Feb. 16, Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time.
I stole this quote from Sarah of Little Progress Notes, and even though I have read it before, it stuck in my flesh like a thorn, sharp, sweet, and chastising, as it did the very first time I read it. Someone close to me was very upset by this quote at the time, and I couldn't understand why. Not intellectually. Intellectually, I could understand how someone, a woman, who aimed for a profession or the perfection of a trade would balk that Chesterton thinks she oughtn't. But my heart cannot fathom it.
When I read this quote, it's like if someone handed me a translation guide to the language of my soul. People talk about wanting to be stay-at-home moms, and the majority of that talk revolves around the raising and education of children--which is, obviously, the most important aspect of homemaking if you're blessed to have them. But there's more to it than that, and I see the fruits of the domestic woman in those who are not able to have children. They're free to perfect their skills and passions. They're broadly educated, not necessarily formally.
My own mother is extremely well-informed about current world events; her relatives in high political places talk down to her "narrow" point-of-view and are abruptly put in their place by a southern housewife. I have a friend university-bound after seventeen years of graduating high school; she speaks with more lucidity and grace than most of my college professors. My godmother has helped her husband raise the children from his first marriage, run three successful businesses, and start a grassroots ministry addressing the sorely ignored crisis of human sex trafficking. My favorite women bloggers are, by a landslide majority, homemakers; more than gifted writers, they are photographers, crafters, architects, chemists, seamstresses, artists, philosophers, poets, botanists, activists, farmers, chauffeurs, and cooks. They're quite literally everything to someone (their families). And it just wouldn't be possible for them to be that astonishingly versatile in a career.
It's very telling that after a century of liberation, women are choosing to go back to the professions (oppression?) of their great-great-grandmothers. Instead of being taught in an unbroken chain of mother-to-daughter lore, they're having to re-learn many of those skills that made suppressed Woman so dangerously skillful. I suppose the feminist movement was necessary because it helped us understand. For now we have the double benefit of having the freedom to choose and choosing not to be "free."
As for myself, being a Catholic, I have no problem being told what I ought to do and what is good for me. But then, I believe that the so-called restraints of the patriarchy are not man-made at all, but transcend the world.
I don't think that a woman can't be focused on a single aim to forge a career. Or that some women are best suited to that lifestyle. I just know that in my first-hand experience with competent, thoughtful women, and for me personally, that would be sad. It would be a kind of compromise.
I have so much to offer, so much that I'm passionate about. God has generously equipped me. I don't care that my ability to make a dwelling a comfortable home, or the home a place of spiritual peace and healthful stimulation, will go unappreciated by society. And I grow weary of rationalizing my "career" preferences to that same society. Like if I don't chose something concrete to achieve and then run it down like a fox, I'm irresponsible or somehow mis-made. I feel, when I tell the world that I wish not to work formally for a living, a reaction akin to sexism. If I can chose a lifestyle, God willing--and not without knowledge and acceptance of the sacrifices, as well as the blessings--in which I need not be distracted by the minutiae of the outside world, then that is what I want. Because this is not a useless, fruitless aim.
Chesterton's logic gives me permission to embrace the scattered person I am; and he gives me comfort by telling me my efforts are not vain, nor shameful. The domestic woman is unimpressed by the limp equality offered by a world that seeks excellence at the expense of freedom, that considers seclusion oppression and liberality narrow. Our role model for Womanhood is a virgin and a mother--a handmaid and a queen. And the domestic woman is the original Renaissance Man.
Thanks to Sarah of Amongst Lovely Things for hosting Weekends with Chesterton.