Maybe, just maybe, God calls mothers to different stations in life for the benefit of their souls. Maybe I benefit from working outside the home because God know it’s the best way for me to provide for my family since I have more earning potential than my husband. Maybe it would be a temptation to spiritual pride if I was a SAHM (pretty sure it would be. Like 100% sure, because I know me…) Maybe the searing pain I felt for the vast majority of my working years – the anger and jealousy that I couldn’t stay home with my newborns – gave birth to an understanding between me and God that I was squandering the opportunity He was giving me to embrace where He has me “right now,” versus pining over what I thought was best for me, at the time. I slammed the door to holiness in His face, every day, as the opportunity for embracing my Cross of being a working mom was wasted. I spent many years being angry, bitter, and sad. In part, it was resentment that my husband couldn’t find better work, so it made me angry and resentful towards him. In that respect, it drove a wedge into our marriage. In part, it was because I kept reading on the internet (usually in the swampy muckiness of the comboxes) that anything but being a SAHM would irreparably harm not only my soul, but the souls of my kids.
It took me a long time – many years of prayer and a veritable ocean of tears – but gradually I realized that throughout history, the path to sainthood has looked different for every saint. There was no one path for them; why should I believe there is only one path for me? I looked back at the mothers of saints: St. Catherine of Siena’s mother helped her husband run the family business out of their home. They had over 20 kids, and one of them was one of the most dynamic saints in history. St. Gianna was a wife, mom, and physician, and her husband travelled often for work. Assunta Goretti, the mother of St. Maria Goretti, worked in the field alongside her sharecropper husband while Maria tended to the food and the kids. St. Zelie ran a lace-making business from home, and her daughters all became nuns. Oh, and one of them is pretty much a worldwide phenom saint. Many of these women had domestic help (yeahhh I don’t have that) or extended family to help them as well. There was no one path to their sanctity, no magical formula for sainthood success – other than prayer, sacrifice, and the desire to be a saint. So that got me thinking further…maybe there’s a radical idea at play here. Maybe God created each of us with different gifts, talents, and strengths. And maybe He crafted our families just so, with health challenges and income potential and educational needs and personality traits all orchestrated to help each of us sanctify each other.
Maybe I’d prefer to stay home with my kids, but since financially it has not nor will it likely be an option, the sacrifices I make to work outside the home are what will help sanctify my family. Maybe my friend, who loves her job in a local school district administration and helping teachers, administrators, and parents work together for the betterment of students is what helps her be a less frazzled, more focused mother when she gets home – all because she knows herself and knows that psychologically for her own family situation, she’s a better mother because she works. Maybe my SAHM friend is a world-class home economist and works magic with the family budget to enable her to stay home and use her A-Game organizational skills to homeschool her children via a co-op, because she knows that full-time homeschooling would send her back into crippling depression.
You know what? If we lived in a perfect world, an unfallen world, a sin-free world, we’d all be a lot better off. But we don’t live in that world, and we don’t live in a society that makes it easier on families. We live in a culture where a variety of temperaments, talents, financial hardships, juggling, and health issues meet head on with the problem of sin and failure, and the result is a world where there is never any guarantee that your choice of schooling, feeding, income method, or other parenting decision will ensure that your kids will be perfect or never leave the Faith. We can and should all prayerfully discern what works best for our families. We make the best decisions we can at the time, with the best information we have at the time.
I see you, mama. I see you working hard to do right by your kids, whether at home or in the workforce, and I want you to know even though this is rough, you’re not alone. Keep your eyes on Jesus. He won’t steer you wrong. And never, ever stop praying.