Friday, April 27, 2012

The Mother's Dilemma

Because I've been slacking this whole week on my Bright Maiden post, I've decided to double it as my 7 Quick Takes for the week! YEAH!


TBM Topic 33: Stay-At-Home vs. Working Mothers

"The Mother's Dilemma" by Julie Robison
"On Motherhood" by Trista at Not a Minx, Moron, or a Parasite
Elizabeth at Startling the Day

We three are from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. We're here to dispel the myths and misconceptions- please join us for the discussion on Facebook and Twitter!


The first thing I think about my childhood is chocolate chip ice cream cones, us kids running through the sprinkler, and my mom wearing a headband and swimsuit while she sat in the sun, watching us and reading. What was she reading, you ask?

Oh, you know. The norm. Her cancer research.

Ironic, I know.

My mom is an oncology clinical nurse specialist - that is, an educator, a researcher, article writer, book editor, and well-beloved member of the hospital she's worked at for most of my life.

My mom has also been a Brownie leader, Cub Scout mom, volleyball and soccer coach, a good-enough cook, eater and maker of anything involving chocolate, a good listener, too fair of a judge, encouraging card writer, presents just because buyer, and mom to six kids.

These six kids:

We're the kids your mom probably warned you about


My mom is super woman. My Dad has had to ask that she not head up so many committees because she keeps getting elected to lead organizations. She was "Woman of the Year" at our high school alma mater, Employee of the Year (twice!) at her hospital, and this year she was nominated for "Healthcare Hero" from her hospital, in a city-wide event.

My mom comes from a family where most women are stay-at-home moms, and she definitely forged her own path. She gave up going to medical school so that she could have more scheule flexibility, since she and Dad wanted lots of kids so she could make us dress in matching outfits for pictures. (See below.)

Christmas card!


This choice to work has had its perks and downfalls, but I certainly cannot imagine our family life without my mother working as she does. She's a role model in how to deal with tricky situations, time management, multi-tasking, and keeping cheerful when the going gets tough. With so many kids, Mom has really been able to help out the family financially. It also provides an outlet for her to receive outside appreciation in an area where she truly excels.

Mom in her makeshift office during hospital renovations
All woman need this kind of outlet: my maternal grandmother is hostess, flower-arranger, tennis player, and thoughtfulness unlimited extraordinaire. One aunt is a speech pathologist and professor; she is also amazing at sewing and handmade most costumes for her two girls, which were consequently passed down to us six (and held up well!).

Another aunt paints and takes wonderful pictures, which is a skill she's able to contribute to a cancer non-profit she volunteers with. A couple aunts stay at home with their kids and are active at their schools. A couple more work full-time.

All the women in my life have been amazing inspirations for me, and are wonderful at what they do, and this is where I have a beef with this "debate" about women in the work force.


There are as many types of mothers as there are children. My mother, for instance, could not work the way she does if she had a special-needs child. My mother could not have worked as she did when we were younger if my parents could not have afforded extra help. My mother might have had to work more if my father was unemployed, deceased, or not around. My mother may also prefer to work so as to better handle her children's shenanigans (pure conjecture).

We don't have special needs, we're just "special"...
My mother is not a stay-at-home mom. She decorates the house for every major and minor holiday, is constantly organizing, and pushes through enough loads of laundry a week to keep her active children clothed. She's never been much of a cook, but she learned and keeps us kids healthy. As much as she loves us, she loves work too. Moreover, she never neglected us and always makes us feel loved. Just because one woman stays home with her kids, it does not diminish another mother's out-of-home pursuits.

Moreover, working women is not a "new phenomena." Women have been putting in their fair share since cave men needed to cook the water buffalo they brought down. So is the question more about equality?

When people say women are being "kept down" because they don't get paid as much as men, I wonder where those numbers are coming from: is this an apples and oranges comparison? Are different jobs being compared or are men and women working the same job and not being paid the same? (Or is it both?)

Nevertheless, if women's power is only showed through a paycheck or a work title, then women are being under-sold and under appreciated.

It must be difficult for a woman to feel she is a competent partner to her husband if she herself does not see her work at home as worthwhile. The marriage partnership between men and women cannot be had without mutual understanding, a willingness to pitch in and listen, respect of self and others, and love. It has nothing to do with how many times a person made dinner verses how many times the other person mowed the lawn.

In my life time, I have seen mostly scorn towards the idea of a woman staying home with her children. But isn't that like teaching? And isn't teaching a worthwhile venture? The formation of little minds and souls? To overemphasize a woman's need to be fruitful outside the home diminishes all efforts done within it. Women are so much more than their job title, and motherhood is more than bearing and raising children.


As I prepare for marriage, I'm in the midst of planning: planning a wedding, planning a move out of my parents' house, planning another move out of the state for B.'s residency (starting 6 or so months after the wedding), planning family finances, and planning for grad school.

I'm also planning and praying about working. I'm not convinced the stay at home without working life is for me, nor would I like to have a time-consuming job outside the home with little ones underfoot.

Most of us in super-hot Tennessee
Women have an awesome opportunity to kick "typical" to the curb and try their hand at new adventures. While men have the duty and responsibility to provide for their family, women have the opportunity to create a home. This home will be run according for the parents, their needs and desires, rooted ultimately in the best they can offer their children.

If the woman works outside the home, the family will function as such.
If the woman works in the home, the family will function as such.
If the woman's work is the home, the family will function as such.

There is no right answer when it comes to one's vocation, as long as it is properly aligned with God and your loved ones.


I'm excited to be a mom. One way I'm inadvertently preparing for this is my part-time babysitting job for a neighboring family. The mom works from home, and I am so glad I get to help their little unit function well. I get to dress her kids, play with her kids, feed her kids, and cart them around. I know she loves to do that too, but I know it's also nice to have a break, get some work done, go to an exercise class, get lunch with her mom, and spend time with friends.

In this life balance we seek, kids are only a burden to the unimaginative. Motherhood is a special role only women can fill and it is in our feminine genius to discern how best to serve one's family in that way. If physical motherhood is not attainable for women (for those called to a religious or chaste single life), then spiritual motherhood is, by being a kind woman children can look up to, other adults can respect, and that awesome aunt kids love to have.

Nothing in this life is less clear-clear cut or for the faint of heart, but being a Mom is certainly the most important job that no one can properly label.

Aunts, Grandmother, Mother: real-life feminine geniuses
What are your thoughts on motherhood and working?

(Thanks to Jen for hosting!)


  1. Number seven is the point I'm at right now. I literally can't think of anything more important than becoming a mom. I want a child. I want to nurture, love, protect and teach my little one. Hopefully soon God will bless us!

    God Bless you as you plan the wedding and move!!

    1. Thank you so much! Yes, I think it's definitely a role we all are learning to adapt into, with every life experience. I'm more and more convinced at home much little people watch big people and are thus shaped.

  2. Great post! I'm at a time now where I feel that I really need to consider how I'm going to bring up future children.

    One thing I realized in my own life is that whether or not the mother works or stays at home with the kids can really influence a child's own life. For years my mom was a stay-at-home mom, but when she started working again life was very different for my sister and I. One particular babysitter I thought of as my second mom, and once I actually called her "mommy" in the presence of my real mom, I think it hurt her.

    The most important thing though I think is that working moms be very, very careful about who they decide to let babysit their kids. I think it's best that it stay within the family, with a grandparent, preferably. I realize looking back that babysitters, especially those in the 14-19 age range, taught me and showed me a lot of things I shouldn't have seen at such a young age, just by the music, movies, and tv that they were accustomed to.

    Just something to consider as well. God bless you all in your future motherhoods!

    1. Agreed. My nanny became my second mom, since we had a close relationship since I was 4 years old (and still do). That said, she had VERY different parenting ideas than my family, and let me get away with things that my parents definitely disapproved of.

      Also, when you hire a (long-term) babysitter, you are inviting their spouse and relatives into your family's life as well. Just something else to keep in mind.

  3. Your mom sounds incredible. Can she be my role-model? Now I am not so afraid to post my current thoughts on this matter (coming soon, I promise.)

  4. All great thoughts! As I sit here seven months pregnant with my first child and finishing my last Siegel paper, I don't regret even a little my decision to finish college. Being a mother doesn't just mean nursing and laundry (though it does mean those things). It also means creating a home, which means showing my children--boys and girls--how to be creative with the talents God has blessed them with.

    I recently heard of a sad conversation a friend had with a prof's wife where she confessed that she was worried about marriage because she thought it would stifle her creativity. The woman told her that rather than stifling her, marriage was traditionally intended to allow women to fill roles that men in their calling to provide can't always fill. Like visiting shut ins, helping at homeless shelters and women's care centers, and yes, furthering your education. The vision of the stay at home mom that so many people have as the woman who sits around eating bon bons while children frolic has lost sight of what it truly means to be a mother who cares creatively and well. Thanks for a good post!

  5. Wow, your mom sounds amazing! I'm a bit intimidated...

    Your mom's attitude sounds like it made a big impact. The mom who enjoys her work has a different effect on the kids than one who resents having to drag herself to work everyday.

    Pregnant and trying to beat the baby clock to finish grad school, I'm looking forward to being a SAHM at first. It's reassuring to know that these labels aren't permanent, and women today have more flexibility to scale their work commitments to be in sync with their families' needs.

  6. How I wish I could be like your mom a super mom. I love the closeness of your family, how I wish all family in the world like yours a happy one.

  7. I think women now a days are super women in their fields of interest and activities like men do. Women like men were active in their lifestyle and physical health.