I view my children differently as an atheist than I did as a fundy christian.
As a fundy christian, my children were not my own. They belonged to someone else and were merely on loan. In a sense, they were not my responsibility because god would fill in the gaps. He made me incompetent to raise them and as long as I acknowledged that, he would compensate.
However, any fault with the children was still mine, since I would not have prayed enough or submitted enough to let the perfect sky-man have his way with them (shudder). Of course, any credit for their compassionate natures or well-brushed teeth could not go to me. God’s grace and all.
Now I no longer have the invisible back up, but I also do not have the guilt that any shortcoming I have will lead to eternal torment. Instead of second guessing my internal voice and looking for god’s voice, I am more free to act on intuition (which is really just logic that isn’t simply linear). If I think the person over there is creepy, I won’t let my kids near – church leader or not.
I was also encouraged to place my children 3rd on my list of priorities. God was first and I had to be willing to sacrifice my children like Abraham or risk losing eternal salvation for me and them.
Some people took this to extremes. I talked with a woman on furlough from missions overseas. She told me that she had been prepared to lose a child to malaria, but if she had known what actually would happen to her child that she never would have gone. She took the ignorance as God saving her from turning her back on him. (Really, the ignorance was due to the missions organization downplaying and hushing up those who survived. Not unlike the Catholic Church.)
This missionary also praised a woman who was asked to fill a secretarial role in that missions organization which would require leaving her family for most of the year. The secretary’s children were very small and not yet in school.
I am now free from the demands of this kind of child sacrifice. Praise hmm, the invisible unicorn?
Husband was second on the list of priorities and needed to be placed higher than the children. True, I hope the kids will move out on their own in about 20 years and hope my Lover is still around far beyond that. But there is a balance. Common sense can fly away when fears of eternal damnation are fluttering in your ear.
I remember hearing it drummed over and over that to be a good parent, you had to place the other parent over the kids. To be a good dad, love the kids’ mom. Sure, that is good advice. But, it was taken to extremes. People were staying with spouses that mistreated the children, in part due to church pressure while others were attacked for leaving to protect their children. Not to mention the pressure on single parents who never married.
That said, I think a healthy community that a church can provide can be life-saving too. Spending time with other parents, and learning from more experienced parents is invaluable. Having a community to all on is so important and I do call on my church friends to watch my kids. But now that I don’t feel the obligatory fear and suspicion towards my non-Christian friends, I just have a wider social network.
Seeing my kids not as loans, but as beings carrying my genetic make-up because I chose to carry and birth them actually does change my attitude towards them. I find it no less wondrous or miraculous, but my sense of personal responsibility is increased.
Also, I am more free to relax and enjoy them. I don’t see them as little sinnerlings in need of curbing for their eternal salvation. Just animals, glorious and human.
And I don’t feel guilty for wanting a break from them! Mothering is no longer the sole reason I was put on earth. I am not a bad christian mom for running out the door to work or school. Not only that, but I can tell them stories because they are great stories and not because they teach a Sunday School lesson. I do enjoy a good faery tale.
Yep, I like being an athiest mamma a lot more.