Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Liber Mothering- Part II

My supervisor said it was because I loved my kid too much. His statement bothered me. He seemed to be indicating, especially with his tone of voice, that this was a problem, because I should love my career more. I simply felt it was time for me to have my career be full-time mothering.

The question that confronted me in these early years of mothering was, “Is it possible for a woman, even a college-educated woman, in our postmodern, post women's lib movement era, to find fulfillment and freedom in mothering and homemaking?” Is there a better answer for women's fulfillment and liberation over the proposal I found long ago in a book at my grandmother's home, which was to have the government pay for childcare at women's job sites? I am happy to report, 14 years later, that I found the answer. It is YES! Yes, a woman can feel fulfilled and liberated, if she uses the proper form of womanhood.

The proper form of womanhood comes from the model of a tree. I discovered this in my educational journey, which has continued here at home during my years as a housewife. This journey has happened as I have provided a homeschooling environment for my six children. It has been part of the “you, not them” of our homeschool. As I read my core book, I discovered a great idea for mothers in a story I have heard all of my life. In this story, an ancient, holy man had a vision from God. This vision served as a message of love and warning for his children. In this vision, the man saw a tree which was most beautiful and had the sweetest fruit. The man ate the fruit and some of his family did , but he had two sons who would not. The man shared this vision with his family. He had a son who wanted to know the meaning of the dream, so the son prayed to God to know. Instead of God answering him right away, the young man was given to see an image of a mother, Mary, holding baby Jesus. From this image of a mother, the young man immediately knew what the image of the tree meant. He knew that the tree symbolized the love of God, which is the most desirable of all things because it gives joy.

As I pondered this story from my core book, I found it highly instructive that the image of Mary, the most famous mother in the Western world, was juxtaposed with the image of a tree, which symbolized the love of God. Was God saying that mothers have a love close to the love of God? Was God saying that a tree somehow symbolizes a mother's love as well as God's love?

I had heard Dr. Oliver DeMille, author of A Thomas Jefferson Education give the definition of the term liber. He said that liber comes from the Latin root word liber which means “tree bark” because in ancient times the people who were at the highest level of literacy could read and write enough to enter into contracts. The contracts were written on tree bark. Being able to enter into contracts allowed a liber person to enjoy freedom. Liber involves freedom in all aspects of life, which is the knowledge and ability to maintain one's freedom at all levels: political, social, financial, physical, spiritual, and emotional. Many people in the last century questioned what constituted social freedom for a woman. I started wondering. What was the connection between the tree of life symbolism in my core book, with mothers in general, and liber, which involves the tree idea as well? The answer came. The answer said that women can find true liberation, liberty, or “liberness” through patterning their lives after the form of a tree.

When the founders of the American constitutional government system designed it, they knew the importance of liberty. They knew that there had to be the proper form of government in place for our liberty to be protected from typical human nature and endure for generations to come. I believe that God has given woman the tree pattern or model as the proper form of womanhood, so that we can have liberty that lasts a lifetime. The key is the tree. A liber woman and mother can follow the tree model and feel fulfilled.

I will briefly describe this form. First you have the soil. This is the environment to nurture a liber woman. It is every object in her physical, spiritual, emotional, and mental environments that nurtures the liber woman. This is where the “classics, not textbooks” and “you, not them” keys of learning from Thomas Jefferson Education come to play. Certain trees grow in certain kinds of soil. A liber mothering tree has to have a liber soil to grow. I recommend the new book Leadership Education: the Phases of Learning by Oliver and Rachel DeMille to gain an understanding of what fertilizing this soil looks like. Fertilizing the soil looks like using the ingredients for a leadership education listed in chapters three through six of the book. The cover of the book even pictures a tree to symbolize the idea that people are not products on a conveyor belt to have education done to them but unique, living beings like trees who go through seasons, or phases of learning.

Then you have the root system. The things that support a mother are what fertilizes her soil, and the people who support her are the root system. If you are married, the primary root system is your husband. If you are not married, the primary root system is the people in your community that you can count on: your extended family, your church congregation, your neighbors, friends and support groups. If you are married then these people I just mentioned are your secondary root system. Because it is my own experience, I will dwell on the husband as the primary root system. According to former attorney and law school professor Bruce Hafen, the old idea was that a woman was subordinate to her husband. Along came the feminists who said that a woman should be independent of her husband. But the eternal idea is that men and women, husbands and wives, are interdependent, just like the roots and branches of a tree are interdependent. We find this interdependent model for men and women in classic books. It is a classic idea. In a real tree, both the branches and the roots have a function of providing food for the tree. The roots absorb water and minerals from the ground and send it up to the rest of the tree through a system of tubes called the xylem. The branches, through the leaves, absorb sunlight and air and make food for the tree to send down another system of tubes, the phloem, to the rest of the tree. This is a model for how marriage can be an interdependent union of two partners. Husbands and wives, men and women, are to be invisible root systems to each other. Neither is more important than the other, just like the branches are no more important than the roots. Both are needed. I liken the two systems of tubes to the give and take that happens in a Family Executive Council in marriage as the husband and wife achieve unity over their schedule and vision for their family each week.

Next you have the functions of a a tree: to provide food, or nourish, to protect or shelter, and to communicate. A tree provides food, and so do mothers. Every day as mothers we decide if this food is wholesome food, classic food for the mind and classic food for the body, or junk food for the mind and body. We protect our children both spiritually and physically just as a tree protects by giving shelter to small animals. We protect by creating a home that is a haven from the world. A tree communicates by inspiring others with its majesty and then indirectly through the books that comes from the paper made out of it. A mother communicates through the mentoring she gives her children.

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