Women are the back-bone of any parish, as they are in our society. The stereo-type of “women’s work” is caring and nurturing, cleaning and cooking. Little has changed in our parish life. It is still mostly women who wash and iron the sacristy linens and clean the church building and rectory. They still cook the funeral lunches, organize the bake sales and make the perogies to raise much needed funds. But the number of women willing to do this work is quickly decreasing. Who will replace them?
There are at least two issues involved. One is the lack of respect that this work gets – from both women and men. The other is the changes in generational realities and lifestyles.
I had the luxury of being a full time, stay at home Mom. Although I would do it again, I struggled constantly with the identity it gave me – or lack of identity. I didn’t want to go to the church to do more cooking and cleaning. As I searched for a place in our church as a woman, I realized I was guilty of devaluing the parish work done by many faithful and dedicated women. I devalued it because I saw it as ‘housekeeping’ work. It is a common and grave error of many feminists. As women, we are sometimes our own worst enemy. We try to validate our choices by devaluing the choices of another. The career woman will look down on the stay-at-home Mom. And, the stay-at-home Mom will criticize the career woman.
All work is good when done for the good of another. All work must be valued and we must support each other in our choices. The key is to have the freedom and choice to use your gifts and talents to the fullest. Yes, it is wrong for women to be confined to housework whether it is in the home or the church. And, yes, it is wrong to think that housework is solely the domain of women. This work is needed. It must be done and it must be shared. And, we need to respect the talents of those who do the work with love and care.
My generation, for the most part, has not stepped up to replace the perogie-making brigade. The younger generation after us is juggling an even more complicated and stressful life than we had. Soon the parish kitchens will be empty. Fall suppers, bake sales and teas will be no more. Funeral lunches will be served by caterers who have no personal connections to the grieving families. The times are certainly changing. And you don’t know what you have until it’s gone. (With a shout out to Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell…..my boomer roots are showing!)
to be continued…..