The Bad Mommy

Dateline: Sat 19 Aug 2006

Helen Kirwan-Taylor may think she is breaking new ground with her essay on why she hates being a mother, but her laments are as old as time.

First, check out what she says:

Her thoughts -- which have been getting Internet and news play for the past few weeks -- can pretty much be summed up with these admissions: she is bored stiff by her two sons and has been since they were babes, she is not involved in their lives when it comes to school, sports, etc., she would rather be getting her nails done than grub around with these two dull (to her) boy creatures, and she is weary of child-centered family life (which I happen to believe is a particular societal cancer, but that's another story -- still, her essay is in part a reaction to Mommies who Do Too Much and Care Too Much and Worry Too Much).

She is especially appalled that so many good women have given up good careers to stay home with rugrats. Her deal is that she prefers being a workaholic journalist to spending time with the munchkins.

Nothing new there. In the 1970s, when our first son was born and I was working, it was the fad du jour to see which mom could get back to the workplace the soonest. Six-week maternity leave? Oh, please. I was off four weeks. Two weeks. One week. On it went.

Still, the reason Helen Kirwan-Taylor, who lives in London, has created such a stir is that she has hit a nerve.

Obviously, something in what she wrote resonates with women and mothers. We either see our frustrated and bored selves in her words, or we see in her the anti-Christ, or the anti-Madonna.

In considering this, I turned to my little daughter-in-law Joylynn Holladay, also a mother of two sons. She is an occupational therapist by training (master's degree from Boston University) and has worked in private practice and hospitals. She is also a writer.

Now she stays home, tucked away most of the time with nobody for company but a 5-year-old and an infant. Yes, she says, sometimes she is bored and sometimes she is lonely.

But here is the essence -- "Motherhood is a sacrifice," said Joylynn. "If you don't understand that and see it that way, of course you're going to be unhappy and complaining all the time."

A sacrifice, as in you give up something you may wish to do in order to concentrate on something or somebody besides yourself. Motherhood is also a life of service, which is dead skin to many in the me-culture.

Years ago, one of our priests, Father Courtney, then of St. Luke parish in Indy, wrote a beautiful homily about marriage and family life. (I still have a copy of it). While discussing the difficulties of the vocation of marriage, he also addressed the delights: "There is no floor show in Las Vegas that can compare to the sight of your two-year-old toddling across the floor," he wrote.

Yes, motherhood can at times be trying, but it is also richer than rubies. One just has to know what to look for and how to take pleasure in the exquisite moment.

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