I started out our marriage and life as a first-time mom doing work “on the side”. I taught some NFP classes and unfortunately wasted a lot of precious hours with my “own-your-own-money-burning home-occupied business. Once I realized I was trading my friends and family for financial freedom and personal success, I transitioned away from that business and moved on. As a way to sort of make up for lost time, I delved into motherhood and focused most all my attention and efforts on my life as a wife and mom.
My vocation as a wife and mother defines me and shapes me. It is who I am and what I do. It is my plug into holiness and heaven. The gift of motherhood, as John Paul II said, is “a unique experience of joy and travail. This experience makes you become God’s own smile upon the newborn child, the one who guides your child’s first steps, who helps it to grow, and who is the anchor as the child makes its way along the journey of life.”
As I grow in my motherhood, I learn so much. I’ve learned more recently that motherhood is not restricted to the cares and needs of our children. We also have to be our own mother. By taking care of ourselves, we are more able to in turn care for those God has entrusted to us. This goes beyond our physical needs of staying healthy and well. We also have spiritual and emotional needs that deserve our T.L.C.
While I have to let go of my dreams for long walks alone with God in deep meditation and prayer, I still try and make time, even in little snippets here and there, to give myself to Him in prayer. Thank God for the Sacraments that nourish my soul and reenergize my days!
I think the hardest need of all to meet for a mom, or at least for me, is the emotional one. All day I have to listen and interpret the feelings behind the actions of my young children (and husband). I try not to wear my emotions on my sleeve but it’s hard to hide a bleeding heart or detached head. I’m pretty sure my kids (and husband) have seen more smoke and fire blowing out of my nose and ears than they’d prefer to remember. Usually we moms have to temporarily suppress or at least try toswat away at the swarm of emotions buzzing around us throughout our days.
I think it is so important to find an outlet for these feelings; a place to get rid of all those charged up emotions and replace them with more positive energy. For me I have found several good outlets. Hobbies such as knitting, drawing, and reading definitely provide me with immediate and simple escapes throughout the day. A phone call or real note from a friend or to a friend who I know is with me in the trenches always brings a breath of fresh on a stale day. Jotting down some thoughts in a private or public journal is also a great way for me to take a step back and see my days and my feelings for what they really are.
For some moms, these little things throughout the day are enough to balance the force. I think that for others, being involved outside of the house in the community can do a lot for the emotional side of us. We are social people, we are made to be with others and interact together. As much as I love being with my kids and talking with them, there comes a time when I need some stimulating adult conversation. There’s no better way to wind down from a long day with my children than to gather with other mothers and engage in deep conversations about our children and how they drive us wild!
Apart from social events, a “side” job or volunteer work can be a great outlet and source of sanity. John Paul II also thanks women who work and calls us to be “present and active in every area of life-social, economic, cultural, artistic and political. In this way you make an indispensable contribution to the growth of a culture which unites reason and feeling, to a model of life ever open to the sense of “mystery”, to the establishment of economic and political structures ever more worthy of humanity.”
Enrolling in educational classes or work-related training can help meet our emotional need to stay sharp and focused. Sharing our talents, our minds, and our hearts and working with groups and individuals outside of family life can be very rewarding and incredibly uplifting. Everyone knows that a mother’s work is never done and that will always be the most important one. It’s still nice though when we can feel appreciated for our contributions to the world apart from our motherhood.
In ending my rambling, I’d like to share the Brian Doyle’s perspective as he observed his wife’s activities in a single day:
“I took notes on her labors during a Saturday, on which she punched in at seven in the morning and punched out at midnight. Here is what she did for seventeen hours: baked (bread), bathed (self, progeny), bought (foodstuffs), brushed (cascading hair of self, daughter), carried (sons, bags), changed (diapers, beds), cleaned, combed, consoled (sons, daughter), cooked, danced (with sons), dressed (sons), dried, drove, dug, fed, folded (arms, laundry), hauled, ironed, laughed, mopped (face, floor), mowed, nailed, painted, planted, prayed, pruned (hair, rosebushes), pushed (stroller), read (aloud to daughter), repaired, returned (bottles, plastics), roasted, rocked, sang, scrubbed (sons), shouted, shoveled, swept, swung (sons into bed), talked, taught, washed (dishes, windows), weeded, and wiped (sons, counters, tables.) What to call this work? Housework seems thin, women’s work seems false and insulting, wife’s work ditto. I think maybe I will just call it extraordinary and stop there. It is the work of love. “