Overwhelmed? You Bet, But I Wouldn’t Miss It for the World

Birgit - holy family
 Birgit - holy family
DSC02021Recently, I loaded five of my nine kids into our 12 passenger van and headed off to Costco to stock up for the week. In the food aisles, my kids scattered like hunters and gatherers in search of crackers and cheese, mini cups of pot roast, chunks of cookies, and whatever else the dear sample serving ladies were offering up that day. As they regathered around my almost full shopping cart, a younger mom approached and said with more energy than I would have expected from a total stranger; “Oh, your hands are full” as her arms gestured towards my kids who were in various stages of finishing off their samples.

Leave it to my tactful, yet accurate, 10-year-old daughter to set the record straight, “This isn’t all of us. There are four more at home.” Open mouthed and in a bit of shock, the young mom asked in a sharper tone if I had set out to have that many children. “No, actually I didn’t plan on nine. Truth is, I hoped to have 10,” I said with a smile. “We’d love to have another, but that is not entirely up to us.” Shifting tones again, the mom stammered a bit and asked me with a mixture of awe and pleading, ” Aren’t you overwhelmed? I can barely manage my three. I mean, really, how do you do it?” Without much thought, I said. “I don’t. But I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
She pressed on, “No really, how do you manage? I can barely manage my three?” I thought to myself, “Manage? Who said anything about managing? Of course I can’t “manage” having nine kids. But managing is overrated; or better, managing isn’t the goal. Loving is… leading with love. Gracefully.”
Of course, managing kids and schedules and daily life play a part, a critical part, in striving for an orderly home and harmonious relationships. But “feeling overwhelmed” is a much more common state than managing until “everything (and everyone) is in its place”. I think of that t-shirt with the quote, “I wish my life looked as good as it does on Facebook.” Mine doesn’t, but I’m not sure it’s supposed to.
DSC02041Over the past fifteen years of mothering, I’ve come to discover there is hidden treasure to be found in what looks like drudgery; triumph to be found in the “self-giving to the point of self-sacrifice” call of being a wife and mother. Catholic moms and dads need to be encouraged to be radiant witnesses of the Catholic Church’s teaching on marriage and family. Witnessing involves life out of death; the Paschal Mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection showing up in the mundane and seemingly ridiculous minutiae of being moms and dads of one, two or however many God gives. It also means striving to foster family life to be an icon (even if a fragile, inconsistent and imperfect one) of the inner life of the Blessed Trinity. What an awesome vocation – the “communion of Persons” of the inner life of God is what we families are called to put on display in how we live our family life. That’s overwhelming.

”Aren’t you overwhelmed?” she asked. You betcha. Sometimes, what is supposed to be a fresh, new day feels more like I’m stuck, Bill Murray style, in my own personal Ground Hog Day. Didn’t I just finish folding that big pile of laundry yesterday? Where did this pile come from? Didn’t I spend 10 minutes removing that permanent marker drawing off the wall? How did it move further down and over to this other wall? More tears today, but a different boo-boo. More conflicts between kids to break up, and broken toys and statues to put together. (Right now I am in search of the Blessed Mother’s head; the remainder of our Our Lady of Grace is still intact, but clearly showing signs of living 15 years on our mantle.) Things like that make me want to lose my head; no time for that though, because I’ve got to spend the next two hours shuttling kids to practice at four different fields. Yes, most days have many moments that swerve close to chaos. That’s when I need the Holy Spirit to hover over my chaos and put things in order!

As overwhelming as the mundane often is, I am overwhelmed in a different way at the supernatural that breaks into the mundane. Overwhelmed when Jesus reveals the precious, unique beauty of this child or that one. A large family is overwhelming; in a filled to overflowing way. Tom and I didn’t imagine having this many children before we got married, though we were open to life and had hoped for several children; but nine? That wasn’t on our radar screen. As we were blessed with more children, they cemented and deepened our vocation as a couple and as a family. Day to day, when I have eyes to see, God gives a glimpse of glory; a glimpse of love circulating, goodness flowering and life flourishing. When our almost teenager rocks her baby sister to sleep; when our oldest plays dolls with the toddlers; when our 9 year old son teaches her 6 year old sister how to read; when I laugh over a funny Instagram post with my four oldest girls; when I look out my kitchen window and see a gang of kids chasing their Dad around the yard or playing four-on-four soccer or capture the flag. The glorious life of God breaking into the mundane. My heart is so grateful when God reminds me that the little things reveal the most important thing.


crew10389023_10202995241262296_8896461446686206105_nNine children: each one is a miracle of grace from our Heavenly Father. “Each family is a cell of society, but large families are a more rich cell, more vibrant..” Pope Francis said in an address to large families. I rarely if ever feel equipped to manage such a treasure; but God has not made me a manager but rather a steward, one entrusted; one invited to make room for another, and another, and so on…; God looked upon what He made and found it good. Itom and kari outside
need to remember this as I start each day. It helps; it makes all the difference. The humbling reality of a house that is constantly headed towards a new mess, gives way to the humility of being the recipient of a joy that overflows; the joy of being a Catholic mom.


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4 thoughts on “Overwhelmed? You Bet, But I Wouldn’t Miss It for the World”

  1. Marion (Máel Mhuire)

    Some of us, when we become stressed and overwhelmed with no end in sight, end up becoming clinically depressed. Can’t really eat, can’t sleep much, can’t concentrate on much of anything, can’t get rid of the dark and dispiriting thoughts, experience self-loathing, crying jags daily, losing weight, don’t call anyone or reach out to anyone – isolate oneself . . . this is bad business.

    Some people are well-advised not to put themselves into situations in which they will foreseeably be stressed and overwhelmed. Others can handle it just fine. It depends on the person’s make-up.

  2. I’ve been asked similar questions regarding our 6 (now ages 7 to 20)…I love your response & this post! God bless you & your beautiful family!

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