The role of the girl in life is the most glamorous and fascinating in all the world. To the nomads of the East she is the “little gazelle “and to the Japanese the “plum blossom.” In the Book of Proverbs she is the “dearest hind and most agreeable fawn.” Jewels, sapphires and rubies are her eyes and lips. The softness of a spring morning is in her words. Her smile is as the splendor of the rising sun. Of all the creatures in the world she is made by God the most beautiful. She is the incarnation and summation of all the flowers of nature. No man ever spoke more truth than when he whispered into the ear of his beloved that she was divine. She is an image, a spark of divinity given to us in life as a preview of things to come. She is yielding, helpless, yet divine. To whom God has given much, from her much is expected. Of no other creature is so much demanded. She is to be the helpmate of man . . .
-Fr. Leo Kinsella, The Wife Desired, 1951
In this world which is so truly a “maze of cramped paths, a madhouse of mono-maniacs,” a ceaseless frenzy of ambition and denial–indeed, an increasing perversion–of the true meaning of man . . . every once in a while (usually when patience is proving difficult to maintain,), I have a strange moment when I suddenly see myself as if I were standing on the outside; I suddenly realize what I’m doing, and I feel alone.
It doesn’t mean I don’t know other young women at home, because I do, and their friendships are dearly precious to me! They are girls who haven’t gone to college (or who aren’t planning to), who might work a job or are otherwise busy with various hobbies and activities (like me), but are mostly at home, who are waiting in the stillness of the heart for God to guide them into their vocation as daughters of God. Most of us feel it’s marriage . . . and that, for us traditional Catholic girls, means waiting to be pursued.
Young women at home are a tiny fraction in our culture, in our world. We lower our eyes, pass by the flaunting magazine racks in grocery stores, and instead pick up rumpled sepia-toned photographs of smiling women in aprons, surrounded by clusters of children, and we feel a longing that’s impossible to describe. We believe in it, believe in how right it is and that, if it’s God’s will, it will happen to us . . . that we will have the unspeakable blessing of the chance to be good, traditional stay-at-home wives and mothers. The ones who keep the hearth.
Yet, for now . . . we must wait.
And, it is difficult, because of this, not to feel alone. Though they are rare for me, it’s difficult to resist moments of feeling overwhelmed by not having done anything (because, in the worldly sense, staying home and not “pursuing” an ambition or career or collegiate studies as a young woman is essentially not doing anything) and wondering . . . have I done the right thing? Or have I merely been stubborn, prideful, or presumptuous? Once I wrote an article about the homeschooling lifestyle and received a comment talking about things such as “self-inflicted isolationism.” Is that what I’ve done? Am I making my life some kind of direct judgment on other young women who don’t see things as I do (even some of my friends), or whose lives have unavoidably brought them out of the home?
Does God want me out in the world? Was I wrong?
Perhaps there aren’t easy initial answers to these questions. In my heart, however, I can only believe the world would be a much holier, warmer and more whole place if women directed their energies towards growing in femininity and in love for the home and family life . . . and, honestly, it doesn’t take a college/career experience to do that (or rather, in many cases it may take avoiding such an experience to do that).
I’ve found these years of transition between high school and adulthood to be a decided chrysalis. At seventeen, I knew a lot and yet simultaneously knew hardly anything; and while I was passionate and determined, I was also very malleable and sensitive. Over the past four years, home life and the feminine arts have brought out the best things in me (though I still have such a long way to go!). They have taught me more about virtue, self-sacrifice and appreciation for my femininity than, I can only presume, a campus life ever could.
Now . . . this isn’t at all to say that women who go to college are somehow doomed to never being beautiful, self-giving and supportive wives and mothers. Not only do I have very dear friends who have gone or are going to college, and who are deeply inspiring and virtuous young Catholic women, but nearly all of the most beautiful traditional mothers I know have college backgrounds as well. Most met their spouses at college. My parents met at college. Need I go on?
However, it’s these very same mothers who have encouraged me to keep on as I am. It’s these very same mothers who earnestly tell my sister and I that they hope their young daughters will one day follow similar paths. My sister and I are motivated to remain at home and to await being pursued by our future spouses because we have seen the beauty of their vocations, felt our hearts being stirred in the same direction, and desire nothing more than to live as they do. Why go to college to obtain a specialized education I will never use when all I desire is to be a wife to a good man and to be a mother to his children? Why abandon home life in a search for how to earn money and “get ahead” in life when all I’m doing is waiting for my own humble Nazareth?
In my situation, I have come to realize how important it was that I didn’t go out and learn “lessons” of independence, self-direction and self-sufficiency outside the home. I see how important it was that I instead learned lessons of generosity, contentment, domestic skills, and the utmost importance of a spirit of genuine piety in the home. While men are wired to go out into the world, to achieve and provide, feminine thrift, sufficiency, and skill are born and cultivated in the home. A woman is at her best and most glorified here! I can only begin to imagine how many negative habits, opinions and inclinations I would have to un-learn if, up until marriage, I had chosen to be out on my own, away from home, living and caring only for myself instead of helping to care for my family.
On a side note, I’ve been realizing lately that I needn’t be ashamed of the minutes or hours I spend filling my mind and heart with goodness, truth, and beauty, especially in regards to my potential vocation and the gift of my femininity. Recently, I’ve stumbled across some wonderful blogs (and discovered some amazing-looking books) dedicated to traditional Catholic femininity, and have been drinking in the words of wisdom, the charming artwork, the stirring quotes that speak directly to the feminine heart. In a way, this is my college. I never fail to come away so refreshed, educated and inspired to keep on keeping on in preparation for what I feel is coming . . . in fact, I should probably make a daily commitment to reading these sorts of things. They are proving to be sun on my garden.
In closing to this long and rambling post: 99% of the time, I never feel like it was an especially brave decision on my part, simply to stay at home, help out, and to grow in domesticity and (hopefully!) holiness until I reached “the parting of ways” as Fr. Lasance termed it. However, it does require bravery to continue on this path.
In many ways, I’m an entirely different person from the girl I was at seventeen; in many ways, I’m the same. But I realize now that my life at home is not merely a clinging to an ideal; it’s a preparation for when I will help found a little Nazareth . . . it’s a preparation for when I will help establish a humble fortress in the midst of an increasingly hostile world.
Being a young woman at home is easy, because it represents and prepares me for what I feel called to do; and yet it’s hard, because I haven’t yet reached what I feel called to do. When you distill your life down to something quiet and simple and wholesome, when it becomes a matter of surrendering and waiting, it bares your shortcomings far more mercilessly than if you are caught up in ambition and distraction. It’s a challenge; it’s a battle.
While it is charming, traditional, and full of pleasure, it takes real patience, strength and courage to be a young woman at home. But I know the time will come when the waiting will be fulfilled and I, who have been given so much and of whom much is expected, will reach the parting of ways, and will go on with joy.