On Mother’s Day, I can’t help thinking what an amazing and diverse institution motherhood is. Aldous Huxley in “Brave New World” predicted a society in which motherhood would be gone, a thing of the past. I think of the difference between my two grandmothers, one with one child and the other with 9. Yet they both remained married to their first and only husbands for life, and in fact outlived their husbands.
Then I think of a recent new acquaintance and friend of mine, Melinda S., now pregnant with her second child, by a second father, still never married, and I think of or try to imagine how different her life is now and is going to be from either of my grandmothers. Will she have five children by five different fathers before she turns 30? At this rate….quite possibly. Is she the future? Melinda’s mother is taking care of her first son already. I know lots of grandmothers taking care of their grandkids. But come to think of it, my grandmother raised me more than my mother did. Although my mother had a great influence on my life as a teacher and friend, albeit with great ups and downs and sometimes time gaps in our relationship—sometimes really major time gaps in fact. But my mother taught me the Magnificat and most of the prayers I know, and a great deal of everything I know in and about English, French, German, and Italian literature, music, and civilization traces to my mother directly or indirectly. Still, she really never played any games with me or dressed me when I was young–that was left to my grandmother or others. My mother was, I suppose, half-way between my grandmothers and Melinda…. both chronologically and behaviorally. What a strange, interesting thought. All three generations very intelligent, and very atypical of their own time in some ways, while epitomizing their time in others. I admire my grandmothers and their lives and marriages. I see few others. It does appear that my Latin American Comadres Betty M. and Lee A. will stay with their first and only husbands through life, Betty M. more surely than Lee. A recent friend as of last year, Milenne D., an economically privileged wife of an M.D. and mother of four, seems like a mother of the old school, even to the point of joining her husband in dinnertime prayers every night….but she’s yet young….how will she seem in 20 years I wonder? Will she be able to maintain her traditional status? Kathleen W., another relatively young mother of four beautiful children, is nowhere nearly as economically privileged as Milenne, but she has cleaved to her troubled marriage rather than dissolving all ties to an absent and unsupportive husband, but Kathleen’s children at least benefit from her stability and commitment to them and to the concept of family, while even someone like my mother has shown a definite “modern” commitment to self over family. So Is Motherhood on the rise or declining or stable as an aspect of human life? Or is motherhood just changing, now “divorced” from traditional family in a strangely pseudo-Huxleyan fashion? Will mothers ever be replaced by test-tubes and labs? Life would be so much poorer. But, in essence, Sigmund Freud taught of the hazards of motherhood interconnected with “Civilization and its Discontents” and warned the 20th century to fear the psychological consequences of the mother-child bond, and the social engineers of the 20th century have certainly been persecuting the family as a whole, trying to make it less and less stable and relevant. Huxley equated or conflated Sigmund Freud’s research and teachings with Henry Ford’s mass production: observing that both led to socio-economic philosophies advocating and idealizing “instant gratification”. If there’s anything I think motherhood is not, it is instantly gratifying. Texas is where I was born and where I became aware of all the problems and pitfalls of family, especially my first contact with the Family Court system, which I consider to be one of the most evil and socially destructive institutional systems in modern America. The Texas Attorney General, like all modern state attorney generals, is largely if not primarily a debt collector, a hunter seeking out “deadbeat dads”, berating them, jailing them, punishing them. Child support is a disguised socialistic wealth-redistributive tax that is particularly in tune with the socialist agenda because it both encourages families to split and maximizes tension between spouses after the split. The Texas Attorney General has his central offices in Austin, Texas, located in a county called Travis, named after William Barrett Travis, remembered as the Heroic Commander of the Alamo in the Texas War of Independence. Yet Travis himself was the consummate “deadbeat dad” having left not only his native South Carolina but his native country, the United States of America, to escape his responsibilities to his wife and children back on the old farmstead. History records very little of the study of William Barrett Travis’ wife or his children. Did they even know of their husband/father’s status as a hero in that radio-less, televisionless, AP-wireless era? What were their lives like? Were any of his children Confederate officers or soldiers? Would his wife have been better off if William Barrett Travis had been hunted down by a 19th Century Gregg Abbott and jailed for failure to pay child support? What would have happened at the Alamo and in Texas History Generally? What comments would William Barrett Travis’ wife have to make about this article? About the concept of mandatory child support? Or about the Revolution in Texas and her husband’s last stand at the Alamo? About his pronouncement that, “I will never surrender or retreat” in his last letter of which my grandparents had an engraved copy hanging in the bedroom in Highland Park, Dallas, in which both of them died, 21 years apart, in 1980 and 2001?