Mom on the workforce

Mom-at-work

Recently, I’ve come across a surge of debates that address the issue of a Catholic mother staying at home vs. working outside of the home, taking on the form of either digital article or social media. The abridged version of proponents of each side tends to go as follows:

“The Catholic mother should never, under any circumstance, work outside of the home. Their children are too important.”
“You don’t understand our specific circumstance.”
“I don’t care what your specific circumstance is. Here is a quote by a prominent Catholic author supporting me.”
“Well here’s a quote by a prominent Catholic author that supports me.”

The reason I’m touching on this is because it’s become a topic that has become very near and dear to my heart as a Catholic working man with a wife who works outside of the home and a toddler at home. First, I want to emphasize that my own mother was a stay at home mom. While that is hardly a unique thing to anyone who was born in the early 1980’s or prior, I want to preface that point for the purposes of understanding my views on mothers who do not work outside the home. My father spent months apart from us in the army either being deployed or sleeping during hours that we were awake and working when we were asleep. This meant that my mother had to single handedly raise my brother and I, and looking back in hindsight, as well as being a father of just one child myself, I wholeheartedly empathize with the unbelievably hard work and, very literally, the blood, sweat, and tears that can come from this. In a country where civil servants are all put on a pedestal (and very rightfully so), still, nobody deserves more honor and praise than the mom who takes care of her children at home full time.

Having said this, the danger presents itself when one side puts the other into a monolith which tends to fall on those arguing that, under no circumstance, should a mother ever work outside of the home, lest she start placing career above children, not educating her children properly, valuing wealth too much, and placing happiness in everything except their family. Are we to believe that all working mothers, my wife included, have never taken these thoughts into consideration or made adjustments to minimize these impacts and that in many situations, if they had the option to, they would not choose another course of action? This monolith gives no regards to not only church history, but also the individual circumstance and hardships that might befall a family.

For example, some of the most common arguments I’ve personally heard from friends, social media, and online articles for mothers who want to work outside of the home include the lack of prioritization of happiness, a lack of desire for a proper home education for their children, the temporal nature of a secular job and currency, and the placement of professional work above parental work.  All of these arguments meant to blanket cover all working moms who selfishly have no desire whatsoever to stay at home with their children and raise a society full of virtuous and upstanding future members of society who will honor God to their fullest extent. Clearly, every single Catholic mom working outside of the home is too busy counting the one hundred dollar bills from their paycheck, anxiously staring at their phone for their next lucrative promotion, and logging onto Amazon to purchase their next overpriced business attire for the next meeting, to pay attention to the wellbeing of their children at home.

Now that’s not to say that this type of attitude doesn’t exist with some working moms and to say otherwise would be completely absurd. I know couples who could live very comfortably off of the father’s income through their own admission, and the mother still chooses to work what some would consider inhumane hours just to further her career. This is an entirely different conversation.

The truth is that when someone, such as myself, justifies my wife not being at home full time by saying “our budget just doesn’t allow her to do so”, the proponent of the stay at home or bust approach immediately shifts their tactic to “Budget? Money? Let me educate you on what you need to improve morally and financially” and copiously starts to educate that person on personal purchases that should not have been made, the value of the child being with their mother full time, the depravities of worldly materials, and the disservice being done to that child, all the while knowing absolutely nothing about the individual circumstances that require dual incomes.

As a quick example, a personal friend of mine who is a very devout Catholic, came into a situation where his wife who had stayed home with her two children for 9 years, announced on social media that she was returning to work after all of this time. Three specific comments I remember her receiving were “Don’t you think you’re doing your kids a disservice?”, “Don’t do it. Nothing is worth the value you bring to being home with your kids”, and “You’ll regret it. Your children’s future is immeasurable compared to any earthly thing you might be going back for. You’re better than this.” She was horrified and felt like the worst mother on earth. What they didn’t know, is that one of their children was suffering from a very personal health issue that her husband’s health insurance would not cover and despite their countless days of research, the only way to afford the expenses to keep her child alive, was for her to return to the workforce.

The need for mothers to be at home with their children is immeasurable. Indeed, one could even go as far as to say that we might live in a completely different world with much more virtuous young generations than the self-entitled individuals we are seeing today. However, the presumptuous nature of offering guilt-trip advice to mothers who are already feeling the heartache of having no choice but to leave their children to start their shift is not helping. If women were theologically and morally banned from the workforce, Pope Pius XI would not have stressed the importance of women working in his encyclical Casti Connubii, while taking great care to simultaneously forbid those from placing work as priority over their children and spouses. The problem becomes when people presumptuously and arrogantly argue that simply working at all is placing the spouse and child on the bottom of the priority list. The church has made it very clear throughout the centuries that there is a very crucial distinction that tends to be overlooked in arrogance. If this were not the case, the Catholic Church would not have canonized Saint Gianna Beretta Molla who worked as a physician while raising a family and ultimately gave her life so that her fourth child would survive birth in direct opposition to the pro-choice culture of death we currently live in today.

Saint Gianna Beretta Molla

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