Young mothers have been on my heart lately. Certainly not all young wives are mothers, and not all mothers of little ones are young wives. But in general the first few years of marriage and motherhood, wherever you are, can be incredibly difficult.
For me, many times a cup of coffee and a good conversation with a Titus 2 mom friend has been much-needed moment of encouragement.
If you happen to be in desperate need of a coffee date like that, would you allow me to treat you to an e-date of sorts? I’m no expert at walking with God through the Little Years, but my heart wants so much to share some of what I’ve learned so far. I’m also no expert at marriage…but I have a heart for that, too. They say that sometimes we can develop a passion for where we have struggled…that’s me.:)
So, let’s pretend that we’re at your favorite coffee shop. Just you and me. We have a cozy, private booth in the back corner of the store. Our children are all at home bonding with their fathers and eating nutritious snacks. We have both just purchased the delicious coffee drink of our choice, and there is a large, warm chocolate chunk cookie on the little table in front of us, already cut in half to share (calorie/gluten/soy/dairy/peanut-free if needed:).You have just asked me, “Erin, how do we do this all?! It seems impossible. I’m trying so hard, but I’m drowning most of the time.” Either that or I have simply picked up on the exhaustion, disenchantment and discouragement on your face.:)
First, can I just tell you that I’m right there with you some days?
Now, let’s take a bite of that cookie. Because Rule #1 is that Chocolate Always Helps. (Just kidding. Sort of. Have you made this yet?!)
Life has so many seasons. It’s a constant ebb and flow and stretching and coasting and then doing it all over again. We get into a good routine and then…growth spurt…job change…out-of-state move…NFP woes…natural disasters..the flu…new baby…
We just can’t do it all, all the time, all at once, or all well. In fact, no other women in history have been asked to do what your average American mom is supposed to be able to do these days.
And of course we’re inadequate to the task. It comes with having a God-given mission. But we mothers join the ranks of Peter, and Moses, and Joshua, and Gideon, and Mary, and a host of other Biblical heroes (and the saints!). God always gives us more than we can handle, because giving us a mission that is more than we can handle is so often the only way that He can get us to fall into His arms so that He can then do some amazing things through us.
The life of faith is a never-ending re-centering of our lives on God: discerning His will and depending on his providence and trusting his timing and blooming where we’re planted. Something that helps so much in any vocation we’re in is to constantly examine ourselves. Every day is great. Every month is helpful. With our spouse is wonderful.
Remember that the mission always goes back to your marriage. Fight for your marriage, and the graces of the sacrament will flow. Let your spouse point you to God, every day, whether its by his holiness or because you’re on your knees in prayer about him. And when you fail and fight and hurt one another over and over and you don’t know how to stop, remember what God wants for you. Something will change, eventually. A phone call, a new acquaintance, a change of heart, a powerful homily, a book…there are so many ways God reaches us. And don’t be afraid to seek out good counseling! Just about all of us go into marriage with wounds and brokenness. A good counselor can be such a gift.
Remember, too, that the vocation to marriage is not all about children. One of the greatest gifts you can give to any children you have are healthy, happy parents. Sometimes fighting for your marriage looks like calling eight people to find a babysitter. Sometimes it means getting counseling. Sometimes it means sending your husband to work out for an hour a few days a week after work. And sometimes–maybe a lot of times–fighting for your marriage means being on your knees in prayer for a thousand nights in a row.
Sometimes Christian marriage and parenting books directed to moms can all seem to say the same thing: “Give, give, give. Be selfless. Die to self.” I won’t tell you that’s bad advice. But maybe it’s incomplete. Because we all need rest that renews sometimes. And we have to fight for that kind of rest in our busy lives. Whether it’s making Sundays a consistent day for rest, a monthly holy hour, a weekly mom’s night out for coffee and a good book, a whole weekend away, or something restful and life-giving unique to you, go for it and toss out those feelings of guilt with the trash. Self-care is so important! As an introvert, I’ve learned that taking care of myself IS taking care of my family. Because a mother with an empty tank isn’t her best self. And our families need us to be our best selves. And if your husband isn’t on board at first with more regular R&R for you, be patient but sweetly firm, and let the fruit of a refreshed wife speak for itself.
Speaking of children, the joys and sorrows of discerning them and making them and accepting them can be incredibly and breathtakingly hard. For those of you in the trenches with things like intimacy, infertility, or NFP, there are some excellent blogs and great books out there these days. Read them. Know, sister, that there are many, many “you, too?!’s” out there. You’re not alone. God has great plans for your marriage, and that includes your intimate relationship with your husband. Be patient with yourself and your spouse, find time to talk over things often with a calm and right heart, find big and small ways to be selfless, and don’t let go of a good sense of humor. Oh, and if you don’t do it already–pray.
On the running-a-home-front, let’s just say that feeding people and doing laundry and keeping the bathrooms sorta-decent is messy. Learning how to improve the running of your household is usually a very helpful thing. There are lots of great places to get advice on this, thankfully. Again, don’t try to do it all at once, but do try to do something if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Learning how to meal plan, or organize your bills, or lay out a beginning mother’s rule of life can be…life-changing is the word that comes to mind. I am so, so not “there” yet with running my home perfectly. I have found that necessity has been the mother of order in my home, to be honest.
Running a household also means running a house full of schedules. Work on a rule of life for your family that doesn’t say “yes” to every good thing. Really discern “good” and “better” for your family regarding activities, employment, ministry, and the need for unstructured family time. Simplify, simplify, simplify whenever and wherever possible.
Young marriage and motherhood can feel like being helplessly pulled along by a strong current. Maybe that’s just me? I am not a master swimmer yet. And at those times when I feel like I’m five minutes away from going under, it seems like it’s always then that somebody hands me a hungry baby! But as St. Pope John Paul II said so beautifully, we find ourselves when we make a sincere gift of ourselves. Sometimes I think that my challenge as a mom is to mentally stop fighting all the things I have to give to my family whether I like it or not, and to take those thoughts captive to Christ.
We mothers have a mission that requires us to climb a great spiritual mountain in these early years especially: A daily, active surrender that says I chose this, I choose this, and I will continue to choose Him.
This is one of my very favorite Scriptures in speaking to my motherhood:
“Whatever your task, work heartily, as serving the Lord and not men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward; you are serving the Lord Christ.” -Colossians 3:23
Isn’t that a good one to post above the sink, girls?! 🙂
Whew! I know I can be a talker.:) It’s just that I truly have a love for all of you–His little daughters and my sisters in Christ. I just have a great desire to share my small insights into this crazy-beautiful vocation to marriage and motherhood. I know very well how helpful it can be to get a little time away with coffee, chocolate, and a Titus 2 friend to encourage me with her wisdom and honesty! (It’s funny how quickly we become a Titus 2 friend to other moms, too, by the way!) Sometimes I just need someone to remind me that the days are long, but the little years are short.
So…how about the next chocolate chunk cookie is on me?