Rediscovering Everyday Mothering

In 2002, the Center for Work-Life Policy in New York published a paper, Taking Parenting Public: The Case for a New Social Movement. It called for “creating a sea change in our culture” to recognize the important work of parenting, and for “giving our roles as mothers and fathers more priority in our personal lives.”

Those ideas had been loudly shouted down in the 1960s and ’70s when Mary Ann Kuharski was at home raising 13 children (seven by “tummy,” six by “airport” or adoption). Kuharski is a Minneapolis-based speaker, columnist and author of four books on parenting. She founded Pro Life Across America 18 years ago.

The message then was sometimes shrill and direct, sometimes more subtle. “Only the not-so-bright or the well-to-do would choose homemaking and motherhood full time,” she writes in her latest book, Outnumbered! Raising 13 Kids with Humor and Prayer (Servant, 2006).

“I started writing when the feminist movement was at its peak and they were really going after at-home mothers — at about my fourth kid,” she told the Register. “I wanted to be the cheerleader for moms and others in the home.”

Kuharski, who has earned a day off she won’t get and likely doesn’t want on Mother’s Day (May 14), was way ahead of her time. In a new twist, women today are choosing raising children over building careers, and the idea that homemaking has a special dignity all its own is catching on once again.

Many media reports claim that Ivy League college graduates in comfortable careers are just as likely to leave the job as less career-oriented women. Recent studies, widely publicized, have shown that at-home mothers are also happier in their marriages.

The trend is also gaining a foothold in Great Britain, where the Sunday Times reported April 16 that the new educated woman “is a housewife,” who regards her prime responsibility as bringing up the children.

For many Catholic moms, staying home with children is neither a new trend nor a revelation for its marriage-strengthening properties. Embracing the vocation of motherhood is about embracing God’s will, many say, and making the sacrifice for the greater good.

Things didn’t come easy when Georgiana Christensen had to turn down a dream position working for the vice president of human resources at a Fortune 500 corporation. She was four months pregnant and told him her vocation was going to be motherhood.

“He was very supportive and that made me ache,” she recalls. “I liked corporate America; it made me feel good about me.”

At first motherhood was a lonely experience for Christensen. She thought she would go back to work when her son, Joshua, went to kindergarten. But she soon realized that most jobs don’t quit in the summers or when the school bus arrives.

She also found that moms do a lot more than she realized to run a household. Now she is substitute-teaching at Joshua’s Catholic school and doing house cleaning on the side so she can remain flexible.

“I look back and realize how blessed I have been to be home, from the standpoint of keeping more peace and harmony in the house, and the time I was able to have with Joshua,” Christensen says. “I reap some of the benefits when I see him in his environment and know that I’ve had a positive influence on him.”

Maternal Instincts

Linda Fahnlander, a Minneapolis mom of five children, had a much easier transition. She recalls fondly growing up with a mom who stayed home and appreciates how much security that gave her. It was her “heart’s desire” to offer that kind of home to her children.

When she and husband, Vince, had their first child, she left her position as an engineer in research and development at General Mills — and never looked back.

“I’m raising little soldiers for the Kingdom of God,” she says. “That can’t compare with anything I did at General Mills. I work harder now than ever. My back hurts at the end of the day, I get a lot less sleep. There’s a lot more dying to self, but I give it to God.”

Rosemary Sullivan, a mother of four in Bay Shore, N.Y., gave up a lofty salary in the 1980s when she left her job as a marketing manager at the international construction-management firm that built the Sears Tower. She was making twice as much money as her husband when she became pregnant with their first son, Patrick. But the couple decided it was more important to do what God wanted.

“People thought I was insane because I gave up my career, but I don’t regret it,” says Sullivan. “There’s no doubt in my mind that God was calling me to be a stay-at-home mom. We just re-prioritized our lifestyle. We were poor in the pocket, but rich in the soul.”

Sullivan began providing daycare for other parents at her parish and was happy to be a trusted parent they could turn to. She also started finding more time for God. She says her spirituality would not be at the level it is today had she not given up her busy career.

Now that her children are grown, she is able to apply her event management skills for the Diocese of Rockville Centre in New York, and as an event coordinator for the National Council of Diocesan Vocation Directors.

“If we believe in our hearts that we’re doing what God is calling us to do,” she says, “then it all falls into place.”

Even though parenting is more of a priority for women today, Kuharski believes it is still necessary to encourage each other in the vocation of motherhood, especially in this anti-child, anti-family culture we live in.

“This is a profound vocational call,” she says. “American husbands and wives have no clue the gift God has placed in our midst. When he says I’m going to trust you to have a family to carry out my plan for the universe, how dare we say ‘Maybe I will, maybe I won’t.’”

In his 1995 Letter to Women, Pope John Paul II said women will increasingly play a part in the solution of the serious problems of the future. Their presence will help “to manifest the contradictions present when society is organized solely according to the criteria of efficiency and production,” he wrote, and it will “force systems to be redesigned in a way which favors the processes of humanization, which mark the ‘civilization of love.’”

“Humanity,” he wrote, “owes its very survival to the gift of motherhood.” A lofty vocation, indeed.

Happy Mother’s Day, Catholic moms.

Barb Ernster writes from

Fridley, Minnesota.

Cistercian Father Thomas Esposito says of discerning one’s college choice, ‘There has to be something that tugs at you and makes you want to investigate it further. And then the personal encounter comes in the form of a visit or a chat with a student or alumnus who communicates with the same enthusiasm or energy about the place. And then that love of a place can be a seed which germinates in your own heart through prayer.’

Choose a College With a Discerning Mind and Heart

Cistercian Father Thomas Esposito, assistant professor of theology at the University of Dallas (UD) and subprior (and former vocations director) of the Cistercian Abbey of Our Lady of Dallas, drew from his experience as both a student and now monastic religious to help those discerning understand the parallels between religious and college discernment.