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Moms and Community

As we look forward to celebrating all the moms we know and love on Mother’s Day, it’s also worth remembering that motherhood doesn’t happen in a vacuum. While the bond between mother and child is unique, there are webs of other human relationships upon which moms depend—fathers most importantly, but also extended friends, family, employers, faith communities, and even political bodies.

Mother’s Day is just a week away, and by the time you read this, I’ll be a new mom fully immersed in sleepless nights, unstoppable wailing, and baby love. Over the last nine months, I’ve often felt baffled by the fact that throughout history, a large portion of the female population gestates human life in their bodies. Many moms also bring new life into their home through adoption. In both cases, a mom’s life is irretrievably changed. I imagine it’s something that can’t be really grasped until experienced: both beautiful and chaotic, primal and sacred.

As we look forward to celebrating all the moms we know and love on Mother’s Day, it’s also worth remembering that motherhood doesn’t happen in a vacuum. While the bond between mother and child is unique, there are webs of other human relationships upon which moms depend—fathers most importantly, but also extended friends, family, employers, faith communities, and even political bodies. These communities provide much needed support, such as watching kids, bringing meals, running errands, and providing financial assistance.

It’s no secret that America (like many other developed and developing nations) is experiencing a birth dearth—our fertility rates are well below replacement levels. I often wonder how many more women would take the plunge into motherhood if these varying layers of communities were better aligned to support them. The modern world offers an immense menu of worthwhile activities and leisure, which has been a blessing in many ways. But that has also meant that our social structures are less accommodating to motherhood and families. Motherhood isn’t as celebrated in popular culture as it ought to be: the totalizing demands of work and family are often difficult to reconcile; high living costs frequently leave lower to middle class moms in financial need; and abortion on demand often makes motherhood seem like a reckless and irresponsible choice.

The Public Discourse is home to many conversations exploring the meaning of motherhood and how the world around moms impacts their ability to thrive. Lara Ryd discusses the ways pregnancy is a “sanctifying” phase, giving each mom the chance to be a gracious and loving host to the new person in her womb. A new mom’s community is also responsible to her in distinct ways: “Those she turns to in her moments of fear, doubt, and exhaustion have the power to build up her character or to corrode it.”

Alexandra Davis reminds us that, although present political and cultural instabilities can seem overwhelming and insurmountable, the world we bring our children into will never be perfect. It’s always worth the risk. In an interview with Serena Sigillito, Erika Bachiochi notes that if babies were more welcome in academic and other public settings, young men and women would see how normal, natural, and fulfilling family life is.

Serena also makes a powerful case that, while financial insecurity isn’t the monocausal force behind low fertility rates, pro-family policies like child tax credit can nonetheless provide important relief to parents. Similarly, Patrick T. Brown discusses what American pro-family policy should look like, noting that in a post-Dobbs world “more robust social spending on children could help create a culture in which all children are treated as worthy of not just legal protection, but social support and encouragement.”

Finally, Phil Jeffrey busts the myth that the 1950s was a golden age for moms and families—observing that “early-twentieth-century American family values aimed at individual control over the means of reproduction.” Women’s fertility became subordinate to the newly-embraced social logic of “producerism”: well-managed, efficient, and mechanized.

We hope that, as you honor the moms around you, these essays give you a chance to think more deeply about the meaning of motherhood in all its dimensions.

Thanks for reading, and cheers to all the moms out there.

  • pregnant woman with toddler

    The Sanctifying Work of Pregnancy

    Even as a woman shapes the child growing within her, the joys and trials of pregnancy are shaping her, sanctifying her, and teaching her how to depend on others during this season of peculiar service.

  • Pregnant woman

    Why I’m Not Afraid to Bring More Children into a Broken World

    My generation feels obligated to constrain our footprint in the name of social justice. I reject this. I cannot promise my children perfect comfort or safety in the world. But I can make their world—our home, our lives, our family—a mooring when everything else is guaranteed to be perpetually confused.

  • Erika Bachiochi on the Future of Pro-Life Feminism

    The question that divides us is how we ought to respond to reproductive asymmetry: the reality that women carry disproportionate burdens due to our special role in human reproduction. What makes one a feminist is the view that this basic inequality at the heart of reproduction is one that deserves, in justice, an affirmative cultural response. We wish not only for maternity to be celebrated for the true privilege it most certainly is, but also for women to be encouraged and supported in other contributions they make. This requires that the burdens of childbearing ought to be shared not only within the family, but also across the wider society too.

  • A Conservative Case for Pro-Family Policy

    As a post-Trump conservative coalition struggles to define itself, social and religious conservatives should seize the opportunity to step up and play a leading role, making support for families a central tenet of the American right.

  • Young family

    A Distinctly American Family Policy

    Borrowing a family policy prescription from Helsinki or Budapest is bound to disappoint. A distinctly American family policy platform must be seen as expanding choice, not constraining it, and working with our national character, not trying to reshape it, all while understanding family as the essential institution in society, one that stakes an unavoidable claim on our public resources.

  • Textile workers in factor

    The Bad Old Days: How Scientism and Market Logic Corroded the Family Long Before the Sexual Revolution

    American “family values” before the baby boomers and Roe v. Wade and second-wave feminism were shaped more by modern notions of industrial progress than by eternal truths about the human person. The sexual revolution emerged from axioms that had already permeated the mainstream for decades. Even among social conservatives, those axioms still shape our discourse about the family today.

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