Acorn Baby

 By Rebecca Gingerich

“Hard work makes a mother.  We like to think something magical happens at birth, and for some it does; but, the real magic is keeping on when all you want to do is run.”

— Call the Midwife (‘Nurse Phyllis Crane’)

The dust has settled, the smoke has cleared, and here I sit as a completely different person from who I once was.  Anyone else out there with a difficult second born child?  Based on the many conversations I’ve had with mothers, this seems to be the going trend.  The experience I had with my second born son forever changed me for the better…eventually.

Nursing Mother and Child, Pablo Picasso

The default temperament of this baby was misery.  Pure and sheer misery.  The constant cries literally brought me to my knees most days, as overwhelming levels of anxiety washed over every bone in my body.  I would have emotional breakdowns every couple of months while I waited out the chaos, hoping he would magically snap out of it once he could eat solids…or sit up…maybe when he could crawl…or when he could walk..or God forbid, would I have to wait until he could talk??  These milestones proved to show no sign of improvement to his miserable little self.  The neediness and the constant cry for attention drove me to the ground.  Survival mode was my closest friend for the first few years of this little boy’s existence.  

“What we can’t handle or manage, we don’t like..”  

— Stan Tatkin

During these initial years, I did not like my second born — and that was a hard pill to swallow.  What made matters worse is my firstborn child had to witness the gradual decline of his once content, stable, and self-controlled mother.  I sadly recall a very difficult day when I lost my temper and was yelling at the baby to stop crying (not my best mommy moment).  I turned around to see my four year old son walk to his bedroom and close the door behind him.  I proceeded to follow him, gently opened the door, and saw him lying on his bed with his fingers firmly shoved into his ears.  To this day, this memory brings tears to my eyes.  I swiftly came to his side and apologized for my emotional outburst.  I told him I would do better.  Going forward, I did my utmost best to venture off alone somewhere in the house when a private ‘freak out’ session was in order.  Looking back, it was such an added blessing to have my firstborn child with me; it definitely helped keep me going, and gave me purpose outside of the universe of ‘cranky baby’.

“The purpose of life is to find a mode of being that’s so meaningful that the fact that life is suffering is no longer relevant.” 

— Jordan Peterson

In the midst of this trying season, I managed to stumble upon Jordan Peterson, who is a well renowned clinical psychologist.  I watched one of his many Youtube videos, and randomly found his talk about ‘The Big Five Personality Traits’ (one of them being agreeableness vs disagreeableness).  This peaked my interest, as I am typically a less agreeable person by nature.  I learned that the majority of agreeable people on the planet are indeed women.  He stated, “..you’re wired to be exploited by infants”.  I then began to laugh and thought to myself, “YES, that is exactly what my little ornery baby is doing…he is exploiting me!”  Right then and there a revelation was born — I am not agreeable; therefore, I am not easily exploited; therefore, I am losing my mind because I have absolutely no control over my current situation.  It was a ‘light bulb’ moment that greatly helped me understand myself in the context of motherhood.  And I guess it’s no surprise that I gave birth to a child with a temperament very similar to my own (which my husband conveniently reminds me of every so often).

“‘Child’, said the Lion, ‘I am telling you your story…I tell no one any story but his own.’”

— The Horse and His Boy, C.S. Lewis

Before this insightful self-awareness kicked in, I did experience pockets of wondering, “What is wrong with me?”…“Why can’t I adapt to this child’s temperament?”…“Why do I lose my cool so easily?”  Now, it’s important to note that just because I am less agreeable, this obviously never excused bad behaviour.  I never leveraged my temperament to promote a lack of self-control; instead, it meant I had to work very, very hard to try and maintain a healthy level of self-regulation, especially during the first few years of my second baby’s life.  

“..give thanks in all circumstances..” 

— 1 Thessalonians 5:18   

I also wrestled with the comparison game.  Some days I felt like a ‘lightweight’ mom.  Here I had a healthy baby boy — what the heck was I complaining about?  I initially dismissed my feelings of anxiety and stress, as there were mothers out there who were dealing with much more stressful situations than my own.  I thought, “I shouldn’t be feeling this way”…”I shouldn’t be struggling as much as I am”.  Thankfully, throughout all of these moments of self-doubt, my older sister helped me understand that we cannot compare our suffering to others (and this was coming from a mother with a child who has Type 1 Diabetes).  She knew a struggle far deeper than my own; yet, she helped me acknowledge and accept that just because my pain and suffering was not as severe as someone else’s, my feelings still mattered, and they needed to be expressed and worked through.  How freeing this was for me!  In fully embracing these negative emotions, I was able to mourn my own personal suffering, and then ultimately I was able to gain perspective and see the blessings that surrounded me each and every day.  This was a wonderful balance that gave me a vast sense of self-acceptance, as well as a genuine heart of gratitude.  

“You will come to know that what appears today to be a sacrifice will prove instead to be the greatest investment that you will ever make.” 

— Gordon B. Hinckley

Oak Leaves and Acorns, Leonardo da Vinci

To my great and utter joy, this very difficult stage did not last forever.  Eventually, my strong-willed boy reached an age where communication, consistency, and firm discipline helped restore most of the control I had originally lost.  I vividly remember that beautiful spring day, walking with my two boys along a nearby scenic route.  My second born was now three years old, and life was progressively getting easier (and more positive) in regards to my relationship with him — things were looking up!  

As we were slowly meandering along, he stopped to look at some rocks along the path.  I waited for him as he explored the environment, and then I noticed he picked something up.  I walked over to him and asked him what he had found.  He held up his prized possession and exclaimed, “A heart!”  I stooped down and inspected the object in his hand.  It was half an acorn, and the inside resembled just as he had described it — a heart.  He then extended his little arm towards me and proceeded to give me his “heart”.  I couldn’t help but see the metaphorical significance this precious moment had offered me.  My boy was an acorn.  The hard, rough exterior represented the extremely difficult stage of his infancy.  But with time, the outer shell cracked, and deep within, the heart (at last) exposed itself.  The clouds had separated, and I could finally see the light.  A new chapter had begun.  

While we journeyed back home that afternoon, the tears streamed down my face as I firmly held half of that little acorn in my hand.  I had arrived.  I had survived.  Hallelujah, I had reached the depths of my little boy’s heart.

-Rebecca

Discipline to Freedom

“Through discipline comes freedom.”

Aristotle

Eight years. Nearly 1/5th of my life and 100% of my son’s life. That is how long it has taken him to learn to wear his seatbelt. Every time we get in the car, I sing my little ditty, “Buckle, buckle, buckle”. I wait for the children to get buckled – and off we go. And yet if I forget to check after my ditty, if I assume they know by now, I will inevitably look back and see one of my “under-8s” roaming around the van, untethered. They are distracted by a bug on the window, are fighting over leg room, or any other number of excuses. By eight something seems to click and I don’t have to badger them anymore about seatbelts. On to the next habit-formation.

Scientists say it takes 66 days to develop a habit. I don’t know what kids they were raising. Nevertheless, the work of habit-building must be done. And done by us. When it is done, it pays off big-time – it is the bedrock of self-control.

Mother’s Prayer, artist unknown

As our world becomes more steeped in materialist and subjectivist philosophy, we see adjectives such as disciplined, dutiful, and self-sacrificing change from their previously held status of terms of endearment to terms of derision. Instead, we honor self-fulfillment, living our truth, and extravagance. Our society has toppled the previously held ideals – the pursuit of truth and virtue – and chosen instead self-interest.

But as parents, we see the effects when children are not schooled in virtue and when good habits are not engrained from the beginning of life. It rarely turns out well for anybody. Children without self-control are no closer to fulfillment, but grow to be slaves to their weaker natures. 

It may be “judgmental” to say that a life full of good habits, a belief in duty, and a willingness to forgo momentary pleasure – is more rewarding and beneficial than one of self-indulgence, but this judgement will always prove true. So we must “train up our children in the way they should go”, not as a tyrant rules their subjects but as a loving teacher – through example and training. 

Self-control is built in the rhythms of a mother singing “buckle, buckle, buckle” – or “eat your veggies” or “no TV till chores”. It feels like it will never kick in – but it will. If we are disciplined, they will learn discipline. They may even learn that being “tethered” enables freedom and creativity. The quotes and clips below may help motivate us in this rarely appreciated but crucial duty of motherhood – discipline-building.

“Educate your children to self-control, to the habit of holding passion and prejudice and evil tendencies subject to an upright and reasoning will, and you have done much to abolish misery from their future and crimes from society.”

Benjamin Franklin

 “Discipline is the precondition for freedom.  Much of the development of skill is painful repetition…the sacrifice of the present for the future, but once you manage that, then things open up for you.”

Jordan Peterson

“A great deal of the current cult of pleasure, of luxury, of liberty in love, and all the rest of it, appears to me to be perfectly childish; and childish in the literal sense that it is greedy without any grasp of consequences.”

G.K. Chesterton: Illustrated London News, May 18, 1929.

“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”

George Bernard Shaw

“Willpower is what separates us from the animals. It’s the capacity to restrain our impulses, resist temptation – do what’s right and good for us in the long run, not what we want to do right now. It’s central, in fact, to civilization.”

Roy Baumeister

“There is a battle of two wolves inside us all. One is evil: it is anger, envy, greed, arrogance, jealousy, resentment, lies. The other is good: it is joy, peace, love, hope, humility, kindness, empathy, truth. The wolf that wins? The one you feed.”

Cherokee proverb

“Teach the children so it will not be necessary to teach the adults.”

Abraham Lincoln

“Education is teaching our children to desire the right things.”

Aristotle

Bring your desires down to your present means. Increase them only when your increased means permit.

Aristotle

“What lies in our power to do, lies in our power not to do.”

Aristotle

This video shows well how the artist is born out of discipline.  We often hear that discipline stifles creativity, rather it is its precondition. In the video we hear them speak of the institution and university as the teacher of discipline – however I believe that parents have an even greater role to play.  By the time our kids are 18 if they have not begun developing self-control at home, it will be difficult to learn it elsewhere. 

“Sugar-coated lies”

“Nietzsche was a great admirer of the Catholic church.. Despite the fact that he was also a radical critic of Christianity.  The Catholic church forced everything to be interpreted within a single explanatory framework, and that was a disciple, and once that discipline was established then the disciplined mind was established then it could explode in every direction and that is exactly what happened….the library is too large to wander through it unaided.” 

Jordan Peterson

One Dear Presence

…...Blest the Babe,
Nursed in his Mother's arms, who sinks to sleep
Rocked on his Mother's breast; who with his soul
Drinks in the feelings of his Mother's eye!
For him, in one dear Presence, there exists
A virtue which irradiates and exalts

-Excerpt from the The Prelude by William Wordsworth
Maternity, Eugene Carriere

Resources:

I enjoyed this podcast which discusses the beautiful poem The Prelude by William Wordsworth

Raising Well-Adjusted Kids: Travel

 “Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.”

Gustave Flaubert

When we look back on our childhood, what memories stand out? A few Christmas presents are memorable, most are forgotten.  The many hours of TV or video games don’t have the contrast to stand out. 

It is Unique Experience that we remember, like the trip to Yellowstone when our car ran out of gas or the time in France when we thought a bidet was a toilet. These are the memories we will laugh about with our family for years to come. We remember change, hardship, and adventure.  We remember our travels.

From a young age I had the opportunity to travel to many countries (my dad was in the Military).  While travel has remained a rewarding hobby, I am increasingly convinced that for our children – traveling is a near-necessity. 

As the world gets smaller and opens to us – through our phones, TV, and high-speed travel – it should follow that the average young adult is more educated in geography, culture, and history than his predecessors. The opposite seems true. Rather than opening our worldview, technology has simply focused our minds upon that with which we are most comfortable. Algorithms aren’t trained to expose us to new ideas or expand our view but feed us more of the same.

Youth are increasingly ignorant of the realities of life outside their small spheres of comfort.  Our perspective has become hyper-focused on the here and now. The vast expanse of human history and culture is left unexplored (but not unjudged).  If we do venture into foreign lands, we often stay in a comfortable resort or focus on capturing the perfect image for Instagram, rather than pushing past our comfort zones.

“The first condition of understanding a foreign country is to smell it.”

Rudyard Kipling

Impressionable youth now seem sure on one of two things: their own culture is the most repressive or the most enlightened.  The truth is much more complicated.  But how do we encounter complexity and grapple with it?  It is rarely discovered in a textbook or a professor’s lecture.  Complexity is seen when encountering new people: their art, their history, and their culture.  In the reality of the living-world you will  find no slogans or neatly wrapped ideologies.  You will find a beautiful and tragic mess – and one much different, and much the same, as the mess in your own backyard.  

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”

St. Augustine

It is staggering to consider how many people occupy this planet of ours. Only when we travel can we start to appreciate the reality of humanity’s vastness. Every white hilltop village in Southern Spain, every bustling city in Central China, every favela in Rio – are home. And home is important – it is what shapes us, each of us. It is important to step into these homes of humanity. If we don’t, we never feel foreign; we never see the world in its strangeness or appreciate our own home.

“There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.”

Robert Lewis Stevenson

On a recent trip to Spain with my husband and two oldest children, I loved feeling like a foreigner again.  I discovered new ways to eat, relax, dress, and interact.  I want to be more Spanish after that trip.  I want to put more thought into how I dress, the way Spanish women seem to. I want to enjoy conversation as I eat food more slowly, and not feel guilty for every bite of bread.  I want to touch my friend on the arm when I speak to her – bring more emotion and joy to our conversations. 

Arcos de la Frontera, Spain

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.”

Mark Twain

We hear a lot about “bigotry” and “ethnocentrism”. While these labels are sometimes misplaced and overused, these prejudices deserve our attention. If we were genuinely concerned, if we honestly wanted to overcome these vices – what would be the pathway out of them? Walking the streets of foreign lands may be a good start.

The Smallness of High School

I didn’t like high school.  When I was a Sophomore, we lived in England and I went to a small high school on an Air Force base.  I would have a feeling of dread descend on me every Sunday night, knowing another week of school lay ahead.

“An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.”

G.K. Chesterton

That year my 22-year old brother stayed with us while he did an internship in London. My parents (they were far from over-protective) allowed him to take me on a trip to Athens and Istanbul. Our plan was this – immediately upon arriving we would take the train from Athens to Istanbul and then return and travel around Greece. Unfortunately (or fortunately if you look at as Chesterton does) upon our arrival we discovered there was a train strike. Luckily my brother is a decisive and confident traveler so he quickly flagged down a taxi. The driver drove us for about 20 minutes until we reached the local bus station. Once there we looked across the street and saw the train station we had just left -this incident prejudiced my brother against taxi drivers for the rest of the trip. We found a bus to take us to Thessalonica and then another to Istanbul. Along our journey we slept in hotels full of cockroaches. I developed severe blisters from all the walking. I suffered the consequences of some bad gyros. We got lost countless times. We were awakened every morning at 5 by prayer calls from dozens of minarets. We became friends with some Turkish street-boys as we soaked in the majesty of Hagia Sophia. We visited the temple of Delphi, and hiked to the top of the Acropolis to stand before the Parthenon.

Hagia Sophia Istanbul Black And White Photograph by For ...
Hagia Sophia, Istanbul

When we returned to England my perspective on high school changed.  It wasn’t that I suddenly enjoyed school – rather the dramas and worries of high school lifted from my consciousness.  I saw the insignificance of it because I had seen so much else of significance. I am forever grateful my parents let us go on that trip.  There were times I thought. “How in the world could mom let us do this!?” (Particularly when I was pulling my brother away from punching a Turkish taxi driver).  But thank goodness she did.  That adventure has proved to be one of the core experiences of my life.  

 “One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”

Henry Miller

Travel is Worth It

International travel can be prohibitively expensive. It might not be within our capacity to take our child to Athens. I had to start a side business to finance our most recent trip to Spain. But when we consider how we spend our money, where our resources may be best spent for our child’s development – travel seems worth it. When my husband and I got married we decided that for our family – travel is more important than material things. We don’t spend much on clothes, cars, or other luxuries.

Nevertheless international travel may still be beyond our reach. Luckily for us, we live in a multicultural world – we can go to another part of town and find a world our children have not encountered. We can invite a family from a different religion or nation to our home for dinner.

Visiting poor neighborhoods is often avoided to protect our children’s sensitivities – I think this is a mistake. When I lived in South Africa, I was shocked one day when speaking with a wealthy Afrikaans woman. I had been teaching English classes in a poor township. I asked her if she wanted to join me next time I went. She asked where it was. Every time since her childhood, when that woman went to the grocery store she went over a bridge that overlooked this township. Thousands of her fellow humans lived there – but she had never seen them. I wish her mother had pointed it out to her so she could be aware of some of her neighbors.

Columbus’ Tomb, Seville Cathedral

We want our children to not only see their neighbors but also have an informed vision of the world and its history.

When you tell a child that Columbus traveled from Spain and discovered the New World in 1492, they have no reference point for what 1492 means, what Spain is, and what was so “New” about the world. But when you travel to Spain, you can show your children things built in 100 AD, in 1400 AD, in 1860 – they can start to build out a timeline of antiquity. You can visit Seville – where Columbus departed and visit his grave in Seville Cathedral. Tour palaces and cathedrals paid for with wealth taken from this New World. See evidence of the devotion to Christ in the monuments and churches which compelled, in part, this exploration to new lands. See some of the complexity of the stories of history.

Return and be Changed

“Our obligation to our own family or ‘clan’ is greater than our obligation to the faceless multitude.”

M.E. Bradford

Many will say – why not focus on our own neighborhood?  Shouldn’t we appreciate the culture we were born into?  Our priority should be our home and community.  But too often we are blinded to that responsibility by our lack of perspective. Travel is a means of gaining it.  When we open our eyes to the world, we return and rest them upon our own home.  We appreciate things we had not noticed due to lack of comparison.  We see areas where we can improve and see patterns of history repeating in our culture. We drop silly traditions and hold fast to important ones. 

After we returned home I asked my son what he enjoyed most about our trip, he said, “The late-night tapas.” But since our return we have had several discussions relating what he saw and learned in Spain to things taught in school, seen on TV, and discussed with friends. He is making connections he couldn’t before.

As parents, we want to raise kids that are deep, kids whose worldview is wider than their own comfort, whose empathy and understanding were earned, kids who see history and social issues in context, kids who have real-world knowledge to back up their beliefs. Travel can help.

Resources:

Video on how new experiences can “turn on” our potential and reduce anxiety.

Article on how travel changes the brain

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2016/jan/18/travel-broadens-the-mind-but-can-it-alter-the-brain

On Power

As parents we have a difficult task.  We want our children to have a healthy respect for others. We hope they can have a positive outlook on life and others intentions.  We want them to live out with faith and hope in mankind.  And yet, we don’t want them blind to the dark side of men. 

I remember my first job at University, cleaning bathrooms in the Science building at 5am. I was only 17 and was quickly shocked to discover that my boss was a vindictive tyrant. I had no idea that anyone would choose to make someone’s life miserable. I figured all people just wanted to “live and let live”. I quickly realized that power in the wrong hands leads to misery.

But whose hands are the wrong ones? We want our children to be able to recognize the realities of power and to be weary of abdicating their responsibility and freedoms to others.  Below are some quotes and clips which may prove helpful in teaching about power’s destructive capacity.

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”

Abraham Lincoln

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive.”

C.S. Lewis

“Only those who do not seek power are qualified to hold it.”  

Plato

“To someone seeking power, the poorest man is the most useful.”  

Sallust

“Power attracts the corruptible. Suspect all who seek it … We should grant power over our affairs only to those who are reluctant to hold it and then only under conditions that increase that reluctance.”

Frank Herbert

“It is not in the nature of politics that the best men should be elected. The best men do not want to govern their fellowmen.”

George MacDonald

“This work was strictly voluntary, but any animal who absented himself from it would have his rations reduced by half.”

George Orwell, Animal Famr

“When one with honeyed words but evil mind
Persuades the mob, great woes befall the state.”

Euripides

“The wisest thing in the world is to cry out before you are hurt. It is no good to cry out after you are hurt; especially after you are mortally hurt. People talk about the impatience of the populace; but sound historians know that most tyrannies have been possible because men moved too late. it is often essential to resist a tyranny before it exists.”

G.K. Chesterton

Relevant Clip from Jordan Peterson

C.S. Lewis dives into how corruption/power first appeared in the hearts of men.

Bad King John, Charles A Buchel

YouTube: Devouring Mother in 5 Case Studies

Since starting this website I have been asked several times if I would start a podcast or do a YouTube channel. I have been hesitant – I don’t have a lot of time, I like the anonymity of writing, and I think my voice sounds strange. However, I was recently asked to do a presentation on Devouring Mothers for a small conference so I am sharing that video here. If this is a format that proves helpful or interesting I will try to produce quality videos as often as my schedule (kids) allow.

The Devouring Mother is a topic we could write many articles on; I have written a few already, and have others in the works. This, however, is a quick overview of some of the iterations of the Devouring Mother we want to avoid, as found in literature. Below are some resources with more information on the topics covered. Thank you.

-Ally

Resources:

Philosophy of Motherhood on Miss Havisham

https://philosophyofmotherhood.wordpress.com/2021/08/17/devouring-mother-series-a-weak-mother-miss-havisham/

Philosophy of Motherhood on Devouring Mother

https://philosophyofmotherhood.wordpress.com/2019/01/17/jordan-peterson-and-motherhood-5-defeating-the-devouring-mother/

On Devouring Mother Archetype

https://knowyourarchetypes.com/devouring-mother-archetype/

Hamlet and Freud

https://literariness.org/2016/04/17/freuds-critique-of-shakespeares-hamlet/

Jung and Frued on Oedipus 

https://naap.nl/en/complexes-2/

Rapanzel fairy tale

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rapunzel

On Masculine Archetypes

https://www.artofmanliness.com/articles/the-four-archetypes-of-mature-masculinity-the-boyhood-archetypes-part-ii/

Jordan Peterson The Good Mother  https://youtu.be/vzol6UWpkQ8

Overbearing Mother  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=50FbeazFkgs&t=3s

Miss Havisham Clip  https://youtu.be/oKL3dJo0fkU

Veruca Salt clip: https://youtu.be/b9mba2qb9do

Lord Elrond: https://youtu.be/_i3Ax4YJySg

Hamlet: https://youtu.be/a38HZFbhB-M

The Trouble of Importance

“Most of the trouble in the world is caused by people wanting to be important.”

T.S. Eliot

We all seek to be a positive influence on others. But motivations matter. Often as we seek fame or praise, we lose goodness, we shift our focus from others to ourselves. In this shifting we will compromise morality for power, we will justify sacrificing others for our benefit. We use our short time on earth in shallow ways. This painting of Lady Macbeth reminds us of the ways our powerful feminine nature can be twisted by self-interest. What a force for good she might have been! But she choose to seek importance and twisted her own potential.

“I would rather be what God chose to make me than the most glorious creature that I could think of; for to have been thought about, born in God’s thought, and then made by God, is the dearest, grandest and most precious thing in all thinking.”

George MacDonald

As our world becomes secular we are making ourselves into our own God. But a world of little gods, worshiping themselves, becomes a dark place. Our followers on our Instagram may grow, but our sense of worth will not. We are made for a much more glorious purpose than self-worship. Our children need a mother that seeks to discover the precious purposes He has for her and accomplishes them. A woman who uses her passions and talents to bless the lives of others – in unseen or visible ways – is truly glorious.

So when we stop and introspect about our daily motivations, I hope we can honestly ask ourselves – “Am I doing this to be important and admired, or am I doing this so I can be God’s hands?”

Lady Macbeth, John Singer Sargent

Who is to Blame?

“If you make it a habit not to blame others, you will feel the growth of the ability to love in your soul, and you will see the growth of goodness in your life.”

Leo Tolstoy

The other day my little girl came crying to me, “Cameron yelled at me!” I went to Cameron to get the full story.  Turns out, after an independent fact-check from my oldest daughter, that she had stolen a pink monster truck out of his hand.  She declared, “It’s mine, it’s my favorite color!” Then, to prevent any such insolence in the future, she gave him a little push on the way out.  He, in response, yelled, “You are so meeeeannn!”

As parents we see similar situations play out multiple times a day.  What I have come to notice is that in all cases – the offended party sees themselves as completely guilt-less.  They seem incapable of seeing their part in the matter.  They don’t see their actions, only others’ reactions. I don’t think we ever fully outgrow this.  Our tendency to see ourselves as the innocent party makes it difficult to discern the truth of a situation.

The Parable of the Mote and Beam,
Ottmar Elliger the Younger, 1700

And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?

Matthew 7:3

We are all victims of circumstance, of others’ poor choices, and of society. This is part of the struggle of life. We should speak up when others’ actions harm us. I certainly want to know when my children hurt each other.

However, as Tolstoy expresses, when we are stuck in blame – when we seek someone to accuse for every difficulty of life – we start to see our fellow man as opponents, rather than fellow-travelers in this difficult life.  So often in our finger-pointing we are blind to reality. We see malice where there was none.  We see willful action where there was simple misunderstanding.  Our blame makes matters worse. My son just picked up a lonely-looking truck, look how it ended for him.  

Thankfully we have more self-awareness than my 4-year-old. We can look to ourselves. So when we are seek some to blame, let’s first consider ourselves. We may find that rather than being burdened with the realization of our own folly, we will experience an increase in love for others and a corresponding strength to overcome our weakness.

“To recognize that we are to blame, is to say that we ought to be better, that we are able to do right if we will.  We are able to turn our faces to the light and come out of the darkness.”

George MacDonald

What’s With That Gender Pay Gap?

From Guest Author Rebecca Gingerich

“Whenever only one sex wins, both sexes lose.”

— Warren Farrell

Ain’t that the truth?  From where I stand, it seems us humans have been stuck playing a rather unproductive game of ‘tit for tat’ for far too long now.  Within our highly politicized society, the idea of traditional gender roles and responsibilities has progressively become more and more offensive to consider, let alone talk about.  So, let’s stir the pot for a moment, shall we?

The word ‘feminism’ has a lot of different meanings and therefore evokes various connotations, depending on the person you talk to.  A political activist and journalist by the name of Gloria Steinem said, “A feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of men and women”.  The majority of us can agree with this statement, as it validates equal human value and promotes the dignity we all inherently possess.

The next word that comes forward in today’s society is the term ‘equity’.  This has become a relative term with a confused conclusion for most of us.  The dictionary’s definition is: “The quality of being fair and impartial”.  So, we then begin to ask ourselves: what does the word ‘fair’ really mean?  Does it mean that we treat everyone the exact same?  Does it mean that if we did treat everyone the exact same, we’d see perfectly even results across the board in regards to areas such as gender representation and salary?

The above questions have us then stumble upon the ‘gender pay gap’ study. The findings of this study are based on the average difference of workplace earnings between the sexes. And naturally, some will attribute men making more money than women to sexism. But, do these findings actually represent gender discrimination?  On a side note, women are currently over-represented within post-secondary institutions, which tells us this gap is certainly not due to a lack of access to higher education.  

So, does this study take into consideration personal/lifestyle choices each gender group generally makes throughout the span of a lifetime (e.g., hours worked, parental leaves, field of work, qualifications, ect.)?  Could it possibly be that men and women make different choices in various areas of life, which in turn affect the differences in pay?  It is definitely a complex situation with many different variables at play, which begs the question: can a general statistic like this one ever thoroughly and accurately explain its findings?

“Men and women aren’t the same. That doesn’t mean they can’t be treated fairly.” 

— Jordan Peterson

I distinctly remember learning the proper definition of the word ‘equity’ when I was in college many moons ago.  We were taught that everyone has equal value and should have the same opportunities in life; however, there was the acknowledgement that each individual has a unique set of needs that require varying approaches and result in varying outcomes.  The same is true of parenting.  

A couple of years ago, my husband and I were visiting another couple who also have children.  We got on the topic of parenting styles, and how drastically different each child can be compared to his/her siblings.  Our friend jokingly said, “I just treat them all equally the same”.  I piped up and playfully responded with, “And now, they’re all equally screwed up!”  We all laughed and then the conversation progressed to what specific strategies work best for each of our individual children.  We didn’t discuss which one of our kids was our favorite, or which one we treated better than the others.  We all would have wholeheartedly agreed that we love each of our children equally, and we have their best interest at heart even though we do treat them differently based on their specific needs in any given situation.  

“..if you leave men and women to make their own choices you will not get equal outcome.”

— Jordan Peterson

This brings us to equal opportunity versus equal outcome.  If we believe that equal outcome is indeed possible through the means of fair treatment, then we have completely missed the boat.  Society’s obsession with obliterating differences between the sexes has enforced an impossible mission that won’t rest until a 50/50 gender quota has been reached in any given vocation.  My husband and I are a perfect example of how sexism is not driving these pay differences.  I am a qualified elementary school teacher and my husband works as a full-time pastor.  If I had chosen to become a full-time teacher shortly after graduating university, by now my salary would definitely be higher than his.  However, because I decided not to follow a full-time career, my husband makes significantly more money than I do each year; so, is this sexism or is it equity?  On paper, it could look very much like sexism, but if you actually sat down with me and asked for clarification, you’d find out that I had all the same opportunities as my husband; but I chose differently, based on my own set of needs and desires as a woman.

“Feminism is doomed to failure because it is based on an attempt to repeal and restructure human nature.”

— Phyllis Schlafly

Is it just me, or is extreme, modern day feminism trying to bury the differences between men and women in order to convince the world that women can instead be just like men, or wait for it… maybe even better?  We are fooled into thinking that whoever brings home more “bacon” wins the superiority contest.  North American society has lost sight of our God given responsibility to work as a united front within the context of marriage; we all have a different part to play. Sadly, greed and society’s power hungry definition of ‘success’ has and continues to consume each and every move many of us make.  

“Men and women have roles – their roles are different, but their rights are equal.”

Harri Holkeri

Well, where do we go from here?  How do we navigate through a world that tantrums like an unruly two year old when things aren’t perfectly cut down the middle every time in every scenario, especially in areas such as the workplace?  When will society wake up and start realizing (and even celebrating) the differences between men and women?  When did it all become about the money?  Why do most women not feel validated unless they have (or are striving towards) a career?  Why does motherhood seem to be the very last item on a young woman’s to-do list?  

“Children are not a distraction from more important work. They are the most important work.”

— C.S. Lewis

Now, do I think that women shouldn’t have careers? No.  Do I think that women shouldn’t pursue higher education?  No.  Do I think that all women should have children?  No.  What I do think is if a woman and her husband eventually decide to start a family, her priorities have a good chance (but not always) of changing in regards to her previous involvement within the workforce.  She might want to scale back on hours, extend her maternity leave, decline a promotion, or she might even quit her job altogether.  There are so many things she might actually want to do that will inevitably reflect poorly on the all too powerful ‘gender pay gap’, which assumes women must be oppressed if the numbers are not equal in terms of workplace earnings.

Motherhood can also lead to interruptions in women’s career paths and have an impact on long-term earnings.”

pewresearch.org

I understand that it is very difficult these days to get by on just one income within the household; my family is no exception.  I am required to work part-time in order to help support my family.  Most women are sitting in this same boat with me, while many others are required to pursue full-time employment.  This is life, this is reality.  However, it troubles me when our society seems to think a woman earning and/or working less than her husband is somehow unjust.  What a potentially damaging mindset — all in the name of money and workplace status.  We wouldn’t bat an eye if the husband decided to cut down his hours at work to help take care of the kids; but, when a woman does it, statistics will enthusiastically proclaim from the mountaintops, “Gender discrimination!!”

“Women leave the labour market during crucial years, setting them substantially back in labour market terms. They decide to take time out to have and raise children … perhaps moving to more flexible work or less demanding jobs.” 

— Ben Southwood (Adam Smith Institute)

With all that said, I believe in order to achieve true gender equality, we must first acknowledge that gender differences do indeed exist.  Then we must accept the fact that men and women often make different choices, as both groups carry varying responsibilities throughout life.  This in turn will affect many facets, including earnings at work.  Now, are there ever exceptions to the rule?  Of course.  After all, we are complex beings with some wiggle room in regards to roles and preferences.  However, my point here is that the overall pay difference is not a result of gender discrimination, but rather the result of different paths taken between the sexes.  

“When men and women are able to respect and accept their differences then love has a chance to blossom.”

John Gray

“Life is not a competition between men and women.  It is a collaboration.” 

— David Alejandro Fearnhead

At the end of the day, let us begin to lean into this reality, and start validating the hard work many women tirelessly demonstrate outside of the workplace.  May we bring dignity back to humanity, and start affirming the things that really matter in this world.  Let a pay check be a pay check; a means to feed and clothe our family (a noble task in itself, no doubt).  Once and for all, let the gender wars end, and may both sexes come back to the table as true partners in life.  

By Rebecca Gingerich

Dungeon of Self

“The love of our neighbor is the only door out of the dungeon of self.”

George MacDonald

What a blessing our little neighbors are! Our sons and daughters – who push us out of the door of self-interest and into the world of others. We are more free, more empathetic, more virtuous because of the love we have for our children.

May be an image of text
Diego Rivera, The Embrace, 1923, Secretariat of Public