Maternity and Modernity

“Maternity dooms woman to sedentary existence, and so it is natural that she remain at the hearth while man hunts, goes fishing, and makes war.” Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex

One of the more pernicious effects of the post modern culture in which we find ourselves is the undermining of motherhood, indeed of parenthood. “Undermining” evolved from ancient times as a siege tactic to bring down the staunchest of walled cities. Medieval aggressors dug a tunnel day and night over many weeks under one stone battlement of the stronghold, propping the tunnel as they went with wooden beams and posts to prevent detection. If undiscovered by the defenders, upon completion, the besiegers would lay in more wood and incendiaries to the tunnel, and set it afire. When the wooden supports burned through and the tunnel collapsed, so, too, would the wall on top of it, exposing the previously impregnable city to conquest, plunder, enslavement and ruin.

“Ideas have consequences.” The tunnel digging of the last century and a half evolved from the supremacy of will and self philosophies of Schopenhauer, Neitzsche and Sartre; the reductionism of human beings to the merely chemical and biological by Darwin, Freud and others; the demeaning of human sexuality by Margaret Mead, Margaret Sanger and Albert Kinsey from lifelong commitment and love to casual pleasure seeking; and the utilitarian ethics of Peter Singer, Jack Kevorkian and their ilk, corroding the dignity of the human person into a subjective quality of life standard, which is defenseless against self serving interpretation. [i]

“All the women were captured and chained

And national suicide was proclaimed

And new America fell to the ground

And all the children lay crippled lame.” When the Walls Came Tumbling Down, Def Leppard

After the tunnel was set afire in the “sexual revolution” of the sixties, “the walls came tumbling down.” We walk in our neighborhood: first time parents are now older with their one or two children; many couples have chosen to keep a couple of dogs in lieu of children; annoyed grown men with plastic baggies in their hands walk sweatered mutts, and plush veterinarian clinics outnumber and architecturally outshine both pediatric and child care centers. Children of single parents and of divorce are the norm. American birthrates have dropped below that which is necessary to sustain our population; the Social Security and Medicare programs are in danger of collapse as too few children grow into contributing workers.

“Mother”, especially a full time mother, has diminished in clever cocktail banter into sniping “new speak” for a failed career woman. Simone de Beauvoir, long time lover of Jean Paul Sartre, and darling of the most extreme faction of the feminist “movement” died alone, chain smoking and embittered. She had this to say about mothers and motherhood: such women “are not so much mothers as fertile organisms, like fowls with high egg-production. And they seek eagerly to sacrifice their liberty of action to the functioning of their flesh.” She becomes a “menstrual slave” victimized by her own biology. Ideas do have consequences and take many years to emerge fully. Once hatched, they metastasize into our concepts, morality and worldview, often without our awareness or consent.

“O, brave new world that has such people in’t!” The Tempest, William Shakespeare

The natural consequence of these ideas was brilliantly foretold over eighty years ago in Aldous Huxley’s dystopian novel[ii] set six hundred years in the future. Some of his science fiction devices, such as sound waves recorded as digital light, are already commonplace, and perhaps some are in our future. In this future, the words “mother” and “mammary” are obscenities that make citizens blush, while nothing else does; sex is ubiquitous, pneumatic, loveless and fruitless. Recreational sex and multiple partners are mandatory; marriage or even long term relationships are forbidden as sources of angst and discontent. Fatherhood is unheard of.

Babies are fertilized exclusively in hatcheries; they are “decanted” from bottles, not born, and then moved to conditioning floors where they begin their habituation to “happiness” as alphas, betas, gammas, deltas and epsilons. Alphas are decanted to lead; epsilons poisoned while still in their bottles with alcohol to near morons destined only for menial work, but happy in it. The rest are planned and designed to fit into civilization in their predetermined slot. All are molded into acceptance of their lot and conditioned to despise the messy, overemotional and imperfect family. Under constant “hypnopaedic” sleep learning, they are cloned, cut and pasted into their proper place. Any misgiving or dissatisfaction is remedied with nightly “vacations” for all citizens with “soma”, a euphoric mild hallucinogenic with no hangover that wipes away all anxieties, anger, doubts and questions.

Mustapha Mond (Regional World Controller to students)

“’Try to realize what it was like to have a viviparous mother.’

That smutty word again. But none of them dreamed, this time, of smiling.

‘Try to imagine what ‘living with one’s family’ meant.’

They tried; but obviously without the smallest success.

‘And do you know what a ‘home’ was?’

They shook their heads.” Brave New World, Aldous Huxley

Gianna flies free

Gianna flies free

Angela the same age as Gianna and little sister Meg

Angela the same age as Gianna and little sister Meg

Our five year old granddaughter, Gianna, hit a milestone last weekend with her family in attendance. Her Mom, our daughter Angela, ran behind her with her guiding hand, aiding her balance, teaching her to look ahead, to peddle steadily, to gain confidence, to advance another step like all her prior and future steps. Then Angela let go as all parents must and ran beside her. I was fortunate to see her on one of her earliest runs. Both were grinning widely, Gianna doing a grown up thing, utterly joyful. I apologize for the limitations of my cell phone camera, but the image is there. Gianna told us later that night she felt like she was ten years old. Angela emailed us that “G” was a ‘big girl’ all night, well behaved, helping with dinner and clean up – the felicitous consequence of maturity.  Angela is doing as Rita did for our kids and what mothers have done for millennia – loving and training her children to fly on their own.

Angela is an accomplished young woman with a post graduate degree and certification as a Creighton practitioner, aiding others with natural family planning and infertility. Recently, she testified to a hostile Rhode Island House of Representatives committee and a packed hearing room about fetal development, in which she is well versed. A full time mother of three young girls, she is the furthest one can imagine from a “menstrual slave.” She and her husband, Peter, choose to live on Peter’s income for the most part. They will have fewer things, toys and accoutrement. They will be less obsessive consumers and more focused parents. She is home schooling their children, Gianna, Elena and Mary. They are not an Ozzie and Harriet fifties family, but Pete and Angela choose to be countercultural to a culture distorted by the now established, dysfunctional “counterculture” of the sixties. She is a heroine. She is a mother.

Link to interviews for the ‘toughest job in the world.’

“This afternoon was definitely one of the best moments of my life. Letting go of that bike, I will never forget it, hard to describe.” Angela Barek (my daughter) about her oldest daughter, Gianna, first time flying solo without training wheels or a net.

[i] See the excellent Architects of the Culture of Death, Donald de Marco and Benjamin Wiker, Ignatius Press, 2004

[ii] I recently reread Brave New World, Aldous Huxley, Chatto & WIndus, London, 1932. Still much worth your time.


Filed under Culture views, Personal and family life

5 responses to “Maternity and Modernity

  1. Rita

    It was such fun to be there when Gianna learned to ride a bike! The excitement and joy of accomplishment brought me suddenly back to those days when our own children learned to fly… Some things never change. Jack remembers the day he taught our youngest daughter Meg to ride her bike without training wheels was the same day he taught our oldest daughter, Amy to drive the car.

    I found an old copy of Brave New World while cleaning out old boxes of books and we both reread it. Lot’s to think about and I wonder if it is on the reading list of todays HS teenagers? The book was prophetic in many ways, unfortunately. The “culture of death” was a phrase coined by Pope John Paul II, the very same pope who is being canonized today in Rome. If you’d like a quick synopsis of many of the modern philosophers who have influenced the materialist, secular culture we now live in, The Architects of the Culture of Death is a great read. De Marco and Wiker clarify and simplify their death dealing philosophies. Yes indeed, “Ideas have consequences.”


  2. jello26

    Love you, Dad. I’m hoping Gianna has mostly memories of my helping her to ride a bike and such and less of my not so lovely mommy moments! Speaking of Gianna, today is Saint Gianna’s feast day. She is a wonderful role model to mothers, and I turn to her often in my challenging moments. Someone once commented that the names we chose for our girls were seemingly so different, 2 of Italian heritage and slightly exotic, and then our little Mary Therese. It all makes sense to us, as we chose to name them after female saints who inspired us. Not only are these the names of great saints, they are names of great saints who were also mothers: Saint Gianna, Saint Helena (mother of Constantine), and we all know about Mary as the mother of Jesus and our spiritual mother. Motherhood for me is very challenging, but it is also an undeserved gift. Thanks for the post… Jell


  3. Rita

    I recently read the article about the couple in Providence who knew early on in their pregnancy that their baby was going to be born with anencephaly, a condition where a large part of the brain is absent. Doctors often encourage mothers to abort these babies. They decided to carry the baby to term so that she could be loved by them for as long as she lived, which often is not very long. Little Angela is now 36 days old and has been showered with love by her parents and her older sister. As I read the article, I realized that the greatest gift that Angela is giving to these beautiful parents is a path to sainthood. The greatest gift this family is giving to our materialist culture is that all life has inherent dignity and is deserving of our love and care. So, if we let them, our children turn the sacrifices we make on a daily basis to love and care for them into our path to sainthood.


  4. Undermining…..and those of us that participate in it then are “termites”. The moral of the story: Don’t be a Termite. (?) 🙂 Good story, as usual.


    • Good analogy. Far too many baby boomers, including me, were unwitting termites or even arsonists touching off the tunnel. At least some of us who were termites, recognize it, and regret the digging. Thanks for weighing in.


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