Standing with my long-time friends at a back-to-school night event, I felt my frustration grow once again, which seems to be happening at a frightening frequency these days. The discussion turned from “How was your summer?” to “Are you ready for the parent meeting?” Sweat immediately broke out upon my forehead. “Parent meeting!” I stammered. “What parent meeting? Why don’t I know about it?” My friends looked at me as if I have lost my marbles and patiently reminded me about a letter that was sent home regarding the meeting weeks ago. This type of situation has become a growing trend in my life as I have become a broken record, wondering why it is that I seem to be the only one who doesn’t know what is going on in my children’s academic world. I can almost imagine the looks of pity on my friends faces as I slowly walk away. (Note that I used the word imagine-I’m sure it was all in my head. If they actually were concerned about my ignorance of another parent meeting, they were most likely praying for me, not criticizing me.) I imagine they are wondering what it is that has happened in my life that has the power to pull me away from the life of super-organized, head of the PTA, involved with everything, baker of the ‘the best ever’ homemade bake sale treats, maker of the home-made valentine card for every student in each of my five children’s classes, provider of dozens of jars of jelly for every teacher and helper at Christmas as well as during teacher appreciation week wonder-mom.
They look at this woman who seemed to have it all together, the perfect parent in every way, and wonder what on earth could have turned her into such a ditz who sends out last minute panicked emails and phone calls comparing calendars for events and car-pool schedules just to make sure all of her children are where they are supposed to be at the right time.
If they would only summon the courage to ask me, this is what I would tell them: I have become lost behind the prayer in my heart and the story in my mind. My soul has become an empty, aching hole that can never be satisfied. I am starving for God and that hunger has consumed my entire being. I cannot focus on anything else; my attention span has been reduced to next to nothing for the practical necessities of life.
No longer can I be concerned with schedules, balancing checkbooks or taking the laundry off the line until I see it still hanging, damp again from the overnight dew, as I walk out the door on my way to work. I worry that my husband and children are suffering from the consequences of living with a woman whose head is in the clouds. I'm sure they miss the home-baked cookies, bedtime stories and lengthy conversations that were daily occurrences in our household. Now closets are cluttered and floors need sweeping. The queen of clean has become quite slovenly. Whenever they are in need of a wife or mother, they know where to find me. There I am, at the upstairs desk, pounding out my prayers and love for God on the keyboard, or curled up on the front porch rocker with a spiritual book, or gone yet again to daily Mass or Eucharistic Adoration.
On the plus side of this equation, I console myself with the fact that they are learning independence. They are learning to do the laundry, clean up after themselves and bake their own cookies. They read stories to one another and have become fabulous playmates. They know that when they really need me, I will step away from the keyboard or the prayer corner, and be there for them with the most loving attention a distracted mother can give them.
Not too long ago, my beloved Archbishop Dolan blessed me with the sign of the cross as I begged his prayers for a vocation as a Catholic writer. I think about the slogan, "be careful what you wish for" and I wonder was that the right thing to do? Are reading and writing more important than caring for my family? Are my written prayers more important than the prayers offered by the work of my body as I clean my house and cook meals for my husband and children? Self doubt flares up so easily, that I often overlook the fact that all of those super-mom years were more of an ego-trip about my perfect mothering skills rather than a gift of gratitude to God for putting those mothering skills within me in the first place. Now that I’ve gotten off the hamster wheel of over-achiever and have been finding some peace and joy in the heart of God, I realize that God always must come first in my heart and my schedule, and my family will survive. If God wills it, they will come along with me in my journey of peace even if it includes an occasional last minute panic from lack of preparation.
My dearest heavenly Jesus,
I worry about whether or not I am glorifying you with my written words and spiritual reading, or am I only glorifying myself. Let me know your will Lord. My heart is all yours. I seek to please you and serve you with all that I am. You have blessed me with a beautiful family, with children who need me as much today in their various stages of adolescence as they did when they were babies. Teach me blessed balance. Help me to care for my family with a sound mind, giving them my full attention and love when needed, knowing that my vocation as wife and mother comes first and the fulfillment of that vocation is a prayer that pleases You. Then, allow me to serve you more deeply by writing, reading and spending time in silent prayer when the needs of my family have been met.