odd, but I am struggling to make a point - is real value only tied to money?
Recently, our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI spoke to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. The press jumped on his statement about financial speculation on agriculture and the evil of treating food as a commodity to be traded. There was a statement of his that got almost no media attention, mainly because the modernists don't get it because it has to do with the true worth of a human being.
He states, "
What is this "essential role of woman" other than that of mother and homemaker? It is essential because it is of a woman's essence, it is of her nature to be a mother. Anyone that has ever been or witnessed the life of a farmer's wife knows just how essential this role is. Also, anyone that has witnessed the life of a mother of a large family knows how important and essential this role of a woman is. On the farm, a homemaking wife either makes or breaks the farm. A farming man knows this and learns to appreciate the grace and stamina needed for his wife to carry out all the varied tasks she needs to complete each day.
This essential role is of great importance to the welfare of the mother. She now has children, animals, gardens, and a husband completely dependent upon her. Her family learns to value her "special recipes" and "touches" she has on her home. She inherently knows her value and worth by these dependencies. While she may, at times, experience this as a burden, she undoubtedly experiences this as a blessing and a reminder of how important she is.
Now contrast this with the suburban or city wife. (forgive the following generalizations) She may have no children or only one or two. She may have no gardens and no animals to tend to. The higher income available in the city means that the need to bootstrap and grow and make your own food means less need to tend to the house and cook. More expendable cash often means more entertainment is available. No longer is the success of the home tied to the homemaker's abilities. In other words, she is now no longer "needed" in the home. Now she is "free" to work outside the home to bring in more cash. The family can now hire a maid, go out to eat, hire a lawn mowing company, place the children in daycare...in other words, outsource.
Unfortunately, these generalizations about city and suburban life are often too true. By eliminating the "need" for the mother in the home, we have eliminated the "need" for a mother. The husband can now cast her off as easy as the Donald "fires" someone on his show. The husband may struggle to find value in a wife other than the income that she brings into the home. The many divorced couples that continue to live together due to tough financial times, demonstrates this. The don't value each other enough to be committed to each other, except to share rent. These situations show us just how far we have come to devalue motherhood.
The argument may be made that I am trying to place a woman's worth strictly upon the tasks she completes in the home. Others may argue that a woman may "feel" her worth more in the marketplace, making her way in a career outside the home. On this second point, I would agree that for a modern woman, especially one that lives in suburbia or the city, staying at home would be akin to staying in a prison. One would have nothing to do but watch tv, blog, or be overly involved in civil activities. That mothering instinct would then be put to use, as we see so often, in civil or school activities including politics. (another whole can o'worms) This involvement, unless caused by biological barrenness, is a poor replacement for real motherhood. How many women today choose to purposefully sterilize themselves, killing the ability to live out their "essence" so they can become a career woman?
Now to the first argument, that tying a mother's worth to her home is only valuing her for the tasks she completes. That is only how it appears on the surface. When we take into account the fact that a mother as homemaker and tender of her children she is fulfilling her "essence" we are viewing the deeper reality. By fulfilling this essential role she is able to become fully human and grow closer and closer to the image God has of her. While she may be physically tired at the end of the day, her mental and spiritual health is on a solid foundation. She sleeps soundly knowing her husband and children depend on her motherly "touch". She gives heart to the home. While we may value our heart for the fact that it pumps our blood...we realize that without that heart, the entire body will perish. And while the heart may be a physical organ, we also speak of it as the center of our being and use it in connection with love and emotion. This is the mother...she is an important "organ" within the family, but she is so much more....she is the love that moves a home, she is the center of affection and beauty, she is the one that truly brings life to the home - she is the heart of the home!