Modern SAHMs have acedia, not laziness.

There is plenty of bashing of modern women seeking to be SAHMs as lazy, but acedia is a spiritual problem.  It is a corruption of the soul so deep that effort itself is nearly impossible.  It’s clinical depression of the soul.

The woman in that link above turns to Ma Ingalls as inspiration and dismisses modern women as wimpy and pathetic (how very Titus 2 and loving, that).  She ignores that Ma Ingalls married poorly, to a man that kept the family on the move because he was a claim jumper and illegal squatter with “itchy feet”.  The overly common thing in conservative SAHM circles of fixating on Ma Ingalls as a sort of secular saint of housewifery ignores how much of her brave homemaking was the result of less than optimal decisionmaking on her part.

She made bad choices and she wasn’t the only one who paid for that.  Conservatives now forget that the pioneers were driven by greed, not godliness.  They were very isolated because the more land you staked out, the more potential wealth you could acquire.  They actively rejected community for a sort of get rich (kinda) quick scheming.  This is all readily available from writing around the time (Willa Cather is not a bad place to start at all), and yet for all the claims of being able to educate themselves independently, women such as the one in that fairly cruel post seem quite ignorant about the actual lived realities of the pioneers, rather than the interesting and more romantic version Mama Wilder and daughter put together decades after the fact.

This ignorance leads them to not recognize the real problem of the modern SAHMs– acedia, that spiritual depression that cripples.  Instead they demand that women “toughen up”, “man up”, “burnout is not an option” and other ridiculous and unholy nonsense.

We are all weak.  Acedia is a plague in modern life for those who try to step outside it to live normally.  It is crippling precisely because to callous others it looks like “laziness” or “sloth”, but it’s a spiritual hurt that makes it extremely difficult to perform one’s duties.  Screeching about how Ma Ingalls something something doesn’t make acedia’s impact less, it compounds the despair that corrodes a mother struggling to stay awake to fix breakfast after a night of constant wakeups from infants and toddlers, reeling with chronic sleep deprivation and knowing that she’s soooo blessed, and her job is really super easy, she’s just not tough enough to presumably beat her infants into 12 hour or permanent slumber like the good pioneer wives did (ever wonder why infant mortality was so high on the frontier?  It wasn’t Indians!)

We have come to a strange place in time where something that used to be considered a problem of the cloistered life is now very often a problem for SAHMs struggling to restore the hestia with little support even from other SAHMs.  But these women are not lazy and those of us with energy enough to blog who also SAHM have to not succumb to cruelty born itself from despair and unacknowledged acedia.  We must continue to pour out prayer, gentleness and care for the Christian SAHMs who are isolated and alone and who barely have energy or time for more than a hurried blog comment before they resume the struggle of managing kids and house with little in the way of money, resources or genuine support from family and community.

Beating them up doesn’t kill acedia.  Charity does.  I hope more blogging SAHMs can be charitable to their sisters in this domestic sphere who are battling a great spiritual evil and aren’t lazy wimps at all.

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9 thoughts on “Modern SAHMs have acedia, not laziness.”

  1. I’m not sure how to articulate this. I have long wondered, and especially now after the birth of my first child, how these isolated pioneer type women have coped with the isolation. Especially the wake-ups. I am imagining multiple children under 5, wherein it is entirely possible that said mother would go months, years with only a few hours sleep a night. Thank you for recognizing this for the problem it is instead of just asking everyone to suck it up. I can manage with one child, but I fear the future, I fear the years of sleep deprivation, I fear having multiple children for precisely that reason. I have wondered how the pioneer women coped. You are suggesting that perhaps they did not cope, and this led to dark places?

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    1. Many of them didn’t cope well, and it was dark. Many managed, but even the best-case scenario presented by the Little House books is still very dark.

      I don’t have a good answer for the modern influences on sleep deprivation, except to try to keep everyone sleeping in as much natural darkness as possible, that will at least reduce wakeups from light pollution. I have some suggestions in these posts:
      https://thepracticalconservative.wordpress.com/2014/01/03/real-talk-for-sahms-infant-sleep-edition/
      https://thepracticalconservative.wordpress.com/2013/08/15/night-nurses-for-postpartum-sahms/

      And of course most generally, if people around you are willing to help out or you can hire some help, that will be very helpful with multiple children, even if it can’t do much about the poor sleep by itself.

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      1. Your willingness to address this and other issues on this blog from a systemic level is refreshing. I read the Little House books as a young girl and my memory of them is thru a child’s lens and the general romanticism of the era. I’ll have to re-read as an adult.

        I imagine the isolation of mothers in part led to desperation for abortion/contraceptive. It seems the very individualistic society that created these things also created the desperation for them.

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    2. With our first child, the county health nurse gave us the best advice I’ve ever heard for young parents- sleep when the baby sleeps. You’ll end up not having much sleep in a row, but plenty in a 24 hour period.

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