First I would like to welcome you to my online reading of Momnipotent: The Not-So-Perfect Woman’s Guide to Catholic Motherhood. I am ready to dive right in and share my thoughts with you. I am sharing my reaction and feelings to the book. I don’t think everywomen has had the same experience as me or will come to the same conclusions as myself. We are all unique in our experiences, but our “feminine genius” unites us.
I have been a mom for 13 years now and for most of that time I have been struggling with my identity as a Catholic woman, wife, and mother. I have all too often uttered the words that Danielle Bean didn’t dare utter, “I am not happy. I hate this life. I want to give up!” During those times I didn’t feel like I had anywhere to turn and I was sinking fast. No mom wants to admit those deep dark feelings, but they come when we are weak and tired. It is not so easy to find comfort in the secular world. Even if you go to church seeking the comfort of another mother, I think we are often intimidated by everyone looking like they have their act together. The good news is, those moments pass and there is such joy and peace to find in motherhood. I am on a motherhood high right now. I feel the joy and peace of being right where God wants me to be. I am so thankful to writers like Danielle Bean who tackle the subject of Motherhood. I am thankful to you who are reading (and hopefully commenting) that we can be a source of comfort to one another during the dark times.
Let’s start with the title of this book, Momnipotence. Danielle Bean defines Momnipotence as “a special charism that all moms have. Momnipotence is the special array of gifts given by God-lived out in particular through the vocation of motherhood-that blesses our families and the world.” I know I always need reminders like this, that God has given me a special array of gifts to carry out my vocation to motherhood. Yet there are many times when I don’t feel like I am even equipped for the job. I am thankful for the gift of knowing there is a God and He will walk with me on this journey.
After reading this chapter, I was overwhelmingly struck with gratitude for another woman putting into words how I felt. I am from the sesame street generation. I received the messages that subtly and not so subtly degraded motherhood. I was told that I could be anything I wanted to be. I was told that I could have it all. I believed it all, hook line and sinker!
When I was four years old I decided I would go to Harvard and become a doctor. I watched Sesame Street as a kid and I am sure that I listened to the song that the author, Danielle Bean, referred to. All through elementary school, junior high and high school I worked toward my goal of medical school. During that time I looked at motherhood and marriage as obstacles to accomplishing my goal. Not only were they obstacles, but it was ingrained in me that they were beneath women and completely oppressive. I was empowered to never be oppressed by a man. Never rely on them and be completely self sufficient.
I went off to college with this sense of feminism to conquer the world. At the same time I left for college, God was calling me to His Church. As I became more interested in being Catholic, I was sure the Church was backward on all of its “rules” about women (sex before marriage, abortion, the pill, having a large family, gay people, etc). I started off being the cafeteria Catholic because I knew the Church needed to modernize and would come around to my way of thinking. I am soooo laughing at myself right now.
Then the summer before my junior in college I met my husband to be. He was a devout Catholic man struggling himself with the world view of women too. As we dated, there was a welling in me that was calling me to marriage and motherhood. It was completely biological. At first I took on the mindset that, I could have it all. I could go to medical school, marry my love and eventually when the time was right have children. My future husband was supportive, but when I talked to medical students and learned the rigors and time demanded of them, I couldn’t see how I could have it all. I felt like a failure. I couldn’t have the happy marriage/children and pursue a medical degree. I had to decide which was more important. I was tormented inside.
Thankfully for myself, I was seeking God and the love that only He could give. For the first time in my life I felt God’s divine love and sought to understand the church. I started to see the beauty of God’s plan for me. I couldn’t explain it to my family or friends, but I knew that I needed to give up my dream of a doctor and marry my college sweetheart. It meant exploring different jobs and taking on a new role in my life. People were shocked and stunned, but inside there was peace and joy.
A year after I graduated college, I married my college sweetheart. We were only 23. Many family members thought we were crazy, but we were following God’s plan in our lives. I was working for a pharmaceutical company putting my degree to work. As we talked about when we would be open to starting a family, another biological urge welled in me. I wanted a family. I wanted to kids and somehow I knew that I needed to be their primary care taker (yikes, a stay at home Mom!!). I went back and got my teaching credential thinking that a job in teaching would give me the flexibility I needed. (I was still determined to be a career women and take care of my kids.) Yet, the thought of working and being a mother divided me. My husband thought I was crazy and quickly pointed out he didn’t make enough money to support a family. Three years after we got married I was pregnant. Seeing those 2 lines on the pregnancy test brought so much joy, excitement, and even fear. I looked my husband in the eye and said, I have to be a stay at home mom. He laughed nervously. I prayed. Two weeks later he got a job that was equal to both of our salaries.
Now, can you imagine me explaining to family and friends that I wouldn’t go back to work after I had the baby. This was the girl that dreamed of being a doctor, decided on a lesser career of being a teacher (a women’s profession), and now was going to enter the world of stay at home mom. I have had family members tell me that I wasted of time and money going to college. All my potential was wasted in their eyes. I had even felt like I let down the pioneer feminist who paved the way for me to attend college and aspire to be a doctor. I was pulled in two directions. I had the peace of entering motherhood knowing I would be staying home with my child and I felt the disappointment of the modern world that made me feel like I had betrayed all the women who forged the way for me to be a successful, career women.
I would like to report that I was strong enough to shut out the world and sailed off into the sunset happy and fully content with my decision. Instead, it was been a roller coaster ride of emotions. Some days I have been happy and content and other days I seconded guessed my decision. Not many of my friends or family at the time were stay at home moms and it has been lonely and isolating at times. The street I live on was empty during the day and I didn’t have many people to share in my journey. All I had was God’s call and a biological drive to be the best mother in the world. So I set out on the journey searching for the truth about being a mom.
Can’t wait to hear your stories and comments.