In which I watch a disagreement break out and people get sensitive about an event I didn’t go to

I did not go to Edel. 

The reasons: 1. I didn’t have the bank and family’s annual vacation was that week anyway.

Instead I spent that weekend and the week before with my husband, kids, parents, 2 of my brothers, my maternal grandparents and maternal aunt and cousin on an island an hour and a half from where I live.

When I first heard about Edel, I thought, that sounds great! But my big ol’ introvert self breathed a sigh of relief when I saw the dates and knew that I had a reason beyond money not to go. Because I have a couple of friends who like to give me “scholarships” occasionally for events like that.

But, last weekend I was lying around a beach house my parents were paying for eating food they paid for and having no regrets. I got online and looked on twitter.

It started out as a question: Is Edel only for Catholic mothers or are all Catholic women welcome?

I won’t link to tweets or mention handles here, but it evolved into a series of people trying to answer the question of the intent of the gathering (for moms who need a break? for all women who need a break? mostly for moms but non-moms can still come but might feel left out of a lot?) And the issue of exclusivity was raised. I left the debate before a successful conclusion was reached (I didn’t engage, but I did follow out of curiousity) so I’m not sure if there was a conclusion. Also, no one actually at Edel who was in the convo (there was at least one) could confirm if there were any non-moms in attendance.

The original asker of the question does not have children and admitted to possibly being over-sensitive about it. The one participant I saw who I knew was at Edel took exception to the question even being asked. She first got upset and misunderstood the asker’s intention (note to all: twitter is not a good debate forum. Ever. For anything.) and felt the asker was saying that mom’s don’t deserve a break. And that God forbid they get a break because it might cause offense. Quickly it was resolved that yes, mom’s deserve a break, but is there ever a time when moms and non-moms can take a break together? This participant then accused the others in the thread of being unkind and uncharitable toward the participants and organizers of Edel. Several both moms and non-moms jumped in saying they didn’t think that was the case at all.

Now on the Edel website it clearly states this:

Edel is an event for mothers who need a break.

It’s a chance to form meaningful connections with like-minded women.

It’s an opportunity to hear inspiring speakers who will encourage you in your vocation.

To me it clearly lets one know, hey this is a mom’s only conference. I think the original asker of the question was ambiguous because various blog posts regarding the event made less mention of the event being for moms and had more of an “all are welcome” tone and vibe. As she stated it was exciting to hear about a great gathering and then get to the page and read that headline was like, “oh, I see.”

I don’t think this was a case of outright exclusivity. I think the event was created by two wonderful women who created an event like they would like to go to. Not the traditional Catholic conference fare. And knowing Hallie for a few years now, I can say with certainty she did not sit down and think, “Let me create an event that focuses on  Catholic motherhood so we can leave out those Catholic women unable to have children, who are licitly trying to avoid conception or are single.”

I also don’t think the original writer of the question was trying to pick a fight. I think she felt left out and it stung. It wasn’t intentional, but it happened. Having experienced infertility and pregnancy loss (which that writer was very clear she was NOT suffering from) I could remember sitting in mass week after week and hearing a priest extol the virtues of motherhood and sometimes it really hurt. When I thought I was being overly sensitive about it, a friend whose husband was diagnosed with cancer a week after their honeymoon and was unable to have children because of his on-going treatment and a single friend both told me, it wasn’t my imagination, the religious life and motherhood were the gold standards at their parish and in their diocese as well. Most of the time you try to ignore it but sometimes that sense of loss or feeling left out really does hurt, as unintentional as it may be.

If I could go back to talk to myself 10 odd years ago I would tell myself what I’m saying now: you are Catholic. All ARE welcome. Catholic means universal and that includes you. So maybe this conference wasn’t designed with you in mind, so make your own! There are other parts of the Body of Christ out there like you who need to share your unique experiences of vocation as a wife. Start your own group in the parish for women in your situation. It doesn’t have to be big! Yes, you deserve a break too but it’s okay to create that yourself!  If you don’t, who will?

I think about this as my new parish hosts a group for parents suffering miscarriage, still-birth or infant-loss but no group for infertile couples. If I was still without children, I would need to start that group after having reached this age and maturity level. But, I get it, it still can hurt at times. That’s normal.

I hope that the women who went to Edel enjoyed themselves. I hope the women who didn’t and wanted to will be able to someday. And for the women who felt left out, I hope that they can continue to live out their vocations joyfully and maybe create that gathering that represents them and their station in life.