17 February 2009

Disparate housewives

At least one of two rather unpleasant things is likely to happen to a faithful wife who does not receive the assistance she needs.

1. She will break down. She will become clinically depressed, have crippling anxiety attacks, or otherwise become unable to function. She will require medication and/or therapy of some kind. This will put tremendous strain on the household which might demonstrate exactly what Mom does and why she fell apart. (NOTE: although a lack of marital support can cause a breakdown, a breakdown does not necessarily indicate a lack of marital support. Duh.)

2. She will withdraw. She'll decide it isn't worth it to keep asking for help and will stop relying on her husband. She will still respect and serve him as long as he provides for the family's basic needs, but she will no longer adore him, and they will grow apart. She may be able to redirect her affection to the children, and they will replace him as her primary source of affection. Or she may become dull and defeatist or hardened and resentful, fulfilling her tasks perfunctorily and minimally while holding onto the hope that once the children are gone she will be mostly free. The husband may consider this a relief in the short term, but eventually he will find that even though she's still there, she's no longer there for him. This may take a long time--she wants to adore him, so her heart will resist. But it will empty as she learns that although he is obeyable, he is not adorable. (And after all this--she may end up going the breakdown route, too.)

I think the CSPP bloggers have established their credibility in the Doctrine of Woman department pretty definitively. So I hope I won't be accused of being some kind of feminist creeper if I say that "traditional" roles can, like anything else, be caricatured in damaging ways. A wife who is dependable in carrying out her marital and maternal tasks in accordance with her marriage vows and the Scriptural ordering of family life deserves a response when she asks for help. If the family doesn't have a willing grandma or other volunteer assistant very close (less than 30 minutes away) and very available (most of the day, most days), the husband simply has to pick up the slack or the wife will break, whether suddenly and spectacularly or slowly and quietly.

27 comments:

Monique said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joy said...

Yup. After 5 consecutive days of non-stop crying by the 3-year-old (oh, yes! at night, too!), the man is taking her to the Dr. And I am ever so grateful.

We no longer live in the ideal tight-knit communities that families should be. I have zero help other than my spouse. But scarce as he is, he is wonderful when he's around.

Tena said...

This makes me ... sad. I have a whole post ruminating within me in response, but alas this morning's meds have yet to kick in and bring order to the chaos that is my mind.

Rebekah said...

Monique, I know what you mean. We have to be grownups about it and just realize that the help isn't going to come from anywhere else. Maybe one positive effect of this is that parishes can benefit from having a spiritual father who is also an exceptional Hausvater, since both require the same basic skill set. The trick is surviving it as individuals and as a couple. :P

Joy, I hope your sad baby is ok and that you start getting some sleep soon. :(

Tena, please gather up those thoughts if you get a chance and share them with us. I want to hear them.

Reb. Mary said...

A)Yes.
B)True.
C)All of the above.

Marie M said...

This post is very timely for me... and I'm glad you clarified that just because a woman has a breakdown doesn't mean she has no help at home! My husband is exceptionally wonderful at making time for us and helping around the house (he does the breakfast dishes every morning and comes home an hour early twice a week)... but then, I feel all the more guilty for sometimes feeling like I can't handle everything. But, I guess it isn't always all the "stuff" that there is to do... it's half of my waking hours spent without adult coversation (and public radio just isn't uplifting!)

Anyway, I thank the Lord for the support of my husband... but then, why do I still feel so overwhelmed? I think a big part (as mentioned by others) is the lack of community and older mothers mentoring the younger. So many people ask me if I'll go into teaching once the girls are grown. (Little do they know that we may well have "little ones" for the next 20 years!) I just cannot see myself doing anything full-time when there will be the next generation of young mothers (including, God-willing, my own daughters) that will need the assistance I now need. Often times, I think I would invite an older mama over for the day, just to have someone to talk with... however, I can't seem to find anyone to ask!

Pam said...

Okay,Rebekah et al, when and how did ya'll start living in my head? Or are you the fly on the wall?

Monique, you hit the nail on the head. Nearly verbatim of what the recent conversation has been hereabouts. The church is not pro family, and in fact I believe has by default become anti family.

Oh for the time to blog on this! So much to discuss...

Marie, I'm there, just as soon as we get the parsonage basement emptied for the jack hammers to come in next week. :}

Sarah said...

I feel I must speak for those of moms who have a non-pastor husband and are not on the path of CSPP. I believe no matter how many kids you have that what you speak of is universal in regards to breaking down without/with help.

I have to agree the LC-MS has really mised the boat on motherhood issues. What a treasure just waiting to be uncovered and talked about a great lengths.

Rebekah said...

Sarah, I was thinking the same thing. A mother doesn't have to be a pastor's wife or CSPP to be overwhelmed and feel abandoned by family and church.

Pam, I get what you're saying about being anti-family. If the church is not proactive in supporting families and others in need (the poor, for example), it's not neutral, but failing them by attrition.

Marie, I also hope I can be of assistance to some tired moms in whatever future God sees fit to appoint for me. Whenever I hear there was a deaconess at my husband's winkel, I'd like to know what she was doing there instead of knocking on my door to extend some mercy to a needy woman of the church. >:/

Gauntlets said...

Sarah: I think about this quite a bit. Pastor's wives don't have the corner market on crazy. My mother, a farmer-turned-banker's wife helps me keep perspective on this, as she had her fair share of trouble.

And I also think a lot about the lack of support given young families by our congregations and by the older women in our communities. The help offered is too often an added burden, while the help genuinely needed is very seldom considered. I don't think people are being selfish or mean; they either don't know what to do or they've never been taught to think of it at all.

On the other hand, I'm at a loss to describe what I mean by "help" . . . offers to babysit so I can have an "afternoon to myself," while nice, don't address the real need. When I'm on the brink, the last thing I want is to be alone.

Pam said...

Okay, ladies, so if we don't need the kind of help that is offered, but something else, and if we don't want to be alone, then what?

I agree, Gauntlets, one of my big frustrations is when dh is sweet enought to suggest I go into town by myself for a little while, I appreciate it, and of course I'm smart enought to take what I can get, but really! There is something so depressing about being all by myself, when I am already feeling lonely in the midst of a buncha little people.

SO what is it we need, and how can others truly help us?

Sarah D said...

Rebekah, if the Lord sees fit to actually give me a Call as a Deaconess...I would love to be a voice for mothers. I see and, literally, feel the pain of stressed mothers every week in Church and sometimes it is hard to hold back the tears. The church should be a place of relief not more stress.


I am dumbfounded just how much lack of support was afforded to me when I became pregnant and gave birth. Not only did I get the run around trying to get a Call being a pregnant deaconess, but I had to turn to a secular group for real support.

I am usually a non confrontational type gal, but this topic always gets me a tad livid.

Rebekah said...

Sarah, I've got a love/hate relationship with deacs. Specifically, I love you and Ro and hate all the ones who are out there pushing poorly disguised feminist agendas, flaunting their parochialism in the process and making our home-grown LCMS female "theologians" look like idiots. It makes me feel better to know that there are a few deacs who get it about women's vocation and may someday be able to formally represent, when you're less tied up in the far more important work of caring for your own young families. As for the difficulty of getting a call--maybe they should have asked how many places were willing and able to call a deac before they started collecting tuition from the pretty things who make campus look so much more enlightened.

Pam et al., I think the first thing we need to accept is that there is no panacea. Parenthood is hard, whether you have one kid or 10. Not every day will have sunshine. Or every month.

Joy said...

If I'm not willing to ask for help, then I can't blame the masses for being clueless. Many parishioners have said to me during or following a pregnancy, "What do you need? Is there anything I can do?" I never had the guts to say, "I need to you NOT NEED to ask. I need to you to know what to do without exacerbating my predicament by forcing me to admit incompetence."

Veteran moms should be able to sense when a young mom is about to snap. They should just show up with a pizza and dollar store toys for the kids, and stay to chat while never once glancing at the laundry and dirty dishes everywhere. But they don't. I hope in 30 years I can remember what this feels like so I can rescue someone.

Joy said...

PS: Rebekah, Right on re: the LCMS and deaconess calls.

Pam said...

Actually, there are a couple gals who have helped me out... one came(at my request!) with a crew and cleaned our house while we were away for a few days. DH didn't know till we came home, it was really nice to smell *clean* when we came in the door.

Another time I was down with health issues and dh was out of town. At church the gal asked what I needed, and I said I just REALLY wish I had the energy to clean up some before dh comes home. But then I said, oh well, I'll just deal with it. At 1 or so that Sunday afternoon, she showed up with her supplies and she became foreman to my older kids who helped her do a quick-clean while I sat and watched. If it weren't for the guilt I felt, I'd have loved it.

So, Joy, the trouble is I think people who might do what you're talking about are hesitant because they don't know for sure if you really want them to be that assertive or not. Some don't.

But I'll keep it in mind... and another important thing that has to be in play for that to work is the older moms need to have the relationship with the youngers so they CAN sense when some help is needed and what to do and how assertive to be.

Monique said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joy said...

Monique,

I take the kids. I go to Sunday School and have an infant or toddler with me, and I go to another on a week night, keep thebabe with me, and the older two go in another room and watch a video. (okay, 3-yr-old is constantly in and out, slamming doors and talking.) No one else dared to bring children to Bible studies when we came here, but now other moms (and one dad!) have started doing the same.

Anonymous said...

Ladies,
Here's a deac student who grew up in a large family and has had large families around her almost all her life. My own sister has five kids under the age of seven and is pregnant with her sixth, so I have seen what an enormous job it is to stay home and raise your children. You are all doing a wonderful job, although most people don't recognize it. Lord willing, I might be in the same situation one day, with a pastor as a husband. Knowing how hard it is, I have to admit that it scares me a little bit.

But before that I'm supposed to do my internship, working in my home congregation (among other things). It is a new small congregation and my pastor has asked me to find out about the needs and what a deaconess could do. I have especially one project in mind. That is the young moms - we have had 10 baptism in our church in the last 2,5 years (that is in a church with 50-60 members), so I think there's plenty to do there.

Anyway, God's blessings to all of you. It makes me happy to see that there are women out there who are willing to go against the spirit of the time and life according to God's will.

Monique said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rebekah said...

Hey, Anon, you rock. I think a mom project is a great idea for a deaconess. Forgive me for being a bit jaded; most of my experience with deacs (aside from the notorious one in my family) is from those who prowl the rather less distinguished of Our Beloved Synod's two graduate programs.

Monique, I was a Sunday morning Bible study skipper too until a few months ago. Now I just take my little dude and if we have to take a walk, we do (the Sunday school teachers were nice about taking my 2-yr-old even though they technically start at 3). We may have to go on hiatus again when he gets to be too much trouble (that's why I originally quit with his predecessor), but for now I'm really glad to be going.

I also find myself just totally zoning out when I get a private moment. Don't know where I go or why, but it seems to be important . . . .

Reb. Mary said...

Monique, I'll join the chorus urging you to try dragging 'em along sometime. Of late, I too send the 2-yr-old to Sunday School with his brother and then just wrestle the baby. Last Sunday after he got tired of me, he crawled around under the table, pushed the empty chairs around, and ended up insistently climbing his dad's pants leg, so finished the lesson from Dad's hip. I felt awfully conspicuous about it at first, but realized that I was the only one who really cared whether a minor (or major) disruption occurred. 'Tis good for the people, methinks :)

I haven't done so recently, but in the past I've occasionally dragged the crew to a midmorning Bible study--the older folks who generally populate it actually enjoy seeing the kids and don't mind the inevitable shufflings. Set 'em up with a snack or a sucker, bring a few toys they don't see often, hope for the best, and know that people generally are on your side.

Reb. Mary said...

Anon: Revolutionize our Synod! And may the force be with you :)

Monique said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joanna said...

I think it's good for congregations to see their pastors acting like fathers -- not just at the manse on "off hours" but all the time (like while teaching a Bible study with babe on hip). Our last parish had so many evening meetings that there was more than one father missing out on the day's family time after work. When the pastor makes the effort to balance such things with family needs, it helps other fathers do the same.

Joy said...

Yay, Joanna! My man often teaches with babe in arms. After church the 3-yr-old is the first one down the aisle, then he holds her (all 42 pounds) while shaking hands with everyone.

Christopher Gillespie said...

From my perspective as a hausvater, I sympathize. Even coming home for dinner and taking of bedtime seems only to stave off disaster which looms on the horizon.

I wonder if what we need are lay women who know how to offer mercy and care for those who are laboring. My wife and lurker on the blog tries to do her part as a pregnancy and birth assistant (doula). Our burgeoning family prevents her from helping long-term.

Recently another CSPP mom locally was having a terrible time with her DS. So, the moms got together and let the children kill each other. I imagine there are plenty of retired ladies in our church that would love to come over and offer a hand once and a while.

Oh, wait, isn't this what deaconesses were about? Celibate or widower women who cared for these sorts of needs?