Ginny Kochis takes on the myth that good Catholic mothers must be productive all the time - and recognizes the value of rest.
A couple of years ago I developed a ridiculous habit. Born from the not-uncommon mom notion that I should always be Doing Something, I began providing a litany of my daily tasks to any family member who found me (dare I say it?) sitting.
Or lounging with my nose in a book.
No one ever asked me what I was doing, nor did they inquire what I had been doing just before. My husband never suggested that I log my efforts as billable hours. And yet, any time a child or my husband walked in a room where I wasn’t actively engaged in cleaning, homeschooling, cooking, or writing, I cringed.
Leisure time was not an activity available to good Catholic mothers. I didn’t want anyone to know I was lazy or tired or overwhelmed.
Of course, this quasi-realization as to the root of my behavior took a great deal of time, and the ability to change it took even longer. Because I had internalized and made law the notion that rest equated to sloth and worthlessness, I embraced that lie about myself. Anytime I was caught in the act of taking a moment, my brain launched into defense mode. I needed to justify my behavior to others even though there was no need for justification. Hence, The Litany of Things I Have Done Before Collapsing in This Chair.
Now while I may be a little slow on the uptake when it comes to making changes (ask me how long I’ve been in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), I did at least bat the previous notion around inside my head for a while, considering its veracity.
I knew something was off, that my gut reaction to a non-issue (resting) was irrational, but it took seeing that fast belief in another person in order for me to make a change.
It happened on a summer weekend evening. My sister had recently moved to a new house and we were sitting out on the back porch. The kids were playing; the husbands were doing man things (grilling? I can’t remember).
Literally no one needed us. Everything was fine. We were sitting and relaxing and enjoying each other’s company while she unwound from the chaos of moving and unpacking. My sister turned to me and mumbled:
“I still have a million things to do. I shouldn’t be sitting here. I feel so guilty when I’m not Doing Something.”
Then, and only then, did I realize what I’d been doing to myself.
What a whole lot of us are doing to ourselves.
Because truthfully, even Jesus rested. Even the Son of God, the Son of the Most High, the Savior of the world sat down and took a break every once in a while.
He didn’t feel guilty. There was no reason for Him to feel guilty. His very human brain and body needed very human rest. Not even his full divinity negated that.
And we are human mothers.
We are not martyrs.
We are not God.
There is much to be said for the desire to serve your family, for the consistent effort to be who you are and be that well (thank you for your wisdom, St. Francis de Sales). But what happens when that desire becomes twisted by desolations of the evil one? The one who preys on our human vulnerabilities in a concerted effort to separate us from God?
An aversion to treating your unique and unrepeatable body with respect.
A complete and utter distortion of the gifts you have been given: your tenacity, your commitment, your heart for service, your desire to love.
Don’t buy the lie.
You should not be ashamed by rest. You do not have to itemize your daily tasks to justify five minutes of simple quiet.
Let go of the Litany of Things I Have Done Before Collapsing in This Chair and its good friend, I Am Just Lazy.
Sit down, close your eyes if you need to drown out the kid chaos, and listen for the voice of God instead.
Copyright 2021 Ginny Kochis
Images (top to bottom): Canva Pro; Pixabay (2017)