I have recently taken the plunge of quitting my job and officially becoming a full-time mother. This might sound cliché on these circles of Catholic blogs, but for me, especially living in Portugal, it is outrageous. While about 29% of mothers stay at home in the USA, only 6.3% do so in Europe. Plus, Portugal has the lowest birth rate in Europe.
The Catholic Church is wonderfully diverse in the way people live their vocations. Whether to work outside the home or not is up to the woman, and both options are considered equally wonderful. There are working mom saints and “stay-at-home mom” saints. Yet in this anti-motherhood culture, the right to stay at home should be not only valued but defended.
Furthermore, the mentality which honors women more for their work outside the home than for their work within the family must be overcome. This requires that men should truly esteem and love women with total respect for their personal dignity, and that society should create and develop conditions favoring work in the home. (John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio: On the Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World, n. 23)
I had never seriously considered staying at home, but right when I found out I was pregnant I felt torn. I couldn’t imagine leaving my baby at day care all day or even at her grandparents’.
For her first year, I worked part-time as a teacher in the afternoon. It seemed like the perfect option: my bosses were incredibly professional and appreciative, they were flexible with me in terms of hours, I was good at what I was doing, my students liked me, and my in-laws were more than willing to take care of my daughter. Yet I was not at peace.
I was running around trying to do a million things on tight schedules. I didn’t want to delegate anything: the cleaning, the cooking and, most importantly, the raising of my child. I wanted to be available to talk to her, take her to the park, sing her songs. I wanted to give her a bath, make her soup, teach her things. I wanted to do these things and nothing else I was doing instead seemed as if it could even compare.
Do you need a job to be happy? I don’t think so. I think being a mother and a homemaker is the biggest, best j
ob there is and the best contribution to society. I have many other talents, some of which aren’t being used at this moment. However, our talents make us happy when they are put at the service of others.
Caring for others is our call as Christians and our path to love, no matter how small or obscure that care may be. “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me” (Mt 25: 35-36).
Being a mother and homemaker is not something rewarded with a pay check, valued on your resume or a guaranteed success (maybe your kids and family won’t turn out so great…?). It is a selfless job, and we need more of that testimony in the world.
“Mothers are the strongest antidote to the spread of self-centred individualism” (Pope Francis’s audience on mothers). It is an investment in building a family and a home, which both point to our final call. We were created to be part of God’s family, and our eternal home in Heaven.
Life is too short. Babies grow up too fast. Too short and too fast to do what others think we should do or live another person’s life. I want to pursue happiness, holiness and family.