Canadian author Dorothy Pilarski writes with profundity and wit about matters practical and divine in her book, Motherhood Matters. Full of anecdotes and humor, this book makes us take an honest look at the lives of women today, and helps us to focus on what matters most. Has “liberation” truly led to greater happiness for women? Are children to be viewed as commodities, to be acquired just as we acquire a house or car? Or should children be seen as the gifts from God that they are, given to our stewardship? Dorothy makes it clear that until we rectify our confusion about such basic questions then peace of heart will elude us. To quote:
We will find happiness in living out God’s purpose for our lives, not our own. The culture of the early twenty-first century makes it easy to follow mistaken paths. The media bombards us with the temptation to fulfill ourselves, to find ourselves, to meet our own needs. It is a message of selfishness. And it is spread constantly. Magazines, television, radio, films, books, and the internet promote images of the ‘ideal’ career, body, fashion, home, car, vacation, husband, and parenting. These ‘ideals”‘ are often reinforced by friends and family. Influenced by these ‘ideals,’ many of us make important life decisions without first considering our relationship with Jesus Christ and our Catholic faith…As Catholic mothers, we are called to dig deep into our hearts and pray that we are actually co-operating with God’s grace…Our children are gifts from our Creator who has entrusted the souls of our children to us. (pp18-19)
Motherhood Matters is broken into many small sections which makes it easy for busy people to read, yet it is never disjointed; one paragraph flows seamlessly into another. Dorothy substantiates her claims about women and motherhood, about divorce, illegitimacy, diseases, and all the trials of modern life, with statistics of several recent studies, not only with pious beliefs. Yet the statistics uphold the piety, showing that when we depart from God and his law we pay, our children pay, and all society pays. (pp.31-32) We see that many women are often forced to set aside their childbearing years in order to make money. Even after the children are born, women must often forgo being with their children and creating a home in order to be part of the work force.
It is obvious that our culture no longer values motherhood or sees it as a goal. Instead, it is a sideline, to be pursued only when convenient. Is this fair to women? No, and it is definitely not fair to children. Women are repeatedly told that they must be breadwinners like men in order to be of value. Other than the ability to make money, women are reduced to their sexuality and have come to see themselves as worthwhile only as far as physical pleasure goes.
Can things ever be made right? Motherhood Matters explores many simple and practical ways that women can reclaim their feminine vocation. How easily we ignore the most obvious truths, which Dorothy illustrates with short stories from her personal experience. It is a book which entertains and yet it is impossible to read it without taking a good hard look at oneself. Throughout the book we are enjoined to turn to prayer as the key to finding the path we are called to take as women and as mothers. We are encouraged to watch and pray, especially when we have teenagers. As Dorothy says:
Remaining grounded in a fervent prayer life and being aware of the dangerous messages that exist in the media can better equip parents to understand the challenges that vulnerable teenage girls wrestle with. Awareness leads to conversations we might have never had. But be prepared. I guarantee that those conversations will challenge you, yet I cannot imagine a life without them. (p.99)
The choice that lies before each of us is between a life of authentic love and one of fleeting material gratifications. No one can make the choice for us. Reading a book like Dorothy’s makes it easier to choose a life of love, a life which foreshadows the eternity of endless happiness and fulfillment.