There’s more to motherhood than mommy and me classes, material must-haves, and play dates with the squad at the park. As Catholics, we carry an eternal perspective to our motherhood. FemCatholic’s Samantha Povlock explains how.
The 5-year plan: get promoted, buy the house, have the baby.
To many young couples, that’s a perfectly reasonable – even expected – plan to have. Everything perfectly planned, and responsibly curated, in order to maximize the experience of having and raising a child.
When the baby finally comes, the pressure multiplies.
“15 best nursery items to help your baby sleep through the night at 6 weeks.”
“These 75 ideas will help you throw the perfect toddler birthday party.”
“Children with these 42 daily habits do the best in school.”
It’s no wonder more and more people are delaying, or altogether avoiding, having kids.
So what’s going on?
Societal Conditioning – to the Max
I think we’ve been conditioned by the world to maximize everything – because we’re lacking an eternal perspective. Without that view of something beyond the here and now, this earthly life is “all there is,” and we have nothing guiding what our priorities should be.
So we feel pressure to maximize our time before kids – to pack in as much travel, career progression, and financial stability as we can before the chaos of parenthood.
We feel pressure to maximize our children – their smarts, capabilities, and success.
And we feel pressure to maximize our time as parents – to fit AS MUCH AS WE POSSIBLY CAN into our parenting toolkits, in order to be the absolute best moms we can possibly be.
We’re like little kids who were told “no more cookies after 8 pm,” so at 7:45 we’re stuffing our faces, trying to consume the whole bag in one sitting.
I don’t know about you, but… my tummy hurts.
When Having it All Means Having Nothing
This push to maximize life and parenting affects women in particular, because of our biology. It’s tough to maximize travel when you’re throwing up every hour with morning sickness. And taking maternity leave, or stepping out of the workforce altogether, can certainly cause disruptions to career advancement.
To put it bluntly: it’s a lot harder for women to “maximize” living in the world while having kids. Motherhood has its roots deeply embedded in something else – something eternal.
Right about now is when we hear secular feminists cry out “injustice!” The fact that women’s biology limits them from maximizing life – this earthly life and all it has to offer – is recognized for the inequality that, frankly, it IS. I think that’s important to acknowledge. The problem is, without an eternal perspective, that injustice never gets redeemed.
The power of our faith, and of the Catholic view of motherhood – is that we’re able to know this redemption.
Catholicism’s Eternal Perspective
Philosopher and author Alice von Hildebrand writes,
One thing is certain: When the time has come, nothing which is man-made will subsist. One day, all human accomplishments will be reduced to a pile of ashes. But every single child to whom a woman has given birth will live forever, for he has been given an immortal soul made to God’s image and likeness.
It’s an important reminder – that every single human being is going to live forever, and the work we do to bear and raise kids – that’s work that has value not just right now, but for all eternity.
This reminder isn’t just for biological mamas, either. It’s a reminder for spiritual mothers, too.
A woman by her very nature is maternal — for every woman, whether … married or unmarried, is called upon to be a biological, psychological or spiritual mother,” writes von Hildebrand. “She knows intuitively that to give, to nurture, to care for others, to suffer with and for them — for maternity implies suffering — is infinitely more valuable in God’s sight than to conquer nations and fly to the moon.
Any time we care for others – whether our physical or spiritual children – we’re leaning into our call to Catholic motherhood. Unlike the motherhood portrayed in the world, it’s not about maximizing our lives and our children and ourselves to do “all the things” and achieve the perfect mix in life. Catholic motherhood is about responding to your vocation, the path to which God has called you to become perfectly holy, so you can live with Him in Heaven for all eternity.
This eternal perspective on motherhood is incredibly freeing. It can be a reminder that each and every prenatal appointment, or diaper change, or kid conversation, contributes to a human person’s development into a Saint. These moments are not spent “failing to achieve” a better or more successful life, they’re spent pouring ourselves into an eternal soul.
Fathers are called to love and serve their children, too, but even the Pope acknowledged these demands weigh particularly on women.
Although both of them together are parents of their child, the woman’s motherhood constitutes a special “part” in this shared parenthood, and the most demanding part,” Pope John Paul II wrote. “Parenthood – even though it belongs to both – is realized much more fully in the woman, especially in the prenatal period. It is the woman who “pays” directly for this shared generation, which literally absorbs the energies of her body and soul. It is therefore necessary that the man be fully aware that in their shared parenthood he owes a special debt to the woman.
A Catholic view of motherhood recognizes the incredible sacrifices women make for their families. In a worldview without any sense of the eternal, this disparity between men and women seems like a cruel biological injustice. But in our faith we find the truth – that these sacrifices do not go unnoticed. In fact, they are the very currency of love that will live on in eternal life.
As St. Thérèse of Lisieux says, “The world’s thy ship and not thy home.”