Politically Incorrect Motherhood

From the Dean

A regular article written by Phillip Jensen in his role as Dean of Sydney at St Andrew's Cathedral.

Originally Published:
7th May 2011

Tagged: motherhood mothers work

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We live in a free society, where people are not constrained but free to make their own choices about their life.

This freedom means it is improper to criticise others for the choices they make. Such impropriety constrains our freedom of speech and nourishes the concept of ‘political correctness’. It’s not politically correct to criticise the free choice of others about their living arrangements – de facto marriage, single parenthood, having lots of children or choosing to have none.

Everybody has the freedom of choice to marry or not, to have children or not.

People should not be pressured to conform to social norms or criticised simply because they are choosing to live differently.

One compulsory area of society is education. All children must be educated. Increasingly, governments are involving themselves in the curriculum of life through education. Hopefully education will open up choices for the individual rather than closing them. But the social engineers, especially the atheistic secularists, see education as the way to change society - to be ‘progressive’, as they call it.

But engineering is not education. Engineering does not open the mind to the truth but channels people into desirable outcomes. Here is the problem for the education of our daughters: what are the desirable outcomes of today’s social engineers?

Of recent times to avoid stereotyping our daughters into domesticity, educationalists have joined the rhetorical calls: “Biology is not destiny”; “You can do whatever you want and be whoever you wish”; “You can have a career and a family and fun and whatever you wish”; “The glass ceiling is only there to be broken.”  But rhetoric is not reality. 

Education should have a truth factor in it. The rhetoric of social change is a dangerous element in compulsory education.

Biology is not destiny but biology does delimit destiny. My desire to be an elite athlete will be tempered by my inadequate biology. My desire to change my career path into a more physically challenging activity will be tempered by my age. And when it comes to women, the biology of reproduction has some fairly strong limits.

Sylvia Ann Hewlett’s book Creating a Life: Professional Women and the Quest for Children recounts the terrible consequences of the ‘education’ that women received in the last generation. For those who wish a career without a family the progress has been difficult but straightforward. But for those who put childbearing on hold while they pursued their career, the desire for motherhood has been largely disappointed. Her book, based on extensive statistical research and in depth interviews, is a heart-felt plea for young women to be “much more intentional about their private lives”, specifically about marriage and childbearing.

To educate young women with the ideal of changing the world or finding fulfilment or fulfilling their potential by their career while at the same time being a wife and mother is as unrealistic as it is harmful. A few women of enormous abilities can manage incredible responsibilities simultaneously – but they are not average or typical. They may be people we can admire, congratulate and wish success but they are hardly role models for the rest of us. Even our Governor-General, who has demonstrated just how far a wife and mother of five and grandmother of eight can go in our society, advises that you can have family and a career, just not at the same time. Biology would tell you which must come first, but the rhetoric of our social engineers inhibits the speaking of this truth – it is politically incorrect to mention it.

And such advice is not limited to women. A friend, training to be a surgeon, informed me of a common saying amongst his peers “You can’t have a wife and a knife”. The hours he was keeping and the pressure under which he was working and studying as a registrar made marriage almost impossible. Those he saw ignoring this maxim either struggled with their career or with their marriage.

Motherhood is a hard choice for women in a society where career is King – or should I say Queen. You can make a career out of early childhood care and education but not out of caring and educating your own children. The same task with pay is desirable – but without payment, and without the status of “career”, it is denigrated. However, a salary does not dignify labour. To work for your own children without pay is no less work, or contribution to society, or valuable in God’s sight. Our value lies not in what society thinks or how much it pays but in our creation in the image of God, to fill the earth and subdue it, (Genesis 1:26-28) and in our recreation into the image of his Son (Romans 8:29,  1 Corinthians 11:1, Philippians 2:5-11, Colossians 3:10). There can be few tasks more Christ like than giving up ourselves to care for little children (Mark 10:14).