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, January 11, 2015

Confessions of a Mom of Many

I spend much of my life, like I suppose most people do, being sized up.  Because I spend my days surrounded by little people, people naturally have varying assumptions they are often not afraid to share with me on a daily basis - some good, some not so good.  I suppose that's a function of the world we live in, everyone has an opinion about everything.  But there are many things people say to me that are way off base or simply not true and rather than make a laundry list, I thought it would be better to give a little glimpse into some of the things you may find surprising about a Mom of many.  Here are some of my biggest confessions:

#1: I am not Super-Organized, Super-Patient, or Super-Holy
One of the most common things people say to me that I really have a hard time hearing is, "you must be so patient!"  When people who know me and have seen my daily life affirm good things in me I try to accept them (even though it's always hard to receive a compliment!) but I find it really difficult when someone's sole basis of making a judgement is the number of children I have.  Because patience is the number one thing I struggle with on a daily basis, this is extra difficult.  It makes me feel like a complete fraud to repeatedly be praised for something I know darn well is not true.  Being put on a pedestal is not easy, particularly for something so arbitrary as the number of children you have because really, sinful people can have a lot of children - I'm living proof!  In fact chances are good that ten minutes prior to hearing this, I was likely laying into one of my children for something that may or may not have been their fault.  I have a lot of children, and I struggle.  But they help me.  They challenge me every day to grow in the areas I am most sinful, they bring those areas front and center every day, and make it difficult for me to run away from it. And people assuming I must be a Saint?  Well that's even more of an incentive to get my act together.  Which brings me to my second point...

#2: I feel Unworthy of my Children
I never grew up around big families, so I understand the way the world can tend to exalt them.  It was absolutely my impression of the first big families I met, that they were so holy, and obviously God chose those parents because of their virtue to raise all of those children.  That is so not true!  And honestly at times this attitude can be a bit segregating, especially among Catholic circles. Friends of mine who were children in large families often spoke of how difficult it was to hear their parents praised in groups of people for their perceived holiness, when behind closed doors the kids knew the real parents who struggled like anyone else does.  I know my sin, and I don't feel like God chose me especially because of my virtue, or there are a great many people He would have chosen before me!  And though I've always wanted a big family I know many people who want the same thing and for one reason or another can't have it, and I don't know why it worked out this way for me and not everyone who desires it - but that thought makes me feel even more unworthy.

#3: Sometimes I feel Ashamed in Secular Circles
It is rare for me not to receive some kind of comment about my kids when I'm out, and it's taken many years and much grace to learn how to respond to them. Particularly when I'm out with some but not all of my kids and I still get the same comments.  A friend once said that it's the duty of a mother to be a joyful witness to family life particularly under such circumstances, so for example if I'm out with four of the children and someone comments on how busy I am I should let them know that there are still two more at home, and yes I am busy but happy.  I understand the spirit, but have found by experience it's hard to communicate what you intend in the two minutes you have during a checkout encounter, and often the shock value is what people are most likely to take away, not the joyful witness.  So I've started simply accepting comments without correcting people.  One day however I remember being out to pick up new glasses with my three oldest boys, and the people at the counter were making an over-the-top big deal about how I had so many children, and in a way that was not flattering to the kids or me.   Knowing my children were listening and honestly feeling put on the spot by the boldness of the associates, I told them there were indeed three more younger children at home and that yes, I was very happy to be living this life.  I don't know whether I managed to convince them of anything other than the fact that I was crazy (something I get quite often from complete strangers) but I wasn't saying it for their benefit - I was saying it for my boys.

#4: Sometimes I feel Ashamed in Catholic Circles
If the secular world sometimes exalts big families, Catholics do it all the more.  There is a fine line between seeing goodness in something (loving and welcoming children) and transferring an inferred holiness and/or opinion on it to the point that anyone whose family life does not look the same is not holy enough.  I have never told anyone a small family is not holy because I don't believe that, but it's not uncommon for people who have one or two children to feel the need to tell me why they're not having any more right now, or that they tried to have more but they can't.  It can be particularly hard to be a big family when someone is struggling with infertility, because while I'll be the first to say that holiness is not inherent in numbers, the conversation can easily turn against big families as the "haves" in the equation.  Holding big families up as the standard in Catholic circles is wrong on so many levels, for everyone - it's hurtful for people who want big families but can't have them, it's hurtful for people who have discerned (through the free will God gave them, and with the blessing of the Church) that now is not the right time for another baby, and it's hurtful to big families, who end up pitted against their Christian brothers and sisters and feeling polarized for simply living their lives.  Having children is probably the most intimate decision a family can make, and Catholics especially should understand the sanctity with which it should be treated, and treat each family with dignity no matter the size.

#5: I have no Close Girlfriends
This one, honestly, has been the biggest struggle for me lately.  I remember just before Christmas the moment I really realized that there is no one female person that I can turn to at the drop of a hat.  No one I could pick up the phone and call anytime of day if I was struggling with something deep and needed advice (unless it was specific advice, like maybe I'd call a Mom friend if it was a parenting issue, or a teacher friend if it was a homeschool issue).  Nobody who knows me well enough to be able to pick up on slight nuances and say, "how are you doing?" or notice that I haven't been myself lately and ask if I'm okay.  I remember growing up my mother had two best friends who were with her through thick and thin. They only saw each other sporadically, but it was like time stood still and bridged the gaps the moment they were together.  I have some really good friends, don't get me wrong. But the people I see most are always in the context of my family life - my homeschooling Mom friends, my youth group friends I keep touch with mostly over Facebook, my high school best friend whose life is even busier than mine.  Of course my husband is my rock and my very best friend, and my mother is a trusted confidante, mentor, and my closest female friend, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't crave a close female relationship with someone in the same walk of life as me.  The fact is the people I am closest to have the same problem as me, they don't have time to really invest themselves in a deep BFFs kind of friendship because they're doing the same thing as me - working and raising a family.  I'm sure it's the nature of the gig, but sometimes it can feel quite lonely.

#6 - I don't Spend As Much Time Online as you Think, But I Probably Spend More Than I Should
A friend once said to me, "oh you're on Facebook all the time, you post like 20 status updates a day!"  When I tried to persuade her that I don't she responded that it was okay, because Facebook is my lifeline to the real world as a stay-at-home Mom, and a good way to stay in touch with people. The fact is that a long time ago I had to put a blackout on daytime social media because it was interfering way too much with my life, and I didn't like the person I was when I was constantly checking Facebook throughout the day.  "How on earth could she possibly think that?" I thought - then I realized that those handy aps I have on my smartphone that allow me to post things to Facebook without actually being on Facebook (like pictures or articles) is what gave me away.  She pictured me behind a computer monitor all day, when really I just took a moment to upload a picture I just snapped or ten minutes to read an article on my phone and got right back to my day. I use my phone sparingly through the day. I've given up on entertainment sites (which tend to suck me in and cause me to enter an endless cycle of time wasting) and I don't use social media during the day.  But I do definitely waste a lot of time on it after supper.  I've ordered my day so that I do all of my work during the daytime hours but come suppertime, I relax.  Sometimes this relaxing can translate to too much time online, I will admit.  It's something I need to work on.

Family life is never easy no matter what your particular make-up happens to be, and there are always assumptions people make that are not quite accurate.  I'm curious about other Moms, if you were to make a list of confessions what would it look like?  What are some things people think about you that you'd love to set the record straight on?  Many blessings to all the families out there as you go about the holy work of building the Kingdom of God in whatever way He had called you to.


  1. You can call me anytime! :) I thank God for your friendship regularly and I understand not feeling like you have a close girlfriend too.

  2. I love this! I can relate to so many and most especially, #5. I long for a close girlfriend too, but the work of family life is very time consuming.

  3. I can identify with #5 too. Not in the sense of wanting a close girlfriend (lol). But that sense of intimacy is important - especially as a celibate. I am grateful to share ministry and meals and common time with another priest. It would be pretty lonely without it.