As the Family Goes

JP II Quote

"As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live." John Paul II

Sunday, September 19, 2010


I work four days a week, and have decided (with the support of the school) to make my Fridays off a homeschool day for my oldest son, who is in grade one.  We hope to start homeschooling full time in January, and I thought this would be the best way to ease both of us into it, and get a preliminary glimpse into what life for a homeschooling Mom is like.

Homeschooling is a call that was placed on my heart the summer before my son started Kindergarden, when I was reading a book called "Parenting With Grace", in which the author makes an incredible case for homeschooling by speaking of parents as the first and best teachers of our children, and presenting the various benefits, such as shorter school days and more family time.  What really convicted me was seeing my son struggle throughout his entire first year of Kindergarden with difficulties sitting still in class.  Now I don't know if most boys are like this, but mine all have ants in their pants.  And Joseph, not unlike most firstborns, is incredibly bright, and was at the top of his class academically (consequently he was left with his mind wandering much of the time, which often led him to start causing trouble).  My heart broke to think of him being expected to sit in his chair from 9-12 and 1-3 five days a week, and I wondered if we were just setting him up to fail.  With one year of school under our belts, we began to research homechooling more seriously, and my husband and I both fell in love with the idea.  We talked to homeschooling parents, children who had been homeschooled (and entered the public school system in high school), and even teachers in the public school system, all of whom affirmed the benefits of homeschooling.  And with our son's personality, we both really feel this is the best we can do for him.

The scariest question in all of this for me is can I really do this?  We're expecting a baby at the end of November (which is the reason we are waiting until January to make the move to homeschooling full time), and with three other children ranging in age from 18 months to 4 1/2 running around, the idea is daunting to say the least.  So Fridays have been like a test run for me, and so far I have two under my belt.  Here's what I've noticed so far, that I find particularly interesting.  On the days that I plan to homeschool, I plan to start my school day at 9:00 am.  I can get a lot accomplished before 9:00 in the morning, I just never had to do it before so I didn't.  I am hoping (and so far have been able to) accomplish the schooling I need for my grade one-er by about 10:30 or 11:00, and then the rest of the day just runs as it usually would.  Last Friday I did not sit down, except to eat lunch.  And when the end of the day, I felt more gratified than I have in a long time.

I used to think I was busy, even when I only had one or two little ones.  But what I'm learning is that you are always busy, but that's never a reason to hold you back.  Because busyness just challenges you to do things you never thought you could do before.  I rarely took my kids out when I only had two, because I thought it was too much work.  But now with four children I take them tons of places by themselves, because I realize that things are always going to be hard, and I'd never do anything if I didn't do the things that were too difficult. And always, the more it takes to get something done, the more rewarding it is in the end.

Here's the other thing that struck me - that I find the fullness of my call as a wife and mother (and therefore the fullness of my joy), in serving others.  And when more of my day is taken up doing that, more joy results.  That's why I feel much more fulfilled after a day where I've been steadily busy tending to the needs of my household, then one where I've focused more on myself.  This may sound a bit radical (doesn't a mom deserve time to herself in the run of a day?) but think of it this way - when I'm at work, I feel most satisfied when I've worked really hard and accomplished something good for my employer.  I get a lunch break, and a short break in the morning and afternoon, but I do not spend my time thinking of myself and what I can do for me.  I am focused on doing a good job.  Now true, motherhood is different in that you don't knock off at 4:30 and leave your work behind until the next morning.  However the highest and best jobs, the CEOs, presidents and executives, don't either.  The more prestigious the job, the more demanding of your time it is.  But always you find yourself most rewarded when you are focused on doing a good job for others, and putting your own desires second.

Seen in that light, I think I could benefit from seeing motherhood as a real job, with a real schedule, and real things to accomplish.  And I think that homeschooling will challenge me to rise to a level I have never before in my family, and that it will hold great rewards in the process.  The more I let go of myself, the more I see how much more I can do for my children.  I really feel like they are only going to be mine for a very little while.  I am not raising them to cling to me, I am raising them to be their own persons, and eventually they will have their own lives.  But I do have them now, and I want to give them the best of myself for the time they are with me.  And I know that putting them first will also reap huge rewards for me.  Because my truest joy comes not in looking inward to my own wants and desires, but looking to others - especially my husband and children.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Duty of the Moment

A beautiful friend of mine, who is the mother of ten, offered the following advice to me: attend to the duty of the moment.  There will always be an infinite number of things that need your attention, but there is always the one thing that needs to be done in this moment.  Focus on that duty.

Her words brought me much comfort today.  Things started off great, we had been at my family's camp to celebrate my mother's birthday last night, and spent a lazy morning relaxing while the kids played outside.  Today being Sunday, we needed to make sure we got to mass.  So we left the camp in plenty of time for us to spend a few hours at home before heading back into our 6:00 pm mass.  No pressure, just go with the flow of the day.

I am a working mother of four (soon to be five in November).  I work four days a week, and got asked to work on my day off this week too, which also happens to be my husband's 30th birthday.  We talked, and I figured I would work around it, so I agreed.  Then I got home and opened the door to my house, which smelled like a barn!  I'm pretty sure (though I've yet to confirm it) that our cat peed somewhere.  I couldn't find it, but the smell lingered in every room of the house.  I feverishly began cleaning hoping either to discover the source of the smell and clean it up, or to fill the house with so many cleaning products that the smell of cat urine just disappeared.  While I was on my cleaning spree, my 18-month-old discovered some dishwasher detergent in the dishwasher (left over from the load that had just been put through), which I only became aware of when she started gagging on it.  I flushed her mouth out with water for about fifteen minutes, read the bottle, and determined (with the help of my husband) that it probably was not enough to cause any harm, save a few stressful minutes for my baby, who couldn't understand why Mom was draping her over the sink and spraying water in her face.

My brother showed up to pick up a futon that we are passing back to him (he gave it to us when we had room for a spare bedroom, which is now being transformed into a room for our own growing family), and I escorted him to the basement to the sound of my three boys (6, 4 1/2 and 3) dumping every toy they owned on their bedroom floor.  Not wanting to waste my brother's time, I left them to continue their mess so that he could take the futon out without any little ones underfoot (sometimes you have to pick your battles!) and when he was gone, I was eager to get the newly-emptied room set up for my little girl.  She, by this point, had decided that she wanted me to pick her up, and unable to distract her I propped her on my hip, while I pushed furniture around the room.  I could not get the furniture set up in a way that I thought worked well, everything I tried made the room look too cramped.  I just wanted to put the baby down, roll up my sleeves, and get this room taken care of, but every time I tried to set her down she screamed.  Heartburn was setting in (did I mention I'm seven months pregnant?), I could still hear the mess the boys were making in their room across the hall, mass time (and my work week, which included one extra day this week) was fast approaching, and I could still smell cat pee!  My husband came down, and I almost cried.  I was so overwhelmed!

He told me if I wasn't feeling well we didn't have to go to mass.  I wasn't feeling sick enough to miss mass, but I was feeling like I might crack mentally at any moment.  He suggested we pray about it, and as we did I really felt like God was saying that whatever I decided was okay.  That He knew exactly where I was at, and that He understood.  When we finished praying I shared my thoughts with my husband, who said he couldn't make the decision for me, but that I should think about whether I would gain more benefit from staying home and resting, or the grace I would receive by going to mass.  As I thought about this, and how much I wanted to just stay home and take the easy way out, I thought about what mass really is - going to be with people who love God, to get my strength from Him, and to receive His body and blood in Holy Communion.  Here is where I would find everything I needed to sustain me in my every day, and to miss out on this because I was too tired would be to deny everything that mass is meant to be.  I knew then and there what my duty of the moment was - to get myself to mass.  The room could wait until another time, the boys could clean their mess, and I could light a candle to get rid of the barnyard smell until I got home.

No sooner had I made the decision than my phone rang, and I got the news that I didn't need to work on Friday after all.  It was an affirmation to me that I just needed to focus on the one thing I could accomplish in that moment, and the rest of the things that were bothering me would all work out with God's grace.  As we attended mass this evening, I felt completely renewed.  And particularly at the sign of peace, as I reached out to each member of my family I felt like I was passing on a peace God had given me earlier in the day to just trust Him with the never-ending list of things to do.  I am not unlike any other wife or mother - there are never enough hours in the day to accomplish everything that needs to be done.  But when I put things in the right perspective, God gives me what I need to do the things that matter. 

I'm thankful for days like today.  Whenever I am tempted to think that I can do anything on my own, please show me Lord how desperately I need You.