How Building Cathedrals Saved my Life

A tad drastic? Maybe, but my intention in this post is to explain and then give thanks for a revelation I have experienced over the past 18 months of my life.

It was May 2007 – my, reluctant, four-year active duty Army service was completed and Husband and I had decided that someone needed to be the rock at home. No more two parents at work for insane hours. No more two parents fearing deployments to hostile lands, one is more than enough.

Leaving the work-a-day world to stay home with my children was Earth-shattering at first, and not in all good ways. I was floundering. I did not know how to do this. I was raised as a Navy brat – both of my parents served as naval officers until after I left home for college. I am amazed by my mother’s success as a female naval officer who broke so many barriers for subsequent generations. However, her homemaking life was ad hoc at best. It was the best she could manage on evenings and weekends. Some things were out-sourced, we had the occasional cleaning lady and always a gardening crew, but for the most part she probably just slept very little and spent a lot of money on takeout. My most poignant memories are of family trips and vacations, but the day-to-day stuff was run by a series of nannies. So that was my background and there I was at home with (almost) two children. At our new duty station I was invited to a Protestant Bible Study- it was entitled “Creative Companion” and we read a book by the same title that rocked my world.

The book itself wasn’t that profound, but what was profound for me was that being a wife and mother, a homemaker and an educator and a catechizer is a serious — the most serious — profession there is. The way we approach our jobs as homemakers is 100% mental. In my first months at home I was allowing myself to fall prey to the societal bogus that being a stay-at-home mother was wasting my talents and was all about spit-up and laundry. It is so so much deeper than that. My world has been exploding for the past year thanks to the ladies on this blog and those who have gone before us and written about the work that goes on in a home. I have learned that it is one thing to “keep a home afloat” and another to be continually reading and refining your routines based on what you read and who you meet.

It is inherent in our very created nature to lead our families toward a holier, better existence. If we don’t, no one will find the time. Edith Stein writes that we are called to, “serve man, children and all creatures in a reverential loving manner in order to foster their natural formation for the glory of God and thereby further their natural happiness.” (and I wouldn’t even know that if I wasn’t a virtual member of Mary Alice and Right Said Red’s monthly Catholic mothers’ exchange group!)

God has had such a hand in my life by showing me the way to deliberate living. Not being lost in the laundry and the dishes, but learning to do both better and with a better mindset. Frankly, it is sad that I couldn’t realize all this on my own – you know, that one can improve the way she supports her husband and family through “professional” reading? I mean, clearly when we work outside the home we are encouraged to do professional reading. Lawyers read law journals, stock brokers read The Wall Street Journal, as a military officer I read books about the Middle East and military history. Why would I have assumed that that all stopped when I became a stay-at-home-mother? Au contrair! I have embarked on a bold experiment here – to professionalize my role as the homemaker in this household. I read books about how to cook baby food, how laundry is a path to holiness, how to keep a home journal to keep things flowing in a more orderly way. I don’t know, it all sounds pretty scholarly to me. And I pray that my family will reap the benefits. I don’t think I have learned enough yet, I think I have a long way to go. Furthermore, I sometimes wonder if my lack of a childhood home which I seek to imitate sets me back even further. Nonetheless, I am pleased to embark on this journey of deliberate living and I can’t believe that my “to-read” book list is longer now than it was when I was an intellectually curious sophomore at Princeton.

At bat for me: A Mother’s Rule of Life: How to Bring Order to Your Home and Peace to Your Soul.

On deck: Building the Christian Family You Never Had: A Practical Guide For Pioneer Parents

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