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Feminine Genius. I like that term. Blessed John Paul II used it in several encyclicals, but it has only recently come to my attention. The concept of Feminine Genuis first appeared at the closing message of the Second Vatican Council. No matter what your view of the Catholic Church or your standing on women’s rights, this is a golden statement about the necessity and influence of women:

“The hour is coming, in fact has come, when the vocation of women is being acknowledged in its fullness, the hour in which women acquire in the world an influence, an effect and a power never hitherto achieved. That is why, at this moment when the human race is undergoing so deep a transformation, women imbued with a spirit of the gospel can do so much to aid humanity in not falling” (Second Vatican Council).

Think about it: Being a woman is a trip! Our vocation is absolutely unique. We are given amazing bodies that can bring new life into the world, we can do everything a man can do (and do it better sometimes) but still can’t open a jar of pickles without straining and looking rather unseemly as that vein on our temple nearly bursts. Our spouses, boyfriends, brothers and fathers, as manly and strong as they are, are dumbfounded at our complexities and unsure how to proceed when we give them “the look”. You know what I’m talking about!

We are tall or short, thin or plump, endowed or ready to run without a bra. We can laugh until tears blind us and our breath comes in gasping catches when our girlfriends tell a story, and we can cry at the death of a baby bird – a creature we didn’t even realize had been born under the eaves of our back porch until its little body is found floating in the wading pool (actual experience).

I was born after the feminine revolution of the 60’s, raised by a stay-at-home mom and now I am a stay-at-home mom. Motherhood is a 24-7 gig. It is the vocation I choose although sometimes I feel like it choose me. I love it, but I will also admit that there are days (usually laundry days or when the baby is teething) that I crave a 9-5 job with nice clothes and a pay check. Instead of swanky office chatter and big business presentations, I endure piano and violin practices, diapers and four little mouths that are always ready for the next meal. My job has no start time and no clock to punch. Vacations are included in the motherhood package, but they are taken in snippets during naps and the infrequent outings with girlfriends or my husband.

I do feel the burden of being a woman and a mother. It wears me thin to think that the mess I just cleaned up will return the next day. I have yet to walk into the kitchen without spying a dirty dish. And the only time that my house is clean is when…well, that hasn’t happened yet and I don’t expect it will any time soon.

Since I refuse to sell the kids and hire an interior designer, I’ve come to the conclusion that the only thing I can change is how I view my life.

So I will practice Feminine Genius; the art of taking what I have and filtering it through the gifts I have to empower the people in my life. The Catholic Church says that the influence women have on this world has never before been achieved. What do I have? Imagination, baby! I will no longer look at the laundry as a chore, but a mining expedition in search of stray gems hidden deep in pockets and after they are washed, I will be thankful for all the beautiful clothing we have. Mopping will now give me the satisfaction of being able to look back at a job well done, even if it lasts from now until the next muddy boot. Cooking is an endeavor I enjoy with my children, teaching them the art of chopping, smelling new herbs, taste-testing and following a recipe; all time well spent making memories. (It also helps that whoever helps the least in making dinner does the dishes.)

I can practice my feminine genius in many small ways, too. I will read that book for the fiftieth time, dig under the couch for the run-a-way legos, wipe a nose, kiss a cheek and dry those tears. I will do all things with immense gratitude in my heart because God gave me children to love, not spoil or ignore, but love. The genius of a mother finds its source of power in the love that God feeds us. I want to do this motherhood thing well and tomorrow will bring another opportunity to do it even better!

When a woman, no matter what her life situation, gracefully accepts her role as a wife, a single woman, mother, daughter, aunt, employee or manager, the beauty of the feminine genius fills her thoughts with empowering inspiration. And our actions follow our most powerful thoughts.

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