“So Erin,” said a Catholic radio morning show host last week, “You’re a homeschooling mom of five, so you’re a pro at having everyone home with you all the time. What tips can you give all the listeners out there in quarantine suddenly spending all day long with their kids and struggling to get things done in the chaos?”
For a moment, I internally kicked myself hard for saying yes to this interview.
Because all that was coming to mind was a dead-honest, gut reaction of an answer: Jesus and coffee. That’s really all I’ve got for you.
God always gives us more than we can handle
My spiritual director is so good at reminding me that I’m doing the impossible.
I tried for years to read all the right books and all the right bloggers, but I have never been able to schedule, plan, or chore-chart my way to perfect peace in my home.
It’s an unbelievable amount of work to educate my children, figure out three square meals a day for seven people, and keep everyone in clean underwear.
But guess what?
I know lots of beautiful, strong Catholic families whom a lot of people look up to, and their kids drive them bananas with bickering, too. The mommas struggle with patience, anxiety, and difficulties in marriage too. And by the end of the day, their toddlers rarely have pants on either.
Not to mention the spouses sometimes snap at each other, yell at their kids, or throw pack ‘n plays across the room in frustration, too. (Can I tell you what a grace I received when I found out one day talking to a friend I wasn’t the only one whose has ever manhandled a Deluxe Graco Pack n’ Play in anger?)
It doesn’t matter what your situation is–whether you were already homeschooling or whether you have one child home or eight, younger children or older children: God always gives us more than we can handle.
Imperfection comes with the package of family life, and it’s not because you’re doing things all wrong or you just haven’t figured out all the tips and tricks to make your family life be as smooth and Pinterest/Snapchat/Instagram-worthy as you think you’re supposed to be making it.
It’s because if we could handle everything family life threw at us by finding the perfect blend of schedule, rules, organization, and healthy living practices, we wouldn’t need God.
So, if life is crazy right now at your house, it’s partly because the world is crazy right now and partly because family life itself is a challenge by design.
I want to share a few simple things I’ve been doing to fight to keep my peace of heart during these last weeks.
Three things I’m doing to seek and maintain peace of heart during quarantine
– 1 –
I’m staying off my phone more
My anxiety and stress hit a high point a few weeks ago, and in prayer that day I felt the Holy Spirit nudge me clearly that I needed to fast from my phone.
No news. No social media. Email and bare-minimum texting twice per day.
It helped a lot.
If you’re really struggling with discouragement or anxiety, my first recommendation is to fast completely off social media, email and texting for a set amount of time. I was inhaling so much communication and information on my phone that I was constantly on my phone instead of present to my kids.
– 2 –
I’m praying (a lot) more
Some of Mother Teresa’s sisters once came to her during a difficult and busy time and asked if they could schedule less prayer time so that they could have more time to serve the needy and get things done.
Mother Teresa’s answer was that they needed to add an hour more of prayer to their day.
This is true for me. During these last few weeks of quarantine and some other stresses in my life, I’ve needed more time with Jesus than I have in a while, and boy has He been coming through.
One thing I realized because of fasting from my phone was that reading a lot of religious or positive content on social media and text messages was creating the illusion that was doing a lot of praying–when I actually wasn’t.
– 3 –
I’m being kind to myself
I think most of us at home with our families want to make the most out of this special season, but we have to make sure we are not putting self-imposed pressure on ourselves to make every day memorable and educational. Pushing myself to be Susie Homemaker Meets Fun Mommy Meets Educator Extraordinaire while I’m a hot mess until I’m a hot mess puts a damper on the entire family.
Especially during quarantine, I’m being intentional about being kind to myself. Extra rest. Daily naps when at all possible. Reading. Daily walks. Skipping laundry for prayer time or to watch an occasional Jane Austen movie (I loved the new Emma!). Eating cookie dough for one (see recipe at the end of the post:).
And definitely, when needed, I’m more than fine with a little extra screen time for the kids. The quality time with my kids has been awesome. We’ve made beautiful memories from some activities I planned and many things that I didn’t. I’m not worried that a little extra down time for me and them is doing any harm when we’re having so much extra quality time as a family lately.
I am called to do the impossible as a mom, and so are you. We join in Jesus’ own Mother’s footsteps every day of our lives, if we really think about it. Every little yes we say to showing up as a wife and mother, day in and day out, echoes her Yes. And each of those little moments is holy. We all talk about holiness as if we’re hoping to get there one day, rather than realizing that we are holy every single time we say yes to God in the smallest thing.
So yeah, we moms have more than we can handle. Yes, our task is impossible. But God’s math isn’t our math. After all, He’s the kind of God who writes straight with crooked lines.
Part of the equation I have figured out though, is that motherhood requires lots of Jesus…and coffee.
Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough for One
2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp white sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla (I like to add a touch of almond extract, too)
1/8 tsp salt
6 tbsp flour
1/4 cup chocolate chips or M&Ms
Cream butter and sugars. Add vanilla and milk, then salt and flour. Mix well. Stir in chocolate chips. Enjoy!