Smoky Mountains Sunrise

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Invisible Mom

Exeter Cathedral Carvings
From What Does the Prayer Really Say?

It all began to make sense, the blank stares, the lack of response, the way one of the kids will walk into the room while I’m on the phone and ask to be taken to the store.

Inside I’m thinking, ‘Can’t you see I’m on the phone?’ Obviously not; no one can see if I’m on the phone, or cooking, or sweeping the floor, or even standing on my head in the corner, because no one can see me at all.

I’m invisible. The invisible Mom. Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more: Can you fix this? Can you tie this? Can you open this? Some days I’m not a pair of hands; I’m not even a human being. I’m a clock to ask, ‘What time is it?’ I’m a satellite guide to answer, ‘What number is the Disney Channel?’ I’m a car to order, ‘Right around 5:30, please.’

I was certain that these were the hands that once held books and the eyes that studied history and the mind that graduated summa cum laude – but now they had disappeared into the peanut butter, never to be seen again. She’s going, she’s going, she’s gone!

One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating the return of a friend from England .. Janice had just gotten back from a fabulous trip, and she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in. I was sitting there, looking around at the others all put together so well. It was hard not to compare and feel sorry for myself. I was feeling pretty pathetic, when Janice turned to me with a beautifully wrapped package, and said, ‘I brought you this.’ It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe .

I wasn’t exactly sure why she’d given it to me until I read her inscription: ‘To Charlotte , with admiration for the greatness of what you are building when no one sees.’

In the days ahead I would read – no, devour – the book. And I would discover what would become for me, four life-changing truths, after which I could pattern my work: No one can say who built the great cathedrals we have no record of their names.

[1] These builders gave their whole lives for a work they would never see finished. [2] They made great sacrifices and [3] expected no credit. [4] The passion of their building was fueled by their faith that the eyes of God saw everything.

A legendary story in the book told of a rich man who came to visit the cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a workman carving a tiny bird on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and asked the man, ‘Why are you spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will be covered by the roof? No one will ever see it.’ And the workman replied, ‘Because God sees.’

I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into place. It was almost as if I heard God whispering to me, ‘I see you, Charlotte. I see the sacrifices you make everyday, even when no one around you does. No act of kindness you’ve done, no sequin you’ve sewn on, no cupcake you’ve baked, is too small for me to notice and smile over. You are building a great cathedral, but you can’t see right now what it will become.’

At times, my invisibility feels like an affliction But it is not a disease that is erasing my life. It is the cure for the disease of my own self-centeredness. It is the antidote to my strong, stubborn pride. I keep the right perspective when I see myself as a great builder. As one of the people who show up at a job that they will never see finished, to work on something that their name will never be on.

The writer of the book went so far as to say that no cathedrals could ever be built in our lifetime because there are so few people willing to sacrifice to that degree. [!]

When I really think about it, I don’t want my child to tell the friend he’s bringing home from college for Thanksgiving, ‘My Mom gets up at 4 in the morning and bakes homemade pies, and then she hand bastes a turkey for three hours and presses all the linens for the table.’ That would mean I’d built a shrine or a monument to myself. I just want him to want to come home. And then, if there is anything more to say to his friend, to add, ‘You’re gonna love it there.’

As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be seen if we’re doing it right. And one day, it is very possible that the world will marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has been added to the world by the sacrifices of invisible women.


jane bishard said...

This is horrendous. Being a doormat as a mother is more likely to encourage children to grow up with disrespect for women and their position in society. Men must sew sequins and bake cupcakes too. Women should be recognised by other people for their work as mothers. Children should appreciate their parents. Girls do not need this kind of role model. Women can build real cathedrals at the same time as bringing up a family - they could just do with some practical support and God just doesn't need to come into it.

Daniel J. Cassidy said...

Ms. Bishard came to Sunlit Uplands via Google's UK search engine. According to the Institute for Public Policy Research, a left-wing think tank with strong ties to Britain's Labour Party, British youth are the most poorly behaved in Europe:

"On every indicator of bad behaviour - drugs, drink, violence, promiscuity - the UK was at or near the top… the researchers believe the country’s record can be explained by a collapse in family and community life in the UK."

Measured against German, French and Italian youths, British 15-year-olds are drunk more often and involved in more fights, and a higher proportion have had sex.

In England, 45% of 15-year-old boys spend most evenings out with their friends, and in Scotland the figure is 59%. In France just 17% of boys spend their time in the same way.

One study looked at by the IPPR suggested 38% of British 15-year-olds in 2003 had tried marijuana - compared with 7% in Sweden and 27% in Germany.

Another said that in 2003 British 15-year-olds were the third worst binge-drinkers in Europe - only Denmark and Ireland were worse."

It would be interesting to know what kind of children Ms. Bishard is raising, if she has any at all. In fact, her radical feminism is leading to the death of Britain -- a bitter fruit of radical feminism that disrespects mothers who are devoted to their families, and in wanting what is best for them, are the true builders of a better world. God doesn't "come into it" much at all in Britain these days, but the day is fast approaching when Ms. Bishard will learn what "disrespect for women" really means.

Sonya Dinkeldorf said...

You should be ASHAMED of yourself for perpetuating this sort of cheap and sentimental trite to cover over inequalities and terrible treatment of women - by their partners, their children, society.

Is this necessary? Do you need to do this? Make The Mother sacrosacnt (once a year) so you can forget her the other days? DO you need to believe in this idiotic and childish notion of putting her on a pedestal? And what if women don't conform to this? Hmm?

You are doing *your* mother a nasty disservice with this. You should grow up and acknowledge the fact that women aren't saints, they aren't perfect, they aren't imperfect or devils, they just are: and some are allowed to have ambitions BEYOND raising shitty brats like YOU.

Sonya Dinkeldorf said...

Hi again, i just posted an angry comment too and I shouldn't have been pesronal, but David, your response to your critic Jane Bishard is wrong and scare-mongering. Do you not understand what this story does? It is not the loss of your mythification of god-fearing women that cause ruptures and "societal chaos". There are too many factors you are leaving out of the equation. Where are the men in your story? Why don't you target them? They put children in the world, too: what are they doing to teach, nurture, raise, and give love to their offspring? Men still dominate in most areas of public life, in the private sector - but they are suspiciously absent when it comes to taking responsibility for the next generation.
Maybe too busy building cathedrals & other monuments & shrines to their own inflated egos?

jane bishard said...

Daniel Cassidy:
Feminists can be devoted to their families. They can believe their sons and daughters deserve equal prospects.
Your argument seems to say that women who ask for fairness are rocking the boat and causing the breakdown in family and community life. But why blame them? Why not the intransigent traditionalists for whom it is convenient to perpetuate the norm of meek, undemanding homebuilding for women? They are guilty of breaking human relations by refusing to be fair to the underdog.

jane bishard said...

And meanwhile, I said God doesn't need to come into it because there is no such thing as God. There are moral codes and ceremonial practices and superstitions and human power struggles and financial networks and a body of thought and music and cathedrals and all the rest, but all of that doesn't mean there's a god.
But I also said God doesn't need to come into it because you can believe in God and still think that mothers don't need to wear hairshirts as well as get covered in peanut butter and baste turkeys at crazy hours without recognition by their families.

Daniel J. Cassidy said...

Jane, you make my points better than I could. I strongly doubt any man has been fool enough to want you to be a wife and mother to his children. You've told me all I need to know that in your contempt for those who sacrifice for others, yours is a pretty empty life, without much hope, joy or satisfaction. Maybe, though, when Sharia Law comes to Britain and you're walking around in your burqa, subjected to random beatings and worse, you might find that God is all you've got.

Daniel J. Cassidy said...

Cardinal Mindszenty who not only believed in God, but understood that the good life and great civilizations are built on selflessness, sacrifice and love for others, wrote:

"A mother is the most important person on earth. She cannot claim the honor of having built Notre Dame Cathedral. She need not. She has built something more magnificent than any Cathedral -- a dwelling for an immortal soul, the tiny perfection of her baby's body."

jane bishard said...

This is a silly ad hominem attack.
Those who sacrifice for others are to be admired. My contempt is for those who propagate tacky schmaltz encouraging women to subjugate themselves. It particularly sticks in the gullet when the propagator is a man with a substantial career outside the home.

jane bishard said...

Surely Cardinal Mindszenty would therefore want the father to help the mother by basting the turkey, sewing the sequins and acknowledging the value of her work. And once she has delivered herself of the baby, would he not also be glad if the selfless father sacrificed his career while his important wife went out to work and earnt money? Or would that signal to Cardinal Mindszenty the breakdown of community and family life?

Daniel J. Cassidy said...

I believe there are very few women, Jane, who have the ability, energy and financial resources to pursue a career, the managing of a home, and the raising of children all at once. Certainly Margaret Thatcher would be such an exception. See my post of that great lady: But even she devoted herself to her children until they were older.

jane bishard said...

Could you please clarify when, how and why sharia law will "come to britain"?
Is it because of radical feminism?

Sonya Dinkeldorf said...

Daniel, you very conveniently sidestepped Jane's very important question about the self-less father looking after that perfect tiny baby body. Instead you turn towards your idealised superwoman Thatcher. I too asked you why you are not targeting men. Instead you pretend that you care that most women can't be superwomen. We don't want them to! We want there to be equal parenting and equal responsibility. You seem to give women all the responsibilty (which many of us never asked for), then to blame them if they fall short of saving society. Where is your part in this? Have you got children? Do you nurture them, look after them and their needs on a regular basis? Not just on a saturday at games practice. But day in day out, acknowledging that however much you love them, they are only little and can be very, very boring? Do you spend that much time with your children? Admitting that children can be boring is to acknowledge them as actual human beings. And to acknowledge yourself as a human being! And so I return to my first comment: you should be ashamed of yourself for perpetuating LIES.

Daniel J. Cassidy said...

You will live under Sharia Law and an Islamic flag, Jane, because your contraceptive, politically correct society has a fertility rate of 1.6, but the Muslim fertility rate is approximately 8. In the last 30 years the Muslim population of Britain has increased from 82,000, to 2.5 million. Your churches are being converted to mosques, of which there are now 1000. BBC announced yesterday that its new head of religious programming is a Muslim. This is what secularist, radical feminism has produced -- a dying culture. More details here:

Daniel J. Cassidy said...

Sonya, I cannot engage in a philosophical treatise on the natural law and the ideals of Christian marriage in this space. It worked in the Britain of your grandparents and parents day. The fruits of secular, politically correct, radical feminism are all about you.

My maternal grandfather grew up in Norfolk, near Cromer. I spent many days with his siblings when they were still alive. I know their children. And I know their grandchildren. It breaks my heart to see a great nation, with a glorious history, commit suicide.

jane bishard said...

Lots of women go to work. Lots of men share in the raising of their children and in the housework. This does not lead to family or community breakdown: it promotes understanding and co-operation. To elevate domestic drudgery to the level of the sacred with the intention of encouraging downtrodden mothers to shut up and put up with their lot is pathetic and cynical. If we leave it to god to compensaate people in hardship or suffering, then what state can we expect the world to slip into? Your attitudes are deeply unpleasant, Daniel. I don't know what your connections with Cromer have to do with this discussion.

jane bishard said...

Daniel, if women can't handle a career, raising children and managing the home, how do you men manage it?

Anonymous said...

Voltaire is claimed to have said: "If God did not exist, Wo/mankind would have the need to create Him."

However much one might argue the validity of that belief, it is clear that if Voltaire did not exist, Wo/mankind would have no need to create him....or Ms Bishard for the matter. However, if you do believe in the God of Moses and Peter, then every human being has invaluable worth and dignity, and a soul that seeks reunion with its Creator...including Ms. Bishard. May the God you deny bless you on your life journey, that you may enjoy peace, joy, and serenity in this life and the next.

jane bishard said...

what has that got to do with any of this?

Anonymous said...

Women never had it so good as when Christianity and Western Civilization came along. Fact.

jane bishard said...

No point in hoping for any more then!

Heidi said...

Wow -- Dan -- I meant to tell you how this article warmed my heart this past Mother's Day. But I left without posting a comment. I have often felt that is like Santa eating the cookies but not leaving a note!

This Mother's Day found me with no children home for one reason or another. Busy lives. I know this is supposed to reflect that we have done our jobs -- when they fly the nest. But this article reminded me that motherhood is a commitment for the long haul. Its worth can't be appraised by taking just one measurement on just one day of just one year. It is a calling for life.

May God continue to bless you!

Daniel J. Cassidy said...

Thanks very much, Heidi, for your kind comments. I am pleased you were touched by this article. I was too, but it appears to be very controversial. I believe that is because it addresses the front-line, foundational process of building Christian civilization. Those involved in forming souls to live as adopted sons and daughters of the King of Kings, are involved in the most noble and sublime work of all, not something "horrendous" for women who lack "ambition."

Again, thanks and may God bless you always.

Heidi said...

As my mother-in-law told me many years ago:

~Being a mother is the best job in the world~

The two of us had very different ideas as to how to approach it, being from different cultures, but the statement has yet to be proven false.

I pray that Jane and Sonya will allow the love and guidance of Jesus Christ into their lives.

Christ's hands remain extended as they were upon the cross, reaching out in both directions. All we have to do is say 'Yes.'

Keep up the good work, Dan.

Your blog has always been a blessing to me!

Fr. John said...

What hellish thing occurred to draw the attention of these Trotskyists? They have no concern for mothers, fathers, children or anyone else for that matter, only insofar as they can serve the agenda of their social revolution.

Like other misguided souls of the past wrecks of social reform movements they think that we are only one government program away from nirvana. Only problem is that people won't cooperate with their plans, or so they think. Hence their great rage and hatred, which they always exhibit whenever anyone disagrees with them.

Their ideas for women's liberation and the betterment of humankind have already been tried, in the French revolution, the various other communists revolutions and the more recently failed social revolutionary agendas of the Western Democracies. We all know what kind of "progress" that yielded. The nuclear family, which they despise was the mortar that held society together and provided the kind of stability necessary to raise civilized human beings.

They agree with Dr. Johnson, "he who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man." Only they want to make beasts out of women as well.

Life without Christ is Hell, and those without Him are doomed to burn up all their time and energies trying to usher in a paradise that can never exist without God.

Everyone knows instinctively, even atheists, that something is horribly wrong with out world.

Lord have mercy!

jane bishard said...

My last post didn't get posted but let's try again. The discussion we're having here is not about imposing any new world order.
Christianity has been used to promote decency and tolerance but some of the posts here fall short of that.
I do not claim motherhood is an affliction. Indeed it is a valuable and difficult job that deserves respect. Here on earth, in fact. And the same goes for fatherhood. And domestic drudgery need not attach to either one exclusively. It can be shared by both sexes.
My point is that it is offensive for a man to encourage a woman to accept her lot if he is not willing to accept that lot himself, and if there is no reason for this disparity.
I'm not trying to "usher in a paradise": I just think we should do our best to be fair and reasonable, and not ask others to accept what we wouldn't accept ourselves, in this case through the use of a cheap parable of self-sacrifice.
To be clear once more: Self-sacrifice is one thing; asking others to sacrifice themselves is quite another.

jane bishard said...

Fr John:
What is my great rage and hatred? Presumably I am also the one issuing personal insults.

jane bishard said...

Has anyone round here heard of humanism? It's a branch of radical secular feminist trotskyism that might be worth your while finding out about. Big threat.

Jonny Gaskell said...

Jane Bishard sounds like exactly the kind of human being I'd like to know. Rock on Sonja Dinkeldorf, too. I'm enraged by their opponents' comments. The bottom line when it comes to god is this: throughout history, the trouble has started when a person or people have acted in hatred and fear of others in the name of faith in an unseen being or other non-physical entity. Faith in the unknown is the foundation of all religions. If any God were provable, the religion which posited such a God would be a science. The sooner any religious fanatic of any kind recognises their beliefs are a matter of nothing more than faith which they can neither prove to themselves nor to anyone else, the better. Whilst there may be some sense to having faith in that which - by definition- we can't come to know in any recognizably empirical way, to act upon that faith in such a way as to deny others the credibility of their different beliefs is tantamount to self-idolatry. An evangelical, self-righteous christian is no less guilty of such behaviour than a fundamentalist muslim. On the point of child-rearing, love for humanity without recourse to matters of faith or justification by an invisible creator, is surely how society can best succeed. A recovery of some traditional values may be in order for certain parts of society but where parents fail to rear children well, it is not Loss of faith in God that is the problem: it is loss of love for humanity. Loss of love for humanity is no better expressed than by those who seek to impose their own particular religious beliefs and to distrust, reject and condemn other religious or secular beliefs. Similarly, a person need only have recourse to God for justifcation of their generosity towards their children if they're not aware of or have forgotten the intrinsic potential for love and life-enrichment for all in this life, regardless of what does or doesn't lie in wait for us after life and regardless of what invisible forces may or may not be exerting an influence on us, be that striking us down or patting us on the back. As I see it, people come into life through an act of love for each other. Life is an expression of love, not for oneself, not for gods but for each other. A child raised to live life in praise of- and thanks to- a God, risks reducing the value of his/her fellow human being to a mother who will have her day only when she dies and meets her maker or worse still, to a dispensable believer in a contradictory faith who must be dealt with through suppression, intolerance and destruction in an evangelical or fundamentalist crusade. So, Daniel Cassidy, much as I dislike it in a person, I’ll even allow you to be smug about your belief in God but for the love of humanity, please keep it to yourself.

Anonymous said...

How a story has turned into such contorversy is beyond me. There are days when we all feel invisible. This is simply a reminder that sometimes we have to remember the bigger picture.

Anonymous said...

WOW! Reading the comments posted here leaves me wondering what some people are smoking. Take the word 'god' out of the story, if you must, and see it for what it is. I personally don't believe in the god, but the story isn't about being a christian or a believer, it's about feeling like you're invisible. It's about those days when you feel like a ghost in your own life, a shadow that nobody notices. Stop taking the story literally, word for word, stretch your limited imagination a little, and the message in the story will be matter what you do in life, everyone has days where they feel under-appreciated, and we all have those days where we feel like we should get more recognition for the things we mothers, as fathers, doctors, teachers, human beings....this story is for those days. It tells us that although we feel like no-one sees the things we do, EVERYTHING is seen, EVERYTHING is noticed in some way, by somebody. We may feel invisible but everything we do has an effect on someone else.

It's sad to see this so taken out of context Daniel, but know that you have changed the way a lot of people (not just mothers) see themselves. This passage was emailed to me by a friend during a very low period of my life & it changed the way I look at my life, my role as a mother and my journey as a human being. Thank you for that. The story is printed and stuck on the wall next to my desk so that I can remind myself that although there are days when I feel like I am invisible, the things I do ripple out into the world and affect the lives of so many.

Wishing you days feel with love & laughter.
South Africa.