In short

Last night’s post was the blog equivalent of thinking aloud.

A quick summary then.

If we want a pro-life society we have to value motherhood as a vocation in and of itself.

Valuing motherhood should be an integral part of an authentic feminism, which promotes the fact that all other factors being equal, mothers are by far the best placed to be the primary carers for their children, even if they do need guidance at times.

We need employment legislation that compels employers to be creative with hours offered to mothers, a benefit system that does not penalise mothers who choose to stay home with their young children, as well as accessible child-care.

At the moment most women do not effectively have any economic choice as to whether or not to work if they have children. The expectation is that women will work, bring in an income and continue to do so whilst juggling the demands of a young family, which is a fair amount of pressure. Whilst fathers are getting better at being hands-on and relieving the pressure, the burden of birth and breast-feeding does not fall on their shoulders.

At present, a mother has to accept that unless she works, she and her children have to accept a substantially lower standard of living, not just doing without luxuries but in reality, struggling to afford the basics, regardless of whether or not she has a partner or husband. If a couple have children, the compromise is often a choice between living in a house/flat to accommodate children or whether the mother/father can stay home. Often there is no choice. The rising house prices have shafted everyone under 50 who doesn’t have a substantial inheritance or private income.

The answer is not to make men do more and make two people juggle the demands of work and children, but to re-gear society in order to give women some real choices, understanding that motherhood is not of secondary import, something to be relegated behind one’s duty to earn one’s keep and pay taxes.

The early feminists were right; women should not be forced to stay at home against their will, they are entitled to equal standards of education and equal opportunities in the workplace. But those pioneers who were passionate about women’s choices and freedoms and would be horrified to learn that the unintended consequences of their movement resulted in women being compelled to choose between their economic freedom and their ability to have children.

An authentic feminism should not compel a woman to work. An authentic feminism does not force a woman to abort her babies or limit the size of her family. An authentic feminism does not treat children as a barrier to equality, but rather encompasses and accepts them. An authentic feminism is pro-life; it values motherhood and does not treat babies as an encumbrance.

If we can get women to stop thinking of fertility as a problem and society to value and respect motherhood, if we can give women a real choice in terms of how they raise their children, then abortion will be a thing of the past and feminism can claim a real victory.

9 thoughts on “In short

  1. Exactly right overall. Anyway this should not be something the State undertakes to solve (if it must solve it at all) through welfare but through tax breaks. And this is the reason this pitifully poor government have failed so miserably. The State forever sticking its hand in my pocket to give out to other families whilst we grapple with whether we can afford a bigger family and what sacrifices we will have to make to achieve that (never seeing my husbands family in Brazil for example) is what truly grates. It is removing choice from one family to give choice to another when there is nothing to suggest we are less or more deserving. We are simply being punished for working hard. Robbing Peter to pay Paul. It became clear that after paying for a nursery for Joseph which was two bus rides away and a further 50 min bus ride to work I would take home less than I would pay in tax to the government. That tax would in turn be funding a family across the road to not have to work at all. Why would we do that? I may have loved my job but I loathe the idea that I would be killing myself to work and raise a family while others live in a comfy council funded flat all their lives and get to picnic all summer long as I witnessed last year. So we made the decision that I would not return. Im happy with that. Just knowing that this government is denied a little of the resources it uses to buy votes is sweet and the sacrifices we make are worth it to watch my son grow up.

  2. Having read both related blog posts my thoughts turn to two ideas contained in Mary Pride’s book, ‘The Way Home : Beyond Feminism, Back to Reality’. (

    The first is that the situation a woman finds herself in at the time she learns of her pregnancy can be vastly different to the situation when she gives birth. As is quoted by the book from a wise woman, ‘The good Lord doesn’t give you a little lamb unless He also provides the pasture for that little lamb.’ Trust in God’s ability to provide is often the difference between the decision to abort and the decision to bring to birth.

    The second thought is the push for equal pay for equal work takes away an employer’s ability to pay a man with dependents more than someone with none. That was the mechanism by which in past ages it was possible for a woman to stay home and provide the best environment for both children and family.

  3. Caroline: the ‘early feminists’ wanted to force women *not* to stay at home, and that is the root of the problem.

    Have you read Graglia’s ‘Domestic Tranquility’? p121:

    “[Betty] Friedan’s precise complaint was that despite their availability, women did not want careers. Nothing more clearly exposes the pretence that feminism’s goal was limited merely to allowing women to make free choices than its unremitting disparaging and disadvantaging of the housewife. As one feminist baldly put it when discussing social security, the law should not make it psychologically comfortable to be a housewife because this will impede feminist goals. Whatever subsequent apologists might argue to mitigate feminism’s excesses, status degradation has been the purpose of its attack. Far from being the enemy, it was men that feminists admired–at least in the public sphere. The enemy is the housewife…”

    This started happening in the 1950s. (Friedan’s appalling book ‘The Feminine Mystique’ came out in 1963.) That’s why young women from the 1960s onwards felt they had to get jobs to get social respect. And they had to be able to have abortions to be able to fit their home lives around those jobs.

    1. Thanks Joseph, I’ll read that, although I saw the quote from Lenin about undermining society by starting with the family which seemed prescient.

      I am actually thinking of women like Mary Wollstonecraft and Elizabeth Cady Stanton rather than their twentieth century forebears.

      1. I’m not sure there’s a big contrast here. It is true that some professions were closed to women before the 20th Century, but it is far from clear that the women land-owners, aristocrats, artists, religious superiors, and businesswomen who existed in the 19th C and earlier were seriously disadvantaged by their sex, or that other women didn’t go into the market place because of hostility. Pretty well every success story in the 19th C was about overcoming social and economic obstacles of course.

        Did George Eliot have a tougher time than Dickens? Helen Carte (of Doyley Carte fame) than Brunel? Mary Ann Seton than Don Bosco? Life was just tough all round.

        So what did the early feminists want? They wanted more women in business and other other areas which the feminists thought important, *whether the women wanted to go or not*.

      2. Good point. And there is also the argument to be made that the domestic power that women were given should not, by any means, be underestimated.

        The economic power of women, particularly in charge of controlling household budgets, has never been disregarded by market forces and it was women who were expected to be able to balance the books.

        By being in charge at home, women were arguably more powerful and had the balance of power in the relationship. Not that of course one party should be more powerful than another in a Christian marriage.

        Perhaps women have bought into the idea of a housewife as a domestic drudge propagated by the rise of advertising for labour saving gadgets in the fifties, most of which were targeted at women, thereby implicitly acknowledging their economic status?

        My grandmother died last month, one month short of her 100th birthday. She’d never done a day’s paid employment in her life!

  4. Forgive me Caroline, but I still fail to understand how a modern, intelligent woman can be a traditionalist Catholic.

    1. Sometimes what people perceive from the outside is not the reality on the inside. There are many, many intellegent, kind, funny women who fulfill roles such as theologians, catechists, spiritual directors, philosophers, sacristans, cantors, musical directors…the list goes on. And many of these women do this while being full time mothers, students, teachers, doctors, dinner ladies, journalists, gardeners, full time carers…the list goes on! Maybe you might take sometime to get to know some of them 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s