Saturday, June 12, 2010

How Poverty Helps Me to Be a Better Parent

"Evangelical poverty recognizes personal limitations and surrenders them to God with confidence in His goodness and fidelity."(OCDS Constitution, Section III)

The intersection between the virtue of Christian Poverty and Parenthood is an interesting subject. There are a wealth of studies on how "poverty" negatively affects parenting. We talk about how kids in poverty are "at risk" for all kinds of problems.

I'm starting to see, however, that Christian poverty, by which I mean a parent's "voluntary poverty for the Service of God," is a huge benefit to the child. My "choice" to be a Stay-at-home mom, for example. I choose to be obedient to God's plan for my life and as a result of that obedience, my family experiences the pinch of poverty.

We don't have money for my kid's to take Suzuki violin lessons or attend private school. At the same time, however, poverty is a virtue that brings great benefits. It's probably better for my 2 year old not to be forced into violin lessons to fulfill her Mother's dream of recreating Laura Ingell's musical domestic life.

Also, I can't imagine homeschooling or having a fourth child, if I still worked 60 hours a week. It's a paradox. By becoming poor and humble, my husband can support a family that is huge by modern American standards.

I like thinking about poverty on a spiritual level, as well as material level. On my own, I'm helpless as a mother. I yell at my kids. I terrible at teaching routine memory work, such as phonics. I forget routine dental appointments. I'm constantly leaving the house without pacifiers and extra diapers.

Yet when I'm poor, I'm also rich. By recognizing my personal limitations, I invite Jesus to do the heavy lifting in my life. As a result of being a faithful Catholic, Jesus runs my 'huge' family far better than I ever could alone.

Anyone have any similar thoughts in their own life as a Mother?


  1. Leaving work was a big deal for me, and we are so much poorer (financially) now because of it ( I was a medical doctor), but we are definitly 'richer' in terms of family happiness and stability.

    I often think what a blessing it is that I have less for myself now (in terms of academic achievement and career ) becuse it means I have more time for my husband and son, I can learn to know them and so love them better.
    and of course, I have much more time for Our Lord too, and I rely more on Him, than on myself.

  2. Strictly, speaking, poverty is a negative situation so we do not seek it for itself. We pursue it for its positive values and to be pilgrim witnesses. However, it's easy to get confused about what we are actually called to regarding poverty and our married state of life. We should not push poverty to the point of neglecting our position or state (i.e. married with family )in life. See Saint Thomas Moore Saint Elizabeth of Hungary and Saint Jane Frances de Chantal, who recognized that she was still a woman of the world. We are all definitely called to a "sparing-sharing lifestyle," but it would be rare indeed for God to call a family to actual poverty. The gospel calls for radical frugality to the point of sharing everything we can spare with those who are less fortunate, not deliberately choosing to make less money than one could to support our families. It's very important to really understand what evangelical poverty actually is so that our families truly are witnesses to the gospel.