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!)

It Happened One Night

Another engagement picture with B., who loves me.

The Bright Maidens talk s-e-x! (Not that any of us have actually, you know, done that.)

We also talk about love, relationships, God, yada-yada-yada. It’s pretty awesome and humbling.

The ever lovely Pat Gohn had us (again!) on her Among Women podcast and featured us on her blog.

This interview is Part II; see here for the awesome Part I interview on what young people are so dang excited about in our Catholic Church (2,000+ years and still kickin’ out encyclicals!).

Thanks for listening! Any thoughts on what we talked about? Anything you’d like to see us talk about more?

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

Rest In Peace! And Keep In Touch

TBM Topic 32: Pray for the Living and the Dead

“Rest In Peace! And Keep In Touch” by Julie Robison
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!


During Lent, we will be discussing the Spiritual Works of Mercy.

Why pray for the living and the dead?

This Lent, we Bright Maidens have been discussing the Spiritual Works of Mercy. This topic is a good one for Lent because

1. The spiritual works of mercy are reminders of our unofficial duties as Christians (verses the precepts of the Church); they’re ways people can attempt to better their spiritual lives through daily graces verses physically abstaining from foods or forms of entertainment, too.
2. The marriage between the spiritual and earthly world can be tangibly shown.
3. The marriage between grace and works can be manifest in writing, as well as in thoughts and actions.

The last point is an important point: some Christians say praying for the dead is useless and unbiblical. If that’s the case, then so is praying for the living. If our fate is so fixed, why ask God for help? Why seek a relationship with Jesus if believing in him is enough?

Praying is how we communicate with God, be it in praise, penitence, thanksgiving or petition. It can be freeing and intimate. It can also be humbling and intimidating. Life is overwhelming, and even starting prayer may be difficult. Luckily, even sitting quietly in the presence of God is praying. Taking time to listen to God is just as important as talking with him. In this way, we can pray without ceasing! (1 Thessalonians 5:17) This is how all relationships work at a human level.

When Blessed John Paul II was asked how the pope prays, he responded, “You would have to ask the Holy Spirit! The Pope prays as the Holy Spirit permits him to pray. I think he has to pray in a way in which, deepening the mystery revealed in Christ, he can better fulfill his ministry. The Holy Spirit certainly guides him in this. But man must not put up obstacles” (Crossing the Threshold of Hope).

At a convent’s cemetery in Salzburg

Praying for others is just as important as your personal relationship with God. As we humans are all interconnected, it is an act of fraternal charity. Moreover, not praying for a person because “they are dead” insinuates that there is not a communion between Heaven and Earth. People departed from this life are not gone; they are at a higher level of communion with God.

This is why Catholics pray to saints; not “to” them, as one would pray to God, but to them like we ask our family and friends to pray for and with us. I pray to St. Anthony (patron of lost things) fairly often. I could pray directly to God, but I like including my saintly friends in my daily tasks. If a person work in a big corporation, would they go to their boss for every little thing? Or do you ask a co-worker to help you out with a minor problem?

This is not to imply that we should not pray to God for the little things: but remember, he already knows all. So he might be sending an angle to watch over you, or a new friend into your life, to help guide and shape you. In the Gospel of John, a story is told in which Jesus gives Peter the power and strength to continue his ministry:

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 

He then said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 

He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” [Jesus] said to him, “Feed my sheep” (John 21:15-17).

So, we too must continue this ministry, out of love of God. So, too, we must pray for the living and the dead, out of love for self and neighbor. Praying for all people is biblical, as well as being part of a Christian’s core mission.

Prayer is an act (work) of love. Even Billy Joel got that in his scandalous song, “Only the Good Die Young”: You said your mother told you/  All I could give you was a reputation/ Ah she never cared for me/ But did she ever say a prayer for me?”

There is one mediator between God and humans, and that is Christ (1 Timothy 2:5); but there are billions of helpmates to be found on earth and in heaven, continuing the mission of Christ, peacefully and together. This is why we pray for the living and the dead: to partake in this life, an extraordinary one, and rejoice in the hope with encapsulates all of us as members of the body of Christ, the great cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1).

Church in Munich, Germany

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, thankful for your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel thus about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. 


For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruits of righteousness which come through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:3-11)

Combining Gilbert and Wentworth

*1*
Yes, I’m cheating by doing this in Quick Takes form… a week after the topic was published.
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This topic was meant to be a light one, just in time for Valentine’s Day, because no matter your vocation or marital status, there have been and always will be literary men in your life. As Liesl explained in her literary crush piece, “Excuse me while I swoon:” 

I think one of the things I have learned most from my literary crushes is not that they have shaped my heart, but that they show me what is already imprinted on my heart.

We are who God created us to be when He first knew us, before He formed us in the womb (Jeremiah 1:5). We are His children, at our core, no matter what additional outer layers we allow others or the world to attach to us.

*2*
When you KNEW you could fly

My college art show focused on a related phenomenon: the concept of memory and how your life changes and experiences change your perspective on memories.

For instance, Anne of Green Gables was one of my first chapter books. Therefore, my perspective as a 5 or 6-year-old reading about Anne’s contentious relationship with Gilbert Blythe was simplified. I might have picked up on their undertones, but I certainly didn’t analyze it and try to apply my results to my own life like I did as a teen.

My perspective as a happy, confident, and in-Love 24-year-old reading this classic is less analytical and involves far more guffaws at some of my previously similar behaviors. Oh Anne, you’re almost as clueless as I was a few years ago!

I can only imagine that I will revisit my 24-year-old perspective as an older woman and share a few more guffaws with and at myself. It’s a cycle, folks, so embrace it!

*3*

Say a prayer that everyone may shed the extra layers

This whole concept rests on the notion that we are who God created us to be at our core. My favorite quick quote is JP2’s “Family, become what you are.” As Catholic Christians, we believe God created our souls and and gave them a home in our bodies.

Our souls should come first in the health pecking order, but many times we feed our body and our pleasures first.

Throughout our lives, we pack on outer layers of junk. I know I formed some weird habits during my tween to teen years. We all add habits and mannerisms to ourselves in order to fit in or do what we think will be best for us. Unfortunately, this is often only “best” for us in our pleasure-seeking short term.

Praise God, we’re still US at our core. Through discernment, prayer, the will of God, and sometimes an Ah-Ha moment, we can shed these outer layers and reveal who we were created to be.

*4*

This inner person, the core, is the one with whom others fall in Love! This is who Gilbert noticed about Anne, not her red hair or temper. I believe he fell for the passion that motivated the temper.

Captain Wentworth tried his best to forget about his Anne, the one who broke his heart. He thought he healed from the romance bruise, but as soon as he saw her again, seven years later, and noticed her resolve, clear-headedness, and strength, he shed the blinders.

JulieLiesl, and Sarah mentioned these fine fellows, and rightly so. I used to think that I Loved Gilbert because he was just a nice, intelligent country boy who is part of an example of an iconic Love story. I once thought I swooned over Capt. Wentworth because he secretly pined over Anne and then wrote a beautiful letter to make his affection known.

It’s both more complex and more simple than that: they Loved their Annes to their core and recognized the lovable qualities buried deep in them. Once more, swoon with me. This is why they are so swoon-worthy. Gilbert embraced Anne’s Anne-ness from the beginning and Capt. Wentworth couldn’t fall out of Love with his Anne, even after years and distance.

These are the men we want, ladies. Go find them.

I’m Sorrey, Anne!

TBM Topic 25: Literary Crushes

“I’m Sorrey, Anne!” by Julie Robison
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!


Top 5 Reasons Why Gilbert Blythe (from the Anne of Green Gables series) Is (and will forever be) My Literary Crush:

5. He was great at nicknames.

Gilbert called Anne “Carrots” for her red hair.

This is before Anne breaks a slate over his head.

“Gilbert Blythe was trying to make Anne Shirley look at him and failing utterly….she should look at him, that redhaired Shirley girl with the pointed chin and the big eyes that weren’t like the eyes of any other girl in Avonlea school.” (Anne of Green Gables)

4. He gave Anne a challenge (they were fiercely competitive in school, he critiqued her writing style for the better) and always looked out for her (gave up his teaching post for her so she would not have to leave Marilla or Green Gables).

3. He apologized when he was in the wrong… and pronounced “sorry” as “sorrey”!



2. Gilbert loved Anne for who she was, not who he wanted her to be, and more importantly, accept her wholly (temper and all!).

“There is a book of Revelation in every one’s life… Anne read hers that bitter night, as she kept her agonized vigil through the hours of storm and darkness. She loved Gilbert–had always loved him! She knew that now. She knew that she could no more cast him out of her life without agony than she could have cut off her right hand and cast it from her. And the knowledge had come too late–too late even for the bitter solace of being with him at the last. If she had not been so blind–so foolish–she would have had the right to go to him now…. If Gilbert went away from her, without one word or sign or message, she could not live. Nothing was of any value without him. She belonged to him and he to her. In her hour of supreme agony she had no doubt of that.” (Anne of the Island)

Gilbert Blythe: It’ll be three years before I finish medical school. Even then there won’t be any diamond sunbursts or marble halls.
Anne Shirley: I don’t want diamond sunbursts, or marble halls. I just want you.
(Anne of Avonlea mini-series)

1. Gilbert wanted Anne to be happy, even if it meant it was not with him.

Except that it was.

“I’ve loved you ever since the day you broke your slate over my head.” (Anne of Green Gables)

This last point is what really clinches it for me: throughout the THREE books leading up to their engagement, they became the best of friends and never specifically dated each other. All the while, however, Gilbert was courting and wooing her, because he loved her enough to let her freely choose him. And let me tell you: there were a lot of proposals in the third book.

There are “Anne and Gilbert” moments online. Do yourself a favor and indulge:
Chapter One – School Days
Chapter Two – College Days
Chapter Three – Teaching Days
Chapter Four – Things Change

Honorable mentions: Captain Wentworth from Persuasion and Char from Ella Enchanted.

Help! I Hate Valentine’s Day!

Well, it’s here.  That time of year that is so wondrously celebrated by some and dreaded by others: St. Valentine’s Day.
 
If you are single, take heart.  Please don’t fall into a pit of despair.  When I was single on Valentine’s (every year of my life until this year, by the way), I always enjoyed the day, and I’ve cooked up these little tips to making St. Valentine’s fun for the single gal:
 
1.  Dress up.  Wear your favorite shirt or those jeans that fit you so well.  Add a pop of color to your lips.  Style your hair differently.  Primp and embrace your beauty.
 
2.  Go to Mass or Adoration.  The Lord, the Author of Life, loves YOU.  Make a date with him.  Spend time with the Eternal Lover.
 
Still feeling down?  Meditate on this:
 
The happiness you are seeking, 
the happiness you have a right to enjoy, 
has a name and a face:
Jesus of Nazareth.
– Pope Benedict XVI, August 18, 2005
 
3.  Give out Valentine’s Day cards, especially to your single friends.  They don’t have to be fancy – the ones you distributed during elementary school work just fine.  I have been surprised and touched to visit friends in other states and see my Valentine’s Day card posted in a prominent space.  You can touch the lives of others with a simple note!
 
4.  Call your family and tell them you love them.  You are single, not alone.
 
5.  Host a wine and chocolate movie night…BUT…no men-bashing allowed.  I know, you’ve been hurt.  Burned.  Or you’re lonely.  You’ve heard bad stories, and you want to write all men off as jerks. But that’s not fair.  And this is a night of enjoyment!  Bitterness is not welcome.  If some idiot didn’t realize how great you are, well, good riddance.  Rejoice that you’re not with him.
Source: google.com via Trista on Pinterest
 
6.  However, if you need to have a quick cry, do, and then move on.
 
7.  Affirm the good men in your life.  Our culture encourages permanent Peter Pan behavior.  Know a guy or two who doesn’t buy into that?  Thank him.  Nice guys need to know we recognize them and value them.
8.  When you see a coupley-couple, and you have the urge to either puke or rage, pray instead.  “God bless them,” works well.
9. Pray for your vocation and your future husband.  

O Raphael, lead us towards those we are waiting for, those who are waiting for us! Raphael, Angel of Happy Meetings and Catholic singles, lead us by the hand towards those we are looking for!  May all our movements, all their movements, be guided by your Light and transfigured by your Joy.  
Angel Guide of Tobias, lay the request we now address to you at the feet of Him on whose unveiled Face you are privileged to gaze. Lonely and tired, crushed by the separations and sorrows of earth, we feel the need of calling to you and of pleading for 
the protection of your wings, so that we may not be as strangers in the Province of Joy, all ignorant of the concerns of our country.  Remember the weak, you who are strong–you whose home lies beyond the region of thunder, in a land that is always peaceful, always serene, and bright with the resplendent glory of God. 
Amen.   
~*~
Happy St. Valentine’s Day!  May you know you are loved!
Please feel free to leave comments, concerns, and pray requests in the combox. 

Bright Maidens: Snow and Pastures

The “Bright Maidens” were originally three from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. Now, we all take up the cross to dispel the myths and misconceptions. Welcome!

Topic: “The Parable of the Lost Sheep.”
Elizabeth at Startling the Day
Check out our Facebook page for guest posts!

If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray,
will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills
and go in search of the stray?  

One winter when I was ten, my siblings and I were playing in the snow. Our littlest brother, not even a year old, was bundled up tightly, snug and secure in a sled.  He was a cute, wee little thing, and I had the genius idea of dumping a shovel of snow on his head.

I wish I could tell you exactly why I did it.  Did I not realize it might hurt him?  That the shock of a face full of snow would make him cry?  Was I still tinged with jealousy at the attention he received?  I can’t remember.

He began to cry and my mother turned from where she was playing with my sisters and brother.  Her mouth dropped open, and I saw something flash across her face.  “Trista!  Did you…?” she asked. 

Last winter

Suddenly ashamed and fearful, I bolted out of our yard.  I heard her call for me as I struggled through the piles of snow (there had been a blizzard), and I startled with fear when I noticed she was running after me.


The next half hour was a blur as I crouched behind cars, hid in bushes, and looped the block, hoping she would stop following me.  


All the while, my mom continued to call my name.


Finally, with tears and a runny nose, I let her catch me.  “I’m sorry,” I blubbered, crying into her puffy jacket.


“I know,” she replied, hugging me.  “C’mon, let’s go back to the house.  It’s cold out here.”


My mother is obviously not God, but in this instance she mirrored His Divine Love.  I had done something stupid and hurtful; I, like the lost sheep, had wandered from the path.  My mother never stopped chasing me, wanting to forgive me and bring me home.  Likewise, God desires the same thing for all His children: that they be safe and at peace, with Him.  How often do we not turn to Him or stop and listen to Him calling because we are fearful or anxious?  

This Advent, I pray we all pause.  Let Him catch us and bring us home again. 

The Lord is my shepherd;
there is nothing I lack.
In green pastures he makes me lie down;
to still waters he leads me;
he restores my soul.
He guides me along right paths
for the sake of his name.
“The Lord revealed at what cost these green pastures are purchased.  He was not the Good Shepherd because He Provided economic plenty, but because He would lay down His life for His sheep.  Once again the Cross appears under the symbol of the shepherd.  The shepherd-patriarch Jacob and the shepherd-kind David now pass into the Shepherd-Savior, as the staff becomes a crook, the crook a scepter, and the scepter a Cross.”  
Life of Christ by Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen