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The one big thing missing from the Working Mom debate 

The big thing missing from the working mom debate for Catholic women mothers -- FemCatholic.com

“Oh, I’m going to be a stay-at-home mom,” she said, surrounded by the other women at brunch.

They nodded, giving their approval, and the affirmation so many Catholic women seek these days.

I get it.

We want to acknowledge the value in staying home, in foregoing apparent worldly success in order to give day in and day out to one’s family. Because for all the advancements feminism has brought women, greater recognition of caregiving and homemaking hasn’t been one of them.

Because for all the advancements feminism has brought women, greater recognition of caregiving and homemaking hasn’t been one of them.

But what if in proclaiming their desire to be SAHMs, women think they’ve rejected modern feminism, and they’ve actually given into it?

Let me explain.

This wasn’t the first time I’ve heard single, childless women proclaiming their desire to be SAHMs, and I even used to do it myself on occasion.

But after getting married, and having my son last year, I realized one fatal feminist flaw in these proclamations: they leave out the husband.

Much of modern feminism champions women in creating their own destiny, breaking down any glass ceilings in their way to becoming leaders, independent and fierce. This narrative is rooted in independence – encouraging women to go after “What you want,” but also creating an expectation – that women should envision and create an “ideal destiny” – for themselves to pursue.

So young women reflect on who they are, and what “ideal destiny” they believe they want.

For some women, that “ideal destiny” is being a stay-at-home mom.

Whether because they just really love kids, or homemaking, or they want to be holy and think staying home is the holiest way for wives to live – this desire can come from a place of selfishness, or selflessness, or somewhere in between.

But the truth is, marriage is a vocation of two – not one. And I think there’s a danger in women creating their own “ideal destiny” to hold as an expectation over their future marriage.

But the truth is, marriage is a vocation of two – not one.

Because until you meet the man you’re going to marry, you really don’t know what exactly your marriage is going to look like.

What if he’s a lawyer, who has a high salary but an unpredictable schedule?

What if he’s a writer, and a calm disciplinarian but no health insurance?

What if he has a mental or physical illness, that makes working full time difficult, or unstable?

What if he longs to be a medical missionary, and travel frequently to care for those in poverty?

What if he is also supporting his single mom, who finally left her abusive marriage last year?

What if he desires to stay home with kids himself?

The point is, marriage is about uniting your life with someone else. It involves dying to yourself and your independence, for the sake of something deeper, more beautiful, and powerful – your ideal vocation.

The vocation that will make you holy; the vocation God is calling you to, regardless of whether or not it seems “ideal” at first.

We know that holiness involves sacrifice.

Maybe your sacrifice is getting up to go to work every day. Maybe it’s NOT leaving the house to go to work every day.

Maybe your sacrifice is getting up to go to work every day. Maybe it’s NOT leaving the house to go to work every day.

Maybe it’s one for a season, and then the other.

But it should always be about giving … giving yourself away. To those other people God is calling you to love.

That’s what is so powerful about Mary’s example. Not that she was a SAHM and therefore all women should aim to be SAHM’s.

Mary is our model because she said YES… to where God called her. It wasn’t about what “kind” of mom she was going to be. She responded to the call God placed in front of her. And I would bet it didn’t look like she had imagined. 😉

Just like Mary, saying “yes”  will necessitate that you put your identity in God, above your identity in public – whether that’s at the family function where in-laws are asking if you’ve ever “going to put that degree to use,”  or back-to-school night where someone mentions how bad they feel for kids who go to after-school-care.

Because God has called you into a marriage, first and foremost. And I don’t know the details of all that entails. But God does.

He sees you.

He knows you.

And if He called you to your marriage, then he called you to the work situation that goes along with it, too.

And if He called you to your marriage, then he called you to the work situation that goes along with it, too.

We’ve come a long way for women in terms of learning that they can be either stay at home moms, or working full time, or part time, or some combination of those.

Now we just need to remember to make marriages part of the conversation, too.


Samantha Povlock is the Founder + Creative Director of FemCatholic. You can learn more about her here.

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7 Comments

  • Reply Colleen

    Great post, Samantha! I think you make a lot of great points about marriage as a process of discerning together what God has planned for you, your spouse, and your family. My one amendment to the post would be where you mention that “marriage is a vocation of two – not one.” I’m constantly having to remind myself that there is actually a third person in my marriage…God Himself! He is critically important to providing us with sufficient love and grace to truly serve each other as husband and wife.

    September 12, 2017 at 11:07 am
    • Reply Samantha Povlock

      That is a great reminder, Colleen. Thank you! I guess this is a perfect example of how often we forget to include “God” in our marriages, too… so important.

      September 12, 2017 at 11:40 am
  • Reply Hannah

    Love it, Sam! Great hook, well-written, and best of all, a fantastic point that we don’t often hear. Nicely done!

    September 12, 2017 at 11:34 am
    • Reply Samantha Povlock

      Well thanks, Hannah! 🙂 It’s a revelation I had recently that I thought others might be able to relate to, too. Hopefully it will prompt more discussion around this!

      September 12, 2017 at 11:39 am
  • Reply Kyla

    Great article! I love the reiteration that marriage isn’t about what YOU want, its about whats best for your family! I hope that the men who read this also can flip that for themselves – depending on the situation they find themselves in they might find its best for them to sacrifice to be the SAHD for the family. Whats important is that the family is thriving and everyone is doing their best to ensure that happens 🙂 Love it!

    September 12, 2017 at 12:11 pm
    • Reply Samantha Povlock

      That’s a great point, Kyla – this applies to men, too. Discerning work should always relate to your family situation, whatever that is.

      September 12, 2017 at 1:15 pm
  • Reply Angela

    I think the main takeaway is that it’s important to recognize that living out a healthy married life isn’t merely about living out a dream. Life throws you punches. Circumstances and life can change.

    What I would add is that it’s important to recognize that Modern Feminism tends to be responding (or reacting, if you will) to a problem of domestic abuse and what is often called co-dependency. Now, personally, I like attachment theory better than codependent theory. It gives greater insights and comes across as recognizing that people with codependent tendencies don’t merely need a scolding for being overly generous and self-giving. Rather its important to recognize that people — like myself — with such tendencies aren’t really being generous. They’re extreme people pleasers, and largely they lose their sense of self in the relationship. The big thing is that they are far more likely to deny their needs if the other spouse behaves selfishly. “Oh. You’re hogging the bed sheets. I’ve expressed my need for warmth and you’ve gotten mad at me. Maybe you’re right. Maybe I am being selfish.” Overall, the person doesn’t advocate for themself and the relationship becomes one-sided. At worst, it becomes physically abusive and has the codependent person actually believing that they deserved the beating because they did something wrong.

    Modern feminism has tried to answer why these one sided relationships exist, and as such the messages they send about the need for independence and empowerment is rooted in this honest concern to protect women from these unhealthy relationships (though with a growing awareness that women aren’t the only people who might be codependent).

    So I’d stress what my therapist has stressed to me. It’s best not to distinguish wants from needs, or to envision God’s plan for you as totally opposite to any desires you have on your heart. God’s will is not a path that leads you down a path to joylessness. So the biggest thing is simply to recognize that circumstances change. It’s not wrong to have a goal of being a stay at home mom. It’s not wrong to have a goal of aspiring to a career that would not allow you to be a stay-at-home mom. But marriage does involve considering the needs of the family, the needs of your spouse, and your own needs. All the apples have to be brought to the table. As my therapist as said, don’t argue about whether this or that need is a legitimate need or not. Argue how and when each need will be met, and in the course of that discussion, you’ll see what limitations you have and will be able to better discern which needs just weren’t all that important to begin with.

    Yes marriage involves sacrifice, but it’s possible to have a very distorted understanding of what such sacrifices look like.

    September 13, 2017 at 11:22 am
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