Skip to main content


How the Pope Helps Women Understand Their Vocations

2/9/2004 - 6:00 AM PST

Advertisment

Helen Alvare on Choices About Child Rearing and Careers

WASHINGTON, D.C., FEB. 8, 2004 (Zenit) - John Paul II has spoken out often on the feminine genius and the beauty of motherhood -- and women are listening, says a professionally accomplished mother of three.

Helen Alvare, an associate professor at Catholic University's Columbus School of Law, shared how the Pope's teachings give meaning to women's work at home or the office, and ultimately helps them understand that nurturing children has priority.

Alvare, who teaches family law, recently wrote a chapter for the book "Themes in Feminist Theology for the New Millennium II" (Villanova University Press), edited by Augustinian Father Francis Eigo. Previously, she was a spokeswoman for the U.S. bishops' pro-life secretariat.

Q: Do you see a social trend of high-powered women leaving their careers to stay at home with their children?

Alvare: I can't say that I see such a trend, although in Washington, D.C., where I live, I can certainly point to anecdotal cases of women who are exceptionally well educated and even experienced in careers, forgoing work outside the home entirely or forgoing more prestigious work or positions in order to spend more time with their children. In fact, I see a great deal of the latter choice among women and less, but some, among men.

I have also observed many women working out all manner of creative arrangements with their employers, or establishing their own businesses, in order to meet the needs of their families. Flextime, part-time, working from home and job sharing are just some of the arrangements I see women pursuing.

Women really have assumed the burden of pushing employers -- further than I believe businesses would go if left alone -- in the direction of work schedules that allow mothers to make their children their priority.

Q: How does faith play into a woman's choice to stay at home with her children? Do you think that John Paul II's teaching impacted women's choices?

Alvare: Faith can play a significant role in some women's decision making. In both secular and religious arenas today, the notion of motherhood as a vocation crucial to the well-being of children and of society has very much been highlighted.

Furthermore, John Paul II has paid a really extraordinary amount of attention to questions about the identity and roles of women in the modern world. He has helped enliven in women a sense of pride regarding the crucial roles they play in the nurturing and rearing of children. He has called their contribution "irreplaceable" and cited what he calls their "priority" in the "order of love."

Having traveled the United States very extensively in the last 14 years, and meeting and talking with thousands of Catholics, I think I can observe with some accuracy that many, many women in their childbearing years and even younger, are quite taken with John Paul II's writings on the vocation of women as mothers.

I believe he has played a significant role in some women's concluding that they ought to take up their roles as mothers with great enthusiasm.

At the same time, the Holy See's representatives at various United Nations conferences have forwarded an agenda for women highlighting the importance of women's education, access to entrepreneurial opportunities and access to positions influencing national, public policy.

Thus, no matter whether a woman forgoes work outside her family or not, if she listens to the teachings of John Paul II, she is more likely to understand her full vocational call, as a woman and as a mother, inside the home and in the public square. She is also more likely to understand clearly that the work of nurturing children has priority.

Q: What key practical factors compel women on the fast track to choose to be stay-at-home moms?

Alvare: This is really a delicate matter because there are so many individual reasons for such a choice.

Some of the many reasons I have observed include: the belief that a good mother cannot at all be distracted by the demands of work; a desire for a large family; the experience or belief that work outside the home is not as satisfying as the work of a mother; and the absence of a real vocational attachment to any particular type of work.

One factor I see cited often, though again anecdotally, is a frustration about or aversion to the sheer amount of planning and hard work necessary to successfully to coordinate the needs and activities of children with the needs and demands of a job.

Especially in a metropolis like Washington, the distance between work, school and home, and the anguish of a long daily commute on crowded highways, can really play a role.

Another commonly cited reason is the ...

1 | 2  Next Page

Rate This Article

Very Helpful Somewhat Helpful Not Helpful at All

Yes, I am Interested No, I am not Interested

Rate Article

0 Comments

Leave a Comment

Comments submitted must be civil, remain on-topic and not violate any laws including copyright. We reserve the right to delete any comments which are abusive, inappropriate or not constructive to the discussion.

Though we invite robust discussion, we reserve the right to not publish any comment which denigrates the human person, undermines marriage and the family, or advocates for positions which openly oppose the teaching of the Catholic Church.

This is a supervised forum and the Editors of Catholic Online retain the right to direct it.

We also reserve the right to block any commenter for repeated violations. Your email address is required to post, but it will not be published on the site.

We ask that you NOT post your comment more than once. Catholic Online is growing and our ability to review all comments sometimes results in a delay in their publication.

Send me important information from Catholic Online and it's partners. See Sample

Post Comment

Newsletter Sign Up

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Revelation 18:1-2, 21-23; 19:1-3, 9
After this, I saw another angel come down from heaven, with ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 100:2, 3, 4, 5
serve Yahweh with gladness, come into his presence with songs ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 21:20-28
'When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then you must ... Read More

Saint of the Day

November 27 Saint of the Day

St. James Intercisus
November 27: James was a favorite of King Yezdigerd I of Persia and a ... Read More