Woman. How does one define what it is to be a woman? Society continually portrays women as nothing more than sex figures in their many degrading advertisements and commercials. It seems as though many men have this idea that women should do it all: cook, clean, rear children, earn a salary, and maintain an attractive body while keeping the man happy in the bedroom. I have found that in my life, I have desired to encompass all of these things. In reflection I have to wonder, do I want that for me, or do I want that because I feel that it is expected of me, or that it is my womanly duty?
So what is it to be a woman? It is difficult to define without sounding vain and overly biased. Further, most women who attempt to praise women for their efforts and capabilities, are considered feminists or gay. Neither connotation is necessarily bad, some would be proud to be considered either, yet I find myself not wanting to be put into a specific category, but rather just to be seen as a proud and very capable woman. So in answer to my earlier question, I think it is in our nature as women to be successful and to meet the needs of the men we love. However, it is important that we don’t lose ourselves in the process, and it is important that we communicate our feelings and aren’t afraid to empty our plates when they get too full. Most of all, it is pertinent that the man you are with respects you for who you are and embraces your qualities as well as your faults. And fortunately, for us there are so many wonderful men out there cheering us on to be who we are rather than some poster girl.
As I continue to grow older and life continues to throw more at me: a demanding profession, pregnancy, parenthood, dealing with loss etc. I find that women are extremely capable, and I find myself in awe of so many. So with that being said, in light of National Women’s History Month I would like to write this in tribute to all the wonderful women out there.
I have known many great women in my life, and I would like to discuss those closest to me that have helped me be the successful woman that I am today:
My mother: I have always held a deep love for my mother. As I grow older, my admiration for her has grown each year, as I am starting to understand more just how much she has done throughout her life and the extent to which she has sacrificed. My mother raised five kids while working much of the time. I am not sure which was more difficult for her, going to work all day and then coming home to four teenagers and an elementary schooler or staying home with a 6 year old, a 3 year old and twin 1 year olds. Nonetheless my mom’s patience hardly wavered. Her nurturing spirit took care of us when we were sick, encouraged us when we needed it, and disciplined us when we earned it. Further, she prepared well balanced delicious meals, something I am still struggling to master. In addition to her many family and household duties, mom still found time to be a part of our church community. She still found time to help others in need.
Five natural births, five wonderfully raised children, and years of teaching the youth of our nation, my mom is now retired. Yet she doesn’t spend her days relaxing, but rather she continues to do what she has always done: give. She gives her time to a women’s pregnancy center in Petoskey, she watches her grandkids, she continues to give things to her children all the time. She has spent many sleepless nights feeding us as babies, and holding our hair back as we threw up when we were sick as children. She spent many additional restless nights worrying about us when we didn’t show up for curfew, and she still loses sleep over us, like when I gave birth to my son. She has so much love for her kids and she has given so much of herself to us, that I find myself proud to be a woman if that puts me in the same category as her!
My oldest sister, Jenni: Like my mother, Jenni has also always been very giving. As the oldest child in the family, she got the maternal instinct as well. She has always looked out for us younger siblings. I have always looked up to her. Everything always seemed easy for her. I remember watching her play volleyball, basketball, and softball and hoping I would be as good as her, a desire that would never come to pass. In addition to her athletic talents, she was a great academic. After getting a bachelor’s degree, she went back to get her master’s degree in Occupational Therapy, a program she excelled in. Now she is a terrific occupational therapist at Petoskey Hospital. She is also a wonderful mother. Watching her with my niece, Ilah, I am taken back by the love she has for her daughter and the natural ability she has in raising her. I have watched her struggle through life circumstances, yet to bounce back and never lose stride. I admire her ability to help others in such a way that I can’t even imagine. She not only helps people regain their strength and physical capabilities, but her amicable and witty personality brightens anyone’s day. She has always had guys wrapped right around her finger because she has the full package: beauty, personality, intelligence, athleticism, and a giant heart! What a wonderful example she has set for me due to her hard work ethic and her love.
My other older sister, Juli: My husband has always told me that I am so much like Juli. He notices mannerisms and gestures that she does that seem to mimic what he has witnessed of me. I always smile when he tells me that. What a compliment! I love being like Juli. She too has been a wonderful role model to me and is a fantastic woman! As I moved to Murfreesboro and got my first job as a teacher, I found myself taking on a lot of things and thinking myself to be very busy and capable. As a first year teacher, I took on two head coaching positions. My weeks were consumed with work. By my third year I took on another coaching position consuming even more of my time. Then, the next year I added on a master’s program. Then, the next year I decided to have a baby. As I took on college and a baby, I gave up coaching to lighten my load. My baby is only a few months old, but all of a sudden what I have done in the past doesn’t seem to have been that difficult or demanding. I have a newfound appreciation for mothers and what their bodies go through when creating, growing, and delivering a child. Once the child is here, it is the most wonderful thing, but it is not something you can leave the way I left the school building or the gym or the track. A baby is always on your mind and always in your care. My sister Juli somehow managed to deliver a baby all naturally, breast feed for a year while teaching and coaching full time and taking master’s classes. She is simply amazing and her baby boy worships the ground she walks on. When she puts her mind to doing something, she not only does it, but she excels at it. She is a joy to be around and an unbelievable woman!
Lastly, my twin sister. She is the one who asked me to share a piece of writing on her blog. Krista has always been close to me in a way that words will not do justice to. She has imparted so much wisdom and guidance on so many people. She continually amazes me with her capabilities. Sure she has fun talents that I have always admired: fashion sense, hair stylist, accessorizer, sportiness, make-up artist. But she is so much more profound than her talents. She is a light at the end of a tunnel because she is always there for those in need. She has this amazing ability to look at things subjectively and to guide people when they need it. She has always had an incredible work ethic and is capable beyond words. Perhaps the most wonderful thing about her, is how she is always thinking of everyone else. She is always trying to lighten everyone else’s load, while maintaining true to herself. Further, she has always embraced herself and all of her qualities. She has always stood up for herself when it is required. Two attributes that I envy her for, and wish I was more like her in those respects.
There have been so many world-changing women over the years! Although, the women in my family have not been discovered by the whole world and will not be in future history books, they are the epitome of what it is to be a woman: Tough, Caring, Nurturing, Dedicated, Loving, Giving, Hardworking, Beautiful, Intelligent, and Awe-inspiring. So when defining what it is to be a woman, I tell all of you ladies out there not to look any further than at the wonderful women in your life and family!
Kati Rafacz is a seventh grade English teacher and lives in Murfreesboro, TN with her husband, Ryan and their son, Miles. She enjoys running, cooking, and scrapbooking. She my twin sister, one of my best friends, and one of my favorite people due to her open heart, generosity, and grace.