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Full Time Mothers

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Book Review: A Mother's Rule of Life

The author, who lives in Canada and who home-schools her five children, describes her 'Rule' as a way to 'bring order to your home and peace to your soul.' This sounds a tall order for all those mothers who find their homes are often very disordered and whose souls (and tempers) frequently feel a little frayed in consequence. Do not be disheartened but read on; the author devised her Rule because she felt constantly overwhelmed by children's demands and domestic disarray. Reasoning that religious orders flourish with structure and a rule, she realised that if she were ever to find God 'amid the diapers, the bills and the stomach flu', she would have to impose method on her married and family life.

The essentials, she decided, were prayer, meals, laundry, tidying up, maths and spelling and the formula for orderly living involved 'the five Ps': prayer, person, partner, parent and provider. Making time for prayer, including Mass and Confession, came first for it gave supernatural significance to everything else; 'person' meant understanding herself in order to change and adapt where necessary, and allowing for her own needs as well as those of her family.

With her husband's agreement, Pierlot has a 'Mother's Sabbath', a day entirely to herself once a fortnight, when he runs the household. 'Partner' called for reflection on her married vocation, while 'parent' and 'provider' called for an honest reappraisal of what Christian motherhood meant and the need to budget sensibly. One income, many bills and struggling with debt required more than nagging dissatisfaction at what she did not possess, coupled with occasional impulse-buying. The decision to do regular tithing led to a deeper appreciation of the providence of God; she realised that 'whenever we stopped tithing, things would quickly degenerate.'

Trained like her husband as a teacher, it took time for Pierlot to recognise that being at home with her children was not second-best to the world of work. She discovered that 'the work I was doing wasn't so very different from jobs "out in the world"…I was Prime Minister of my home' - as well as governor, lawyer, policeman, teacher, chef, nurse, decorator, manicurist and much more.

The list will be familiar to all mothers; it is a great pity that our Labour government spends such vast sums on childcare so that women can return to the workplace, and so little on helping mothers stay in their most natural and creative habitat: their home. Pierlot, a modern woman who once dressed like a punk, who dropped out of school to play in a band and who gave up her faith, did not find it easy to surrender her supposed 'freedom' for marriage and a family. Slowly and painfully, guided by her spiritual director as she returned to her Catholic beliefs, she came to understand that true freedom and fulfilment are the result of prayer, self-discipline and service to others. Her thoughts on sloth - the disease of the will - are particularly insightful and she is humorous and unabashed about her own perceived failings, here and elsewhere.

Some disorganised women might find the notes, lists, timetables and schedules she pins up around her house a little daunting, despite her insistence that the 'Rule is a tool, not a tyrant', but there is much practical advice in this book for all mothers (including those who do not home-school or who do not have a religious perspective), especially those who rule their own domestic kingdoms with various degrees of inconsistency, despotism or chaos and who yearn to live life more abundantly.

Francis Phillips