The Mother’s Dilemma

Because I’ve been slacking this whole week on my Bright Maiden post, I’ve decided to double it as my 7 Quick Takes for the week! YEAH!


ONE

TBM Topic 33: Stay-At-Home vs. Working Mothers

“The Mother’s Dilemma” by Julie Robison
“On Motherhood” by Trista at Not a Minx, Moron, or a Parasite
Elizabeth at Startling the Day

We three are from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. We’re here to dispel the myths and misconceptions- please join us for the discussion on Facebook and Twitter!

TWO

The first thing I think about my childhood is chocolate chip ice cream cones, us kids running through the sprinkler, and my mom wearing a headband and swimsuit while she sat in the sun, watching us and reading. What was she reading, you ask?

Oh, you know. The norm. Her cancer research.

Ironic, I know.

My mom is an oncology clinical nurse specialist – that is, an educator, a researcher, article writer, book editor, and well-beloved member of the hospital she’s worked at for most of my life.

My mom has also been a Brownie leader, Cub Scout mom, volleyball and soccer coach, a good-enough cook, eater and maker of anything involving chocolate, a good listener, too fair of a judge, encouraging card writer, presents just because buyer, and mom to six kids.

These six kids:

We’re the kids your mom probably warned you about

THREE

My mom is super woman. My Dad has had to ask that she not head up so many committees because she keeps getting elected to lead organizations. She was “Woman of the Year” at our high school alma mater, Employee of the Year (twice!) at her hospital, and this year she was nominated for “Healthcare Hero” from her hospital, in a city-wide event.

My mom comes from a family where most women are stay-at-home moms, and she definitely forged her own path. She gave up going to medical school so that she could have more scheule flexibility, since she and Dad wanted lots of kids so she could make us dress in matching outfits for pictures. (See below.)

Christmas card!

FOUR

This choice to work has had its perks and downfalls, but I certainly cannot imagine our family life without my mother working as she does. She’s a role model in how to deal with tricky situations, time management, multi-tasking, and keeping cheerful when the going gets tough. With so many kids, Mom has really been able to help out the family financially. It also provides an outlet for her to receive outside appreciation in an area where she truly excels.

Mom in her makeshift office during hospital renovations

All woman need this kind of outlet: my maternal grandmother is hostess, flower-arranger, tennis player, and thoughtfulness unlimited extraordinaire. One aunt is a speech pathologist and professor; she is also amazing at sewing and handmade most costumes for her two girls, which were consequently passed down to us six (and held up well!).

Another aunt paints and takes wonderful pictures, which is a skill she’s able to contribute to a cancer non-profit she volunteers with. A couple aunts stay at home with their kids and are active at their schools. A couple more work full-time.

All the women in my life have been amazing inspirations for me, and are wonderful at what they do, and this is where I have a beef with this “debate” about women in the work force.

FIVE

There are as many types of mothers as there are children. My mother, for instance, could not work the way she does if she had a special-needs child. My mother could not have worked as she did when we were younger if my parents could not have afforded extra help. My mother might have had to work more if my father was unemployed, deceased, or not around. My mother may also prefer to work so as to better handle her children’s shenanigans (pure conjecture).

We don’t have special needs, we’re just “special”…

My mother is not a stay-at-home mom. She decorates the house for every major and minor holiday, is constantly organizing, and pushes through enough loads of laundry a week to keep her active children clothed. She’s never been much of a cook, but she learned and keeps us kids healthy. As much as she loves us, she loves work too. Moreover, she never neglected us and always makes us feel loved. Just because one woman stays home with her kids, it does not diminish another mother’s out-of-home pursuits.

Moreover, working women is not a “new phenomena.” Women have been putting in their fair share since cave men needed to cook the water buffalo they brought down. So is the question more about equality?

When people say women are being “kept down” because they don’t get paid as much as men, I wonder where those numbers are coming from: is this an apples and oranges comparison? Are different jobs being compared or are men and women working the same job and not being paid the same? (Or is it both?)

Nevertheless, if women’s power is only showed through a paycheck or a work title, then women are being under-sold and under appreciated.

It must be difficult for a woman to feel she is a competent partner to her husband if she herself does not see her work at home as worthwhile. The marriage partnership between men and women cannot be had without mutual understanding, a willingness to pitch in and listen, respect of self and others, and love. It has nothing to do with how many times a person made dinner verses how many times the other person mowed the lawn.

In my life time, I have seen mostly scorn towards the idea of a woman staying home with her children. But isn’t that like teaching? And isn’t teaching a worthwhile venture? The formation of little minds and souls? To overemphasize a woman’s need to be fruitful outside the home diminishes all efforts done within it. Women are so much more than their job title, and motherhood is more than bearing and raising children.

SIX 

As I prepare for marriage, I’m in the midst of planning: planning a wedding, planning a move out of my parents’ house, planning another move out of the state for B.’s residency (starting 6 or so months after the wedding), planning family finances, and planning for grad school.

I’m also planning and praying about working. I’m not convinced the stay at home without working life is for me, nor would I like to have a time-consuming job outside the home with little ones underfoot.

Most of us in super-hot Tennessee

Women have an awesome opportunity to kick “typical” to the curb and try their hand at new adventures. While men have the duty and responsibility to provide for their family, women have the opportunity to create a home. This home will be run according for the parents, their needs and desires, rooted ultimately in the best they can offer their children.

If the woman works outside the home, the family will function as such.
If the woman works in the home, the family will function as such.
If the woman’s work is the home, the family will function as such.

There is no right answer when it comes to one’s vocation, as long as it is properly aligned with God and your loved ones.

SEVEN

I’m excited to be a mom. One way I’m inadvertently preparing for this is my part-time babysitting job for a neighboring family. The mom works from home, and I am so glad I get to help their little unit function well. I get to dress her kids, play with her kids, feed her kids, and cart them around. I know she loves to do that too, but I know it’s also nice to have a break, get some work done, go to an exercise class, get lunch with her mom, and spend time with friends.

In this life balance we seek, kids are only a burden to the unimaginative. Motherhood is a special role only women can fill and it is in our feminine genius to discern how best to serve one’s family in that way. If physical motherhood is not attainable for women (for those called to a religious or chaste single life), then spiritual motherhood is, by being a kind woman children can look up to, other adults can respect, and that awesome aunt kids love to have.

Nothing in this life is less clear-clear cut or for the faint of heart, but being a Mom is certainly the most important job that no one can properly label.

Aunts, Grandmother, Mother: real-life feminine geniuses

What are your thoughts on motherhood and working?

(Thanks to Jen for hosting!)

We Want More! We Want More!

Do you ever think,

I need more Julie Robison in my life!
I wish I could talk with the Bright Maidens…
What does the Voice of Reason sound like?

If so, you’re in luck! Here is the Bright Maidens’s interview with Pat Gohn on her Among Women podcast. (She is the Voice of Reason, by the way.)

Here’s the interview I did with Pat last year too, if the above isn’t enough. Two words: feminine genius.

You want more, you say? Can’t get enough, you say? Well! Fear not! The above interview is part one of two. Yes, you read that right. Next week, Pat will be releasing her second interview with us!

Now, for a little Friday remix: “I’m Glad You Came” by The Wanted

Story time on Easter!

Happy Friday, folks!

Shameless plugs/ resources:
Me on G+
Me on Twitter
Bright Maidens on Facebook
Bright Maidens on Twitter
Pat Gohn’s Among Women Podcast on Facebook
Pat Gohn on Twitter

Made in the Image of God?

TBM Topic 15: Feminine Genius – The Interior Edition

“Made in the Image of God?” by Julie Robison
“Peace Within” by Trista at Not a Minx, Moron, or a Parasite
“She reigns” by Elizabeth at Startling the Day

We three are from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. We’re here to dispel the myths and misconceptions- please join us for the discussion!

[Second disclaimer: I wrote this in the wee, dark hours of the morning on a train to Berlin while drinking a wee, not-as-dark cup of coffee. Enjoy! I’ll be back in the country soon.]

A stumbling block for many people is the notion that women are made in the image and likeness of
God. How can this be? We’ve seen God; Paul wrote in 1 Colossians 1:15, “Brothers and Sisters, Christ Jesus is the image of the invisible God.”

Ow-ow!

Hm. Well, there goes my “God-showed-himself-as-a-burning-bush-ergo-women-are-made-to-be-smokin’-hot” theory.

Then the question is raised: how is it then that the world’s population do not look more like the bearded man from Nazareth?

Only a small percentage of people come from the tiny town of Nazareth and, besides, I’ve been to Asia—the men there can’t grow facial hair. Despite what a former professor at my college liked to quip, God is neither black nor a woman either. The wrench in this whole matter is that God the Father has never seen in toto.

In the Old Testament, the litmus test for God’s calling card was usually clear:

Did you see a physical sign (i.e. oversized finger writing on stone tablets, wall falling down because of trumpets, a large body of water parting down the middle, a relative turning into a pillar of salt, the world flooding, etc.) and/ or hear a booming voice?

Were you visited by an angel?

Did your prayers and faithfulness to the God of Israel result in a child/ a victory/ not dying?

If you can answer YES to any of the above, the invisible-to-us God the Father was more than likely involved.

What does this have to do with women? Everything, if we truly believe that the God of one is the God of all. If women do not superficially look like God, then they must interiorly look like God.

Our very soul mirrors God! The genius of our femininity is not encapsulated by our charm, curves or womanly ways, but the way we yearn for communion with God, to love and be loved, and are given equal and indiscriminate dignity. These manifest both spiritually and physically; the body plays a distinctive role, as does the mind. We women are not amorphous beings for a reason!

Here to fulfill our purpose in God’s plan!

Women are good because they are part of God’s creation; gender is the primary indicator of their role and purpose in this world. It is the first objective a person is given to discern one’s relationship to self, God, and other humans. There is no room for a “better than” comparison between the genders. God made the two to complement, not compete.

Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk from the 20th century, wrote, “Life is more than submission: it is creation.” Man and woman together can create a new life, in marriage and having children, as well as participating in the community, in communion with the Church and individual participation in the sacraments.

The criticism of St. Paul’s instruction for women to submit to their husbands overlooks his next point: husbands, love your wives, as Christ loves his Church. Submission, whether it be to one’s husband or one’s God, is never intended to be a controlling mechanism. Rather, submission is the greatest act of love. Jesus himself submitted himself to false accusations, horrible suffering and even death in order to save us from the heavy weight of sin and open Heaven’s gates. So, too, must women overcome such growing pains.

The genius of this instruction is even more marveling than a once-over read: St. Paul understands women’s importance in the Kingdom of Heaven, and thus urges them to model Christ for their husbands, and any others watching. St. Monica’s goodness, prayers and pious submissiveness, for example, helped convert the heart and mind of her pagan husband and famous son, St. Augustine.

It stands, of course, that any misuse of the term “submit” mangles the loving objective and devalues any expression freely given. Nonetheless, this easily tossed about and abused verb is another opportunity for women to lovingly correct any misinterpretation, if the occasion arises.

Women have a great role to play in this world, whether their vocation is religious, single or married. To shirk one’s purpose to evade happiness. Too many women today see the need for emancipation in order to thus prove their worth and equal standing among men.

The message of woman’s feminine genius is that such a worth is intrinsic to our very female personhood, and our equal standing is not determined by a side-by-side salary comparison, but the confirmation of what women actually want: to be loved and respected, encouraged in our work and cherished as ourselves, just the way God made us.

The heresy of modern womanhood is the false claims that freedom can only be achieved through our own-will-be-done, lipstick, contraception, a satisfying career and an individualism that oftentimes denies males the chance to step up into manhood; instead, the modern woman’s view of love infantilizes man through an accessorizing attitude (“Aaaaand I’ll take one of you!”).

I think this about sums up the modern womanhood ideal.

For women to experience the very revelation of the feminine genius, they must first want to reject the temptation to bite the apple, and not just avoid the tree or company of snakes.

Woman is made in the image of God in her humanity; she has the likeness of God through the logos. The divine nature of womanhood is sweet, filled with joy and sorrow, which are merely accidents of the human life, like tasting bread when consuming the Eucharist.

Women have an equal share in the Kingdom, and are thus given their feminine genius in order to claim it.

How It Feels To Be Catholic Me

Week One: Women and their Relationship to the Church

“How It Feels to be Catholic Me” by Julie Robison
“Grandmother Kaleidoscope” by Elizabeth at Startling the Day
A Relation of Love” by Trista at Not a Minx

This is the first post of a Lenten blog post series called “Bright Maidens”. We three are from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. We’re here to dispel the myths and misconceptions- please join us for the discussion!

Also, today is the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day! May we all rejoice in our feminine vocation, and properly appreciate the males in our life too.

I was born a poor black child. No, wait; that was Steve Martin. I was born a Catholic girl, which is kind of like the same thing.

Don’t believe me? Think about it: I’m oppressed by celibate white men who make rules about my body, say I can’t hold leadership in my Church because I happened to be born female, and tell me to accept my place in this world as a child-bearer.

At least, that’s how the World-at-Large phrases it. I am here to refute commonly misconstrued claims about Catholicism as a Catholic woman who not only adheres to the traditions and teachings of the Church, but freely follows the Pope, reads Scripture (and thus delights in dogma), and rejoices in her feminine vocation.

The modern world is full of choices and possibility, and today’s women are indiscriminately exposed to birth control ads and unrealistic expectations, like the need to be sexually desirable in both body and dress. Intellectual development is checked off the To-Do List once a woman graduates school. Morals are now synonymous with personal decisions.

Women are not more or less than men. They are equal, but their equality does not lie in a power tug-of-war or numbers game. If so, then it is not equality women seek, but liberation from their very femininity. A woman rejects that she is equal, compatible and complementary to man when she relinquishes the only power woman has over man: the ability to create life.

A Catholic woman has three possible vocations: religious, single or married life. All three are great and noble; all three have different limits and aims. A religious woman gives her life to serve God; a single woman serves those around her; a married woman serves her family. The modern woman seeks a fourth option- to serve herself- and, as a Catholic and a woman, I reject that.

The Catholic Church has protected the dignity of women since it was founded over 2,000 years ago. The Church, the Bride of Christ, encourages a sacramental life of beauty, truth and goodness to help women, not hinder them, in their pursuits. It was Pope John Paul II that said the problem with pornography isn’t that it shows too much—it is that it shows too little.

A Catholic woman can think, read, laugh, run, study, dance, play, talk, and drink alcohol, just like a Catholic man. Catholic women cannot divorce, use birth control, have sex outside marriage, have abortions or curse– and neither can Catholic men. Now do they? Of course. Catholics are human and therefore fallen. But that doesn’t make it right or okay. Catholicism is not a democratic institution, and neither is truth.

What binds a Catholic woman may seem harsh, but in practice, it is liberating. It is not easy to be defined by beauty of body and soul. The Church provides life guidelines and supports true feminism. When a woman respects herself first, so will others. A Catholic woman is not perfect. She suffers and bears hardships; she appreciates good things; she serves those around her; and, most importantly, she remains constant in her faith and trusts the Church, even in turbulence.

It has been said that the Catholic Church has benched women to the back pew. I say, if a Catholic woman is sitting in the back pew, it is only because the view is so much better!