leila lawler loathsome libel

Leila Lawler’s Post About Working Mothers

Edit 1/30/2018:

Leila Lawler has edited her post to clarify, so I will too.

I should have slept on this instead of posting it right away. I let my anger and indignation get the best of me, and that wasn’t wise. Mea culpa. I apologize to Leila Lawler for being uncharitable and unkind. I have sent this to her via e-mail as well, but I am posting it here because a public error requires a public apology (I would comment on her post, but every time I have tried my comments do not appear).

That being said, let me explain a bit why I was so upset. (Not an excuse, just a reason.)

Ever since Facebook rolled out the feature where people answer questions when they request to join a group, I’ve had that in place for the Catholic Working Mothers Facebook group. I ask if they are faithful, practicing Catholics, I ask if they are working mothers, and I ask why they want to join the group.

I would say that the majority of responses to the third question go like this: “All of my Catholic friends are SAHMs so I’m looking for fellowship, because I feel inadequate because I can’t be a SAHM and I could use support.”

It is so very frustrating when we continually encounter the attitude that if we REALLY thought hard, and if we REALLY were discerning as we should, we’d realize that we should be stay-at-home-moms. The implication is that our status as moms who work outside the home is the result of a lack of discernment at best and at the worst, greed — or, as Lawler put it, someone who “prize[s] financial security, public honors, and prosperity above a happy home.”

As I said during a Facebook discussion the other day, working moms are constantly reflecting on our motives and priorities. It’s kind of like NFP, in a way — we’re constantly reevaluating and assessing, especially after a rough day at work, or when we have sick kids and our boss is giving us grief because we’ve taken so much sick time already, or when we have to go to work sick because we’re all out of sick time due to aforesaid sick kids. CONSTANTLY.

And usually we realize, well, if we don’t work we could lose our house or we couldn’t afford groceries, so we slog through another day. In the vast majority of cases, we aren’t working because we just love getting up in the morning, getting everyone ready to go, making sure everyone gets to where they need to go, going to work, working eight more hours, and then leaving work only to go home to start our second job — cleaning, cooking, laundry, grocery shopping, meal planning, etc. We’re working because we have to in order to pay our bills, or because we feel a genuine calling from God that we’re doing what we are being called to do.

Claiming that there is this epidemic of working moms who are working only for wealth and prestige at the expense of their families — in my CWM group of 4,000+ women, I don’t see it. It’s like the alleged epidemic of Catholics using NFP for selfish reasons. Do they exist? Maybe. Is it a pervasive problem in Catholic circles? I don’t think so, so I’m baffled as to why we need reminding of this. Especially by someone who seems to think that working moms HAVE a choice in the first place.

Like the decision to avoid pregnancy using NFP, this is a discernment that can and should only be done by the couple themselves in the sight of God. And in my experience, we are constantly undergoing that discernment — which is why it is so tiring and, yes, sometimes so infuriating when we are told (even indirectly) that we aren’t good enough, that our children and husbands are suffering because we work, that we don’t measure up to the idea of Catholic womanhood because we work (something St. Gianna Beretta Molla and St. Zelie Martin, among others, would disagree with).

Now, circling back to my original post, there is still one thing I would like clarity on, and I don’t believe Lawler ever said what she meant by this particular statement (and I’m posting the entirety of her comment via screenshot so that I am not accused of taking her words out of context):

If Lawler would be so kind as to explain what she meant by saying that my husband “must fight [my] battles” for me as well as his own, both he and I would appreciate the clarity because neither of us can figure out what she means by that.

Now, I shall return to making my home a safe and peaceful place, which, yes, I strive to do to the utmost of my ability even though I am “out there” working to earn money to pay our mortgage.

Once again, I apologize for being uncharitable and unkind. The lessons I have learned from this experience are to sleep on a contentious post instead of scheduling it to publish right away, and to write a rebuttal that isn’t focused on rebutting what someone specifically said, but rather to focus on the message I want to communicate, and in doing so write for my audience instead of at another person.

Also, one more note of clarity. There is apparently a rumor going around Facebook that I am a “leftist social justice warrior” and that is why I wrote a post criticizing Lawler’s words. That is not true. I am a registered Independent who would not join the Democrat Party if you held a gun to my head. If you have any concerns or questions about my political stances, please feel free to e-mail me.

**Original Post Starts Here**There are times when I read a blog post in the Catholic blogosphere and think, “Hold my purse. I can’t let this go unremarked.”

This is one of those times. (Sorry, Part 2 of my post about Holding the Sacraments Hostage will have to wait until Wednesday.)

Leila Lawler, a Catholic blogger over at Like Mother, Like Daughter, made a number of eyebrow-raising claims in her blog post on Jan. 27, 2018.

Among these claims (some of which are made in the post itself, others are made by her in the comments):

  • A home with a working mother “does not have the wife and mother… devoted to it;”
  • A working mother cannot “love children from day to day with a love of service;”
  • A working mother always “prize[s] financial security, public honors, and prosperity above a happy home;”
  • A working mother cannot “make the home;”
  • A working mother has a “neglected family” by default;
  • A working mother only works because she desires to “[put] her individualistic goals first;”
  • A working mother is nothing more than a “wage slave;” (does that apply to working fathers, too? How about St. Gianna Beretta Molla? St. Zelie Martin?)
  • A family with a working mother means that the husband “does not have a home to return to” or “a haven to rest in;”
  • When a woman works, “the husband must fight her battles;”
  • When a woman works, “the stress of the battles she faces don’t lessen the ones at home, and then something has to give. Too often, it’s one’s own children who seem to be the problem;” and
  • A working mom cannot have a home that is a “safe and peaceful place.”

via GIPHYAnother commenter on the blog offered this gem, which Lawler has not, as of this writing, responded to (either positively or negatively):

When they are grown I hope they will look back on their mother’s labor in the home as an image of the love of Christ. When a woman drops her child off with a care provider/school and works for a wage, children can’t see what she is doing; they ache for mother but society tells them to suck it up and get used to it, so they don’t properly attach (and sadly some don’t attach at all). Without a solid attachment to the mother, the child loses not merely his sense of security but a part of his humanity because he can not really learn what love IS.

Yes. Apparently, children who go to daycare OR SCHOOL can never really learn what love is.

via GIPHYSorry, all you SAHMs who have sent your kids to Catholic school — your kids are neglected, don’t properly attach, and can never really learn what love is. Too bad you didn’t homeschool, because apparently the only way to show your children love is to make sure you are within sight of them 24/7/365.

I can only assume that this person also opposes mothers showering, grocery shopping, doing volunteer work, or doing any other action that would take her out of visual range of her children at any time. Letting children have their own bedrooms is out — they must co-sleep with you until the age of 18, presumably, lest you fail to form attachments with them.

This comment thoroughly ignores the valuable lessons children can learn from working mothers; to wit: sometimes, you need to put your own desires aside and sacrifice for the good of your family.

There are many, many of us who are working not by our free choice, but because we need to earn income so that our family members have food to eat, clothes to wear, and a roof over our heads. That is a sacrifice. We are sacrificing time with our children for their greater good, not to mention sleep (because we spend many nights doing housework and other chores) and free time of our own (because we spend the bulk of our “free time” outside of work doing household chores, running errands, taking children to doctor appointments, etc.).

Lawler also says in her post, “I will always maintain that the family is God’s plan for life in this world of ours, and that any sacrifice we make to fulfill His plan is worth it.” WELL. What do we need the Catholic Church for, since we have Leila Lawler to tell us exactly how to fulfill God’s plan for life in this world? Apparently, that plan involves no working mothers whatsoever.

There are many mothers who work because they have discerned that it is their vocation — part of God’s plan — to do so: as doctors, as nurses, as therapists for the developmentally disabled, as educators, as counselors, as social workers, as directors of religious education at parishes, as crisis pregnancy center directors, or even as writers and speakers (ahem).

via GIPHYIs it really part of God’s plan for a mother to stay at home no matter what her family’s circumstances are — even if “home” means a homeless shelter, a car, or a cardboard box under a bridge, and even if that means her children would be be starving, cold, and homeless? That scenario is preferable to a family whose members are fed, comfortable, and protected due to a mother who earns a wage?

Leila Lawler apparently thinks so.

She is also apparently afraid of opposing viewpoints; as of this writing, she has refused to publish any of my comments. (She has, inexplicably, allowed comments from others that oppose her view, but for some reason she refuses to publish mine.)

As a result, I am publishing them here. My rebuttals are as follows:

Comment #1:

Why do you assume that women who work outside the home neglect their family? Do fathers who work outside the home neglect their family, too?

As for who will take care of the children and make the home if not the wife — well, that is something that husbands and wives do together, as equal partners in marriage, regardless of who is working outside the home, inside the home, or whatever the situation may be.

I know this comes across as a politically correct buzzword, but sometimes even buzzwords are accurate. You need to check your privilege. Not all families are able to make it work on one income alone, especially if the father is under-educated, under-paid, sick, disabled, etc. Some families have gone over and over their budget, and there is simply nothing else to cut, yet their expenses still exceed their income — especially couples with medical debt or student loan debt, and/or those who live in a high COL area. If this has never been your situation, then praise be to God. You have been very fortunate. But your situation is not everyone’s.

You are not helping women by telling them that they are failing as wives and mothers when they work to provide their family with food, clothing, shelter, and stability.

It’s not really pro-life for example, to tell single mothers that they are neglecting their home and children if they work outside the home. I’m sure the children would feel the sting of neglect much more keenly if they didn’t have food to eat, clothes to wear, and a roof over their heads.

I would advise you to follow the advice of Jesus and examine the plank in your own eye before you go after the alleged speck in someone else’s.

Comment #2 (in response to her comment here):

Wait — so because I work, my husband does not have a home to return to? Um, I’m pretty sure our house is still standing every day when he comes home. In fact, it’s BECAUSE I work that he has a home to go to. My income pays the mortgage. His income right now is not sufficient to pay our mortgage and all of our other bills.

And we have six children on earth ranging in age from 13 to 1 (plus four in heaven), so it’s not at all that our marriage is “new.” We’ve been married over sixteen years.

“But as the decades go by, the husband is the one who has to do battle with the world. If he doesn’t have a haven to rest in, a person to be grateful to, he will be defeated.”

Why do you assume my husband’s home is not a haven, and that he must stop being grateful to me simply because I work? My husband is actually extremely grateful that I work and thus allow us to pay our mortgage so he has a home to return to.

Let me tell you this: it isn’t necessarily a sparkling clean home with freshly scrubbed, immaculate children and a home-cooked meal waiting on the table that makes a house into a home or a haven. You know what makes a house into a haven? Love. The love of spouses for each other, the love of parents for their children, the love of children for their parents. And love is a commodity that everyone has no matter where, when, or how they work.

“When the woman works, the husband must fight her battles (because that’s his nature to do so) and his own.”

Where on earth are you getting this? My husband and I fight OUR battles TOGETHER as equal partners in marriage, and that is true of any spouse no matter where, when, or how they work.

“When the woman works, the stress of the battles she faces don’t lessen the ones at home, and then something has to give. Too often, it’s one’s own children who seem to be the problem.”

What, wait? Are you saying that when a woman works outside the home, her husband needs to deal with her HR department and annoying co-workers and similar? Are you saying that a woman is incapable of dealing with work-related issues on her own? I am really asking for clarity here because I have no idea what you mean by this.

Do working women face a challenge when it comes to balancing competing priorities? Absolutely. But so do SAHMs. So do working fathers. So do priests.

“But if everyone is out there, then who is making that safe and peaceful place?”

First, I’d love to know where all the SAHMs are that are routinely and regularly welcoming the homeless. I had no idea that was a thing.

Secondly, why do you assume that we can’t make our homes a safe and peaceful place AND work outside the home? Do you think that women who work are required to be at their workplaces 24/7/365…?

One final note: the Vatican says this in their official biography of St. Gianna Beretta Molla: “With simplicity and equilibrium she harmonized the demands of mother, wife, doctor and her passion for life.”

NOT “St. Gianna was a horrible example of a wife and mother because she worked outside the home and did not make her house a safe and peaceful place.”

Also, I must include two of the comments left by Missy (which were allowed to be published, unlike mine), because they provide an excellent counterpoint:

I respectfully ask that you consider your personal experience may not be reflective of others’, nor should it be the standard by which the rest of our situations are to be judged.

For instance, I AM thinking of my husband when I work. In fact, I work partially at his specific request. Not because he is materialistic and desires luxury, but because he works in a volatile field where a job can vanish in a moment, so he has told me that being the sole provider is too much stress for him. When I have been out of work, he has been depressed, irritable, and generally less emotionally available for the family, even though I was working hard to ‘make a home’ for us. When I work and share the burden, he is happy, secure, and generous with his time and energy. Every day, he expresses his appreciation for my efforts as a mother and wife, so I would say he is far from ‘defeated.’ On the contrary, he feels supported by my work, and our home is a haven for him because he knows it can’t be ripped away from us if he were to lose his job (as has happened twice before).

I have no clue what you mean by the husband ‘fighting his wife’s battles in addition to his own’ unless you mean that you subscribe to the archaic idea of ‘woman’s work,’ that some tasks should only be performed by women. This is not at all theologically supported. In our case, we split the cleaning, childcare, and cooking, although he might take the lion’s share of food prep because he enjoys it more and is a much better cook. We have also learned not to keep track of who does what, but instead do what needs to be done with a generous spirit, as an act of love.

We have chosen our children’s caregivers with extreme care and made it clear to our employers that family comes first, always. As a result, our children are thriving by every measure, and we are always available to them when needed. My children are not a ‘problem’ for me or my work, but the reason and inspiration for everything else in my life.

And finally, as for the others outside the home, you’re quite right that they are best served when my home is a place of peace. As I said above, my working is a big factor in making my home peaceful. Please stop insisting that a working mother is at odds with a peaceful and stable home.”

Comment #2 by Missy:

“Must be so nice to be able to ‘decide’ to stay home, then pat yourself on the back for your ‘sacrifice.’ Some of us find that our families are healthier when mom works outside the home, and don’t appreciate being told we’re lesser wives or mothers for it. And some don’t have a choice at all due to economic reality, but I’m sure the extra helping of guilt is exactly what they need.

This is an incredibly self-serving and narrow-minded post. I strongly recommend speaking more with faithful mothers who work outside the home, with an open heart to their perspectives. And when you offer much-needed encouragement to SAHMs as I believe you intended to do here, try to do it without belittling those who care for their families through different means. This manufactured us/them conflict helps no one.”

Agreed. I think I’ll listen to the actual teaching of the Catholic Church as opposed to someone who uses her blog to promote her own books and who earns speaking fees, but yet who claims to not have a career so she can devote every single nanosecond of her time to “making a home”).

And although it’s apparent that the Lawler family abhors Pope Francis, perhaps Lawler herself might take heed of the words of Pope John Paul II (unless, of course, she has gone full-blown sedevacantist):

Thank you, women who work! You are present and active in every area of life-social, economic, cultural, artistic and political. In this way you make an indispensable contribution to the growth of a culture which unites reason and feeling, to a model of life ever open to the sense of “mystery”, to the establishment of economic and political structures ever more worthy of humanity.

In the meantime, I would welcome Leila Lawler’s clarification on anything she has said above in my comment box — and I’ll even publish her comments, too.