Friday, July 15, 2011

The 10 Habits of Happy Mothers--A prelude of sorts

I am still waiting for my copy of The 10 Habits of Happy Mothers by Dr. Meg Meeker. I've been trying to get it from my library for a few months now but it's still too new for the branches that have it to release it for interlibrary loan. I was finally convinced by the mounting reviews that I needed my own copy, and when I saw that Elizabeth Foss would be sharing a study series on the book, I bit the bullet and ordered one. It should be here soon. Maybe today.

So I have yet to read a word of the book--aside from block quotes here and there. And the quote Elizabeth starts with resonates with me as true:
If every mother in the United States could wrap her mind around her true value as a woman and mother, her life would never be the same. We would wake up every morning excited for the day rather than feeling as though we'd been hit by a truck during the night....
A mother's version of St. Catherine of Siena's "Be who God made you to be and you will set the world on fire," and other such sayings by the saint about the worth of a soul.

Why then does it frustrate me?

Perhaps it will be more fruitful to read in context. Because I see, looking at what I have to say about Dr. Meeker's beginning, that I am reading something that I already know--on an intellectual level. And what I want is to see it take root in my heart and bear fruit there.

No doubt this is what the challenge of her words means. She asks me to wrap my brain around the value present within me as a woman and mother--knowing, perhaps, that she's not telling me anything necessarily new, but that I still struggle with believing it. She writes, "We look at how well we perform at various functions rather than accepting that we are valuable simply because we are our kids' moms and we are loved and needed because of that." I spend much of my days trying not to look at how well I'm doing, because I don't need to go far for evidence that I'm not doing a stellar job. Some days can be counted as a success only because my husband can come home and point out that, despite the messy house/incomplete lessons/[insert imperfection here], I did a good job because the kids are happy and healthy, and know they are loved, and--here's the catch--I believe him. Often I don't.

I was particularly interested in what Elizabeth had to say about letting fear keep us from knowing our authentic selves.
We can throw ourselves into our work--far more work than a mother of two can begin to imagine--and we can tell ourselves for years and years that we are dying to self in service to our families. There is, however, a real possibility that we are not dying to self at all. Instead, we are failing to look self in the eye and get to know her. We are running from her in the running we do all day (and night). One day, maybe far into the future, we will still be moms, but we will not have the intensity of day-to-day child care and nurturing that we do now. We will be called to utilize our gifts in other ways. Will we be such strangers to ourselves and our talents that we cannot even recognize what it is He wants us to use?
Again, I was struck by how familiar this sounded. There are two sides of this, or maybe two ways of saying the same thing, for me. On one, I agree with Elizabeth, because I am conscious of this dynamic operating in my life. I can bury my deeper self in my day-to-day work. I lose myself in my vocation. This can be a good thing, but Elizabeth cautions us against the false sense of dying to self when really we are closing ourselves off from the fullness of who God made us to be.

But I wonder if I have gotten that far yet--I still struggle to prioritize responsibilities to my family, things that should rank much higher in my daily life, over more frivolous or self-centered pursuits. Because here's the other side: I am afraid that, underneath, all those aspirations, all those talents I plan to make use of one day, or wisely cultivate in my "free time" while I raise my children...that they are empty, or doomed, or not what God created me for after all. And in my fear, I cling to them.

Surely there's a balance between the two.

I have a lot more to say about this, but I am afraid I might be getting off the point made in the book. I look forward to reading it and seeing where it leads me. Right now, in the midst of doubts, I take as my guiding light my husband's advice and encouragement, and the recent counsel I received in the sacrament of confession: Rely on our Lady's example in my vocation. Give myself entirely to my family. Offer my children to God. Ask him for the grace to go the rest of the way. Give thanks for what I have.

Nothing I haven't heard before. But so, so wise.

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