(As posted over at Austin Catholic New Media)
While I’ve been ‘Mom’ now for almost 13 years, it seems that I’m still figuring out this motherhood thing. It can be hard to balance being an individual woman with thoughts, ideas, plans and inspirations that are all my own with the… thoughts, ideas, plans, inspirations, hunger, laundry, homework and tantrums of everyone else in my home! : ) I’ll probably have it all down pat the day my baby leaves home for good. We’re always learning and growing, ya know?!
Here are a few things I HAVE learned over the years. I’d love to hear your thoughts as well!
I prefer to pray in the morning, before anyone is awake. Use a tool, a daily devotional, or any favorite prayer book. I personally love the Magnificat. Having some tool to help you pray will give you somewhere to start, especially when you’re tired and waiting for a baby to wake up. Also, try to keep your prayer offline. Online tools may be great for some, but I am easily distracted by that ping on my phone in the middle of my prayer time, alerting me that there’s a new email waiting for me.
Pray for each member of your family. Specifically. Don’t complain to God about them. PRAY for them! Think of their upcoming day and offer up any challenges or joys that might be coming their way. I’ve found that praying individually for my children and spouse really helps me treat them with more love and attention during the day. I’ll think of that meeting I prayed about at 6:00 AM and remember to ask my husband about it at dinner.
Also, a friend once told me of a helpful habit: She keeps her daily planner next to her morning prayer book. If her mind was interrupted by a thought about her day – something she remembered the kids needed for school, an email she needed to send, she would briefly jot the item down in her planner and then be able to let it go. For her, that was much better than attempting to remember these little things through her prayer time, all the while worrying that she might forget.
“How to pray? This is a simple matter. I would say: Pray any way you like, so long as you do pray.” Pope John Paul II
Even if you’re not trying to loose weight, exercise always makes you feel better. You know it’s true! And, when we have little babies, are pregnant or breastfeeding, exercise programs that were once so easy seem impossible. So, be willing to change it up, and don’t feel bad about it. If you were once a boot-camper, and now you’re a walk-while-pulling-two-kids-in-a-wagon-er, that’s awesome!
Don’t compare your life (or your body) to what it was, or to someone else’s. Just find a routine that works for you and stick to it, maybe 3 times a week. Exercise will help you feel more relaxed, give you more energy and get you doing something different. You’ll feel better, I promise.
Be sure to spend some pleasant, relaxing time with your spouse! It’s important to keep a special time for just the two of you. But, it doesn’t need to be expensive or extravagant.
Find a friend who can watch the kids while you go to a movie. Maybe you could swap children once a month – first Fridays are you take your kids to your friend’s house and 3rd Fridays, your friends’ kids come to your house. Simple. And, many communities have public movie nights, concerts in the park or other free, fun activities that you could plan as part of your special date. Find a restaurant with a 2-for-1 coupon and you’re all set. My husband and I have also had some lovely evenings, making a ‘grown-up’ dinner (Something the kids would think was gross, like crab cakes or veal parmesan. Or calamari. Does anyone really make calamari at home?), rent a good movie and have a nice night in. Kids go to bed early, of course. Whatever you do, make it a priority to spend time together at least once a month.
Allow yourself to cultivate friendships with women you can relate with. Find women who have common interests, who support you, who will pray for you, listen to you when you have a struggle.
Also, some of my most special friends are women who are NOT my age. They’re a bit older. They know stuff I need to learn! They have perspective! They see with different eyes! They can tell me in a heartbeat if I’m being silly or if I have a valid concern. I love it! I can’t wait to be one of those women some day!
Stay away from women who gossip, who try to make you be like someone else, who don’t praise you and support you in your efforts as a Catholic wife and mother. Those ladies…. you can pray for them. You can have a cup of coffee, even. But they shouldn’t be your confidants. It’s just negativity waiting for you around the corner.
Find new friends at Bible studies or Mom’s groups at your parish. Volunteer for a fundraiser and make a point to introduce yourself to the other women volunteers. You might even see a family at Mass that just seems so nice. The mom might smile at you as she passes by. Jump out of your comfort zone and ask her to meet you at the park on a Saturday morning. You never know if a friendship might start up as a result.
“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one!'” – C.S. Lewis
Find solace in your faith. Enjoy all the sacraments. Soak in the Mass, whether you sit in the front row with a stair-step slew of suited up children, or are in the back of the church bouncing your first babbling baby on your hip. Don’t worry about what you ‘get out of Mass’. Just be there and let the grace of the sacraments pour over you, your family and your vocation. Take great hope in the long history of the Church, with generations upon generations of families who have sat in the pews before you. This great, beautiful history of the Church (which filled me with joy as a convert to the faith) gives us great hope and consolation.
“When you look at the crucifix, you understand how much Jesus loved you then. When you look at the Sacred Host, you understand how much Jesus loves you now.” Blessed Teresa of Calcutta
How about you? What helps you in your vocation as a mother? Please share in the comments below.