Welcome to the Momnipotent Book Club! We're reading Danielle Bean’s new book, Momnipotent: The Not-So-Perfect Woman's Guide to Catholic Motherhood.
It is not by accident that God sent my third child, Faith, to me when she was already three years old. Although I find babies adorable, meeting their minute to minute needs is not one of my strong suits. God knew (because He knows everything) that as much as I love being a mom and as much as I relish the memories of my boys as infants and toddlers, my mommy-powers were better spent beyond that time in childhood.
In fact, natural nurturers always amaze me: those women who swoop in and help quiet screaming babies or squirming toddlers, who can get eye to eye with a preschooler and talk them into eating the food you have prepared without negotiation or bribery. Even in my 15 years as a child care provider and preschool teacher, the actual hands on caretaking never came naturally. I had to study technique and work really hard at being good at it. Those sweet little kids taught me an awful lot, and without a doubt helped me to be a softer, gentler, and definitely more attentive person – which in turn, I feel made me a better mom. Yet, I was still not focused on mothering.
Once I started studying and growing in knowledge of children and their development, I then wanted to share what I was learning with others. So when my sons were 3 and 6, I decided to return to school. Maybe some of you can relate to this time in my life when I had a full-time childcare and adult-ed teaching business, two small children, a full graduate level work load, along with the usual household tasks to manage and all my volunteer obligations. I was exhausted but too stubborn to admit it or give any of it up, never mind think to ask for help.
See, I am not one to half put myself into something; I go “all in” but there is only so far all of me can stretch. Unlike that He-Man stretch doll my brother had growing up – eventually in me something has to give. Usually it is my family; maybe I choose them because I believe they will always forgive me when I fail to live up to my responsibilities or expectations. Expectations, I might add that I have set for myself. My family doesn’t set yearly goals and hold a performance review, where I am either promoted or demoted. Nope, that insane overscheduled calendar and pressure to juggle every ball without dropping a single one was all self-imposed, and it remained that way for many years. Until, I stopped trying to do it all alone and allowed God into my life.
Danielle Bean’s title for Chapter 6 in Momnipotent, “Giving Till it Hurts…Everyone,” actually made me Laugh Out Loud. Yup, I LOL’d not just at the title (and most of the chapter because Danielle has a great sense of humor) but in the fact the Holy Spirit allowed this to my chapter to reflect on. The Holy Spirit has an uncanny way of smacking me (often) with the proverbial spiritual 2x4 right between the eyes. Funny Holy Spirit. In a clear example of “Godcidence” (Allison’s phrase for the coincidence that clearly God has orchestrated), the assigning of this chapter to me, at this current point in my life, was truly God giving me that gentle little loving nudge to remind me, you are moving right back to that ‘supermom cape wearing’ place again. My plate is full again while my family stays hungry.
The child care may be closed and those babies are now 18, 15, and 8 but they still require mothering, and their father still requires husbanding. This chapter forced me to relook at my priorities and workload – both in my new career in Catholic ministry and my evolving domestic duties. Am I balancing, not in the “clown on the unicycle with the plates on his nose” way, but in am I taking care of me, my family and work responsibilities without losing sight of God, my health, and my sanity? In reviewing Danielle’s very poignant questions on page 106, I had to ask myself (note: these are a paraphrase of the end of the chapter questions):
- Am I allowing my very capable kids and hubby to help out around the house?
- Do I have any hobbies or interests that I have lost touch with?
- How’s my virtuous life going – starting with patience and moving right on to kindness --especially with my family?
- Is prayer meaningful and authentic or am I just going through the motions?
Just because God allowed me to skip Faith’s baby years does not mean she doesn’t need her momma. Actually, I have almost 4 years of mothering to make up for. Doing it all does not elevate me in the eyes of God, and it certainly doesn’t win any extra points with my family. Balance is meeting a reasonable set of obligations, always having time for a cuddle or a chat, but also being able to sneak away for an hour of adoration, treat myself to manicure every few weeks, as well as kick my feet up for a good book or a good laugh with a friend
To Ponder, Reflect, and Discuss:
- Danielle reminds us that a "physically, emotionally and spiritually starving person -- cannot feed anyone else." Have you put yourself on a "unhealthy diet' any of these areas?
- What remedies can we put into place, starting today, to take care to meet our needs for "rest and nourishment"?
- Do you know the things that make your family feel loved or content? Let's take Danielle's excellent advice and instead of guessing, let's ask - I bet we'd all be very (pleasantly) surprised!
Feel free to comment on your own thoughts from this week's reading, your impressions and reflections, and/or your answers to these questions.
Next week, we'll cover two chapters: Chapter 7: Do What You Are Doing and Chapter 8: Devilish Details. For the complete reading schedule and information about our Book Club, visit the Momnipotent Book Club page.
Copyright 2014 Allison Gingras
About the Author
Allison Gingras created the Stay Connected Journals for Catholic Women (OSV), including "The Gift of Invitation" and "Seeking Peace: A Spiritual Journey from Worry to Trust." Her ministry focuses on the grace of prayer, Scripture, and sacrament. Allison is the national WINE Steward for WINE: Women In the New Evangelization and hosts A Seeking Heart podcast.