I am deep in the world of babies now, where the subject of childcare comes up frequently. When it comes to the questions of who is watching your children and where they are kept, something people will often say is children are resilient, to which I always want to reply children are extremely vulnerable.
Being made in the image of the eternal immutable God, all humans have a strength of soul and a remarkable ability to heal and cast wrongs into a sea of forgetfulness, but this isn’t anything we ought to take for granted. We should always bear in mind the fragility of the people in our care, not their resilience. I hold to the doctrine of original sin and yet what I noticed about my daughter in the first year of her life was not her sin, but her fear. As sons of Adam and daughters of Eve, broken in fellowship, babies need most to be loved.
What you aren’t prepared for when you first become a mother is how much you will love your child. I’ve known many moms who have a good and careful plan for childcare, and still grieve and regret dropping their babies off and returning to their lives before.
“I wasn’t prepared for how much I would want to be the one with her every day. It ought to be me,” a friend said recently. I totally understood.
We thought childcare was easy mundane work (don’t the uneducated do it for minimum wage?) but we see now that it is the most important thing we could possibly do, that all our longing is for our children, that no amount of study could have prepared us for how difficult it is to train and nurture them and yet how we alone, their parents, are uniquely fit for the task. As my children were knit together in secret, perfect poems, I was remade and rewritten for them, and I won’t ever be the same.
And so when it is not possible for us to be the ones with them, we want those people to be the best of our world, the most virtuous, the most careful of their weakness: the grandmothers, for instance, soft and slow and patient and not too self-important to be gentle with their raw noses or read the same book three times or rock them to sleep, the older women who perhaps regret not being the mothers we are beginning to regret we are not ourselves, who see, not their superiority to the task, but their insufficiency to do it justice. That’s who we need, and who we find ourselves becoming.
“It’s like your feelings don’t matter,” the same mother said. Yes, that’s what the feminist don’t understand. It is not liberating to be freed from our children. It is a denial of our emotions, which are perhaps the most beautiful part of ourselves, and most true to who we were meant to be. For, after all, “we are women, and my plea is Let me be a woman…”
Let me be the shield and the shelter for these children. Let me be why they can’t seem to stop believing they are seen and known and treasured. Let me be why they are innocent of evil, alive to all kinds of good, wise to know the difference. Let me be why they look up to God in happiness and run to him in sorrow. Let me be why Helen is glad to be a woman, and Jacob is glad to be a man. Let me be why they trust and obey.
Let me be a mother, and I will care less for other things.