“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” ~The Gospel of Matthew~
Since the arrival of baby Augustine in January, the months have passed quickly but the days of juggling three kids have been long and often full of chaos. About a month ago the dust started to settle, primarily because baby Gus started sleeping through the night. Then the long days of summer hit, and hit hard.
From daily swimming lessons at the pool to summer story time at the library, the past few weeks have had little rest for the weary. Combine all our activities with Mr. Red’s late nights at the office and I have been left feeling stressed and overwhelmed. I have been a bit burned out, often looking ahead at our future and wondering how I can continue this pattern for another 5 years, or 10 or 20!
This past week I had a really rough day with the kids, not the type of day when anyone was seriously ill or injured, but the type of day when every small item you need is somehow lost, the baby is fussy, your babysitting help cancels, the kids are fighting, and nobody has any clean underwear left. I, of course, had forgotten to defrost the chicken, and so dinner was regrettably delayed. Hungry kids whine, and they fight, and they do these things in the kitchen, as I frantically try to get dinner made and served.
In a harsh tone I asked them to leave the kitchen until dinner was ready.
“Why?” Gianna protested.
“Because I need a break.” I answered. “I’m feeling a little burned out,” I thoughtlessly explained.
“What’s burned out?” Gianna asked.
“Burned out is when you are feeling really tired of people and you just need some alone time. Don’t you ever feel this way?”
Of course not, why am I trying to explain this to a 4 year old!
As mothers, burnout is an ever-present threat to the stability of our homes. It is sign that we have started to focus on ourselves, to wallow in self-pity and doubt, and have lost our focus on Christ.
I am thankful to my wonderful pastor, Father Anthony, whose fabulous homily on the above gospel passage worked a small miracle in my heart today. You see, I usually never get the opportunity to really listen to the homily. Even on a good day, reminding my children to sit still, stress about our overall noise level, trips to the bathroom, and diaper changes occupy my time and my mind. But today, my parents graciously agreed to allow our oldest two children to sleep at their home, and Mr. Red and I were free to attend Mass with just our 6 month old baby in tow. And so today, I was able to listen—really listen—to what Father, and the Holy Spirit, had to say.
When our burdens feel really heavy, we should first ask if they are of God? Does Christ want us to carry the burdens we shoulder? Or are the burdens something we have taken on unnecessarily. For example, stress about my husband’s job situation, or the poor life choices of a family member are likely not burdens Jesus wants me carrying around. Alternatively, maybe our burdens are the result of over commitment. I’m very type-A, and so saying no when someone asks me to volunteer is VERY difficult. At the moment I have committed to a LOT of different outside activities, and something probably has to give. As our family grows, saying “No” to certain outside commitments is what God calls every mother to do. Have I chosen my burdens wisely? Are they of God, or did I create them?
Second, assuming we are called to all of our burdens, we cannot carry them alone. Jesus says, “Come to me.” He doesn’t say talk about me, think about me, fantasize about me, he says “Come to me.” But how do we “Come” to Jesus on a regular basis? Spontaneous Prayer? Daily Mass attendance? Adoration? Frequent confession? A daily Rosary? The particular answer is going to be different for each Mother, but the simple truth is that we all must come to Jesus to find rest.
In my personal case, it’s a matter of time. When things get really busy and I get burned out, I focus on the details, and I forget the whys behind my actions. I become Martha, busy with many things, and while I think I am busy for the sake of Jesus, I’m really just focused on me and my tasks. I tend to do, do, do, rather than just BEING with Jesus. Taking the time to really come to God means slowing down to just be with God.
And that brings me to the miracle of today. Jesus, knowing I am weak, knowing I am busy, came to me. He did so through the gracious help of my parents, and the wonderful wisdom of my Pastor. And for that I say thank you.