By Sarah McDonald, NOLACatholicParenting.org
There have been a great many revelations, incidents and trends over the past two years that I have watched with shock and awe, and, honestly, horror. There has been so much that has made me want to take my precious little ones, true blessings from God, and hide them away from the big, scary world. It really hit home one night when, as we finished watching something on television and the evening news came on, my oldest son said, “Time to change the channel, Mom. The bad news is on.”
We have five children, three boys and two girls, and I, like any normal parent, worry about their futures. I am blessed to have an amazing, Catholic husband whose devotion to God, his family and me I never doubt. I am confident that we, together, will guide our boys to grow in faith to be Catholic gentlemen. In truth, I worry more about my daughters.
In today’s society, it seems that we are losing an appreciation for authentic femininity. It seems to me that the movement is to be more, but more of what?
In a quest that originates with a pursuit of justice, a real and valuable truth, we have lost respect for who we are as women and what we have to offer society through our perspective. In a battle to fight objectification of women, women are objectifying themselves. In a battle to be seen as strong, women have shunned manners and common decency and traded it for vulgarity. That is not who I am and not who I want my daughters to grow up to be.
I want my daughters to grow up to know that they are enough as women, that they do not have to try to be a man or beat a man to be successful. I want my daughters to embrace their gifts and talents and work for a better world. I want my daughters to know and understand who they are. I want my daughters to grow into their best selves. How do I do this?
The answers are found in our faith. Our Catholic faith, built on Jesus Christ’s teachings and supported and witnessed by women throughout history, will guide me. Our faith teaches us that we are made in the image and likeness of God and that we have inherent value that should be respected. Our faith teaches us the dignity of all life. Our faith teaches us care and respect for all creation. Catholicism illustrates for us the beautiful relationship between faith, science and reason. Our Catholic faith is the key to reclaiming authentic femininity for my daughters and in society.
Edith Stein, known as St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, is one of my go-tos regarding authentic femininity. If you have never read her work, I highly recommend it.
She wrote: “Women naturally seek to embrace that which is living, personal and whole. To cherish, guard, protect, nourish, advance growth is her natural maternal yearning. … The maternal gift allows woman to take interest and empathise in areas far from her own interest.”
I do not take this to mean that every woman should be home raising children. After all, Edith was a religious sister of the Carmelite Order. I do take this to mean that this perspective, this womanly way of matriculating through the world, can and should be brought into every aspect of our lives. Whether this means a woman chooses to stay home with her children or chooses to be a neuroscientist, each can be approached from her unique perspective as a woman, not trying to be anything more.
Some who read this might smirk, but I know that it is my faith and my striving to live authentically as a woman that have gotten me through life. My Catholic family life and education have formed me into a professional, working mom of five. I am blessed with a love-filled, family life and fulfilling professional life where I am respected and successful in what many would think was quite a masculine-dominated place.
I pray that my example and the example of so many other women and the saints like Edith, who have gone before us, show my daughters that you can be a lady and a mom and a professional and whatever you choose to be, without sacrificing your femininity and that they too, one day will embrace authentic feminism.
Sarah McDonald is a wife and mother living with her family of seven in Metairie. Professionally, she works as Director of Communications for the Archdiocese of New Orleans.