"A woman is capable of more sacrifices than a man. Man is more apt to be a hero, through some great passionate outburst of heroism. But a woman's love makes a thousand small sacrifices, sprinkling them through the days and the months; their very repetition gives them the character of the commonplace. Not only her soul, but her body, has some share in the Calvary of Redemption; furthermore, she comes closer to death than man, whenever she brings forth a child." Fulton J. Sheen, Life is Worth Living
"A catholic mom is a universal woman who transforms herself daily with dignity and knows where it comes from, her loving Father in heaven. " - a friend
I've been thinking often about the concept of womanhood and/or femininity recently. There has been a lot of media talk regarding these subjects over the past few weeks, with the whole manufactured "War on Women" and then Hilary Rosen's comments about Ann Romney. It seems that everywhere I turn, I'm seeing someone else talking about what it means to be a woman, how much a woman is "worth," and how productive a woman is/isn't to our American society.
The bitter working moms vs stay-at-home-moms is battle is back in the foreground of every magazine or news article or Facebook post.
I'm honestly getting tired of it. I want to take a moment to address all of the women out there in the internet world. So, get a cup of coffee, sit back, and let me talk directly to you for a minute.
Dearest Woman Reader,
I want to get up on the rooftop and scream out a little TobyMac at the top of my lungs in your direction.
"The paparazzi flashes, and that they think that it's you,
But they don't know that who you are is not what you do."
But they don't know that who you are is not what you do."
Guess what, everyone? What you do does not determine your self-worth. You are not MORE of a person because you stay at home with your kids. You are not MORE of a person because you choose to enter into the workforce. Want to know what gives you value? Want to know where your self-worth comes from? Here, let me tell you:
"Being in the image of God the human individual possesses the dignity of a person, who is not just something, but someone. He is capable of self-knowledge, of self-possession and of freely giving himself and entering into communion with other persons. And he is called by grace to a covenant with his Creator, to offer him a response of faith and love that no other creature can give in his stead." Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 357
That's it. That's where your dignity and self-worth come from. You are valuable and worthwhile because you - yes, YOU - have been made in the image and likeness of God the Creator. You are not a something, but a someONE who is, by your very nature, worthy of respect and love and compassion.
Not because you stay home with your kids.
Not because you work full-time.
Not because you have a college degree.
Not because you have oodles of life experience.
Not because of who you are married to.
Not because of the number of kids you have.
Because you were created in the image and likeness of God. You are worthwhile because you exist. You are valuable because you - yes, YOU - reflect God.
You are valuable because you are, not because of what you do.
(Now, I can only speak to the direct experience of being a woman, but please be assured that men, you too have this inherent dignity and self-worth. I'm focusing more on women at the moment because of all the media talk/blitz recently, but do not for one moment think that I see women as more valuable as men. We are equally created in the image of God).
But back to the women. Can we all please stop arguing over who has the "luxury" in life? Let's be totally honest here. It doesn't matter if you stay at home with the kids or if you spend your days in the work force. Neither one is really a luxury, when we're talking about the daily experience.
According to Merriam-Webster, a luxury is:
a condition of abundance or great ease and comfort : sumptuous environment
something adding to pleasure or comfort but not absolutely necessary
Now, maybe I've not worked the "right" out-of-the-home jobs, or maybe my kids are little terrors or something, but I've been on both sides of this debate, and I can state with absolute certainty that neither one meets the true definition of luxury.
Every job choice - whether it is in or out of the home - necessarily requires a sacrifice of some sort. Either you are sacrificing the comfort of added income, or you are sacrificing the time spent with your children. Being a mother requires sacrifice. It requires pain, sweat, and tears. It is not luxurious, by its very nature.
Can it have moments of luxury? Sure!
Can it have moments of sheer bliss? Definitely!
Can there be moments of abundance, great ease, and comfort? Most certainly!
But, by its very nature, motherhood is a vocation that requires service. Fulfilling the vocation of motherhood requires - at the very core - the ability to put someone else's needs in front of your own, and to work for the betterment of that other person.
Motherhood is a blessing. Motherhood is the opportunity to grow in virtue, and with that, to grow closer to Christ. Motherhood is something that I will never ever regret entering into, no matter how hard it may get. The rewards far outweigh the challenges.
But you know what?
It's not luxurious. By assigning that label to one path that motherhood can take (typically, whichever one the person assigning the label does NOT belong to), we are instantly giving it a demotion in value. We instantly move their role in life from the "necessary" to the "excessive."
We have just moved them from valuable and with inherent dignity to unnecessary and disposable.
We need to stop and remind ourselves of the basic fact that who we are is not what we do.
We are valuable because we are His. We are worthwhile because we reflect Him. We - all of us - carry an inherent dignity because we are someONE not someTHING.
It would be good for us all to remember this.
And since TobyMac always makes me feel happier, today I suggest remembering it in song:
With love always,