1. You shouldn’t go to University
Yes, in our day and age, there are still actually people who believe higher education is not morally acceptable for a woman. Why? You know, women are morally weak, unable to overcome the temptations presented in a University setting. Further, what’s the need? If a woman’s supposed to just stay at home with the kiddos, why spend the money and time? Just stay home and pray for your husband to come find you at your parent’s place.
Let’s be clear: There is nowhere in any of the encyclicals, homilies, or texts that I’ve read or even the Summa that states that the Church teaches women should shy away from higher education. In fact, the Church holds women with advanced degrees in high esteem: St. Gianna Molla, St. Teresa Benedicta, Servant of God Dorothy Day to name a few.
2. You don’t need to do that, it’s for boys.
Unless we’re talking about priesthood and fatherhood, there are very few things that are explicitly and solely meant for men to do. Sports are equally edifying to women as they are to men, not to mention, they can help pay for that degree that we’re not supposed to get. Businesses need morally strong Catholic women to develop family oriented cultures, offer valuable perspectives, and sometimes, tell men when they are just plain wrong. Women are even, dare I say, capable of teaching seminarians Theology, Philosophy, Psychology, etc.- offering them a perspective outside of their own experience and giving them a meaningful encounter with a woman that will carry into their own pastoral ministry.
3. When are you getting married?
Yes, marriage is a valuable and holy vocation, recognized and upheld by the Church as the means by which God brings more souls into his earthly and heavenly Body of Christ and sanctifies the world. However, marriage is not the ultimate and only goal of every Catholic woman in the world. Before women reach the marrying age of 18, there are 18 whole years of dreaming, creating goals, discernment, and prayerful contemplation with our Lord. In those 18 years, women do not need to put life on hold to find the perfect Catholic husband. After that 18th birthday is long gone and still no one has come to take the hand of a Catholic woman, life does not stop. After the 35th birthday has come and no one has come to take the hand of that Catholic woman, she is not defective or unholy- she is not simply waiting. Hopefully, she knows that she can still serve God in the capacity He has chosen for her, she can add value to the Christian community in a way married or religious cannot. St. Ignatius wrote the Suscipe Domine in which women and men can ask the Lord “Give me love for Thee alone along with Thy grace, and I am rich enough and ask for nothing more.” Women can sincerely pray this prayer and still not end up married- and that’s A-OK.
4. When are you having another baby?
Despite the Catholic world’s affinity for families of five or more, I hate to break it to you, but not every family is called to have a plethora of children. The discernment of having children is private and between spouses, and spouses are allowed to work within God’s will to prayerfully consider bringing another life into the world month to month. No, I don’t care to hear your arguments against the morality of NFP- I’d rather just listen to the Church and be done with it.
Further, Catholic women, perhaps more than other groups, feel the shame of having only one kid, or none, like a scarlet letter. Do not assume children aren’t wanted. Do not assume careers are being chased or problems are ensuing in marriage. As much as the big Catholic family brings joy and witness to the world that often sees children as a burden, many Catholic families suffer silently the pain of infant loss or trouble in conceiving and do not need to be reminded that you noticed.
5. Your kids eat that, go to school there, get vaccinated, etc.?!
Really? None of this has to do with being a “good” Catholic woman. A Catholic family is not made to be counter-cultural for the sake of being counter-cultural. Sure, there are plenty of things in the mainstream that most Catholic women would agree is not ideal for bringing up families (I’m thinking Kimoji’s), but there are a lot of choices that well-meaning Catholics can disagree on without being signs of the downfall of the modern Catholic family. Women, specifically, can disagree on hem length, hairstyle, music choice, formula feeding, schooling, and many other things without turning everything into a moral quandary. Please, don’t be that guy in the Facebook thread that comments “Wow, I didn’t realize so many people lived lives of debauchery and thought it was OK. I’ll return to my farm and 1962 missal and leave you all to your gnashing of teeth.” No one likes that guy.