Wednesday, April 29, 2015
Saint Gianna Molla: A Working Catholic Mom
St. Gianna lived from 1922 to 1965 in Italy and was a wife, mother, and pediatrician. She is best known for sacrificing her life so her baby could live when medical complications arose during her pregnancy with her 4th child. Her beautiful, selfless, and loving act has made her a patron for the pro-life movement in a world that often promotes death and selfishness. However, there is another reason that St. Gianna is a wonderful saint for our times. St. Gianna was a working mother.
In U.S. society in general, stay-at home parents often feel misunderstood and judged. People can treat them like the life they chose is somehow less important, oppressive; a waste of talents and intellect. Of course being a stay at home parent is none of these things. (I say parent instead of mom because my husband is currently a proud stay at home dad!) It is a beautiful vocation and a choice that should be celebrated, not maligned. However, I think it is important to realize that there is another side of the coin.
As a working mom who runs in a more conservative Catholic circle, I am often the one who feels out of place, like I'm not good enough, like I've chosen the lesser path. While I am blessed that none of my stay at home mom friends have done anything to make me feel this way, the comparisons and jealousy that sometimes come from myself can often make the mommy guilt run high. And trust me, the people who go out of their way to make working mothers feel inadequate are out there. While I haven't personally met one face to face, I have met them online. A while back I joined a facebook group of Catholic women who were supposed to be sharing cooking and housekeeping tips. While most of the women were fine, I did run into someone who felt that it was her duty as a Christian, (her words), to ask working mothers how they could be so selfish to abandon their families to work, and asserted that the only acceptable reason for a mother to work was if her husband passed away. Needless to say, that was not a group I felt I could stay in.
Due to situations like this, working mothers who run in more conservative circles often feel they need to justify their decision by explaining that they need to work due to their family's financial situation. While there are many families that are in this situation, it is not necessary to be in this situation to make it okay for a mother to work. God does call some women to a career outside the house. And is it really fair to make a woman reveal her family's personal financial information to justify the choices she makes for herself and her family? Trust me, working Catholic mothers, all working mothers, struggle with the guilt that comes from trying to balance family and work life enough on our own, we don't need anyone else's help in that area!
So a word of encouragement working Catholic moms - being a working mother is not a sin, you do not need to take it to the confessional! Remember that godly women come in all shapes and sizes, including working mothers like St. Gianna. And St. Gianna didn't have just any job, she had a demanding career as a physician! You can serve God both at home and in your career. When things get tough, when the work/home balance is out of whack, when the mommy guilt runs high, ask for her intercession. I plan on putting her picture up in my home office along with other saints, like St. Josemaria Escriva, who taught about serving God through our daily work. I also recommend that among the many wonderful Catholic family blogs out there written by stay at home and/or homeschooling moms, to add blogs like The Working Catholic Mom and 8 Kids and a Business to your list of blogs to follow. And to those stay at home moms, please, instead of tearing these women down, lift them up. Befriend them, welcome them, plan some get togethers and play dates at times when they can join you, help them when work gets crazy by offering to babysit, pick kids up, or even to help with housework and meals. Reassure them that working in and of itself does not make them a bad mother. Give them prayers and words of love and encouragement, trust me, we need it!
A couple other saints that were working Catholic moms:
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton - Mother of 5, teacher, and founder of the first Catholic school in the United States. (Also going in my office, I am a teacher after all!)
Bl. Zelie Martin - Mother of 9, (including St. Therese of Liseux), had a successful lacemaking business.
If you know any other saints who were working Catholic moms, or have any advice about how to balance work and motherhood, please put it in the comments!
St. Gianna, St. Elizabeth, and Bl. Zelie, pray for us!