I have chosen to be a stay-at-home mom, so naturally, I spend a lot of time at home. Now that I have a newborn, though, I feel like a recluse. We still have to get out at least once a day because my two-year-old needs it, but I feel very immobile. We carefully plan, organize nap schedules and pack diaper bags around that single or rarely double outing and it always feels exhausting.
Gestational in prayer
Unsurprisingly I find myself unable to contribute to parish ministries as I once was. A parishioner asked me last year if I’d like to teach CCD and I felt like laughing…or crying…or a mixture of both. But no, the answer was no.
However, I am realizing how important our prayer life is inside the home. It is not called the domestic church for nothing. Prayer is important for us parents: to maintain our sanity, our focus on Him, our communion with one another. It’s important to model for children and our main task in life is to teach them to pray.
As a stay-at-home mom, and perhaps a woman in general to a certain degree, it’s important for the universal Church. Just like cloistered religious dedicate their whole lives to sustaining the world with their prayer, so also I am called to pray for my husband, my children, my parish, my extended family, my friends, my neighborhood, my city, my country, etc.
I read the blog of a Catholic, homeschooling, mother of seven and it seems like they don’t get out much. What strikes me, however, is that they do seem to pray together. They are like a little family monastery, shining their light out from the top of the hill. It is no wonder Pope John Paul II said, “the Christian family, in fact, is the first community called to announce the Gospel to the human person…” (Familiaris Consortio, 2).
So as a woman, especially as a mother at home, I am the primary builder of this community of prayer. The first building block, the first connection.
Gestational in sending out
I don’t have the opportunity to evangelize at my workplace or even much in society at large since I am more focused on changing diapers and making small rounds around our neighborhood. My husband does, though. I thought about this as he commented the other day how priceless it is to have a home with peace and love to come back to.
My husband is very much in society, in non-Christian environments and in contact with many different people every day. In a way, I directly contribute to his ability to be Christ to others in the world. We really are one flesh. If our home is a place where he can rest, pray, play and gain strength to go again into battle, that is invaluable. Every morning I send him out and feel co-responsible for how he goes.
Saint Teresa of Calcutta had some nuns that were confined to hospital beds but united to the active nuns out in the field. These “passive” nuns were sick and could only pray and offer their suffering, in union and companionship with an “active” nun. So also I feel like I can pray for my husband at work.
Eventually, I will also “send out” my children into the world, in a more dramatic and empty nest sort of way. Ideally, it would be like the sending out of apostles, although that depends on God’s grace and will.
Gestational in parenting
This image of sending out apostles seems very unrealistic when contrasted with my two-year-old who is working on controlling temper tantrums and hitting friends. However, I am still investing all that I have in her now, hoping that fruit will come of it later.
As a wise mother of eight that visited us the other day advised, it is good to model gentleness and soft-speaking with her now, even though there don’t seem to be any results. Those will come later.
One of my favorite phrases from Auntie Leila at Like Mother Like Daughter (she talks often about this subject) is: “Curtain climber. Ages 1-3 This little guy will follow you around and make things much, much worse. He pulls things off of shelves, then plows right over them. He grinds bagels into chairs. He eats kitty litter. Keep repeating, ‘My vocation is gestational in nature’ and set your sights for the long distance.”
Patience is counter-cultural
Woman, in a more unique way than man, is called to be patient. It is inscribed in her very being: with a small, fertilized egg that you cannot see for so long, then you see the belly, then finally you see the baby. It is inscribed in her call to mothering: caring for babies and small children in a way that seems useless and mundane, but is really bearing immense fruit later.
As I heard during a conference once, the world says that to be happy you must get pleasure quickly. The “get pleasure” part came from the sexual revolution and the “quickly” part from the industrial revolution. God and the Church, however, teach that to be happy you should give love/beauty slowly. Who better teaches this than a woman, more specifically a mother?
Perhaps this is why Pope Francis is always saying that motherhood is the antidote to our selfish society. And perhaps why motherhood is so constantly under attack.