There’s a Catholic mom tendency to seek out perfection, both for our children and ourselves. But as Jenny from The Littlest Way points out, there is no such thing as Catholic mom perfection. Catholic motherhood might be hard, but it’s a pathway to his perfect grace.
Catholic motherhood is hard.
There, I said it.
And I wish someone would have told me that when I first became a mother. I was under the impression that if I
- said my prayers
- attended Mass
- and received the sacraments
Catholic motherhood wouldn’t be as hard as the experience of my secular peers.
I wasn’t under the impression it would be easy, but I honestly thought I could avoid the hard because I was putting in the hard work.
Naïve I know.
My Catholic motherhood hit me square in the face when they placed my first baby, appropriately named after a saint—first and middle—in my arms.
Instantly I knew why I had been created. I was simultaneously exhilarated and terrified, physically exhausted and emotionally overwhelmed. And had no idea what to do next. Apparently naming children after saints doesn’t open the treasure trove of knowledge.
I grew up the oldest of one biological sister, and two half-brothers; one of whom I was raised with; the other I wouldn’t see for almost 30 years. I also grew up marginally Catholic after being baptized in the Church at the age of 10 and attending Parochial schools in the 80’s. To say I had no idea what Catholic Motherhood looked like would be a gross understatement.
So, I did what anyone in my situation would do:
I started reading obsessively and stalking every Catholic mother who looked like she might possibly know how to raise saints.
I knew what I didn’t want to do, but had no idea what I did want to do. I made the uninformed decision I’d mesh my Catholic motherhood, also known as Catholic saint-making, via reading and watching and I’d be the mother of little saints on earth–especially at Mass, the grocery store, and bedtime.
Oh, I also prayed.
But my prayers weren’t necessarily, “Lord guide my Catholic motherhood.” They were more along the lines of, “God I want to be like her, her, and her, and I want my children to be saints—on earth preferable and especially at Mass, the grocery store, and bedtime. Amen.”
You can imagine how well my plans to become the perfect Catholic mother of perfect Catholic children worked.
Hint, they failed miserably which made me feel like I was failing miserably. I completely overlooked things like grace, free will, God’s will, and ordinary life.
I didn’t foresee there would be times when praying the family rosary would include a three-year wearing a swimming suit with rubber boots five sizes too big while her one-year-old sister lay on the floor screaming as if she were being martyred (except martyrs don’t scream), because daddy wouldn’t walk her to sleep that night.
Did I mention this is a true story and all went down in front of a visiting priest who had come for dinner and stayed for family prayer.
I didn’t foresee it would look like an eighteen-year-old wanting to live 1300 miles from home, making her own way without my always helpful and never annoying advice and opinions. I thought Catholic motherhood prayers for close family relationships, coupled with attachment parenting, covered physical location as well as emotional attachment.
Surprise, it doesn’t.
I thought true Catholic motherhood would avoid most, if not all, the common secular pitfalls.
Looking back and yet still in the thick of it, I wonder where I got such a ridiculous idea? And why I held on to it so tightly, and even tighter when things weren’t going as I planned.
My Catholic motherhood was so hard because I looked around at other mothers more than I looked up at God.
For example, a big, Catholic family with children who still practiced their faith well into adulthood didn’t believe women and girls should wear pants. I wanted a big, Catholic family with children who still practiced their faith even into adulthood, so we went through a season where the women and girls in our family didn’t wear pants.
It was a disaster.
I was so focused on the outside physical appearance rather than the inside disposition of the heart. God’s design for that family may have been skirts only for the women and girls, but it was not His design for my family. Chalk that season up to lesson learned the hard way.
I wish I would have listened to more to myself, my husband, and my children in the early years and without the “aid” of those hard-earned lessons. The raising of and making of saints is not a cookie cutter business. Thankfully, the grace of the sacraments, beginning with matrimony, continuing with baptism and frequent reception of Holy Communion and Confession, open the gates of grace for our own individual family. And I know without those hard lessons earlier on in my motherhood, I would not be at the place I am now so I try not to resent them too much.
I believe one of the greatest posts ever written to address how hard Catholic motherhood can be is from Elizabeth Foss, What I’m Never Going to Tell You.
Sometimes, in our zeal to hold each other accountable to a Christian life of virtue, we step dangerously close to pridefully suggesting that if we just do prescribed things all the right way, we will turn out brilliant, holy children. And we forget that it is not mothers and fathers who make Christians of children; it is God Himself, in His own time, according to His own plan.
The missing component in my early years of Catholic motherhood was realizing God had a plan.
Instead of gathering and offering my own version of the plan for my children’s lives, I wish I would have prayed for openness and trust in God’s plan. I would have also prayed for a supernatural dose of patience while waiting for His plan to be revealed and come to fruition.
Honestly, I’m still waiting to see the fruit for some of His plans and supernatural patience would be nice.
My Catholic motherhood has changed over the years, thanks be to God and something my older children will attest to, especially if they can begin the sentence with the dramatic words, “When I was a kid…” I’m realizing there is no ‘right’ way. I’m learning to listen more to God, my husband, my children, and even myself when it comes to the particulars of our family. I’m learning grace moves and works in ways often unseen, but as the most effective means of raising saints for heaven.
Jenny writes at The Littlest Way to encourage women to find their true value and worth in Christ, not the world. She frequently writes about using daily affirmations to battle anxiety, Bible Journaling and using her Catholic Journaling Bible, keeping a Prayer Journal, and her popular Monday Daybook posts. Connect with Jenny on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.