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A Family Woman Ink Slingers Marriage Michelle Motherhood Proverbs 31 Catholic Woman Series Spiritual Growth Vocations

Ode to Feminine Genius: A Family Woman

This is the seventh installment in the series of Ode to Feminine Genius: Proverbs 31 Catholic WomanToday’s topic will cover A Family Woman.

A family woman

When I was a child I always said I wanted 9 children. In fact, I said I wanted 9 boys! I would tell people I wanted my own baseball team, not a softball team, a baseball team. Family was important to me and I hoped and prayed that one day I would find someone who would love me enough to want to marry me and start a family with me. I was very fortunate to begin dating my husband in high school and to marry shortly after we graduated. We added to our little family just two years later when our daughter Kaylie was born. I loved my little family. Sure, there were ups and downs but I was happy. I was right where I had always prayed to be.

As the years progressed and my husband and I worked out our roles as both parents and spouses, I began to feel like I was losing myself. Sure I had gone to college, I had worked outside of the home, and ultimately I made the choice to stay home with our children, but I found that often people only referred to me as just a wife or just a mother. I wanted to shout, “I am Michelle! Can’t you see me?” Resentment invaded my heart. Why was it that Mike could be seen as more than just a husband or father, but I couldn’t be seen as more than just a wife or mother? It didn’t seem fair.

why can't you see me

I don’t know what happened to change my heart, but one day I realized how silly I was being. After all, wasn’t I the one who dreamed of being a wife and a mother? Wasn’t I the one who claimed that her family was her reason for living? Wasn’t I the one who prayed daily that God would bless her with more children and a deeper, loving relationship with her husband? Why did being a wife and mother take away from who I was? My husband and my children filled every space in my heart and every minute of my day. I lived for them. I cherished them. I thanked God each and every day for them. I realized that my vocations as a wife and mother completed who I was. It was a startling discovery.

It wasn’t that I didn’t do my job as a wife and mother before that point. I did; and I did it well. But after I realized that my vocations as wife and mother were more important than any other aspect of myself, I found that I had a desire to do better. I wanted my husband and my children to be proud of me. More importantly, I found I wanted God to approve of the wife and mother I was becoming. This meant I had to let go of me so that He could mold me and make me into the woman He desired me to be. It was the easiest, and the hardest, choice I have ever made.

wedding-ringsThe Proverbs 31 woman does well by her husband. She respects him as the head of her home. While I had always respected Mike, I don’t know that I had allowed him to become the head of our home; the head of me. When I decided that my vocation as wife and mother was the most important calling in my life, I decided to actively submit to my husband. When we talk about submission we are often faced with criticism that no man should ever “rule” over us and that as women we are strong and should stand on our own. Submission in marriage doesn’t mean that the husband rules over his wife. In fact, more often than not you find just the opposite. You find a greater amount of cooperation and trust. You find spouses working together to make decisions that will affect the family. You find mutual respect and love. Submission often equals greater satisfaction within your relationship.

But what does it mean to submit to my husband? When I submit to him there are certain things I do to make sure that I am honoring him and holding him up as the head of our house. I encourage him in his work and in his fatherly duties. I speak highly of him to our children and to our family and friends. I never talk badly of him to others. I respect his views and his thoughts and consider all that he says with an open heart. I truthfully share my thoughts and opinions with him knowing that he also respects my views and wants to know what I think. I trust that he has our best interests at heart and when I am not sure that we are making a right decision, I trust him to lead us down the right path. I try my hardest to do nice things for him that will bring him joy and peace. I do not deny him any part of myself- my time, my attention, my thoughts, my heart, my body, or my love.  What I have found is that when I submit to my husband, he in turn submits his heart to me- he loves me the way Christ loves His church.

But the Proverbs 31 woman doesn’t just respect her husband. She also loves her children and nurtures them. She teaches them the ways of the Lord and trains them in the faith. She is a model of love and wisdom. Perhaps this is the harder role of the family woman. What a tremendous task to set out to accomplish! As I began to see that my role as a mother didn’t preclude me from being Michelle but actually made me a better version of myself, I could see just how important my role was in my children’s lives. I knew that I had to take it seriously. But how could I make faith an important part of my children’s lives? How could I be a model of love, wisdom, and care?

fritz family 1I started out the best way I knew how… I took my children to church. I made the decision that church was important and that meant we needed to go. And so, we went. I often had to go alone and I often wouldn’t hear the Gospel or the homily and would be sweaty and tired by the time Mass ended. But, each Sunday I was there I prayed that God would accept my offering and know that I was doing my best. The graces I received were innumerable. They spilled over into my everyday life. I was able to bring our faith into our everyday lives as well, centering our family around God and His promises. I had more patience and more hope. I found peace in the mundane and joy in the hardships that accompanied motherhood. I saw joy and peace spread into my children’s hearts as well. Their eyes sparkled and their laughter rang through our home. I felt fulfilled. I felt that my life was exactly as God had planned.

My vocation as a wife and a mother helps to make me Michelle. My family helps me to be the best version of myself that I can be. They help me to see the good in life; they help me to call on God when times are tough; they help me to trust and to love in ways I could never do on my own. When I take care of them I am rewarded in ways I could have never imagined. When I fall short of my calling we are all affected by those shortcomings. While I am not perfect by any means and fail more often than not, when I try to do my best my family thrives. I thrive. When I focus first on my family I become a better version of myself than I could ever be on my own and I uphold the calling I willingly accepted when God invited me to enter into family life. I become as much of a blessing to my family as they are to me.

 

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A Frugal Woman Ink Slingers Mary S. Proverbs 31 Catholic Woman Series

Ode to Feminine Genius: A Frugal Woman

This is the third installment in the series of Ode to Feminine Genius: Proverbs 31 Catholic Woman.

Today’s topic will cover a Frugal Woman.

Proverbs 31 Catholic Woman - Frugal
Blessed Mother Teresa is the patron saint for the Frugal Woman

old bread muffin

A Frugal woman. Sounds kinda boring, doesn’t it? Like that woman wearing an ill-fitting jeans jumper that looks like it’s from 30 years ago, buying only day-old bread, never getting anything nice or new, and spouting off about how everyone should grow and grind their own flour, like her. Um yeah, I really don’t want to be that lady. The good news is that being frugal doesn’t have to look like that at all. Frugality just means making wise use of the gifts God has given us, whether it’s our talents and skills, our monetary income, our time and effort, or the material items we own. It means not wasting or throwing away those gifts. So, how does that look in everyday life?? Well, I’ll tell you about one major way my husband and I try to be frugal, then I’ll go through several different points to think about in considering how best to become more frugal in your own life.

Money can be a difficult topic in any marriage. I’ve heard that financial difficulties or disagreements are responsible for a large percentage of divorces and any married couple can tell you it’s the source of many arguments. As much as we should perhaps want to “rise above” such mundane and materialistic concerns, it can be difficult to avoid hearing your spouse criticize your spending habits and not take it personally. My husband and I have had our share of disagreements, usually rising from a difference in how our parents handled money and how we were raised to think of money, or even just our personalities – a matter of us doing things differently from each other, rather than one of us doing anything wrong. We’ve managed to work out a system that has been working fairly well for us with ideas originating from a variety of sources.

budget envelopes For a few years now we have roughly followed the advice of Dave Ramsey. The biggest change for us was going to a cash budget and planning where all of our money is going to go each month before we spend any of it. I’m better at making plans and organizing the details, so I work out the budget in a spreadsheet I created and figure out what bills we’ll need to pay and how much money goes in which envelope for the month. My husband is better at making sure those planned details actually happen, so he’s the one who sits down and writes the checks for the bills and makes sure each one gets paid. It amazed me at first, just how easy it was to stay on budget, simply because I had to actually pull out cash for whatever I wanted to buy! From one month to the next, we went from spending more than my husband’s paycheck, to being able to save money each month! I was afraid we’d feel so deprived, or that it would actually start more arguments, since we were really making an effort to save up some money in a “rainy day fund”, but that wasn’t the case at all. We try to touch base about the budget monthly or when there is a major expense that comes up and I think that heads off any arguments because we deal with differences or problems before they get big and emotional. Of course, we have had to make many adjustments as our family changed, our needs and wants changed, and my husband’s job changed. And it’s taken time to figure out the best separation of roles and what we each are best at. Nowadays, the changes are more minor since we’ve gotten the bigger aspects of our system worked out. In fact, the biggest change I have planned is to sew a cash envelope wallet (like in the tutorial here), to replace our ratty and wrinkled paper envelopes that tend to get misplaced or ripped.

Frugality is a difficult thing. Budgeting and money management is part of it, but clearly not the whole. The monthly duties of planning the budget and paying bills can be easy compared to the myriad daily choices we make that comprise a frugal way of life. It means a daily commitment to using the gifts we’ve been given wisely, deciding as a couple (for married folks) how best to use what we have, and to trusting that God will provide what we need as long as we do our part and follow His will. That looks different for each family, and certainly is a balancing act trying to figure out what works best. And as with most things, we can always do better. That can be discouraging at times, but I prefer to think of it as the “glass half full,” because when I’m disappointed because I made a poor or wasteful choice, I know there’s room for improvement next time. So here’s what I look at in attempting to be more frugal:

1. Budget

  • plan your budget: do what works for you. A spreadsheet plan and cash in envelopes has worked great for us, but another system might work better for your family.
  • stick to it, but
  • change it when needed: especially at first, towards the end of the month I would take money from envelopes that still had any to fill needs in other categories. When I frequently find myself short in one envelope and with extra in another, I change the budget for the next month.

2. Plan

  • Meal planning helps avoid wasted food, planning several errands for the same trip save time and gas, planning ahead for clothing needs enables you to take advantage of the best sales.
  • Even in small things, planning can help: knowing you have enough milk or eggs for tomorrow’s breakfast means avoiding a last minute shopping trip or a stressful change of menu in the morning.

3. Discuss with your spouse

  • this isn’t a one-off thing, you really need to keep checking in to make sure you’re both on the same page
  • look at each of your strengths and weaknesses to decide how best to divide the responsibilities, whether it’s budgeting and bill-paying, shopping and cooking, childcare, or anything.
  • if things change, discuss with your spouse again.
  • If things don’t change, discuss with your spouse again (I know, broken record, right?!?! Seriously, planning and talking about your plan together really is the best advice I could give any married couple!!)

4. Consider the smaller “daily” stuff

  • Consider whether clipping coupons is for you. Have you checked out discount or second-hand stores in your area? Even if there are some things you really want to buy brand new, I’m frequently amazed at the quality of some items I find at my favorite thrift stores!
  • something is broken?? Rather than tossing it, take a moment to see if it can be fixed, re purposed, or recycled
  • Even having “grungy” clothes set aside for when you paint or do other messy stuff (or having separate play and school/church clothes for your kids) is also a way to be frugal, because it saves your nicer (and usually more expensive!) clothes from getting stained, torn, or otherwise ruined.
  • Learn to do some things yourself: cooking from scratch, buying large cuts of meat and cutting/packaging them yourself, sewing, gardening, all these skills are great for making better use of the resources you have
  • share skills with others: my MOMS club enjoys doing some play dates where we learn new skills and share what we know with each other, and we’ve also worked out trades and barters for some skills – mending a friend’s pants once got me a couple jars of her delicious strawberry jam!! You might be surprised what some of your friends could teach you to do, or could barter with you for something you can do.

5. Pray

  • Okay, this really should be the very first step! Because the first step is discerning how and where you need to make better use of your gifts, and that means prayerfully considering your lifestyle.

Clearly, this is just a start. There are so many different personalities, needs and family situations that there’s no way I could address every need. There are so many websites and resources on how to save money, and make better use of what you have, that this post is really more an encouragement and a few ideas for you to consider your own situation. So put away the thought of a cranky, styleless, penny-pinching lady, and consider how you can joyfully be frugal with what you’ve been given. I’ll be there with you, singing while I mend my kiddos’ torn clothes!

So, what are some tips that YOU can add to this list? In what ways do you live frugally and how does it help your family?

::DISCLAIMER: Recognizing that each family, marriage, woman is different, this series is intended to give advice and information based on the writer’s personal experience. These are not intended to say that our way is best and that we know what’s best for your family, but rather the point is to share some things that have worked for us. We welcome your ideas in the comments and/or look forward to seeing your posts that highlight things that work in your home. We’re all in this together!::