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The Frazzled Catholic Mom’s Guide to Getting through Mass (Mostly) in One Piece

The Frazzled Catholic Mom

I really should do an audio version of this post so reading passers-by really get the experience of being the frazzled Catholic mom {and dad, too!} in the pew! If you’re a parent who brings your small circus to church each week {if you aren’t, read this and come back}, you are probably nodding furiously right now in solidarity. ✊ 

You know – scratch that, audio really wouldn’t do the trick. If it weren’t so painfully humbling, I would totally have someone follow us to church, from getting out the door to arriving back home. Call it behind the scenes, if you will. 

I’m just going to invite you to use your imagination. 😂

Whether you’re the mom who appears to have it all together during Mass (yeah right!) or the dad who desperately wants to get out of the cry room, or the narthex, or the little overhang outside where you’ve been banished from the cry room due to intense toddler tantrums, hopefully, you’ll glean a little hope and encouragement from my post.  

The Frazzled Catholic Mom


STRATEGIES FOR SUCCESS, YOU FRAZZLED MOM!

  1. PICK YOUR MASS TIME CAREFULLY. I learned long ago that 5:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday as well as 11:30 a.m. Mass times don’t work for our family. So 9:30 a.m. Sunday it is! The other times interfere with meals and/or naps – always have, always will. They are usually reserved for weekends when we have to go to what I call “splitskies” due to illness or some other extenuating circumstance. What time works best for you and yours?
  2. ATTEND THE SAME MASS TIME. Now that you’ve picked your regular Mass time, guess what? Make it…yep -regular! The consistency helps your kiddos with what the expectations are each weekend. I get it that families are busy and isn’t it awesome that you can pick whatever Mass time you want because of sports and other extracurricular activities, but I will challenge you on this. Consider strongly the message that can potentially send to your kids…church fits around our activities and not the other way around. I know, I’m mean. Oh wells…
  3. SET YOUR ALARM TWO HOURS BEFORE YOU NEED TO LEAVE. I know it sounds freakishly early, but whether you go to 5:00 p.m. vigil Mass on Saturday or 9:30 a.m. Mass on Sunday or any other Mass time, putting a ringing alarm in your phone will help you corral all your people to get out the door. If it takes you 10 minutes to get to church, then set your alarm two hours before you need to arrive at the church, NOT when Mass starts. 
  4. DRESS CLOTHES IN ONE CENTRAL LOCATION. This one is especially good if you have little helpers who like to stash their church clothes {and let’s be honest, uniforms, and other dress-up occasions} in all corners of the house, along with dress shoes and socks, lol. I like to keep kids dress clothes in my laundry room, hung up after they come out of the dryer and ready to wear on Sunday. This alone removes a LOT of stress. 
  5. NEED AN END PEW SEAT AKA QUICK AND EASY EXIT? Years ago, when our oldest boy became an altar boy, we made the family decision to be at church 30 minutes before Mass starts. We also quickly learned that our favorite section and pew to sit in {ok, it’s my favorite section – I doubt anyone else in my family cares, but I’m a strategist like that! It’s a big church and I want my kids to be able to find us easily!} is often taken! It was sincerely the most bizarre thing! 30 minutes early and STILL we were racing to grab that edge seat! It’s perfectly located to the transept, the cry room, and bathroom. It’s a strategist mom’s dream spot!
  6. ROUTINE. Getting to church early each week has provided consistency for our kiddos. We aren’t stressed looking for a seat. They know we have plenty of time to pray, get settled, recite the rosary with others in the church, and even visit our priest in the narthex as he welcomes folks in. It’s become a thing that we all know the drill. Kneel, pray, recite the rosary, visit our priest for a few moments and say good morning to fellow parishioners, ask if he’s celebrating Mass, and then we are on our way to our seat! 
  7. NO FOOD. NO, REALLY. Here’s why…you will regret it. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow. Maybe not while your toddler’s face is stuffed with dull Cheerios and you are enjoying the maybe five minutes of silence the food has bought you. What I’m talking about here is the BREAKING of that habit {ask me how I know!} and how it will make you regret every single time you ever brought food into church. More important than a bad habit, you can potentially expose someone with food allergies. And that’s just not worth it, friends. It’s just not. 
  8. MASS BAG. I love these! We’ve been bringing a Mass bag for years. It usually has the same tattered books in it – well-loved from many slobbering babies and toddlers. Due to a string of miscarriages, we had a long enough age gap between #6 and #7. We are just now refilling our Mass bag. Some ideas can be board books, cloth books, a stuffy that doesn’t have a rattle, crinkle paper, or squeaker inside of it, and maybe a soft rosary. Definitely not the wooden ones that your child will chuck at your friends who sit in front of you and almost renders them blind. Also, consider adding…
  9. MAGNIFIKID! If you’ve ever seen or subscribed to Magnificat, then you may know about their edition for early elementary. These are perfect for early readers – parents and older siblings can help guide them in their reading, too. Magnifikid is a subscription of weekly booklets based on Novus Ordo readings. It follows the Mass and includes games and trivia as well. We recently made the decision to get a subscription for our five and seven year old and both of them LOVE it! Now, if they would just share the crayons. 🙄
  10. ALTAR SERVER. Once your kids are old enough, get them on the altar! Not only are they out of the pew, they are learning some pretty valuable life skills when they serve others and assist the priest during Mass. Do you have kiddos who balk at the idea of serving? This post may be for you. 
  11. SIT UP FRONT. UNLESS YOU CAN’T. THEN DON’T. This is pretty straightforward. Plenty of folks suggest sitting up front where your kids can see what’s going on. If everyone with kids did this, we’d all pretty much BE the front row, amiright? Or maybe you have that kiddo whose energy could light up several large cities and sitting up front may be the worst idea ever because you keep getting up to go to the narthex or cry room with all the screaming and crying, yours OR the baby’s. So, sit up front. Unless you can’t. Then don’t.
  12. ASSIGNED SEATS. We occasionally have to enforce this, but if you know who is oil and water in your family, strategizing your seating may well be one of the best, if not the best idea to lower that stress level. I have two kiddos who are thick as thieves. Cute as they are, they will be my undoing if we allow them to sit next to each other. 
  13. NURSERY. If your church offers a nursery, don’t feel like you’re a bad parent if you use it. Use it and abuse it! Well, don’t abuse it – you know what I’m getting at. There are seasons of life when it can actually be an act of charity to those around you to not subject them to the high-pitched wailing from your threenager. 
  14. THICK SKIN. Be prepared for the side-eye from people who aren’t used to your circus. Yes, it’s your circus, and yes, those are your monkeys. And, yes, someone may roll their eyes if you don’t pop up out of the pew and head straight to the cry room. I call it the “naughty room”  {ok, I call it that so my kids won’t want to go in there. It doesn’t always work, though!}, but take heart. The secular world tells us to feel “shamed,” but the reality is we can choose how we feel and react. We can choose to assume the best in others, even when we feel wrongly judged. Shake it off. People sigh and roll their eyes because they aren’t perfect either. They just don’t happen to have a screaming toddler clinging to their thigh to punctuate their frustration. There has to be give and take from those without screaming kiddos and those of us with the little noisemakers. My advice? Don’t even look people in the eye. I find it’s much easier to just look ahead or at the ground. My husband and I know what to do – no need to be distracted by the side-eye. 
  15. END WITH PRAYERS. After the recessional song ends, take a minute or two to say a final prayer of thanksgiving. End your time at church the way you start, with a quiet moment of gratitude for the living God Who makes all things possible.
  16. TREAT. Yay! You’ve made it to the end of Mass and most of your kids weren’t crawling up the pews during the announcements. People may have even congratulated you on your “well-behaved children.” In the rare instance that happens to us, I quickly thank these folks and then request they not follow us out to the car, whereby the time my children have crossed the threshold of the church door, have returned to absolute, and UTTER insanity. We try not to treat it like a bribe and our kids have learned along the way that Mom and Dad decide when to reward good behavior. It’s not an every Sunday thing. Sometimes it’s getting a Slurpee after Mass and other times it’s rewarded with my offering to make them hot chocolate with our homemade breakfast. It varies. 

NOW IT’S YOUR TURN

WHAT TIPS WOULD YOU ADD?   |   HOW DO YOU SURVIVE MASS WITH LITTLES?

This post is part of our micro-series entitled “Amplify Your Mass Experience.” Stay tuned for the next installment and don’t forget to subscribe!

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About Martina Kreitzer

Martina is a cradle Catholic, wife to Neil, and mother to seven kiddos here {and three in heaven}– 4/96-1/17. She decided to homeschool the kiddos in 2010 after many years in public schools and is currently transitioning out of homeschooling. She is the creator of Catholic Sistas which focuses on a feminine perspective of the Catholic Faith. The website was the result of an existing camaraderie by the contributors in a Catholic women’s group she created. She is also a Seal of Approval evaluator for the Catholic Writers Guild. Lest you think she spends all her time online, Martina has enjoyed getting out into the community by serving on the Pastoral Council from 2010-2013. She is constantly on the lookout to make her parish as welcoming as the small town she grew up in East Texas. This task is not easy given that St. William is the largest parish in the Austin diocese, serving well over twenty thousand parishioners. She loves Jesus, coffee, bacon, chocolate, photography, more bacon, evangelizing, and the company of those unafraid to use their sense of humor.

  • Claire - When my son was little (and he has multiple allergies), I had to bring cheerios to Mass because every Mass conflicted with a meal or snack time for him. (He was very difficult to feed, and underweight, and keeping him on a consistent feeding schedule was crucial). We had no trouble breaking him of the food habit when he got older, I think around 2.March 12, 2018 – 5:42 amReplyCancel

  • Michele - I haven’t had an issue breaking kids of the food during mass. If needed they can have something on the way to mass, it helps the transition to no good during mass.

    I try hard to talk to the kids on the way to mass about my expectations in church and during mass. It makes it fresh in their mind every week.March 12, 2018 – 6:05 amReplyCancel

  • Jael - Thank you for this! So I’m just at the beginning of my journey! I have a very loud talking 3 1/2 year old and a rascal of a 2 year old, I’m about to have boy #3 in May and I’m so terrified of how we are going to make it through mass. My main help has been food! I bring cereal or puffs and hand one at a time, it’s the only thing that keeps them quite and relatively close to me (the 2 year old is runner). Sooooo why will I regret the snacks during mass decision? If maybe it wasn’t done until they are old enough that breaking them of the habit will be more understandable?March 12, 2018 – 9:50 amReplyCancel

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