Feminist ideals have insinuated themselves in the minds of Catholic women in many areas of life. Many find that while they say they are staunchly pro-life, they have a growing sympathy for the use of contraception or even a contraceptive attitude toward NFP. Or, how many women are trained and inclined to find clothes for themselves that are fashionable, attractive, or on the sexy side rather than clothes that are dignified, beautiful and modest. Egalitarianism has also seemed to overshadow a proper Catholic understanding of social concerns like; familial hierarchy, the just wage, knowing how to properly relate to men (and women for that matter) and rearing children.
A key area where feminism has really seemed to infiltrate nearly unnoticed for good Catholic women is in home-making, the traditional and historical realm of a woman’s competency. A good many public or private school educated, college grad, Catholic women find those first few years of home life more difficult than they had expected. There are those who can put off this unpleasant experience by working until the first little one comes along, then the decision to be home comes up again. Does she go back to work? For all married women, this being home comes up. These women have been out of the home nearly all day, every day since they were five years old entering Kindergarten. This being home is very, very different from anything they have known previously. They can straddle the fence and just be very active and involved in a million and one “good things” outside the home and still run the home, but on observation it seems that this produces pretty unrealistic expectations on the mom and continued dissatisfaction in home life for the whole family. The world surrounds and fills one’s life with distractions. These distractions help numb from some pain and distract from carry ones cross, but then a woman is also numbed and distracted from the Resurrection; here the resurrection of one’s true gift of womanhood.
So a woman chooses to be a homemaker. She decides to embrace caring for family and home, at home, and be dedicated to it. Even for the woman that chooses this wonderful vocation those first few years are tough. It requires a shaking off of so many ideas and influences that she has been programmed to have. It requires self training in being person oriented instead of task oriented. It requires re-learning and re-feeling what a wonderful thing it is to be a woman. She must re-form herself to be reacquainted with feminine qualities that should, but have not previously, come naturally. Alice Von Hildebrand, in her book The Privilege of Being a Woman , illustrates this natural tendency of women to be person rather than thing or task oriented, by imagining a scene where in a room there is a baby in a bassinette on one side and a new computer on the other. As a crowd enters the room the men will almost inevitably be drawn to the new computer and women to the baby. It would be interesting to set up this scenario now, and see if there is a modern shift in the results.
St. Paul says to “put on the new man”. For men, the action of conversion is in the willful taking on of an ideal outside of himself. For a woman, it is not exactly the same. It is more a matter of allowing the natural maternal and nurturing qualities to be felt and purified by grace. Perhaps, however, for those thus tainted by feminism, conversion will actually require a “putting on of the new woman” first before it becomes natural. Holding the ideal woman, Our Blessed Mother, before the mind’s eye and being truly dedicated to imitating her is of great importance, along with trusting that God’s grace will be provided for this good work of the soul.
Now the fun starts. Now, after the hard and strong decision has been made to be home, to be home loving, and regain true femininity, the mists diminish and little things that once sounded like unfamiliar mysteries in old novels start to make sense. Honing in on these new treasures, a woman unpacks and enjoys a new interior yet ageless wealth of quiet yet kindled joy. It’s as if veils have been lifted and the once mundane becomes extraordinary. The hard work of sometimes taking “self” by the throat and practicing willful submission to a husband, paradoxically gains a woman such respect and confidence from her husband that he gives her the look that says “You make me want to be a better man.” The old task, of doing the dishes, becomes a “happy place” of warmth, cleanliness and reflection. Teaching ones child to read becomes an opportunity to take a peek into the window of another humans mind. Doing laundry becomes a way to tend to the dignity of the people in the home. The preparation and little touches one makes to the living room to provide for a comfortable, beautiful place to be together offers an indescribable sense of welcome, peace, love and security. At home, the monastic practice of anticipating a brother’s need can be brought to another level to even anticipating a family’s innocent wants. What mysterious fulfillment! Discipline needs to keep one doing ones duty, but in the duty’s can be found a veritable fairy land. What hope may women have of a full and fulfilling life in this world and the next by an embracing of true Catholic womanhood!