Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Plight of the Double-Dippers

We are all members of the two cities, for sure. Sure, there is something about more conservative Christians that - these days - make them stand apart more from the earthly city, but we all have 'commitments' to things that are not of God.

A small, small incident on Facebook the other day got me kind of flabbergasted and Anne-Marie couldn't quite sympathize with my ruffledness as I excitedly tried to explain my concern on our walk the other night.

A very smart young lady who styles herself a liberal Catholic - and seems to mean both words - brought up (and then quickly dropped) the matter of women in the workforce. One of her statements really bowled me over. I said something like men who have opinions on the matter are likely thinking about the fact that children need their moms at home. She said there were social programs for that. I kid you not.

I think that what riled me was how out of touch I am with the 'ways of the world.' None of my friends believes things like that. And, evidently, anyone who does believe things like this doesn't feel comfortable enough to voice them within my hearing. About a year-and-a-half ago a relative told me she was grateful for being able to take, I don't know, something like a year of maternity leave from her job. Now, let me contextualize for you. Both she and her husband work, and each one individually pulls in about three times what I earn a year. So as a family they earn about six times as much as us. But we have something they don't: Anne-Marie was at home for our children's entire childhood - at least so far!

Don't give me the tired responses of some women need to blah blah blah. Yes, I know that. I had another family member who's marriage fell apart, who was the mom of two young children. She is not in the category of the above.

So this is where I am starting from:

It is gravely sinful to leave children with 'social programs' if you do not absolutely have to.

That's my opinion, and if you don't like it, go to another blog.

I guess what astounded me with this young woman, a highly educated, so-called theology doctoral student, was that she had a very different read of natural law than I do. How can two people who are apparently drawing from the same fonts - Scripture, Tradition, and the anthropology associated with these - and with roughly the same IQ differ on such a fundamental thing?

Okay. One the one hand, I am a 39-year-old father of six. I have been married for 15 years. She is in her early 20s, no kids, just married. Aristotle would have said, "There, you nailed it, she's too young to possess wisdom."

But, of course, there are 39-year-olds out there who would agree with her. But age doesn't make you wise either.

Qualifications for wisdom, the absence of any of which deny you of it:

1) age
2) experience
3) knowledge
4) proper human formation, including a normal, aka natural upbringing.

This young lady perhaps only possessed number (3). I have no idea about number (4) - but that is becoming more and more of a problem today. Imagine trying to talk about natural law, for instance, in China with its mandated universal abortion rules is nonsense. Yes, there are cultures and contexts which remove from man the adequate knowledge of himself such as will annul any attempt to effectively reason morally.

Now, of course, to discountenance someone's argument because they are too young is an ad hominem error, but I am not doing so because of who said it but because of what she said.

The question for me is, how can someone with (3) arrives at such an odd conclusion, that in general children don't need to have a mother at home, but that social programs are satisfactory? Well, we would have to admit that there is also likely a problem in (3). How do I know what her fancy learning included and failed to include? I took two graduate theology degrees and didn't have single course in sacraments - not by choice, but the program failed to include any. So, it is quite possible that this girl has not or has not yet had a course that adequately presents Catholic teaching on anthropology, family, etc. More than possible. This young lady seems quite immersed in a worldly academic milieu, so that suggests a lot about her course choices, etc.

Okay, all of that aside, I want to get a little deeper here, and consider two things:

1) what kind of error is this?
2) do I adhere to any equivalent ones?

1) I will never forget a very wise priest once having said to me that an error about contraception is not a small one. We were talking about a High Anglican I know and remarking that the 'so Catholic' thing doesn't extend to our teaching on contraception. It is not a small error. Why? Because sexuality is a big deal. Sexuality is an intimate interpersonal human act. Sometimes when you don't know how to appraise how big a deal something is you have to ask yourself: why does someone view life this way: why do they think abortion, contraception, etc., the way they do? So, if we are talking about 'moms not raising their own kids' we can certainly figure out that the idea did not come from a Christian source. We can say a lot of things about it, like that Christianity is about living the quiet life and all that, one focused on prayer, doing good to others - especially family, the Word of God, the sacraments, etc. When we consider the 'woman having it all' model we just know it's not very Christian. In case someone thinks that I am unfairly targeting women here I am quite comfortable with putting male CEOs, politicians, pop singers, and many others in this category too. We can't say that all working women are living an unChristian life, nor all make politicians etc., but we can say that it is a very precarious type of existence.

But what about the woman who is deeply driven to a certain type of work but who wants a family too? Well, there is lots we can say. One obvious one is, take several years away from working 9 to 5 when you have young children at home. The response, but that will get her behind her (male) peers, might be true, but it doesn't change the fact that it is wrong to not raise your own kids in the best loving environment you can. A man who works 60 hours a week is also not living a very Christian kind of life and is sinning against his family, if he can at all do otherwise.

Of course, I am aware that so many people do this kind of thing, have this kind of idea. I am just surprised when it comes from someone who should know better. I am still haunted by someone I met in Ottawa who has a large family and says he works 70 hours a week, and doesn't seem to think that is something that a Catholic father should avoid at almost all cost. Money is a filthy preoccupation when it overrides family life. I can't pretend it's not. Fathers doing this to their families is a outrageous as the things we condemn in societies of the past - child labour in 19th Century England, slavery in Rome, etc. We just can't see it. Putting child in daycare at one year of age just so mom and dad can work of their careers is that bad.

Mothers doing this sort of thing is celebrated, but so was the ownership of vast numbers of slaves in Rome. Abortion, contraception, same.

2) This is worth a great deal of consideration. It's much easier to spot other people's unChristian commitments than your own, certainly. If I can be riled by one person 'apostasy,' am I guilty of the equivalent. Only a fool would fail to consider the possibility.

The first thing that appears to me is putting my kids in public Catholic school. Am I blind to the sort of things I condemned in another? For starters, we have never started any of the kids before 5, and am not all that crazy about that. I try to get to the school whenever I can to volunteer, keep on top of what the kids are up to, talk to them about what they do in school. I wouldn't refuse to home-school if I felt it necessary. Do I think five-year-olds being away from home for 6 hours a day is ideal? No. But I am open to reconsidering if a sufficiently strong argument is offered.

Should I feed my kids processed meat, like bologna? gluten? refined sugar? No one lives forever. Make them brush their teeth four times a day? Give them every kind of vitamin out there? Make them jog an hour a day? These things seem foolish, but if I was to learn that bologna was given my children some disease I would stop them from eating it.

What about their friends, internet, daily mass, team sports? Should I get rid of all the carpets in my house?

Should I send Anne-Marie to work because we don't make enough money? Should I send the kids out to work?

Get rid of my car because of CO2 exposure? Do I teach the kids enough catechism? Do I expose them to enough homosexuals, cripples, poor people, do they dress modestly enough...

I am really searching here for some things as blatant as leaving your kids to the state so that women can get ahead in the world.

We are so committed to worldly things that we cannot see so many things about ourselves that are unwholesome. I look back now and I think that having started a family the same time I started grad school in a very un-lucrative field like theology was a mistake. I doubt I would do the same thing again if I had it to do over. It was, in part, fueled by worldly desires - the desire to achieve, make money, gain respect, the respect of my father not least of all. Those are not wholesome desires, although these were at play too; the desire to know God better and the desire to spread the Gospel. No, I never left my kids with the state. I left them with their mom, and frankly, I was around a lot more with my kids than most to 9 to 5 dads get to be.

But, of course, it's not about the mistakes we have made. It's about the mistake we are making now.


  1. Here's an objective outsiders view, having stumbled upon your blog from across the country and having read quite a few of your posts. You're not smart enough for irenics so you settle for polemics most of the time. You seem to always laud yourself as a impoverished itinerant intellectual that can't be tied down to any institution because of your moral fibre. Your posts are always permeated with your 'wisdom' but just come off as a first year ancients essay with all the intellectual subtlety you'd expect from a 19 year old. Declarations of the gravely sinful only add to that fact. Judica me, O Lord. Perhaps being educated at a C list theology school and then teaching in the remotest of educational backwaters is cause for reflection and reassessment of your rampart intellect. Perhaps irenics, looking at the other so as to see yourself could be of the slightest benefit.

    1. You make me laugh, O objective outsider. lol. My mom said I am smart!

      And I thank you for affirming that I am a sort of itinerant. I like that.

      Ancients essay? What's that?

      Everything else you said is true though.

      And the fact that I struck a nerve with you is a good sign that I am not just in it to please people. If you want to come out of the shadows we can have a battle of wits.

  2. What a scummy thing to say about this blogger.

    Your anonymous drive-by is noted and discarded.

  3. Colin,

    When I was in my early twenties, *I did not know* whether I would work or stay home with the kids.

    I felt like it would be a waste of my education to stay home.

    One experience that helped me change my mind is that I was asked to help care for a relative's kids, while he went school to change careers. I was chosen because I was cheap and available.

    I decided that I would operate by his rules, seeing as they were his children. I realized, though, the people do not care for children that way-- if someone else takes care of your kids, they do not raise your children based on your values.

    Now, I was a fairly conservative Catholic at that point in my life, but *I did not know*. I did not know because everyone around me was fairly liberal about it (this was Quebec after all) and how to raise your children is not part of Church teaching. There's no Church teaching about the sinfulness of raising your kids yourself, or sending them to daycare.

    It was only after that I read Dr. Laura's books,that I realized that I needed to stay home for the kid's own development.

    Nobody discusses this with young women. People are busy telling women they can be what they want. And it's not *untrue*. But nobody tells them the realities of having kids: having kids is a sacrifice. You *can* do other things besides having kids, but if you decide to have them, and raise them, it doesn't mean you will.

    1. All very good points, S. We have so little ability to even imagine what the needs of others are much less act on them.

      As for your statement, "There's no Church teaching about the sinfulness of raising your kids yourself, or sending them to daycare." I would want to only add the word 'explicit' or 'overt' to it. JPII says a great deal in Familiaris Consortio, for instance, but, of course, not with the specifics we are talking about here. How could the Church have a traditional teaching about daycare for infants when these are a modern socialistic invention. Does, perhaps, the Church's condemnation of socialism extend here implicitly? Definitely worth thinking about more, but I can only type so well with a baby in my other arm - right Ms. Anonymous? lol.

    2. "How could the Church have a traditional teaching about daycare for infants when these are a modern socialistic invention."

      People have been sending their children to be cared for by others *on purpose* for thousands of years.

      Remember how people would have kids then send them off to a monastery to be raised by monks?


      Boarding schools?

      Wet nurses?

  4. I for one appreciate this post. I became a stay at home mother by accident (like you, I had been in academics), and was not at all sure that was what I wanted. I'll be honest - there are some days where I feel somewhat under stimulated (probably due to lack of imagination on my part) - but I cannot conceive of doing it any differently. (And, while we're being honest here, academia has become something of a wasteland, bogged down with administrative BS, unless you are some sort of research superstar. So I am probably not missing much.) My children are really loving and happy and close (even the teenagers); I don't doubt for a moment that having an anchoring parental presence (including my husband) has a lot to do with that. Thanks for this; you may not have meant it that way, but it felt like affirmation.

  5. I love no one more than my wife, Anne-Marie. If I were to talk about mothers and not mean it as an affirmation of people like her, then I would be rather more mentally ill than I am. I adore her and respect her so much for her sacrifice of self for our children. At my father's death (I never tire of recalling) I learned that children do not remember scholars they remember parents. AM pours herself out for me and the kids every day. I cannot respect a person more than I do her for this. Please be affirmed, Rebecca! Goodness sake! The best people among us are stay-at-home moms and they are the least valued!