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Family, Child-Rearing, and the Role of Women (December 3, 1961)

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Complicating the situation is the increasing length of vocational training, which more and more often also necessitates a separation from the family household, thus continuing to limit the possibilities for adolescent children to contribute financially to supporting the family. Extending compulsory schooling to ninth and perhaps even tenth grade and expanding the continuing education track will serve to increase this economic burden even more.

This and a number of other factors have generally caused the economic burden on families with children to increase considerably, for reasons beyond the control of individual families. Consequently, having children has led to social declassing, a decline to totally different social classes. This development has now led to consequences that are of great significance in our context. It has forced families into taking two emergency exits, which, although tending to alleviate the effects of the economic pressure and declassing, serve to weaken the family’s child-rearing powers at a decisive point. The family has responded to the economic constraints, first, with the housewife and mother taking up gainful employment, and second, by limiting the number of its children.

Gainful employment of the mother is not a solution

It is not a “solution” to have our housewives and mothers work outside the home; it is a forced evil. We must always keep in mind how the spiritual, personality-forming, so-called “second birth” of the child, especially in the first years of its life, decidedly takes place under the helping hand of the mother in the parents’ home. The profound experience of tenderness, encouragement, and care – as only mothers can give – teaches the toddler how to feel affection and love and to return it. The child needs the loving and loved person of the mother, someone to turn to as it grows into a world in which everything is at first new and unfamiliar. For the sake of the mother, the child learns self-control, to acquire skills, to be good, and to become independent.

The loving devotion of the mother, in its constancy and depth, is and remains just as important for development in older children and adolescents. A mother’s love and care supports the young person through the hurdles of education and the crises of puberty, sets a good example and conveys role models and value standards. Her love accompanies her child with understanding and forgiving sympathy along the path of life, in the child’s search for a place in life and for fundamental interests, ideas, ideals. It awakens and reinforces the powers of the mind and the conscience and provides the first basis for faith in God and knowing the true meaning of life as a basic foundation of support throughout a person’s further development.

For these reasons, the occupation of being a mother is a full-time occupation and far more important than any other gainful employment. The occupation of mother is a vocation of immense significance, continuing its impact into the present and future of our people.

[ . . . ]

Source: Franz-Josef Wuermeling, “Die Familie von heute und ihre Erziehungskraft” [“Today’s Family and its Child-Rearing Powers”], in Bulletin (Press and Information Office of the Federal Government), no. 238, December 21, 1961, pp. 2241-43, and no. 239, December 22, 1961, pp. 2249-51.

Translation: Allison Brown

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