Monday, January 21, 2013

Being a Catholic Work-Outside-the-Home Mom is not a Second Rate Life (Neither is a life being a Work-at-Home Mom or a Single Person or a Widow or .... you get the picture?)

When we reverted to the church in 2000, I had only a vague notion of the Church teachings on birth control, had never even heard of the Theology of the Body and had no idea that there were happy, large Catholic families, much less homeschooling families.  After reverting and having a child, I started learning about our faith through different media.  Relevant Radio and different Catholic blogs became my Catholic community.  Somehow, I started to believe that the ideal Catholic family was large and homeschooling or at least sent their child to a Catholic school.  My family certainly didn't match the ideal.  So, how was I going to reconcile this supposed contradiction?  I started by believing that my husband and I were doing something wrong.   I looked around at my life and saw the fruits and they were rotten.  The mess. The disorganization.  The fatigue.  This was indicative of my poor choices.

 But, there was always this confusion because I believed I had followed God's path for my life.  Even if I wasn't always connected to the Church, I was always very connected to Him (more precisely, He was connected with me).  Always talking to Him.  Always listening.  And, one day, as I was opening up my apartment door, He gave me an overwhelming, palpable peace about the decision to marry the man I married.   And, when that man asked me if I wanted to quit my job to stay home with our baby and I said, "No," that "No" came from my heart and He was written all over my heart.  Both of these decisions were like stepping off of a cliff because they meant my life would be hard.  Marrying an artist/philosopher and being a work-outside-the-home mommy is hard (I say this with full knowledge that many of us have hard lives- just hard in different ways) .  But, the decision was very, very clear. 

I ended up in a fight with myself.  I was living this life that wasn't ideal.  I believed that because I was on the wrong path to begin with as far as following the teachings of the Church, that somehow, those decisions resulted in my current life being second-rate.  In the deepest part of my heart, I believed that if I knew all of these teachings 20 years ago, I would have a brood of children and would be homeschooling in a large, beautiful home.  But, God gave me this second-rate life.  It didn't make any sense since I followed what I thought to be what he wanted me to do along the way.  Enter, Mary, Untier of Knots.  She sent my Catholic therapist and the chapter on Mistaken Beliefs in The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook by Edmund Bourne.  The big question Bourne has you ask in challenging your beliefs is:

Is that always true?  

So I put this belief to the test: The ideal Catholic family is large and the mommy stays home to care for the children.  And, if you are in line with God's teaching, you will end up with this life.  

Is this always true?  
No. It's not.  

There are tons of examples to choose from.  Priests and Nuns.  Many saints. Widows. Sick mothers. Single women. Infertile and subfertile women. All the women throughout the centuries who died young leaving children behind.  Refugees.  Women in abject poverty.  Illiterate women.  The list could go on and on.

Did I believe their lives were second rate?  Absolutely not.

So what really makes a life ideal?  

Real Gospel Living.  Listening to Jesus' words instead of the world's.
Being open to God's will whatever that means.
Trusting without knowing why.
Being kind and not judging another's path.
Loving others through your questions and pain.
Understanding that His yoke is easy and His burden is light because you are right where you need to be.  You just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other in faith.  And, you can rest when the day is done.
Modeling your life after the prodigal son's father.
Accepting that He has left you His peace.
Know that you are commanded not to worry.  
BE NOT AFRAID!!!!!!!!!!

Jesus never said that if you follow his teaching you will be healthy and prosperous.  He never said your house will be clean and organized.  His fruits aren't material.  His fruits are spiritual.  And, boy oh boy, I had gone down the wrong path.  I was so good at listening to the Holy Spirit, but I was horrible at listening to the Evil One.  He was whispering right along with the Good One and I was buying his lies. Hook, line and sinker.  The battle is on sucker!!!!

The words you are reading in this post took me months to process.  I just recently made up with myself.  I am not going to apologize for my life or be embarrassed by it or be ashamed of it or AFRAID of it.  He gave it to me.  The crosses in it are perfect for me as well as the joys.

Dear Jesus, help me remember the gifts you give me are uniquely mine.  So are the crosses.  And the gifts and crosses you give others are made just for them.  Help me to love as you did and to always look to You as my Lord.  Help me love others without idolizing them.  I love you.

Please note:  Since I am not a professional writer and am limited in my ability to communicate super effectively through words, I just want to add that this post is in no way written with a bitter heart toward large, homeschooling families.  I love large, homeschooling families and they inspire me to no end. This post is entirely my thought process in trying to deal with not comparing my life to any others.  We aren't supposed to compare and judge.  But, how do we do that?  This is how I am coping.  I've benefited so much from reading the blogs of mom's of large families.  This post is about how I've rooted out some poor thinking habits on my end.  Please excuse my limits and the limits of this medium if in anyway it sounds bitter or unloving.  

Friday, January 11, 2013

Quick Takes- Updates

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year friends!  Our holiday was festive, fun and full of illness.  I'm pretty sure I brought the flu home.  I coughed for 3 weeks and for several days was on the couch achy and my skin felt so, so sensitive.  Does that ever happen to you?  I ended up on antibiotics for bronchitis and my asthma became tricky to manage.  I ended up working for 5 minutes and resting for 15.  All day.  For 4 days.  It kept the house running and kept me from going stir-crazy.  AJ had an ear infection, 2 rounds of strep and a head cold.  He's been sick for about a month on and off.  
Our handcrafted use-what-is-around-the-house advent wreath

The big one though was my mom.  She's better and home now, but on Monday, I got a call at work from my sister saying my mom was being taken by ambulance to the hospital.  She was unresponsive when they were trying to wake her that morning.  Long story short, she had become severely dehydrated from having the flu and pneumonia.  She was in the hospital all week, but now is at home. Since she's on chemotherapy, the flu hit her very quickly.  She was only sick for about 12 hours before she became unresponsive.  The good news is that she recovered as quickly as she went down.  It's been a long week full of lots of ups and downs.    They had 2 neon green signs in her room that read: Chemotherapy- Handle Carefully.  They were strangely comforting.  
Mom, on right,  with her sister who is also a breast cancer survivor

What I'm thankful for:
good medical insurance and sick leave

Two people who are included everyday in my prayers to St. Jude for a healthy pregnancy are pregnant!  One is the friend who had the miscarriage last spring so the news is (so hard to describe accurately) complicated.   Hard to parse out the sadness, grief, joy and fear.  But, joy, is at the forefront.  Definitely.  


I don't think I've mentioned that my sister moved to Brazil with her family this summer.  She lives in Seattle so having her in Brazil is much the same as far as the schedule of seeing her.  Actually, we've seen lots of her since she moved.  They came in October and again for 5 weeks in December.  It's been blissful having her here with her two girls.  We have a great relationship and she helps so much with my parents.  My parents don't really need much physical help.  But, they need cheerleaders and it's nice to have a partner.  

Also, one of my closest friends moved to Germany this summer.  She was also in visiting so I got to see both of my besties this holiday. 

After the shock of having Fr. James Martin comment on my last blog post (!!!!!!!!!!!!), I never returned to reviewing his wonderful book.  I will pick it back up though...I hear it calling.  

God is Good!