The role of women in a Catholic family.

If I’m not mistaken, the catholic church was one of the first things to say that women were equal to men.

However, when you look at a lot of christian families the women is almost always the homemaker… and if a women is happy doing that, then that’s fine. But it seems that women of a more, liberal mind set, are more commonly to not stay at home parents.

I just want to know, why is that? Does God really not call most women to do much but the chores?

Is it wrong if I want to become a geologist and work scientifically abroad, instead of get married and have children?

That seems like an obvious question, but if christian women are finding themselves called to the kitchen then I just… I want to know why.


I’m just going to answer the easy one. No, it’s not wrong if you want to be a geologist and work abroad. It’s not wrong if you want to be that and be married and have children. It only becomes wrong if being a geologist and working abroad becomes more important than your husband and kids. As long as family > career you’re good.

Many husbands do the cooking now a days. Many are stay at home husbands but they still can’t give birth and breast feed. They can do pretty much everything women can do and vice versa. My niece is the bread winner in her home so it’s not like women are stuck there if they chose to work. Many want to be at home.

In the UK very few married women stay at home. With the cost of living (particularly housing costs) in most households both parents work.If a parent is staying at home, then it tends to be because that parent has been made redundant and can’t find another job, and that’s as likely to be the man as the woman. This seems to apply as much to Christian families as to non-Christian families.

What matters is not what some Christian families tend to do, or not do, what matters is the teaching of our Church. As far as I know, our Church does not teach that women should stay at home and be housewives. If they wish to do so, or not, then that’s their personal choice.

This. It’s the same here in the U.S. Some women would love to stay home and cannot because of financial needs. Some men stay home because their wives have more earning potential and it makes financial sense. Some women want to work even if they could afford to stay home. People do what works for them.

I am not entirely convinced there is a calling to either stay at home or to work. Who is to say that a calling to a career means one is not called to be a spouse and parent or vice versa? Why couldn’t a person be called to do both? Even parents who have careers that require travel can take along their children. Kids are portable and adaptable. Hiring tutors and/or homeschooling while traveling is an option. Plus, the kids get the experiences of seeing other countries, meeting people of other cultures, seeing natural wonders and so on.

My brother is a stay at home dad. He’s a neat freak, so he’s very good with the household chores and he is great with young kids. He and his GF have three kids ages 4, 3, and 2 years old. Daycare is extremely expensive and his GF has a good factory job. Since brother couldn’t find a job that matched her pay and they couldn’t afford daycare for all of the kids, he stays home with them. Nothing wrong with that. If circumstances change in the future, they can always change what they are doing.

My SIL had an advanced degree and then had 5 children. She had nannies for a while and then decided to stay at home with her kids. Once they were older, she decided to go back to work.

From your post, TacosRocket, I get the impression you are young and unmarried? Follow your heart. Get your education and enjoy a career doing what you love. If you find yourself married with kids later then you can always reevaluate and decide to do something different.

Generally if there is only a one income family the wife stays home for a couple reasons.

First is because men (in general) tend to chose job fields that are higher paying. For instance I have a computer degree where as my wife was getting a degree in history. Her most likely job choices would have come with a salary that was anywhere from half to a quarter of what I make. From a financial standpoint it made more sense for me to work instead of her. This is true of most single income families that I am personally acquainted with.

Second is that many women find they want to stay home especially after having kids. Heck if I had the choice and money wasn’t a concern I wouldn’t be working outside the house either.

As for the women of “a more, liberal mind set” I would agree to a point. In my experience they tend to be of the mind set that being a wife and mother are somehow less important than their careers. They are doctors, lawyers, engineers, etc. before they are wives or mothers. In the extreme case some of the more liberal ones treat women that stay home as lazy, sell outs (“I can’t believe you’d rely on a man”) and demean their choices.

That’s not to say all career women are like that, but I’ve ran into enough that it’s not uncommon.

I don’t know if you meant those statements to be condescending, but they come off that way. My wife is more than a poor kitchen slattern that just does mindless chores all day. Given that she home schools all of our kids and is an NFP instructor her tasks include: teacher, doctor, supply chief, CFO, COO, and a half dozen other things besides.

It does take some skill to run a household of seven (soon to be eight). I took on her job for a week when her grandfather died and the house was nearly destroyed in 5 days. Even at that I gave the kids a mini school vacation after two days and only had 3 of our 5 kids and I still couldn’t keep up with what my wife does day after day. I looked forward to going back to work just to get time to relax.

My point is that staying home is not some mindless lesser job. If you’ve never tried doing it, please don’t demean it.

Nope; it’s not wrong. Not every woman is called to marriage (and by extension to raise a family). A geologist is not more or less noble than running a household. I just encourage you to not look down on those that are called to take care of their families.

Marriage is a vocation. It’s not the default state of every adult. It’s never wrong to not get married. However, when a couple is called to marriage it is often the case that the woman will stay home to raise kids because women are more naturally gifted with the gifts needed for childrearing and it is better for young children to be raised by their own parents than anyone else. Of course, this is not always the case, and each family can discern what is best for themselves, as long as they seek to know and do God’s will. There are many Christian families in which both parents work (sometimes on different schedules), or the father stays home, or one or both parents work from home, etc.

Also, to reduce the role of a mother running a household to “just doing the chores” strikes me as ignorant and (hopefully unintentionally) degrading. I assure you that my wife does at least as much work as a geologist.

My first thought on reading this is that a wise homemaker doesn’t do “chores”–she trains her kids and expects them to do the chores!

Anyway–I work outside my home at a hospital. I have a Bachelor’s Degree, which is a requirement for my job. My hours are 7:00 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.

When my children were very young, I stayed home and raised them. Even when they were older and I was working full-time, they were my first priority. I went back to work outside the home for one reason–to earn MONEY to pay for my children’s private school and figure skating. If the money had been available elsewhere (and morally consistent with Christianity), I wouldn’t have gone back to work outside the home. (My husband earns a good income, but it wouldn’t stretch to pay for private school AND figure skating, no matter how many nights a week we ate Ramen noodles.)

Raising children was definitely more rewarding than identifying bacteria.

All too often, even the most exciting careers turn out to be “jobs” after many years. It’s hard to keep getting up day after day (or night after night) and facing the same old grind with the same old people in the same old building (or field, riverbed, or mountain, if you’re a geologist). Last week, I was able to identify a rather rare bacteria that helped a doctor change the course of treatment for a patient–yes, that was rewarding. But that happens once in five years. Usually, it’s Ecoli and MRSA–boring.

I don’t want to discourage the OP from pursuing a career in geology. But I do want the OP to realize that raising children and taking care of a family and home is an immensely rewarding “career,” too. When homes are well-run by educated, intelligent women (or men), all of society benefits from the calmness.

I had to laugh at that one. When people ask why my wife and I have so many kids, I jokingly say, “cheap labor; just room and board.” The problem is when they become teenagers and realize they can get better wages elsewhere (at least until they move out and find room and board is worth alot :D)

Isn’t it problematic to equate roles between men and women and say, past biological functions, their interchangeable in roles? I feel that’s kind of like a half-way concession to the gender uniformity that modernity is trying to enforce. While there might be anomalous relationships it seems pretty much the case that women are more incline to excel at being a caretaker; you can observe the “mother instinct” easily even when you’re young: the first friend to usually help when someone is sick or upset is a girl.

It also kind of proceeds from Natural Law that women are the caretakers since they have developed biologically to sustain the child in its early infancy, which that in itself causes a bonding experience between the children. Man’s role is to “shumaar” (as Genesis puts it); that is inclusive of financial preservation. I have no issue with women working but I would hope a mother would at least want to stay home while the children are very young - even if the family has the money for daycare.


The Catholic Church exalts a woman as the pinnacle of creation. No other religion holds women in higher esteem.

The role of women in the Catholic family mirrors the role of Mary in the Holy Family, to make Christ present to the world through her family.


Not trying to start a fight or anything but there is this:
“Women, again, are not suited for certain occupations; a woman is by nature fitted for home-work, and it is that which is best adapted at once to preserve her modesty and to promote the good bringing up of children and the well-being of the family.”
Leo XIII - Rerum Novarum

Now, I’m not trying to say that women have to be working in the house or anything all the time. Of course, there maybe situations where they shouldn’t. And in this woman’s case being a homemaker and bringing up children is impossible as she is not married! But I think what Pope Leo XIII was getting at is that there is an ideal for Catholic families. But once again that ideal may not be realized in all places or at all times.

In my family, for instance, my wife is at work and the main breadwinner while I get my JD. I’m not even allowed to have a job for the first year, but even after that can’t have a full time job as a full time student. So I have nothing against working women.

Well there you have it. There is a Church teaching on the matter.

Some very interesting teachings in Rerum Novarum on many things that are very relevant to the labour market today.

Glad you mentioned the time and the place. While that encyclical is amazingly accurate on many points in today’s world, we must keep in mind what was going on in society at the time it was written. Many women (the poor and lower-income class) had women working in what we would call “sweat shops” these days. The mills, factories, etc were a place a woman without any training or education could get a job and be exploited by horrible working conditions, minimal pay, and long hours away from her primary vocation of wife and mother. That would leave her children to be placed in the care of someone else (not always an appropriate family member) or worse, left to their own devices (young children caring for infants along all day).
Where he comments about not being suited for certain occupations, he’s most likely speaking of a job that requires the mother to be away for extended lengths of time and being placed in unsafe working conditions, as were prevalent in that time following the Second Industrial Revolution.

A little more than half-way between the time that encyclical was written and today, a young woman went to college and medical school. She worked as a doctor, treating primarily the poor women and children in her area. She married a successful business man, had children, and continued to work as a physician, even though there wasn’t a financial need for it. A family member was employed as a nanny to care for the children when this woman was working. There is no doubt in my mind, upon reading the biography and autobiographical letters of this woman that she had her priorities in order. She was a wife, mother, and medical doctor. She understood her primary vocation and lived it to the fullest…even unto death when she insisted that her unborn child be saved instead of herself if a choice between the two had to be made. She died a week after her daughter was born (that daughter grew up to be a medical doctor, too and specializes in the care of the elderly).

The Church canonized this wife, mother, and doctor in 2004.

When I was single in the work place some time back, I heard plenty from the other ladies, married with kids, who were carrying the giant load of work at home. If the kids were sick during the night, they wanted mum, arranging doctor and dentist appointments fell on mum, cooking and meal planning fell on mum. Dad might do some stuff, but something like talking to his mum on the phone seemed to fall on the wife’s shoulders. :rolleyes: I heard plenty of mums saying that they wish they could stay home to get it all done and not be so exhausted all the time and playing catch up every weekend. I would think that if they saw a Christian lady at home with the kids, they would have envy. However, hopefully Catholic ladies aren’t desiring all the toys and gimmicks (and husbands too) that the world is running after, to help make it possible. To think that the Church might encourage mums to stay at home to raise children seems to me a lighter burden than what the world is demanding of them, a full time job, raising a family, evenings filled with sports, weekends to catch up and start over on Monday. You have to be a super hero these days to get it all done. If a young woman wishes to pursue her education and career, well we need good Catholic men and women in the workplace, being the salt of the earth to folks who would never enter a church.

God bless you as you discern your path.


Thank you for saying exactly what I was going to answer!

The role of mothers can never ever be understated. I have several friends who lost their moms at an early age or became detached from their moms due to work commitments. Had they been around, I’m sure they wouldn’t have turned out the way they did, or wouldn’t have made certain choices in life.

When my bros and I were little, dad suggested that she shouldn’t work and stay home and take care of us. After some advice from a neighbor, a committed Catholic as well who told her to “never pay attention to a man” :D, she refused and went back to her schoolteacher job. She also went back to school and got her degrees. God has blessed her with a better high-paying job.

The most important thing is to put your family before your career. Yes, bills have to be paid so get a job. But always remember your first job is at home. You might have a maid or nanny, but at least one day of the week, show that you’re the lady of the house. Take control of the housework or the kitchen.

I believe that no matter how good a man can cook or rock a baby to sleep, the role of a mother can never be replicated. Women have simply been created different from us men. I would’ve never been the man I am without my mom’s upbringing. That’s why the issue of same sex couples raising children disgusts me. No man can take a woman’s place in raising children, never.

A worthy information and interested to learn about St. Gianna, who can be the inspiration of young wives and mothers. As the Saint had prioritized, the priority should be Wife, Mother and then other profession. I would rather say that one of the parent should be there to look after the family and daily chores including children so that the purpose of family life be fulfilled.
I think bringing up children and looking after them would be more satisfying in the altar of God, rather than making money and loosing the careers and lives of children to the jaws of devil. There are many part time jobs to fulfill the financial requirements.

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