Why Women Need Back-Up Plans

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©Heidi Bratton Photography

A few days ago, I logged on to my Facebook account and saw a desperate plea for help. A husband left his wife and children. A concerned friend and Good Samaritan decided to request donations for the abandoned family.

 The message came soon after I talked with Joe Patch IV of Spirit & Truth Live on Radio Maria (Fridays at 2:00 p.m. EST). Joe and I had a pre-chat before the live show and agreed that we had to encourage Catholic women to be prudent about their education and income earning skills. It’s an important point that does not get credence in many devout circles. 

 When I came through an ultra-orthodox diocese as a young 20-something, the “pro-family” messaging often skirted the issue of women securing their futures. Nobody wanted to sound like a feminist, minimize the needs of young children, or to question the trustworthiness of male family members.

 Life is unpredictable though. Is it smart not to prepare women for basic survival? Why is it that in some Catholic communities, a child-like, ingénue helplessness is framed as a badge of honor? 

 I think it’s critical to look reality squarely in the face and puncture ideals that can lead to personal tragedies.

 We know that not every man is going to stay committed to his wife and children. It’s not a new story! We can kick, scream, and protest as much as we want, yet, the risks remain. Things can go wrong even with the best intentions and planning. What if a guy turns out to be a violent abuser and you have to leave? 

 It is impossible to ever completely control another person, even if that person is a spouse. Complete confidence in your husband right now can devolve over time too.  

 If thinking about your husband leaving or abusing you is either too troubling or far-fetched to entertain, what about illnesses and accidents? What if your husband is killed through an on-the-job mishap? What if he gets in a car crash and is permanently disabled? What if an illness takes him early? How is the family going to survive? Tragic things happen to good people every day. Nobody knows why – but it’s best to be prepared.

 Even if a woman intends to spend the majority of her life as a homemaker, it’s wise to have what Joe called an “insurance policy.” Have a back-up plan. 

 A woman who is proactive about evaluating her talents and strengths should be able to select a specialty to her liking. In this day and age, possible back-up plans are extensive.  Not every career field requires expensive degrees, and not every workplace fosters an extremely aggressive culture that would challenge a gentle woman who is full of maternal instinct and compassion. Some jobs can be done from home in a “mompreneurial” fashion.

 If one back-up plan seems too cumbersome, find another one that suits you better. We’re all different, and one size won’t fit all. Remember that having skills does not mean that you always have to use them either. 

Another thing to keep in mind is that education for the sake of education is not always wasteful. A well-educated woman is beautiful and her intelligence will enrich her marriage, relationships, and ability to support her children through their schooling. Even if she doesn’t constantly use her degree, she will have the academic background, critical thinking skills, and piece of paper, to help her open doors if she needs to in the event of an unforeseen crisis.

As women who live in the modern world, we need to think about how to feed ourselves and our children in worst case scenarios. What’s our plan? In the old days, it was all about being born into the right family, marrying the right man, or getting plugged into the right charity if poverty struck. For all of the negatives we face in society these days, we have more opportunities than ever to build strong safety nets.


About Author

I am the author of the book, "How to Get to 'I Do' - A Dating Guide for Catholic Women" and a communications professional.

  • Loretta Pioch

    This is EXACTLY what I did. And it is EXACTLY what I thought. I met my hubby in college. He proposed to me my senior year. He was 1 year ahead of me and finishing up his Masters. I had 2 more years before I could get my Masters.
    We got married a little over 1 year later, and I still had 1 year to go to get my Masters. It was the most difficult year to finish because it was clear to us that I would be staying home with the (future) kids.
    The only way I stuck it out (and yes…still incurred a decent student loan bill) was by knowing I was spending 1 more year getting insurance. I knew that if anything happened to him (I was thinking more accident/death than other horrors) I would be able to fairly easily whip out my degrees and get back into the workforce somehow.

  • Kevin

    Having a backup plan in case your husband dies is one thing, planning for your marriage to fail is another. Here’s a thought: how about we focus on becoming holy, seek holy spouses, and work hard on our marriages rather than planning what we’ll do WHEN they fail?

    Furthermore, I am so sick of this perpetuation of the myth that all men are scumbags by nature!

    “We know that not every man is going to stay committed to his wife and children. It’s not a new story!”

    PLEASE!!! I have seen just as many, if not more, relationships destroyed by women who turn out to be evil. When I mentored young kids from the ghetto during college, I saw this constantly. Teenage girls would purposely get pregnant in order to be entitled to more welfare benefits, plus child support! Often, the men really did love their kids and want to have a normal family but weren’t allowed to because the mother was only interested in the money. The man and kids were just a means to a lifetime meal ticket. THIS is what drives most of them to crime!

    I base this, and all my beliefs, on what I’ve seen with my OWN EYES, not what I see in Lifetime Original Movies, not on gossip which always assumes a failed relationship was because of the man (“he was probably abusive”), not on the media which always assumes male guilt.

    Yes, some men are bad. But so are just as many women! Let’s end the warfare between the genders, shall we?

    Amy, I’m sure you have good intentions but you are unknowingly undermining fatherhood! Encourage the women you minister to to not settle for less than a St. Joseph-like man, then put everything into strengthening the marriage, not planning for failure!