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Women and Children

Fr. Chris Saenz, Director

From the Director

By Fr. Chris Saenz

Throughout the western world, the growth of women’s and children’s rights has changed much of societal and cultural expectations for both groups. However, some areas still face challenges. A common expectation that largely remains unchanged is the household duties and caring for children. Today, many women work outside of the home. However, upon arriving home from work, the majority of household duties (cooking, cleaning, etc.) and child raising falls upon the woman. In general, a man can arrive from a full day’s work into his house to rest. Meanwhile, the woman arrives from a full day’s work to more work. My mother was an example.

Mother and child picking wildflowers

She had married at the age of 18 straight from high school. My father was a career Air Force officer and often was away. When my father retired and opened his own private business, my mother decided to pursue a nursing degree. I am the youngest of six and from early childhood I remember seeing her studying over the medical books piled on her bed. Yet, she was constantly interrupted by the needs of her children. Once I had a terrible earache and entered into the bedroom crying. My mother was deep in her studies but immediately dropped everything to take care of my needs. Her studies at the moment were secondary. It took me many years to appreciate the sacrifices of her small acts of kindness.

In my first year of the Columban seminary, I had the challenging workload of a Master’s degree in Theology. Like my mother, I would have books piled on my bed as I read and took notes. One evening one of the priests in the house had a mission reflection group in the house. One of the members of the group was a young mother who brought her daughter (about 10 years of age) because a babysitter could not be found. They had placed the daughter in a room with various games to play with. I was on kitchen duty hastily cleaning up while mentally preoccupied with a test for the next day.

Women and children have been my greatest teachers in life.

When I finished, relieved that I can go to my room, I was surprised to find the young child standing by the kitchen door. Immediately I asked her if she needed something to drink, snack on, etc. All of which she replied no. Therefore, I asked how I could help her. She said, “I’m bored. Can you play with me?” Immediately, my mind screamed NO! I had too much to prepare and no time for this! However, I saw the look on her face, and I said I could for a short time. Initially, I was a little put out but proceeded to play some board games. In time, I forgot about my studies and enjoyed the relaxation of play and laughter. Eventually, her mother showed up, and they left. Tired, I went to bed with no worry of studies. As you guess, it all turned out well.

Witnessing my mother’s selfless sacrifice to care for her children in spite of a busy workload, and a child’s simple approach of enjoying life at every moment, I realized that the more important things in life were these small acts of kindness. After all, wasn’t that the purpose of my studies? Women and children have been my greatest teachers in life.