Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Taking Out the Family.

Kathy Farrelly provided some rather interesting comments to my last post.  It was this bit which piqued my interest:
I would be the first to admit that the kids drive me nuts at times and housework is boring as batshit. Sure It would break the monotony if I could get out a bit and do something else..

But it is all about "dying to self" and putting the good of the family above your own wants.
Firstly, I want to go on the record as saying the I like Kathy Farelly based on long running appreciation of her commentary in the blogosphere. From what she has written, she sounds like a good normal woman and a good mother. (This is not a sop to you Kathy, I'm simply calling it as I see it.)

Christian Traditionalists, extolling the virtues of motherhood, frequently place particular emphasis on the self-sacrificial nature of it,  seeing it as a particularly Christ like virtue. Traditionalists, who are opposed to the idea of a woman working, frequently assert that women who do work are selfish, fulfilling their own desires at the expense of the family, and as such, love themselves more than their families.

This charge strikes most normal women harshly.

Just as penis size is a source of constant anxiety for men, so maternal ability is for women. Lot's of women, in my experience, are constantly plagued by guilt and anxiety with regards to their efficacy at being a mother. Lots of women who work, are guilt ridden, feeling that they are being selfish by not "being there" and caring for their families. Lot's of women, who stay at home, find solace in their superiority over working mothers because in "denying themselves" they prove themselves to the world as being better mothers than their working others.

They are also supported by a good body of Christian Tradition that sees self sacrifice as the embodiment of love. 

This however is misstating the Christian Tradition.

Profound moralists have been concerned with the problem of evil and its recognition. From my reading, the evil most feared is the evil that looks like a good. In my mind, a superficial understanding of maternal-self-sacrifice is one such evil.

Many people who extol the idea of sacrificial love see it as a virtue in itself, which it isn't. Self-sacrifice is only a virtue when it pursues a good, otherwise it is an evil. But it is a very difficult evil to recognise since society, through cultural front-loading, automatically assumes it is a good. 

Blatant evil, such as murder, and is easy to recognise and hence repels our primitive conscience, the evils that really hard to spot are those which are agreeable or appear virtuous.  One of the most profound comments ever written with regard to human psychology was written by C.S. Lewis in his Srewtape Letters:
Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed, the safest road to Hell is the gradual one -- the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.
The traditionalists have failed to recognise the signposts.

In my experience, contrary to much of the bleatings of the manosphere, many women have put the good of their family above themselves, frequently with detrimental consequences to the family.

The problem is that many women are not suited to being exclusively full time carers of their family, and placing them in this role, though cultural pressure and herd predisposition, places them in a position of chronic stress. Now, some women can cope with this stress whilst and others cannot.  The  thing about chronic stress is that it changes people involuntarily.

What I'm trying to get at it that many women stick at the motherhood role despite hating it, placing them in a position of constant stress, over time this stress changes the woman involuntarily so that she becomes chronically unhappy (and sexless in many instances), irritable, moody and miserable. This unhappy and miserable woman becomes both a pain to husband and to her children, and interactions with her are stressful. The kids get a disproportionate response to minor transgressions, she's always moody when the husband comes home. The household may be a mess and is a miserable place to be in.  In "dying to herself" everyone else gets taken down with her.

The whole point of self-sacrifice is towards an objective good, when the self-sacrifice is causing evil there is a moral obligation to stop it. 

For the majority of women, mothering competence is part and parcel of the female identity, admitting that you are having difficulty with mothering is akin to admitting that you are a lesser woman. This is why a lot of women do not seek help when they are suffering from post-natal depression. To them, its an admission of second class female status.  To use a male analogy, it's like announcing to the world that you have a small penis. (Perhaps more so, as women are more socially conscious than men.)

Many women have scarified their personal ambitions for the sake of the family and have been able to maintain cheerful and happy homes. Others, forced into the role of motherhood by either traditionalist conceptions or the "modern perfect motherhood cult" have found to their surprise that they have become miserable as have their households. If a woman's self-sacrifice is making her family and husband miserable, it's time for her to stop. Noble vice is not a virtue.

(If libido is in any way correlated with happiness then Kathy seems to be a good wife. :)    )

( Some people have criticised me for the unscientific nature of my posts. My posts aren't science papers, but interpretations of the sum of my clinical experience, which by now is considerable. My current patient load is greater than the numbers in many studies and I've had the chance to view many of my patients longitudinally, something few psychological studies have been able to do. What prompted me to blog was Theodore Dalyrmyple. I wanted to back up what he was saying. In my way, of course.)