Recently I told a very eligible young bachelor about the career advice I give to young women. He asked if I would share my advice with a young woman in whom he has a romantic interest. Here is my advice.
Congratulations on your graduation from college. You probably think your next step is your career.
Orthodox. Faithful. Free.
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Here is my career advice: The single most important thing you can do in your life right now is to get married and have children. For Catholics, I would add that you need to discern if God is calling you to marriage or religious life.
“But wait!” you say. “I want career advice.” Jane, this is my career advice. Let me explain.
As with my education at Stanford and Yale, your university was preparing you to have a career, not to be a human being (such is the sorry state of most modern education). What you need to do now is to step back from your university education and consider what it means to be human—in your case, what it means to be human as a woman.
Do not confuse career with vocation. Career is at best something nested under and within your vocation, or maybe “career” is just a dubious modern concept. Either way, a career is not a life-path unto itself. This is why you need to take vocational discernment seriously rather than fixating on a career. To be sure, God’s timing is God’s, not ours. But don’t get distracted by the illusion that a career is a vocation; it is not. Don’t front-load your career quest and thereby push the vocation question into becoming an afterthought that you plan to get around to “someday.”
Two basic facts are before us: your body is designed to bear and raise children right now—not in ten years, but right now—and God created you as a human being, not a career automaton. In God’s creation of you, He loves you so much that He sent His only Son to die for you, and He has explained what He wants you, indeed each of us, to do with this adventure of human existence. First, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind,” and, second, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
This means that God calls every one of us to be holy. Our Catholic tradition gives us two main paths to aid in this: religious life and the sacrament of marriage. Then, within one of these, comes discernment of a particular path with a built-in community so that we can help each other stay oriented to the vertical love of God and also exercise day in and day out the horizontal call to love others.
As Mary Cuff explained, “There Is No Vocation to the ‘Single Life’” (Crisis, August 7, 2020). I do not believe that God’s desire for your life is to leave you to meander alone. But your vocation is quite unlikely simply to show up one day on your doorstep. You will need to be intentional and active in opening your heart and your life to this. (For help learning what vocational discernment is, one good place to start is with the writings and videos of Father Mike Schmitz.)
If your vocation is to marry, make meeting a man to marry a priority. Now. Not after your next degree or after your next job. Now. This means structuring your life around this priority. Don’t pursue a career and assume that meeting Mr. Right will just happen along the way. In America, social structures that used to help us meet spouses are broken or have even disappeared. Therefore, you must be pro-active and creative to make up for the absence of these long-gone connective tissues. Tell family and friends you want to get married. Let them provide introductions (and don’t strike them with lightning when a blind date is less than spectacular). Select where you live based on where you are likely to meet eligible men. Pray and let God form your soul. Invest time in educating yourself regarding sacramental marriage and what it actually is; you will not learn what marriage is by osmosis from what passes as marriage in American culture today.
Next, allow me to let you in on three secrets feminists don’t want you to know.
First, it’s okay to be feminine. Feminists have spent decades trying to crush key instincts out of us women. But reality keeps rearing its head and we should help it do so. In the success stories I hear today of women getting married, men talk about the joy of meeting a woman who is “lovely” and “sweet,” notions guaranteed to trigger feminists. (A word of caution: don’t confuse these with coquetry at the office, which just fosters intra-female competition for men’s attention and unfairly sends confusing signals to male colleagues.)
Second, feminists want you to pursue a career so they can use you to advance their own agenda. In the feminist quest for women to have power and autonomy, it is useful for them to have as many women in the workplace as possible. This enables feminists to maintain their unrealistic pursuit of forcing 50/50 outcome parity, or even female dominance, in institutions and professions. Plus, the more women there are in the workplace, the more candidates there are for future female CEOs. Feminists don’t care about you. They just want to use you as cannon fodder in their quest to break glass ceilings.
If you buy into the feminist “career über alles!” myth, you may get praise for some of your worldly achievements, but when you die and meet your Maker, these are not what will matter. Yet in the feminists’ recruitment scheme, they portray career life to little girls and young women as an arc moving from one moment of glory to the next. Sure, some jobs are meaningful some of the time, but these are the exception, not the norm. For the most part, the capitalist and bureaucratic overlords just want to use your labor for their own ends; generally, all you will get is a daily grind in so-so jobs, the stress of emotionally dysfunctional office dynamics, and decades of living and then growing old alone.
It is obvious there are many ways women can and do contribute richly to public life. So, “yay!” for this. But careers need to serve our vocations. If our priorities get out of order, careers will distract us from our vocations. Figure out your vocation first and then fit career in underneath that. If God calls you to marriage and then to be a mother, you can pursue graduate school and professional development later in life, even patching them together part-time along the way while your children are young.
Which leads me to the third secret feminists don’t want you to know: motherhood is a noble, honorable path in life.
My career advice is that you are called to something much greater than a career. If your vocation is to religious life, go figure out where that vocation will unfold. Sitting home thinking “Someday…” won’t get you there. If your vocation is to marriage, get out there and find that husband with a sacramental grasp of marriage who wants to help you fulfill your vocational path to love God and neighbor, and who will want you to help him fulfill his vocation to love the Lord his God and to love his neighbor, which starts with him loving you.
[Image: Alice in Wonderland by George Dunlop Leslie]