Welcome to this installment in the series Mom So Hard – Finessing the Intricacies of Your Modern Catholic Family, a series focused on taking a look at the Faith through the lens of being a Catholic mom. This series is going to–using a spiritual foundation as our starting point–walk with you and share candid and practical elements that make up our days. We will look at primary spiritual elements, recognizing that without God, nothing is possible. How do we start our day? How do we end our day? If God does not bookend our days (at a minimum), we can start to see how feeling overwhelmed or worse can creep into our day. Even the most mundane of chores and activities can be done to glorify God. So, grab some coffee, a notebook, and a pen, and let’s get started, shall we?
In thinking about any series for Catholic Sistas over the years, I tend to mull over an idea for weeks, months, and sometimes even years. But mostly it tends towards months, between six months and one year. I call it throwing an idea into the prayer hopper. It might seem like FOREVER before I start something the Holy Spirit needs me to do.
Having a tendency toward frustration at a lack of vision (my own), I started telling the Holy Spirit if He wanted me to do something, He’d have to 1) give me the tools to make something happen and 2) He’d have to literally get me off my bahookus to make something happen.
Welp. There you have it. Long before I sit down to write, often I spend a great deal of time marinating in what I want to say. What message is it that I want to convey to readers? If it were me reading, what did I need to hear or read when I was in my younger momma days?
And because I am nothing if not a stream of consciousness, I want to talk about two very different things that will end up merging at the end. Ready?
Have you heard of her?
She used to have a show called Semi-Homemade on the Food Network back in the day. I have to tell you, I was seriously intrigued by her style. She didn’t cook food from scratch, necessarily, and she didn’t pop open a pre-made meal from the store and throw it in the oven. She was somewhere in between. She found what worked for her, which was a beautiful mix of taking store-bought foods and adding homemade whatevers to put her own spin on a meal.
I hadn’t really thought of her in a long while until the other day when I started to think about this post. See…I started to peel back layers of a really BIG onion (with a thousand layers) of bad habits that went back to my childhood when it came to being messy, disorganized, and general mental chaos. It started with Fly Lady in 2002. I was a stay-at-home-mom to two kiddos, one in kindergarten and one toddler who slept like a cat – still does to this day (#lame). We were living in our first home, a townhouse in Northern Virginia and the responsibilities of being the primary in keeping the home started to weigh down heavily upon me. I had bought the lie that the value of my work only resided outside of the home.
My mother-in-law mentioned FlyLady, so I went and visited the website, signed up for the email alerts and poked around the website. The concept that stood out to me: in general was my house didn’t get to be a disaster overnight, and it wouldn’t get clean overnight either. The journey was in the process. The first method that stood out to me specifically was 15 minutes a day in a specific room with a timer and a trash bag and have at it. When the 15 minutes was up, you were done. The second method that has always stuck with me, even 17 years later, is to keep the kitchen sink clean at all times.
Keeping the sink clean at all times seemed to be too daunting in the beginning, but I worked really hard to make that habit stick. I was more determined to break an old habit and create a new and better one for my own mental health. As the years passed, I began to look hard at the source of my stress. Even if I couldn’t exactly “fix it” or dial down the stress in the moment, I knew on some logical level that it was something I could eventually get past. Even more than keeping that sink clean, I worked harder at looking at messes differently. Some days, the same dang mess would stress me to level 10 and the next day, it was seriously ‘meh.’ But…WHY?
If you’re like me and you’ve stared down the barrel of years’ worth of bad habits, now is a good time to look back and see where those habits began. Then, if you’re able, jot down some areas in your home that bring you distress. Let’s start breaking it down, one piece at a time. Like Sandra Lee, let’s start the process of finding generic solutions and marrying it with specific solutions for your home.
St. Therese of Liseux has been a long-time favorite saint in our family. I found a particular affinity for this young and beautiful model of the Faith when I reflected upon her relationship with God – offering all she had, right down to the most mundane and boring activities, to our loving Father. While I would continue to struggle with the value of my work in the home, I knew deep down I would eventually have to discover the roots for those feelings. In the meantime, I would make myself a dutiful student of the Faith, living each day the best way I could, examining my own actions and words each evening, and resolving to do better the next day. Sounds good on paper, huh? 😉
It wasn’t until a friend was commenting about her own journey that a lightbulb went on for me. She, too, had gone into her marriage somewhat (ok, outright) unhappy with her lot in life. Being at home, taking care of the home, caring for small children is some of the most thankless work around, especially if you are mired in the idea that it must be compared to worldly achievements and accolades. She went on to share her ‘aha’ moment, in which she had a stern talk with herself–asking if she were to be evaluated fairly on her work at home like she would at any paying job or career–how would she fair? Her realization would soon become my own.
I would say honestly it’s felt like being a half-hearted employee who, yes, gets the work done, but was I truly joyful about my state in life? That was the struggle. That was what society had engrained in my head – all my “true value” should be defined by pursuits outside of the home. And it was then that I realized the flawed logic of it all.
I had taken the first step – I was able to pinpoint the source of my frustration. With God, prayer, patience (yes, I said it), a whole LOT of coffee, and some ingenuity, I knew I could improve my relationship with God, my husband, my own self, and my children. Like Sandra Lee’s approach of homemade this and store-bought that, I knew I’d have to implement some strategies that were given to me and start to cultivate and trust my own gut when it came time to modify those strategies and make them my own.
Let’s dig deeper. Did this post resonate with you? If so, please continue on below and consider starting a journal to jot down your answers. PRINT several copies of these questions to start your own journal based on different posts.
- What was my spiritual life like before getting married?
- What was my spiritual life like before children?
- What is my spiritual life like now?
- How would I like my spiritual life to be?
CATHOLIC PLANNER – DAYBOOK – “It’s the best first step you’ll take towards organizing a better tomorrow.” Martina Kreitzer, foundress of Catholic Sistas