Monday, February 13, 2012

the unhappiness of Western mothers: Christine Mallouhi's Miniskirts, Motherhood and Muslims

I've been getting to know a lovely Muslim woman at school. Our sons are best friends, and we've had several in-depth chats about our different faiths. It's highlighted for me what a wonderful time of life this can be, with abundant opportunities to get to know women you'd never usually meet.

I want to bring honour to my friend. I want my life to adorn the things I say. And so I've been trying to think about what an honourable life might look like to her (it's a little challenging, as I consider issues like dress, hospitality, and relationships). The book that's been really helping me is Christine Mallouhi's Miniskirts, Mothers and Muslims.

As I read it on Saturday I came across an amazing passage about the lonely life of many Western mothers. There's some great stuff here about motherhood, ministry, family, and singleness. The quote is quite long, but take the time to read it if you can! It's worth every word.

The recent pattern of daily life where the woman is alone in the house with young screaming children to care for, while the man is out all day earning a wage, is not a common model of the family in world history...A common factor is the unhappiness of the women. "Who am I?" and "What can I do that counts?" are painful questions for many young Christian mothers. Whether women are living overseas or at home in the West, many spend years feeling frustrated that they can't be "out ministering" because they have young children at home to care for...

How many Christian mothers have felt unfulfilled and useless as ambassadors of Christ, because time is taken up with changing nappies and mopping up mess? Since mothers will spend about ten years of their lives primarily consumed in family care and the rest of their lives centred on it, they need a biblical perspective. If the real way to serve Christ is only street-evangelism and teaching the Bible, then Christians should get full-time help for the house and the children. But, since God made motherhood and desires responsible parenthood, as well as the fulfilment of the Great Commission, God must have a plan for mothers...

The home and children are not in the way, keeping women from "ministry". They are the ideal vehicle for a ministry to families and every woman in the church has the opportunity for this kind of full-time work. Family ministry is so badly needed in the West with the breakdown of the family unit. So many young people have never experienced a loving family and have no models.

In Arab culture, raising children is not something you do in your own home away from the community. There are many Western full-time mothers caring for young children at home all day and struggling with depression because they lack adult conversation...This is one area Western Christians can really celebrate in Muslim societies. Local women don't stay home alone with their small children. They raise their children with other women's children. They send the day with their sisters or friends, and while the children all play together, the women spend hours talking. Let's celebrate this wonderful advantage in cultures that love babies and small children. Children are a perfect bonding mechanism. If you have small children you should never be lonely...

As in many societies, there is more that one "mother and father"...The other "mothers and fathers" also give a lot of affirming love...The sharing of children enables single Westerners to be aunts and uncles and fulfil some of their need for family. Arab children [and Indian and Pakistani children] call all unrelated adults "Uncle" and "Aunt". It is a term of respect for age, but also one that symbolises the connection of society as an extended family.
My children call their Indian and Pakistani friends' mothers "Auntie". It's a term that puts our cold, (in)formal relationships with other people's children to shame. These women greet my children with such warmth, treating them like their own children! I have an immense amount to learn from them, as I seek to enter their culture, learn about what they believe, and share my life and hope in Jesus.

From Christine Mallouhi Miniskirts, Mothers and Muslims pages 120-122.

With thanks to Nicole, who posted this quote way back in 2009. When I searched for it on the internet (much easier than typing from scratch!) it was 168hrs that came up! Funny that the same quote jumped out at both of us. I'm sure she won't mind me repeating it, with a few changes.


Valori said...

Hey Jean -- I bought this book and want to read it soon. Thanks for recommending it! We live in a very international area, and I feel that the Muslim culture is one that I know the least about and am most unable to relate to. I really want to grow in befriending some of these women! I also have friends who have recently moved to a predominantly Muslim culture so I am seeking to learn what I can.

Also, did you put up another quote a year or two ago about the isolation of women in western cultures and how they are prone to depression and loneliness? If not, I must have read it somewhere else. It is really good food for thought. I read an article a few years ago that makes me think of how this isolation is even exacerbated by the fact that we drive up to our homes, push the garage remote, enter our homes and can go for weeks or months without seeing our neighbors! The author talked about the fact that when people didn't have air conditioning, they would at least go sit out on their front porches with a glass of iced tea or lemonade just to get out of their stuffy houses and how even that would create more of a sense of community. It is a subject worthy of more thought!

Jean said...

Hi Valori,

Maybe this one?

Love Jean.