One Young Woman’s Perspective on Happiness
by Felice Lagarde
As young women interning outside the capital, my co-workers and I often find ourselves admiring the woman who balances family with a high-powered career. “Look what she’s accomplished in D.C.,” we tell ourselves; “isn’t she amazing?” Immediately, we put ourselves on the wrong path for finding true self-fulfillment.
Our comment places a woman’s worth on her notable achievements in traditionally male-dominated areas of work. Lady Gaga sums up the cultural outlook perfectly: “Some women choose to follow men…. [R]emember that your career will never wake up and tell you that it doesn’t love you anymore.” Lady Gaga supports the girlboss.
Like this famous singer, we admire the female CEO, lawyer, or politician—the millennial “girlboss”—and we forget how to properly value women, and for what. We forget that, by her nature and physical makeup, Woman is best fulfilled through self-sacrificial love. Woman should be valued to the extent that she becomes fully herself by giving fully of herself to others. Woman finds her greatest happiness and total self-fulfillment through motherhood, and our worldly expectation of pursuing high-powered careers—like Stevie Nicks choosing Fleetwood Mac over keeping her child—discourages women from taking the path of true joy.
Why, you may ask, are women fulfilled through motherhood? And what does “motherhood” mean for those of us who do not get married and have families? To begin, self-fulfillment stems from design and capacity. A 12-ounce coffee mug is fulfilled when it holds 12 ounces of coffee. And women are fulfilled when they give of themselves to nurture life.
Women, unlike coffee mugs, are physically designed for sacrificial motherhood. They are, as a general category, better able to read and respond to the emotions of people around them. They each have a womb—the potential to nurture a human being inside of them for nine months. A woman’s bodily makeup signifies that her design and capacity—her first and foremost ability—is nurturing life through self-gift. Our greatest potential, ladies, is motherhood.
How do we fulfill this potential to motherhood? We do not all have to become biological mothers. Some of us cannot. We are all called, however, to live out a vocation dedicated to personal, self-sacrificial love for those around us. Like Mother Teresa of Calcutta, we can be gracious to our neighbors, forge strong relationships, and use our femininity to call men to a higher standard. We women are called to preserve virtue and beauty, and we shall find happiness in doing so.
Unfortunately, American culture does not admire women most for their maternal values. It prizes women, first and foremost, for their achievements. American culture likes loud action, and the greatest maternal figures, like Mary of Nazareth, are often the quietest and humblest.
How are we to shift the cultural mindset from valuing work performance in women to valuing self-giving love that brings them true self-fulfillment and happiness? We should celebrate the family and avoid criticizing areas of labor more heavily populated by men. We should be okay with young women who choose to live at home or near home while they are building their financial independence (and even afterwards); women thrive on personal connections, and their closest ties are often with their family members.
We won’t be the first to find happiness in true feminine self-fulfillment. Celebrities like Julia Roberts, Phoebe Cates, and Jennifer Garner have all chosen to prioritize family over fame—or, in some cases, give up their inspiring careers for their kids.
Yes, we talented creatures can become great politicians, great doctors, great lawyers, but we can’t forget the humble teachers, nurses and florists. We shouldn’t dismiss the high-powered career of the mom raising five kids in Washington, D.C. That is quite a feat! But we should let our respect for her career come second to our respect for her openness to life, for her maternal, self-sacrificial care for her kids that preserves and revives American culture from the foundation up.
As young women interning outside the capital, we often find ourselves discussing the high-powered careers that we want to hold. But some of us want first and foremost to become mothers. And only motherhood—only sacrificial gift of self—can satisfy the deepest calling of the modern girlboss and lead American gals to true happiness.