I learned many things when I was in a junior in college and in my first year at the College of Education. I took many classes and gained a lot of knowledge. I have put to use most of that knowledge when homeschooling my own children, however, many of those classes are just a blip in my memory. I retained the information I needed to succeed in teaching but the teachers themselves, the homework, and many of the students have become just a hazy memory. There was one class though, that, to this day, comes to mind on a regular basis.
You see, in that class our teacher asked us the first day to make a list telling three things we knew about ourselves. Then she asked us to pair up with someone we didn’t know to share our lists. At the time my list was easy to write out:
- I am a great wife
- I am a great mother
- I am highly intelligent
The woman I shared my list with, Lisa, who would become a very dear friend, sat back incredulous. “Wow. That’s your list?” she asked me. I answered that yes, it was. I told her that I knew very little about myself but those three things were true and very important to me. Thankfully our teacher gave us the time to sit and talk about our lists, otherwise, Lisa may have thought I was just full of myself.
I felt the third statement sounded the most like a fact and was easiest to explain and so I said, “I have a genius IQ and I have always been very proud of my intelligence. As a kid it was the only thing that I thought made me important. I knew I wasn’t pretty, I wasn’t athletic, and I wasn’t popular. It was also what got me noticed by my parents when I thought I really didn’t matter much. I clung to it and still do to this day. It made me special and different from my siblings. It’s also important to me that others know I’m not just some dumb blond. I actually am very smart.” She said she could understand that, but what about the others? Wasn’t it a little boastful and conceited to say I was a great mother and wife? I blushed and shook my head and explained.
You see, at that time I had two children, was only just returning to school to finish my degree after taking time off, and had been able to dedicate every waking moment to being the best wife and mother I could be. Being a wife and mother came naturally to me. It was something I loved doing/being. I was blessed with a lot of patience, terrific kids, and time to actually work on being a good mom and wife. I would tell Lisa that there were few things in my life that I was ever good at and that these things were so important to me that they became the sole focus of my life. Like an athlete who trains and practices to become good at his sport I had also worked hard to be good at what I did. I was very proud of what I had accomplished.
As time moves forward I often think of that list and wonder if I was asked today what I know about myself, would the list be the same? Unfortunately, I’m not sure it would be. Sure, I am still highly intelligent, but what about being a great wife and mother?
There are many days now that I think about my actions and wonder if they are truly reflective of what is in my heart. Am I the mom and wife that I hope and strive to be? Most days the answer is no. I fail so often. I get mad and yell. I lack patience. I think to myself, “I can do this tomorrow.” I don’t play with my kids as often as I would like to. I treat my husband and children in ways I would never treat a stranger or a friend, saying things that hurt their feelings or make them feel bad or make them angry. Why do I do that? Why can’t I be that mother and wife I was 15 years ago? I want to be that mother and wife again.
I know I’m not alone in my struggles. I think all moms and dads/ wives and husbands face these kinds of problems. I was lucky in those early years to have little to do other than focus solely on being a wife and mother. Today it’s not so easy. I now have 11 children, a husband who no longer works a regular shift but longer, harder hours, medical problems, outside activities, homeschooling, volunteering at church and youth group, friends, family, and the list goes on. It’s no wonder I am not the same wife and mother that I was so long ago. I have the world begging for my attention too!
Now more than ever I have to find that balance between the outside world’s demands on me and the needs of my family. But how do I do that? I think the answer lies in looking back at what I was doing right way back when I only had 2 children. When I look back I can see that there were other problems that could have hindered me from being a great wife and mother, but I didn’t let them! That is the attitude I need to take now. I need to commit, as I did then, to each and every day being the best at my job. When I woke up each morning I didn’t sigh and think, “How am I going to do all of this?” Instead I thought, “Ok, today first I will do…” My attitude was definitely different than it is now and perhaps that is where the problem lies.
Mother Teresa once said, “Don’t look for big things, just do small things with great love….The smaller the thing, the greater must be our love.” This is my new mission as a wife and mother. I am going to do the small things- washing clothes, making my husband his lunch, getting up earlier in the morning to make a hot breakfast, bathing little ones, cleaning the kitchen, driving kids where they need to be, wiping noses- with great love and patience. My attitude is going to change. Becoming the great wife and mother I once was will require this of me.
Mother Teresa also said, “Spread love everywhere you go; first of all in your house. Give love to your children, to your wife or husband, to a next door neighbor. Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness; kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.” I know that others see me as a good wife and mother. I’m often complimented but they aren’t the ones who live with me and see me as I truly am. Only my husband and children know how far I have fallen away from the woman I used to be. I hope that my husband and children will feel the extra love that I am putting into everything I do for them and that one day my list can once again say that I truly am a great wife and a great mother.
Michelle Fritz is a daughter of God, a cradle Catholic, a Georgia peach, a devoted wife of almost 30 years to amazing husband Mike, and an eclectic homeschooling mother to eleven living children. She has experienced the loss of 16 babies in her call to be open to life, but knows that God is always loving and always gracious. She and her husband know that they have an army of Saints already in heaven!
In addition to her vocation as wife, mom, and homeschool teacher she also holds a Masters in Theology and has recently taken on the role of Youth Minister for both the middle school and high school groups at her parish.