06 Mar Childhood and a Mother’s Direction
A few days ago a Portuguese cardinal sparked controversy by repeating the Catholic Church’s longstanding teaching to encourage women to be at home with their children. He stressed that the function of a mother is essential to the education of her children. Cardinal Manuel Monteiro de Castro said that “We should give much more value to family and to the value of women at home… the presence of the woman in the family has a very, very important value for the whole nation. The best educator is the mother, and if the mother doesn’t have time to breathe how is she going to have time to educate?”
His statements are similar to those of Pope John Paul II, who wrote in his Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio in 1981 that “the true advancement of women requires that clear recognition be given to the value of their maternal and family role, by comparison with all other public roles and all other professions.”
“The mentality which honors women more for their work outside the home than for their work within the family must be overcome. This requires that men should truly esteem and love women with total respect for their personal dignity, and that society should create and develop conditions favoring work in the home,” the pontiff wrote.
The words of these wise and honorable men made me think about a class I took some time ago on child development. When pure and precious babies are born the billions of neurons in their brains are free from any negatives or positives. But that quickly changes. As these babies are nurtured, cuddled, talked to, and laughed with they are taught that they are important, and they are loved. These neurons quickly make connections with other neurons until there is a well-traveled path that makes up their understanding of who they are.
‘When I fall down and hurt myself, my mother will be there to comfort me.’ ‘My mother feeds me, and bathes me, and dresses me. I am important to her, and she loves me…and I can be important and loved by others.’
Just as Cardinal Castro said, “The best educator is the mother.” Mothers help a child form feelings about themselves. She helps her children understand that they are important, they are appreciated, needed and they are lovable. She teaches them to understand the appropriate way to act in society. She teaches them the value of work and she gives direction that helps them form habits that will bless their lives. She teaches them honesty and she shares the values she holds dear.
Hardwiring their minds in a positive direction is a full-time job. It takes patience and fortitude. It requires love, selflessness and creativity. I would say unequivocally that it is the most important roll a woman can have…to influence another human being to become a happy, productive, contributing member of society.
Thank you Cardinal Castro for speaking out to a world that too often does not place its priorities on home and family. The news bears testimony of that truth.