A few days ago, I logged on to my Facebook account and saw a desperate plea for help. A husband left his wife and children. A concerned friend and Good Samaritan decided to request donations for the abandoned family.
The message came soon after I talked with Joe Patch IV of Spirit & Truth Live on Radio Maria (Fridays at 2:00 p.m. EST). Joe and I had a pre-chat before the live show and agreed that we had to encourage Catholic women to be prudent about their education and income earning skills. It’s an important point that does not get credence in many devout circles.
When I came through an ultra-orthodox diocese as a young 20-something, the “pro-family” messaging often skirted the issue of women securing their futures. Nobody wanted to sound like a feminist, minimize the needs of young children, or to question the trustworthiness of male family members.
Life is unpredictable though. Is it smart not to prepare women for basic survival? Why is it that in some Catholic communities, a child-like, ingénue helplessness is framed as a badge of honor?
I think it’s critical to look reality squarely in the face and puncture ideals that can lead to personal tragedies.
We know that not every man is going to stay committed to his wife and children. It’s not a new story! We can kick, scream, and protest as much as we want, yet, the risks remain. Things can go wrong even with the best intentions and planning. What if a guy turns out to be a violent abuser and you have to leave?
It is impossible to ever completely control another person, even if that person is a spouse. Complete confidence in your husband right now can devolve over time too.
If thinking about your husband leaving or abusing you is either too troubling or far-fetched to entertain, what about illnesses and accidents? What if your husband is killed through an on-the-job mishap? What if he gets in a car crash and is permanently disabled? What if an illness takes him early? How is the family going to survive? Tragic things happen to good people every day. Nobody knows why – but it’s best to be prepared.
Even if a woman intends to spend the majority of her life as a homemaker, it's wise to have what Joe called an "insurance policy." Have a back-up plan.
A woman who is proactive about evaluating her talents and strengths should be able to select a specialty to her liking. In this day and age, possible back-up plans are extensive. Not every career field requires expensive degrees, and not every workplace fosters an extremely aggressive culture that would challenge a gentle woman who is full of maternal instinct and compassion. Some jobs can be done from home in a “mompreneurial” fashion.
If one back-up plan seems too cumbersome, find another one that suits you better. We’re all different, and one size won’t fit all. Remember that having skills does not mean that you always have to use them either.
Another thing to keep in mind is that education for the sake of education is not always wasteful. A well-educated woman is beautiful and her intelligence will enrich her marriage, relationships, and ability to support her children through their schooling. Even if she doesn’t constantly use her degree, she will have the academic background, critical thinking skills, and piece of paper, to help her open doors if she needs to in the event of an unforeseen crisis.
As women who live in the modern world, we need to think about how to feed ourselves and our children in worst case scenarios. What's our plan? In the old days, it was all about being born into the right family, marrying the right man, or getting plugged into the right charity if poverty struck. For all of the negatives we face in society these days, we have more opportunities than ever to build strong safety nets.
Amy Bonaccorso is the award-winning author of How to Get to ‘I Do’ – A Dating Guide for Catholic Women. Her website is www.amybonaccorso.com.
Copyright 2011 Amy Bonaccorso
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