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

Tuesday, November 21, 2017


I wanted to write this post last night, because as I lay in bed, the most eloquent words seemed to float out of my thoughts. Often I find that’s the way it happens, and I just have to get up and get them written down before they are long gone.  However my baby who hadn’t slept at all the previous night, was peacefully tucked into his crib, and I didn’t know how much time for sleep I would have, so I chose to stay in bed.  This as it turns out was a wise choice, because he only ended up sleeping for an hour, and I’m glad I spent that time doing that elusive thing which is sleeping without a baby beside me.  I was hoping and praying that when the time presented itself today those thoughts would return in all their eloquent glory, but alas, it was not to be.  So I’m just going to plug away with whatever comes in this moment.  This is real life.

So the subject of this post is freedom, because I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately, specifically how difficult it is for Moms to have free time in any capacity and even when they do, how hard it is to actually allow that time to be free for ourselves.  About a month ago I reached a breaking point with the daily grind of my life.  I have eight children, six of whom I homeschool, the other two being a toddler and an infant.  We have all the regular activities of a normal household our size, the mental load of which necessarily falls to me because my husband works long hours at a demanding job to provide for our family. This particular week he was on call, which (while hard on him) is always really hard on me too, and my tendency is to bottle things up and just handle them on my own, so I don’t add to his burden. 

So one particular day, I think it was day nine or ten in a row that he was working, I became frustrated with just being on Facebook all the time (because I’m always sitting nursing a baby) and decided I would try to read a book for a bit. But I couldn’t get more than one or two sentences in without interruption so I gave up, defeated, and went back to social media which takes less of an investment from me. That small episode prompted a whole text message about how difficult it is for me to get even a small amount of free time to myself and how I was not doing okay, and my husband (who did I mention, was on day nine or ten straight of working, God bless him!) put a plan in motion for me to have one night a week that was just my own, to do whatever I wanted.  Every week when this day rolled around he would plan to be home and take over whatever I had going on so that I would have some free time, to balance out this life where there are so many constant demands on me all the time.

Yet despite the fact that this day is there, it still takes effort for me to take advantage of it.  I read a quote the other day that there is nothing so not free as freedom for a Mom, and it’s so true.  Try as we may it’s so difficult to walk out without thinking of what we didn’t do, what we should still be doing, without feeling guilty because little ones want to come with us.  I chose a simple weekly outing that would not throw off our nursing baby’s sleep schedule: going to our nearby church for an hour.  Here I could easily nurse the baby and spend time with Jesus while I read, write, or just sit and soak in the quiet.  

I was so excited all day until the time came to actually leave, and then I started.  I looked at the clock and it was approaching 7:00 pm, and I thought, it’s already so late.  And the church, which had been the thing I was most excited about, suddenly looked less appealing. “It’s so dark,” I thought, “what if it’s not safe for me to be there alone? And then there’s the cold, would the empty church be warm enough for me and the baby? Maybe a trip to town would be better...but it’s already so late.” And around and around I went.

My husband, sensing my indecision, came over to me and said, “you have several options: you can call a friend and meet in town, you can go out for coffee, you can go to the church, or you can hide away in one of the bedrooms and have a quiet night in.” He was determined to make this happen for me, and his prompting led me to be faithful to my original plan, the one I was most excited about.  I made myself a coffee, packed up the baby, and headed to the church.  As I came up the driveway and around into the parking lot, I discovered a handful of cars and the church lights on.  God had taken care of my two biggest problems, not wanting to be alone and not wanting to be cold, in the form of a regular meeting that takes place precisely on my night out.  I felt so cared for, and so grateful that I had not given up on my free time, as I so often find myself doing. 

I’ve been reading a lot about how necessary freedom is in our relationship with Christ, and this experience of free time (and how difficult it is for me to actually take it) has me thinking about how the exercise of freedom in small things (or the neglect of it) relates to the exercise of freedom in big things.  And I realize that by neglecting myself, I am subconsciously surrendering my freedom in a way that is not healthy.  That by not taking time for myself (especially when it is so graciously provided for me), that I am essentially reducing myself to the role of a slave.  When I remove the freedom with which I serve my family, it’s difficult not to become angry, bitter and overwhelmed. And that makes it difficult to find Christ, because I’m so busy doing and doing out of routine and not a free gift, that I don’t even have time to look for Him.

Of course I know my family doesn’t “make” me do anything for them.  I know that I made a free choice for them, and I would make it again and again.  But I think that not allowing myself truly “free” time for me removes this choice all together, and puts me in the position of just doing without thought.  When I have even one hour in the week, I return to my home grateful for all of my circumstances, and able to face my challenges in a new way: I can make a free choice to love because my mind feels like my own.

In a greater sense I feel like this also has to do with how I relate to Christ.  For as long as I can remember my greatest problem in life had been that I am always living in hindsight, like I just react in the moment (and react negatively) and only find Christ’s presence in it after the fact. But when I allow myself to have freedom in small things, it opens up the possibility of freedom in greater things as well: the ability to not be a slave to my circumstances but to make a free choice in front of them, to invite Christ into them before they end in disaster, and to allow Him to make them new, to make me a new creation in front of them.  

Everyone needs opportunities to exercise their freedom, but for Moms it can be a particular challenge. If you, like me, find it difficult to take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves because they seem too indulgent or selfish, understand that Christ doesn’t see it that way. He wants to fill us up, to meet even our smallest desires so that when we face bigger challenges, we will be able to stand in front of them in freedom.  And this freedom will bind us more fully to our families, our friends, and even to Him, because the circumstances of our lives will feel less like slavery, and more like a free choice to live for the ones we love. When we have the freedom to pursue the things that put us in touch with our desires, then we are awakened to the One who creates this desire in us.  And this is the only true way to face life.

“Freedom is a gift. It is a basic feature of the human being.  It is almost the fundamental feature: “freedom to,” “freedom from,” and “freedom for.” Our relationship with reality on each and every level is characterized by freedom, and structurally implies that freedom is at stake.  Each of us can choose to realize ourselves or to lose ourselves.  We can say yes or no to what fulfills us.  This is the risk that the Mystery wished to take by creating us free...” (Fr. Julián Carrón, Disarming Beauty)

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