A Mother of a Mess

English: Group of children in a primary school...

(Re-post from June 3, 2010 on old site, for continuity)

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It’s become quite acceptable to blame mental illness of children on something that their mothers did to them. How many times has this been the premise of some book or movie? Yet is it possible that what our mother’s DID NOT DO is really at the root of our growing mental health crisis in this country? According to Dr. Stephen Bezruchka, the answer is yes!

When I was working in day care years ago, I was struck by the fact that the children who stayed with us the longest each day had the most trouble with controlling their emotions, and seemed to have issues with feeling secure. After a couple of years, I, too, began to wonder if daycare could provide an adequate substitute for being at home with a parent. I could somewhat console myself with the idea that we really loved these children like our own children, and like precious lambs of Jesus. And certainly I feel we were good for them spiritually and emotionally. But, as a co-teacher of 12 children, I often felt unable to devote as much time to each child as they seemed at times to need.

Of course, the rise in daycare has directly mirrored the rise of women in the workforce, and also the single-parent family. Since the 60’s, women have been led to leave home for the job, first as a response to the feminist movement that convinced them that their individual rights were more important than the rights of the children to have their mothers at home. They believed that a village was available to help them do their child-raising work. And there was the school to nurture the children once they were old enough. Now, more and more, mothers are forced to leave for work because of the economic pressures, and forced to leave their children almost from birth. While this has been a boon for the aux pair industry and daycare centers, Dr. Bezruchka is here to tell us that it has not been a boon for the mental health of this country.

According to Bezruchka, the amount of people with treatable depression has risen nearly three-fold in this country in the last decades. The USA leads all countries by a wide margin in mental illness. While some of this has to do with the lowering of the standards for what constitutes depression, the fact remains that one in four people will be treated for depression, ADD or ADHD in any given year. Most of them are treated with drugs. Prescriptions for anti-depressants have increased forty-fold, mostly since drug companies have been allowed to advertise to the public. Many of those on drugs will never be “cured” and will remain on the drugs indefinitely. Compare this to other countries, even poor ones, where non-chemical treatments see much better and lasting rates of cure.

Consider what studies have shown about brain development in the infant from birth until two years of age. The most functional brain stimulator in the first years is the eyes. In the first year, it turns out, the most critical decider in healthy development is attachment to the mother, or to a continuous and unchanging mother substitute. During this time, the child needs to be attached to the same mother figure ALL THE TIME, and the mother figure needs to be actively engaged in eye contact in order to establish a feeling of security. During the second year, the child will attach to the father in the same way. So, for the infant, mother and father, actively engaged, are critical for healthy child development.

Consider that the USA is one of three countries that provides little or no maternity leave and no paternity leave, while Sweden, one of the least mentally ill countries of all, provides a mandatory, state-paid year of maternity leave and a minimum of twelve weeks for the father. Consider also that the average home in the USA, besides being much larger than necessary, is overfilled with needless “necessities”, not to mention that the cars are newer and larger than necessary, and many times the vacations and Christmas toys are more important than physically being there for the children. This leaves a lot of blame to go around. Now, since most since the 60’s grew up in the unhealthy environment laid out above, it’s hard to fault rudderless people for not having a clue about how to raise well-adjusted children. However, the scientific evidence is coming in, and the question is whether or not we can start now to raise up a new generation in the stable home that is so obviously needed.

There are other factors at work in this country that hurt out health, according to Bezruchka . But they are, I believe, more exacerbations of the problem than the root cause. First is the level of poverty among the poorer people. This makes is harder to cope with the daily stresses. Certainly I know from my own experience that, when you aren’t sure how you’re going to pay the utilities and that your power could be off tomorrow, it takes a lot of focus and effort away from the long-term goals for prosperity just to put out the daily fires. This time does not come back, and the result is lost revenue and more financial crisis, or lost sleep and less ability to cope.
Perhaps a bigger contribution to our poor social coping skills is the advent of the computer, which has given rise to more time spent in human-machine interaction and much less human-human interaction. Especially when the TV or the video game replaces the baby sitter or family time, we see how technology can increase the emotional disconnect.

Certainly many emotionally dysfunctional will never marry and thus never raise dysfunctional children. But that doesn’t discount the fact that we still have twice the unwed pregnancy rate of any other country. Half of all marriages still end in divorce, from which most children never recover. The answers to these problems and more are found in the Bible. Teach abstinence. It really works. And, believe it or not, the family that prays together is 500 times more likely to stay together.

In a time of economic crises, we all want to pull ourselves up by the bootstraps and tackle our difficulties by working harder than ever. But this is what got us to where we are in the first place. It’s time to start believing that perhaps the Bible isn’t just a collection of nice stories that don’t meet with reality and start seeing in it the history of what works and what doesn’t in human society. Certainly, the Bible is not about just being happy on this earth. But, it’s interesting that, when societies stick to the plan God lays out in the Bible, the world is a much happier place. A marriage of a man and woman and a stay-at-home mom would go a long way toward fixing our ills. Perhaps its time for those who call themselves Christians (and Jews) to take the lead actually studying the Bible and putting it’s precepts into practice in order to prove that they are solid and true. Perhaps it’s time for governments, employers, unions, social workers, psychologists and feminist ideologues to stop fighting against the family. In the long run, destroying the family unit is going to destroy all of us.

You can find Dr. Bezruchka’s entire one-hour lecture on YouTube. It’s entitled “Stephen Bezruchka – Is America Driving You Crazy”.

Note: While working as a daycare teacher, I happened upon a book by a psychologist named Dr. Crabb, called “How To Really Love Your Children”. In this book, he talks about the importance of eye contact. I started to try this out on my classes, and I was amazed at the calming and cheering effect this had on the children. Over the years I developed a habit of looking everyone in the eye. This has the most amazing effects on adults as well. When I look at people in passing, they suddenly return a warm smile and hello, even if I don’t smile at them or say anything. I have also noticed, living in a collegiate portion of town, that college students tend to avoid eye contact if at all possible. This would be consistent with people who were deprived of parental bonding in their formative years. Perhaps this explains why even sex is devoid of any emotional connection for them.
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