The “MRS” Degree is Nothing to Disdain

I can remember when I had first heard the term “MRS” degree. It was the late 70’s and the term seemed archaic and absurd. The feminist movement had opened so many doors it seemed a bit ridiculous that a woman would opt for that particular one.

Feminism was providing the quintessential answers to the ways females had been treated unfairly and all young women were being encouraged to beat a new path. No longer would we be subjected to sexual objectification and unfair treatment! We were equal to men and wanted everyone to know it.

But in an effort to achieve equality, the differences between men and women quickly became ignored. Female traits became less valuable than male traits. Sadly, the denial and repression of these differences surely didn’t liberate women.

Women tend to be more intuitive, more emotional, and, yes, sometimes less level-headed than their male counterparts. Additionally, they are also known for their strength and resolve when it comes to protecting their families. A woman is a feminist by her very nature as she is diligent, caring, and productive in just about any situation in which she finds herself — inside or outside of the home. It seems to make sense that a true feminist would value and uphold the one critical difference between male and female — the ability to carry life –- in a way that makes this the trump of all else.

Sadly, in our current political climate, being “a feminist” is so closely associated with women who are pro-abortion — and who have an entire agenda that undermines the family as a unit — that there are organizations such as “Feminists for Life ” in which the members have to differentiate themselves as strong, active women who are pro-life. This particular organization has the motto “Women deserve better than abortion” and its members are working day and night to uphold women as givers-of-life as well as energetic and concerned citizens. Organizations such as this recognize that women always impact the world through their work in the home and their work outside of the home.

A feminist, on the other hand, still sees a woman who stays home to raise her family as a woman who has “wasted” her education and her career opportunities. A feminist does not see clearly the value of a woman as the heart and soul of home and hearth — even when she works outside of the home — like a Sarah Palin or a Vicky Thorn or a Phyllis Schlafly. In fact, many women who label themselves “stay-at-home” moms are busy and often earning a living from the comforts of home. They are networking, blogging, and homeschooling and interested in contributing to the world through the very children who will become the next generation of concerned citizens.

Women are busy, active, involved, and productive — everything that a “feminist” should value, respect, and uphold.

So why does it seem, in retrospect, that a “MRS” degree is a better solution than the feminist movement? The most succinct way to understand why one choice may very well be better for women than the other is to read Humanae Vitae, written in 1968 just as the feminist movement really began to take root. In Humanae Vitae we read, quite prophetically, that a woman who chooses “reproductive freedom” becomes more of an object, not less. A woman who does not see her unique ability to bear children as infinitely sacred loses such an integral part of who she is as a co-creator of God that nothing else — and certainly nothing put forth in the anti-life feminist world — will fill the void.

Of course these simplified statements hinge on the belief that Catholics are called to discern their vocations — whether to marriage or a consecrated life. Discernment is a process that takes place over time so that as a young Catholic woman enters college — if she chooses college — she has already availed herself of the reality that she does have a vocation to fill. If that vocation is one of marriage and subsequently being open to life, it makes perfect sense that pursuing an “MRS” degree is a real choice. It is not cold or calculating but is a response to God’s will.

Admittedly there is no magic formula that shows when the acceptable maturity level for marriage has been attained or to know if someone will choose to remain faithful until death. But if we’ve raised our children to view maturity, commitment, joy, challenge, and growth as part of their earthly journeys, isn’t it fair to say that doing so with a spouse will have greater reward? Those times where the young married couple has faced and overcome challenges will bear greater fruit than those who purposefully chose to wait until they were “financially secure” or have dated “enough” or had travelled to Europe — or whatever is seen as needing to get “out of the way” before marriage could take place.

Catholic marriage is an avenue to heaven. We are taught, and should understand, that a significant part of our purpose as a spouse is to help the other attain heaven. Two imperfect young adults entering into marriage have a chance to positively affect one another and enjoy building a bond unlike anything that might take place if each waits until all his or her ducks are in a row. What a beautiful truth to give our children who have discerned the vocation of marriage!

When we encourage our kids to pursue a secular agenda in the belief that it is a better goal than the vocation of marriage, we are risking far too much on their behalf. As parents we ought to be well aware of the ways in which the vocation of marriage is a call to be heeded more than avoided and a young answer to that call can be a wise and beautiful choice.

Cheryl Dickow

By

Cheryl Dickow is a Catholic wife, mother, author and speaker. Cheryl’s newest book is Wrapped Up: God’s Ten Gifts for Womenwhich is co-authored with Teresa Tomeo and is published by Servant (a division of Franciscan Media); there is also a companion journal that accompanies the book and an audio version intended for women’s studies or for individual reflection. Cheryl’s titles also include the woman’s inspirational fiction book Elizabeth: A Holy Land Pilgrimage. Elizabeth is available in paperback or Kindle format. Her company is Bezalel Books where her goal is to publish great Catholic books for families and classrooms that entertain while uplifting the Catholic faith and is located at www.BezalelBooks.com. To invite Cheryl to speak at your event, write her at Cheryl@BezalelBooks.com.

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  • HomeschoolNfpDad

    My wife went through an episode that revealed something to me about what feminists mean when they say women must work outside the home. She got certified as a nurse’s aid and started looking for a job. The goal was to get some experience and then study to be a nurse. It’s actually a laudable goal. But at the time, we had two kids, and it quickly became clear that her salary would barely cover the costs of daycare. Throw in commuting costs and other costs of working, and it was a toss-up whether or not her job was going to be a net cost to the family. We would essentially be paying other people to rear our children in order for my wife to have the privilege of caring for other people’s parents.

    The argument here, of course, is that with experience and increased education, earnings potential will likewise increase. This is a good argument because in the simple cases. If we had kept the number of children at two, then experience plus a nursing degree would have led to a much higher-paying job. The years of working at the more-or-less break-even point would have led to much higher lifetime earnings.

    But then we had three more kids.

    It strikes me that modern feminism requires that each new generation abandon the home for workplace because a large number of feminists themselves have few or no children. If young college and high school graduates were suddenly to turn back to the home in droves, then there would be very few younger folks in the workplace to do the menial and entry-level labors that older people need to have done. Who will deliver my dinner if all the college students stay at home? Who will take notes at my meetings if younger folks start having lots of kids right out of college? Who will watch after my own mother at the nursing home if nurse’s aids suddenly start having five kids of their own? The list of questions can go on.

  • Claire

    Cheryl, this is a great article. While I think it makes sense for women to obtain an education and job skills, that marriage vocation should take top priority for those who are called to it. It’s so sad that feminists look down on the lifestyles of stay-at-home moms. As someone working in the corporate world who would much rather be home with my baby, I can honestly say that corporate games are much more childish than the purpose served by the games I play with my baby (which are his way of learning). We are blessed in my family that my husband works part-time and between the two of us we are able to avoid using daycare. My husband is a wonderful father, and I’m grateful for our arrangement. However, there are differences between men and women, and these non-traditional roles cause a lot of stress in our marriage. As the woman, my heart is in the home, and it is hard on me to be away so much. Thankfully, it’s looking like God is providing away for us to switch to more traditional roles in the near future. I guess there are some women who love their careers and would thrive in a situation like mine, but my gut is that most women have the same maternal instincts as mine that draw them to the home, an instinct that the feminists try to suppress. As I said, I’m grateful that my husband is such a great father and that we don’t have to use daycare. But it’s still not the ideal, at least in my house and I suspect in others.

  • Suzanne

    When I was in high school, my chemistry teacher mentioned to me that he thought I should go to medical school, since I had a way with people and was good in science. My reply was that I wanted to get married and have a family, and I thought that, for me personally, being a doctor would take too much time away from my family. So I went into nursing. I remember being teased when I was in my nursing degree program in the early eighties that most of the students were aiming for two degrees – B. Sc.N. and the Mrs. degree. I wanted the second much more than the first, but the first was what I worked on while God arranged things for me to meet my husband.

    I can’t tell you how many lovely Catholic young women (including my own daughter) have sat at my dining room table and told me that all they want to do is get married and have a family. Their education is their “back-up plan”, and more like something to do until God sees fit to send them the fulfillment of their married vocation. I affirm them in their wish to follow God’s plan for their lives, and am able to let them know, by word and action, that being a wife and mother is a wonderful, interesting, fulfilling vocation. It isn’t an easy vocation, but what one is? However, it is how the Lord brings the majority of people to holiness. If more wives and mothers truly embraced their vocation and weren’t running after fulfillment in other ways, then I think that more young women would have the courage to accept the vocation of motherhood and marriage, and live it fully as God intends.

    I grew up with a mother (God rest her soul) who was a frustrated feminist. She did the best she could, but she never felt that being a mom and wife was enough. Having children was part of being married, but it wasn’t the centre of her life. My best friend’s mother was a joyful mother who embraced motherhood and made it appealing, even during difficult times. Young women today need to see that having it all is a ruse, and that embracing what God intended for us in our very cells is how we will find fulfillment.

  • Lucky Mom of 7

    So many women miss out on motherhood all together because they seek to align themselves with the feminist agenda. I have friends who waited until their 30′s to become open to children and now cannot conceive. The most profound physical power of their femininity has been wasted. It’s very sad. Having my brood only underscores their pain. I’ve lost friendships over jealousy.

    My husband and I got married when we were both still college students. Our first child was born 11 months later, when we were both still students. I left school after that and didn’t finish until many years later. I felt embarrassed for a long time that I didn’t graduate right away, but, unlike my friends who want children and cannot have them, I have no regrets. I haven’t had a paying job since my oldest was born.

  • Narwen

    What makes for contentment for some would be a prison for others.

    A relative of mine (R.I.P.) who grew up with few options ended up pouring her energy into raising a family when she had the aggression and personality of a corporate raider. So instead of launching company takeovers, she attempted takeovers of her kids’ lives – and, eventually, their marriages. Not pretty.

    IMHO everybody would have been better off if she could have been the female Donald Trump and had somebody with more nurturing ways raise the kids.

  • Cheryl Dickow

    Narwen,

    That is actually a beautiful example of why Catholics are supposed to discern their vocations. While it would seem that more women than not are called to the vocation of marriage and motherhood, many are not. Discernment, as JPII so eloquently pointed out, is a process.

    As such, I am a firm believer that it is a process that our children should be tuaght about and engaged in from early years so that when the time is “right,” they will have the grace of God to pursue that to which He has called each of them.

    Blessings,
    Cheryl

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