My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,
Mother’s Day is a civil celebration with deep religious roots. It is a day to honor those who are our mothers. Honoring our mothers is important, not only in our civil society but also in our Church. Cards, flowers, candy, jewelry and other gifts are all marks of respect for those who are mothers of children. It is probably more important that the societal attitudes and policies that affect motherhood and maternity should reflect the same kind of respect for mothers.
Recently, I read an article entitled, “Should Mothers’ Labor Force Participation Be a Policy Goal?” This article discussed a report by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), regarding female participation in the work force. The report focused on Australia as an example of public policy regarding family-leave support and the place of women in the workplace. The crux of the article was this: “The OECD identified stay-at-home moms as ‘the greatest untapped potential’ in Australia’s workforce and worried about potential ‘large losses to the economy’ because of mothers’ decisions to stay home or work part-time. But before making an increase in women’s labor force participation a primary policy goal, it is important to consider women’s disproportionate share in the work of child and elder care, as well as in civil society institutions like places of worship and PTO’s (Parent Teacher Organizations).”
The tone of the article certainly is one which seems to portray women as somehow the property of the state and having them in the workforce as an economic advantage. The second section of the article, because the article was written from a Christian point of view, is entitled “Child and Elder Care” and gives another side of the story, pointing out the importance of women’s work in the home, in childcare, and eldercare. The article contends that women’s participation in places of worship and other non-profit organizations must also be considered.
For example, in the past it was mostly mothers who were catechists in our parishes. Today, however, we have such a difficult time recruiting catechists because most women are in the workforce and cannot teach religion after school or even on Saturdays and Sundays. They have so many personal and household responsibilities to take care of each week. We recognize that women carry the great burden of our society.
Fortunately, today there are some cultural changes where the husband and wife share the messy household chores that once were only the responsibility of the woman. Newly married couples understand this and are able to make accommodations for each other. At the same time, we must be careful that our public policies do not take away from the value of motherhood in our society. We know already about the great problem of abortion which becomes, unfortunately, almost a means of contraception for many women and a difficult decision made in desperation by many. Again, it is our societal attitudes towards the support perhaps of so-called “unwanted children” that make women make such a terrible decision.
We must look at the unique feminine contribution into our society, especially that of motherhood which truly needs the support of a stable marriage. How difficult it is today to find marriages for which couples are well prepared. It seems today that the preparation for marriage is cohabitation for many, which seems to give couples the freedom to enter in and out of these relationships. For many, once they do marry those marriages experience difficulties and breakups because the couple cannot deal with the commitment necessary for marriage. All of these and temporary commitment problems do come from a misunderstanding of the fundamental place of marriage in society, the union of a man and a woman that makes marriage what it is. All other attempts to redefine marriage will not bring about the respect for maternity that is so important to our Church and to our society.
As we celebrate Mother’s Day this year, we can find no better example of motherhood than that of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who at the Annunciation, not knowing the future nor how she would become the Mother of God, consented and gave her willingness to follow the will of God no matter where it lead her. We must present Mary as the model of motherhood in our society today, since Mary underwent all of the doubts and difficulties that many woman experience today. Mary can be our source of consolation and inspiration for mothers today who bear the burden of raising their children, being supportive wives and great mothers, as well as the many of whom also have the added responsibility for their aging parents. All of these fall to the so-called “weaker sex” who in effect is stronger in so many ways.
Every woman who becomes a mother certainly puts out into the deep, not knowing where the experience of maternity will bring her and what responsibilities she will undertake as a mother. We pray for our mothers, those living and those deceased, that our society will respect the role of woman in public policies that will support them.