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Worldwide Church of God and MOTHERS ROOMS
Despite the constant portrayal of families in the PT as smiling, loving, perfect groups of people, and the sermons about the importance of families, I believe that in the Worldwide Church of God men were the only part of a family that really mattered. Why on earth would I come to this conclusion? In part, from my experiences with MOTHERS ROOMS!! I believe men were the only gender involved in organizing, planning and hiring halls for church services and bible studies. I wonder were any women thought of highly enough to have some say in the matter?
In the church areas I have attended, without exception, facilities for women with young children were appalling. It seems that a hall for a meeting on a weekly basis was chosen for its seating capacity, sound equipment (or the lack thereof), a stage - so we could behold the mighty presence of the deity of the area, a piano, kitchen facilities - so that those little ladies could serve up tea, coffee and afternoon tea after church, heating and cooling (or the lack thereof), lighting and a room off to the side of the stage where a minister of a procrastinating nature could do a last minute revision of his sermon notes. Oh, perhaps the cost of the hire of the hall was a consideration. In a nutshell this hall was perfect for the Sabbath services of the local congregation. Oh no, what the heck are we going to do with those mothers who have babies? That's just ruined our plan for using this hall. Oh never mind. They'll manage somehow. I mean we always did, didn't we? We had no say in the matter of providing a warm or cool, comfortable, hygienic environment in which to nurse, feed and change our babies and young children.
In my local church area in Australia our mothers room was in the kitchen of a school gymnasium/hall. In this room we were permitted to nurse, warm up bottles and put our babies to sleep. Changing of diapers was not permitted and rightly so for hygiene purposes. Instead, we had to cross from the kitchen to the opposite side of the hall and change in a little room which was freezing in winter. We mothers know that the last thing a baby that has been blissfully cocooned near mum while nursing, wants to be dragged away into a cold room and have their soiled diapers changed. Babies were not allowed to cry in any form or fashion under any circumstances. How can a mother move from one side of the hall to the other without her babe uttering a sound in the circumstances? And if this happened, a sizable percentage of the congregation turned around and glared at you. The kids were at least grateful for a distraction - anything to stop writing notes and looking up scriptures. They usually got a cuff over the ear or a poke in the shoulder for their trouble. Did your minister ever so patiently and patronizingly stop speaking until your "brat" stopped that squawking and you had entered the change room? And do you remember how embarrassed you were made to feel if your child made a noise in church? The child whimpers, everyone turns around, up you get, put your hand over the offending child's mouth, all for the show of exerting your will over this child. This is sidetracking I know but it is an interesting point. A friend of mine once told me that she remembers her mother taking her out of church because she was noisy. The hand came over her mouth and my friend would be panicked by this, but learned to dribble and slobber over the said hand so it wasn't held as tight. How is that for survival tactics and revenge?
Back to the changing of the diaper. Where does one wash one's hands? There is no soap or water in the little room opposite the kitchen. The kitchen is out of bounds for hygiene purposes. So that means the ladies room facilities. What do I do with my baby while I go wash my hands? You see my problem -- the lack of practical facilities was appalling.
I remember on one occasion a baby was unfortunate to have contracted a stomach virus at church. The poor mother who had been nursing her child, had her child throw up in the kitchen sink so as not to make a mess on the floor. Yes, the very same sink the tea and coffee mugs were washed in. Gross, huh?
On another occasion at a combined service, the place provided for mothers to nurse their babies was in an upstairs ladies room, where chairs were placed in between the wash basins and opposite the cubicles. A mother who was nursing her baby told me of an incident where another mother with an older school age child came in to check the facilities. Shortly thereafter the child in question came in and proceeded to throw up. It was not the child's fault she was unwell, but it certainly was the fault of the organizing powers to provide such disgusting and inadequate facilities for mothers and babies. As always, in my experience, providing for the needs of this group of important people appeared to be an afterthought and a nuisance.
At one particular feast site about 5 years ago, it seemed that at every turn there was a stumbling block placed in front of families with small children. The area allocated for families was the non-tiered section at the back of the hall. Because seating space was at a premium, the rows of chairs were very close together. There was barely enough room for the legs of people, let alone for children to play. On one side of the hall there was no aisle so prams could not be used. Every mother and father knows that prams are an essential item at a feast site to get babies to sleep. As if this was not a difficult enough situation to deal with, the allotted room for mothers and babies was up two flights of stairs. Prams were definitely not an option. There were no facilities for heating bottles. I mentioned this oversight to the festival elder's wife who herself had formula fed her three children. Apparently it was assumed that all Worldwide Church of God mothers would breast-feed their babies. This lack of consideration for mothers who formula fed babies annoyed me immensely.
The rules of the mothers room at this particular feast site changed daily, which was quite confusing to the mothers. I was in the throes of postnatal depression, I didn't need any further complications to make life more difficult. One day the seating to be used during nursing was arranged in a circle behind a curtain (for privacy I assume). Talking in the mothers room was taboo of course. The sound system was in full swing so that we mothers wouldn't miss out on our salvation message. Can you imagine twenty or so mothers sitting in a circle not saying anything to one another? Ridiculous. The next day the seating had been moved to a more open area of the room, close to the exit and those damn stairs. This didn't bother me particularly except that the chairs were positioned as if we were sitting in a bus. They were close together too so that trying to maneuver a baby and diaper bag was extremely difficult. I took the liberty of moving my chair to a more comfortable position, out of the bus mode. Before I could apply myself to the task of nursing my baby, the matronly mothers room monitor had descended on me and said "Just move you seat around dear, you will be more comfortable". Upon declaring myself to be quite comfortable in my newly chosen position with more room and an absence of claustrophobia, she forcibly said "Move your chair around dear, you wouldn't want any gentlemen to see you". This was indeed a new development to me. Why would I expect men to enter a mothers room? It seemed that fathers were now allowed to participate in the child-rearing process to the extent that they were permitted access to an area within the "mothers room" if a child needed pacifying, for example. As getting to this designated pacifying area meant walking past the newly positioned nursing mothers area, I couldn't for the life of me understand why we had been moved from the cozy, private circular area behind the curtain in the first place. The mind truly boggles.
I mentioned before mothers room monitors. These women were put in place in the guise of assisting any mother who appeared to need it. Some of these ladies were lovely and very well understood the trials of motherhood in difficult circumstances. There was one such girl who was newly married and thought because she had taken an interest in children in her teenage years that she was an expert in the field. She had volunteered for the position with great enthusiasm and administered the rules to the letter. She sat by the sound system and took copious notes, and sang hymns loudly enough to wake up babies. She told mothers not to talk in the mothers room when we were merely saying "Hello, how are you?" On one occasion a mother was in tears (we were all pretty frayed around the edges), another mother came over to offer words of sympathy and encouragement. The young monitor saw her chance to do her duty and requested silence, before seeing the distress of the mother and retreating to her sentry position.
Another mother it seemed could do nothing right. She was in trouble for whispering, for giving her child a display toy to play with (they were to look at, not play with - sharing toys was unhygienic you see), only there were no signs to tell unsuspecting mothers of this rule. This mother told me she found the facilities totally unsuitable for her child's needs. The only place she and others could go to try to put their babies to sleep was on the sidewalk outside the hall, or in the adjacent shopping mall. The Worldwide Church of God members on the feast security crew ordered the mothers (some with crying kids) back inside the hall, because "it looks bad". The Worldwide Church of God's image was paramount. Can't give the church a bad reputation from having mothers and babies hanging out on the street. But what else could we do? The Worldwide Church of God had done nothing to make looking after babies tolerable in the first place.
I'm glad to be free of the lack of consideration, lack of equality and lack of choice that went along with being a Worldwide Church of God mother. This is one more big reason I'm glad I'm out of the Worldwide Church of God altogether.
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