A Babysitter Is Not Mom and Mom Is Not Dad
Ever since the cultural revolution of the 1960s, women have been bombarded with new ideas regarding motherhood. I am very grateful that my mother always made the right choice of staying home and taking care of all of us. When our diapers needed changing, it was Mom, and not a baby-sitter who took care of us. When it was snack time after school, Mom, not a baby-sitter, gave us our cookies and milk. When we were sick, Mom, not a baby-sitter, watched over us and responded to our feverish cries. I am very happy that my dad made every possible sacrifice to ensure that Mom could stay home and be with her kids.
Men and women differ in their vocations. The diversity which stems from their vocations is rooted in the difference of the two sexes. “Male and female He created them” (Genesis 1: 27).
When a woman perceives a calling from God to marry, she automatically takes on a different role than her husband's. The vocation of motherhood differs from the vocation of fatherhood. Mothers occupy a special place in the family, as designed by God, which differs essentially from the role of the father. Therefore because of her femininity, a married woman, who has been given the gift of children, needs to understand that her role is to nurture and educate her children. These duties stem from her vocation to motherhood. She forms a special relationship and emotional bond with her children, a bond that cannot be substituted for by a father or even a grandmother, no matter how loving they may be. No one can take the place of a mother. While there are children living at home, a mother needs to dedicate herself to them. When the children mature and leave home, the mother, having completed her duty of nurturing and educating her children, is then free to pursue a career if she so desires.
That being said, all too sadly, many mothers do not have the privilege of staying home and dedicating themselves to their children. Many are single moms. Moreover, there are many wives whose husbands may be chronically ill, deceased, or unemployed. Then too, there are mothers who are separated or divorced from their husbands. In all of these situations, women are forced to work to provide for their families. Many of these women fulfill their duties with great heroism. These cases, nevertheless, are exceptions to the fundamental principle that the duties of a mother in the family differ from the duties of her husband. This does not mean that her role is inferior. Her task is different because her vocation is different. Motherhood and fatherhood complement each other and are essentially connected.
No One Can Take Her Place
The cultural revolution, which began in the 1960s, continues to loudly proclaim that motherhood is a waste of time. According to these authorities, women, even though they have children, need to be working so that they may feel useful and fulfilled. The Catholic Church has always stated that there is nothing wrong with a woman pursuing a career. But the Church has always taught that a married woman given the gift of children has definitive duties that stem from the vocation of motherhood. These duties demand that the mother remain in the home and raise her children with love and dedication. No one can take the place of a mother.
Many women have also received a vocation to a life of service. Our schools and hospitals are filled with enthusiastic and dedicated women who give of themselves every day to all those who are under their care. Nevertheless, even in these cases, the vocation to marriage takes precedence to all other ancillary vocations, no matter how noble they may be. Schools and hospitals need to take special care to accommodate married women so that they can be home when the children are home. Too many horrendous things occur when no one is home to care for children.
The fruits of this cultural revolution which has taken mothers out of the home are all too obvious to those who are open and objective. Day-care centers filled with infants and empty homes after school have produced generations of orphans, of living parents who are escaping the famine of love through drugs, alcohol and sexual immorality.
Recently, Time (22 March 04) published an interesting front cover feature: “The Case for Staying Home. Why more moms are opting out of the rat race.” The article indicates that there is a growing trend among young professional women to put their careers on hold, choosing instead to devote their time to rearing their children
On a more pragmatic note, I have shown a number of women through counseling that it would ultimately be cheaper to stay home, rather than to opt for salaried employment given the increased cost of extended childcare, dress, lunches, and transportation. When we consider the escalating cost of daycare and latch-key programs, the family with two wage earners may find it more economical for the mother to stay home and take care of the children.
More alarming, however, is the number of women who seek an escape from their family duties by entering into the world of work. What at first seems to be a need to help support the family becomes in reality an escape from the daily commitments and sacrifices. Responsible motherhood entails not only giving birth to a child, but also educating, forming, and nurturing each child to reach his or her full potential as a child of God.
The Catholic Church has always supported the role of women in the work place if they so desire. Moreover, the Church has always supported the woman's right to equal pay for equal work.
Are men and women equal? Yes, of course men and women are equal. St. Paul, writing in his letter to the Galatians, makes it very clear that men and women are equal. “For through faith you are all children of God in Christ Jesus. For all of you were baptized into Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (3: 27-28).
A Higher Standard
Men and women are equal because of the mystery of redemption in Christ Jesus. Men and women are equal in the eyes of God because men and women are children of God, made in His image and likeness. However, the role of a married woman differs from the role of a married man, because the vocation of motherhood is different from the vocation of fatherhood. So too the role and duties of women with children differ from the role and duties of a woman without children to nurture.
The month of May, an entire month dedicated to Mary, causes us to set our gaze on the Blessed Mother. Mary, through her “yes” to the will of God, knew how to live out every moment of her life without any confusion: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord” (Luke 1: 38). To live one’s life according to the plan of God is nothing easy. The effects of original sin and the voice of the evil one will always attempt to pull us in another direction.
Mary is the perfect disciple of her son, Jesus Christ. She embodies in her life all the virtues taught by her son who is the way, the truth and the life. All of us need to look to the Blessed Mother and not to the icons of the cultural revolution.
Be thou then, O thou dear
Mother, my atmosphere;
My happier world, wherein
To wend and meet no spin;
Above me, round me lie
Fronting my forward eye
With sweet and scarless sky;
Stir in my ears, speak there
Of God's love, O live air,
Of patience, penance, prayer:
World-mothering air, air wild,
Wound with thee, in thee isled,
Fold home, fast fold thy child.
Gerard Manley Hopkins
[Editor's Note: The author is quoting from Hopkins’ “The Blessed Virgin compared to the Air we Breathe”. The complete poem along with other of this great Catholic poet’s poems may be read online here .]
© Copyright 2004 Catholic Exchange
Fr. James Farfaglia is the Parochial Vicar of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish and St. Helena of the True Cross Parish in Corpus Christi, Texas.