What does help for moms look like?

My husband has traveled for work since the earliest days of our marriage. On a good week, he might only have one overnight. On less good occasions, he’s gone for two weeks at a time. In the earlier days, when he came home from a trip, there was always a struggle with reentry. I was ready to sit down and take a load off–he was too–and we miscommunicated about who was “on” for the kids.

At times, it seemed more difficult when he was home than when he was away, because when he was home, I was burdened not just by what needed to be done around the house, but also with the expectation that he might do more of it.

It took me several years to figure out that my expectations were not the solution to our maladies, but were rather, the problem.

This little window in our marriage comes back to me now, as I’ve been following a recent conversation with my Patheos neighbors, about what the Church might do to support mothers of young kids. It started with Calah’s very relatable admission that having lots of young kids at home is difficult and stressful, and makes her question how much longer she can remain faithful to the Church’s teaching on birth control. The Anchoress suggested that Parishes might do more to help mothers in Calah’s position. And Calah agreed:

“But I do think that there is a real problem with the Church’s teaching on the morality of birth control. It’s the same problem that many pro-choicers point out (inaccurately, I believe) when citing the Church’s hypocrisy on abortion; namely, lack of follow-through support. The Church says, “don’t use birth control, have big families” and then when we do, and when we find ourselves drowning because of it, there’s no help. No support.”

There have been many comments on both posts expressing a need for some kind of mother’s ministry, and yet little consensus on the particulars of what such a ministry might do. Some have suggested a mother’s group that meets at church to commiserate. Some have suggested a committee that brings meals to families with new babies. Others have suggested recruiting the grannies in the Parish to make home visits and offer respite care or companionship to young mothers. All are worthy suggestions, and I’ve seen all of them done, in different communities at different times, with varying degrees of success.

But when it comes to naming a one-size-fits-all nationwide ministry within the Catholic Church to meet the needs of all mothers of young children, I think we’re grasping at straws. Here’s why:

Mothers come in all shapes and sizes, and at different times in their lives, they need different things. 

 As one mother said, having someone come into her home would make her feel like she had to clean up and entertain. Many moms feel stressed about getting a bundle of children dressed and out of the house to go to a meeting. And as for a mentorship or companion ministry–well– friendship must come first. I can’t imagine opening up my soul and my challenges to someone I didn’t know well. I would withhold to avoid judgement. Or I would at times just want to vent without my issues becoming ISSUES that need solving. There are good reasons to share our struggles and commiserate, and there are also good reasons not to concretize every negative thought by giving it voice.

After my first was born, my largest complaint was that I felt bored and isolated. I was also very possessive of my first born and didn’t want to leave him with just anybody. I did drive-bys of MOMS and MOPS, and ultimately settled on the La Leche League, which let me keep my baby with me, had flexible meeting times, no spiritual agenda, and it often led to social opportunities afterwards. I had been looking for friendship, and something to do WITH my baby. For my needs at that time, my particular Parish didn’t have the best offerings.

When I had two kids I went on an exercise kick and spent every morning at the YMCA where there was free childcare with my membership. During this stage, I craved alone time, and a way to burn off steam. The Y helped tremendously.

When I had three kids, I started to feel starved spiritually. Mass attendance was a hot mess with babies and toddlers–I couldn’t pay attention from the cry room. I was never alone, and couldn’t find opportunities to pray. I didn’t want to go to a meeting–I wanted time to collect my thoughts and meditate– in silence. Fortunately, I found several other moms in the neighborhood who were in the same boat, and we put together our own co-op called “play and pray.” A couple moms would watch the kids in a room at the Parish, while the other moms could visit the adoration chapel or run errands. We met once a week, then every other week, then we fizzled out–because moms of lots of young kids get tired of packing up crap to leave the house each week. In the end, it was easier to stay home and stay frustrated than to go out and get more frustrated.

When I had four young kids, and I was pregnant with another, I was just exhausted. An elderly lady in the Parish offered to come help out at my house between 2-4 on Wednesdays and I turned her down, because frankly, it was too little too late. I needed a “Me” replacement–a long hospital stay–weeks of recuperation. It had taken me years to get so tired, and a little break on Wednesday afternoons just wasn’t going to help anything.

Time ultimately did the trick–but I remember those years as sort of a dense fog with no good options. I had too many to take out and was too tired to leave home, but also too bored to stay there. I slept a lot, as I recall, and the kids watched TV. My prayer life languished.

Now, I’m expecting my sixth, and my oldest children can be left at home for short periods of time. All the kids do pretty well at Mass. My biggest challenge is getting my own voice heard over the noise. I never would have believed anyone five years ago who told me six kids would be easier than three, but it is for me. The bigger kids are helpful. I’m less stressed about leaving the younger ones in childcare when necessary, and most of my friends are the same ones I’ve had since our kids were babies.

I’ve been thinking back over the years, and trying to figure out where exactly the Church would have come to my rescue. At the time I needed help the most, my needs were greater than anyone, even my husband, could have supplied–much less a few elderly volunteers. Before that, there were already organizations (not the Church) in place to meet my particular needs, which were pretty shifty from year to year.

It’s probably reasonable to look to the Church for help for young mothers, and yet in hindsight, the best help the Church could have provided me, and did provide me, was Sacramental support and a teaching authority that, while challenging on the whole, has led to a richer life than I would have designed for myself. I’m glad I followed it, even at the times I was most tempted to stray.

Now that I’ve had a chance to catch my breath as a mother and volunteer at my Parish as a catechist, I can see just how much our Parish does with very limited resources. The ministries that are already in place are performed by the same handful of volunteers who make everything in our Parish happen. The Parish council is composed of the same people who do Faith formation. Saint Ann’s altar society also does funeral meals. Knights of columbus IS the Buildings and Grounds committee. Who can do more for the Parish than they’re already doing? We’re all doing the best we can.

This is what I didn’t realize about my husband in those early days of our marriage: he was doing the best he could too. We were both stretched to our limits. When it came down to the wire, and he would ask me, what in particular he could do for me, I was tongue-tied.  I wanted him to do it all. I wanted him to do it my way. But more than anything, I wanted him to appreciate me, and how hard I was working. And he wanted the same from me.

When I released him of my expectations for how he should spend his time when he was at home, I also released our relationship of a tremendous burden–that of fulfilling a pie-in-the-sky obligation that I could never properly name.

I think we fall into the same trap when we make demands of the Church, holding that wherever I have a vested interest, the Church must meet my needs. I’m being chaste, therefore the Church must be my matchmaker. I’m not using birth control, so the Church must be my nanny. I’m fighting a culture war, so the Church must provide me with beautiful liturgy, better music, and fine art.

The Church is Christ’s body on earth, and as such, it doesn’t really owe any of us anything.

On the contrary, we owe Christ and his body on earth good marriages strengthened over time by our individual and gradual perfection in virtue; we owe him fidelity even at the times when being faithful causes us suffering; we owe him the best music, art and liturgy we can provide because it’s balm for a suffering body, not necessarily because bad art is an affront to me, personally.

And we all owe the Church our open eyes, and whatever able bodies our family can provide to meet the needs of our Parish community– even if that means interrupting my worship at Mass and going to the one mother in the back of the Church with the noisiest most annoying child and asking, with all the love and kindness I can muster, if I can help. She’ll probably say no the first time, but it might make her feel more welcome, in spite of her fear that she brings chaos wherever she goes. And the next time I offer, she may let me hold the baby, while she deals with the noisy toddler. And the third time I offer, she may begin to consider me her friend.

About Elizabeth Duffy
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  • http://www.fountainsofhome.blogspot.com Christy

    This is so good, you’re killing me with how right on your articles have been lately!

  • Claire

    Awesome, awesome, awesome! Love it! There are some areas of ministry that are lacking in parishes. But that doesn’t mean that we are entitled to have all our needs met by the Church, just because we’re following hard teachings.

  • Kori

    Yes and yes and yes again. Our needs as mothers are so individual to our own personalities and circumstances. I cannot think of any one size fits all program that would have met my needs at any point during my early years as a mother. Rather, we need to develop a general community at deeper levels and encourage mothers to voice their particular needs to that community. I am always happy to help a new mother (cooking meals, holding a baby for a couple hours while she showers and naps, taking older children out of the house, etc.) but I want to be asked and I don’t want to sign up for a committee that requires a commitment that I, as a mom of many, cannot consistently give.

  • http://fineoldfamly.blogspot.com Sally Thomas

    This is really excellent. I think your point re the non-answer of a one-size-fits-all ministry is probably spot-on. And I just said this in the combox at Calah’s (hm, for a busy homeschooling/writing mother, I do seem to have some time this morning), but when we say, “The Church should do thus-and-so,” the Church we’re talking about is composed of . . . us. We *are* the Church. What the Church should be doing is what *we* should be doing, every one of us, and not just the same handful of people already doing everything else, says the catechist, and choir director, and American Heritage Girls leader, who feels maxed out and guilty at the same time because she’s not also taking dinner to new mothers according to a regular rota. . . I mean, I should be paying attention, too. I’m not off the hook. I’m the Church, too, and being busy is never a reason not to be Christ’s love to the next person, who’s there to be Christ to receive my love.

    I might add that mothers with homeschooled high-schoolers sometimes feel isolated, too, since we’re thinner on the ground than homeschooling mothers of younger kids . . . and just as “get some birth control, honey,” is not really such an obvious and easy and solve-it-all response to an overwhelmed younger mother, “send that kid to school” isn’t really the easy answer in this instance, either . . . Yet unless everyone is smilingsmilingsmiling all the time, people feel compelled to offer it. I’m beginning to conclude that this just is what life is made up of, one stage after another. And it must be that way for some reason.

  • http://roughplacesplain.tumblr.com/ nancyo

    You hit the nail – several nails, actually – right on their respective heads. I can totally identify with those counter-productive cross expectations in a marriage with young children. There is just too much work to go around! Attitude readjustment and mutual kindness really go a long way, and those years do pass, however slowly it feels at the time. I haven’t read much of the Patheos conversation, but around here there are large Protestant churches which really do offer many resources for their members and the community – you could the needs you identified after children 1, 2 and 3, at least. They have gyms and childcare, and preschools, and daycare, and classes, and fellowship, and no doubt more. But I love your points about what we expect from the Church and what we owe Christ and thus his Church. The riches that we actually receive from Christ’s Church are so much more precious than this or that outreach program.

    • http://roughplacesplain.tumblr.com/ nancyo

      wow, total sentence failure there in the middle. *They could meet the needs you identified…*

  • http://www.indiatoappleton.blogspot.com Mom of 4

    I think that what Calah is seeking is actually community and friendships, and the support that those things provide. Too many people only show up for Mass, and have no other connections with parish people except on Sundays. It’s not the church’s job to create *programs* to build those relationships — but we do need to create a parish *culture* that makes connection a priority among followers of Christ. Relationships take time and investment, and churches have to be intentional about creating ways to encourage them — classes, allowing the building to be used for a mom’s drop-in play/talk group, message boards to connect those who want to meet with others for in-home pot luck dinners once a month. (That’s why Renew was so popular back in the day, I think.) The people in those relationships are the ones who will bring you meals, babysit your oldests after the new baby is born, grab a quick cup of coffee with you on a Saturday morning, etc.

  • Suzy

    I agree with the points Mrs Duffy makes. I’m in the drowning stage – 6 kids age 10 and under with a husband who is gone working his tail off to support us on one tiny income. My parents “raised their kids” and don’t want to help or be involved with their grandkids. I don’t have time to do anything, let alone make friends or invest in friendships. How do I be Christ to others when I can’t meet the own basic needs of my family? I haven’t left the house in weeks thanks to health issues. A mom offered to bring me dinner and I stupidly said no – it isn’t the kind of help I need – but how do I ask her, who is drowning herself, for what I really need? Our church is so anti-family it makes me want to cry. I want nothing to do with our parish, the priest who asked parents to not bring babies/toddlers to mass if they’re going to cry but no child care is available, the $5,000/yr/child Catholic school K-8 tuition, all the requests for volunteers (no kids allowed) and more money, etc, etc.

    • http://fineoldfamly.blogspot.com Sally Thomas

      I’m sorry, I didn’t mean in my comment to turn the tables back on the drowning moms. I was thinking mostly of those of us who are getting out these days, and of the fact that the Church isn’t just a series of organized committees. I do think that momof4 is right that what we have here is a community problem. So many parishes are enormous and school-driven — if you’re not involved with the school, you’re not on the radar — and the congregation evaporates after Mass. Coming from a toxic situation in our last very small Episcopal parish, I actually found the anonymity of our large first Catholic parish restful — nobody can hate me, because nobody knows I exist! But if I’d had one more baby during that time, I assuredly would have felt quite differently. At any rate, I think it’s problematic that for so many people the Church is a kind of drive-through experience, and their real lives are elsewhere, and the result is a huge pattern of isolation which disproportionately affects the very old — the traditional “shut-ins” — and mothers with many small children.

      I suggested on Calah’s blog that one small step a parish could take would be to include mothers with new babies/many young children on the rota for Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. I know a lot of mothers with tinies who find going to Mass difficult to impossible, and it would seem like not a huge step to include them as “homebound parishioners,” for the time that they might need that. Then at least someone would be bringing them Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, and ONE person from the parish would know who they were, what they might be struggling with. That would be one contact, within the context of what for most large parishes is already an established ministry.

      I also mentioned something a friend of mine (also an older mom, with many but teenaged and grown children) has organized: a locally-based online mothers’ prayer group, with St. Monica as our patron. This encompasses women of all ages and in all stages, from all over our diocese, having grown hugely by word of mouth in the last year. The group is largely devoted to prayer intentions, though the word does go out when somebody has a baby (or a birthday or an anniversary). I could see something like this as another incremental step in the right direction: it would be easy enough to start, because all you’d need would be a handful of parish/local email contacts and nobody would have to leave home to be in contact with other mothers. Our group is not much of a conversational group, but I could see the possibility for discussion and support. People could organize get-togethers, but that wouldn’t be required. It could be a clearinghouse for all kinds of works of mercy, but I think that what really got our group off the ground was that my friend pitched it as simply a way for mothers at any stage to support each other in our vocation of motherhood, through prayer for each other. Surely women would be willing to do that, as a starting point? Pray for people by name? And it does seem that once you have a name, and know a need, other things might grow out of that knowledge.

      Anyway, it’s late and I should go to bed, and I’m probably not saying any of this very well, but trying to think small and manageable and flexible and human and possible here. And not to minimize the difficulty of what anyone else is experiencing or the impossibility at certain stages of doing for others what you most need for yourself.

    • Michelle

      Hi Suzy,
      I once felt awkward when a mother from my parish called me and offered to watch my kids for a couple of hours while I ran errands, napped or did whatever I wanted to do. I hesitated on the phone and told her thank you for the offer and then tried to change the subject. After we ended the conversation I sat thinking for a few moments about why I didn’t want her help. Deep down I have always felt bad when people offer to help, as though I am inconveniencing them or something. I immediately called her back and explained the honest truth to her, my insecurities, how I felt like I was inconveniencing her and then told her I would love to drop the kids off at her home one day. Ever since then I’ve realized that when people offer help, they are not being forced to do so, they are freely choosing to. At the very least they are trying to grow kinder and more generous through a good deed. I always accept charity now and women like this mom have inspired me to give it to others as well. In fact, she was the only mom in five years at the same parish, that ever extended an offer to help or be involved in my life. As I reflect on the past few years, I would have to say her one act of kindness gave me the courage to then begin to step outside of myself. I knew there had to be others that were feeling like me.
      Your concern is valid, “How do I be Christ to others when I can’t meet the own basic needs of my family?”–My only answer to this is somewhat of a paradox that I have learned through experience: By giving what I thought I didn’t have, I somehow gained it…if that makes any sense! For example, when I started bringing meals to other moms I all of a sudden became quite organized in preparing a meal for my own family. I would make a double portion, give one away and keep one for my family.

  • http://dawnbydesignstore.com Dawn Farias

    The only way I know I didn’t write this is because I couldn’t have done such a great job of it. You’ve described my progression as a wife and mother precisely. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. :)

  • http://www.havingleftthealtar.com Katherine

    It makes me wonder how much of the burden on mothers of many little ones is because there is this societal lack of understanding for this time in their lives. What I mean by that is that, society still expects the mother of 1 or 2 to be dressed nice, makeup on, hair fixed, children looking like porcelain dolls and well behaved, etc. and it can be a challenge for the mother of 1 or 2 children to meet all the standards, yet it is the same standard mothers of many young ones are held to. Almost everyone is ready to tell us how full our hands are, but very few are ready to offer to help put the groceries in the car while we buckle 5 car seats or sit next to us at Mass to help keep the kids in the pew. I think moms of many little ones know that they are more of the exception in society but feel like not much, if any, consideration is given them for being in the circumstances they are in. And, of course, there isn’t much we can say about it without sounding like we are complaining or possibly even getting the rebuttal that we shouldn’t have the blessings we have, but should be on the pill or get “fixed.”

    Maybe the ministry we really need is simply a ministry to each other in the form of understanding, kindness, an eagerness to help when possible and desired, and encouragement. One elderly couple at my parish often sits near us, and once has even sat next to us because, as that darling gray-haired lady tells me almost every time I see her, they have 10 children and don’t mind the natural disturbances of children at Mass. What a relief it is to know I’m not sitting next to someone who is going to glare at me or resent me for my imperfect children! I can’t speak for every mother of many little ones, but I have to wonder just how far such little things as that could go.

  • http://littleleaper.blogspot.ca/ Steph

    You are so right! I’m the mother of one (so far) and I definitely struggle with my expectations for my husband when he gets home after a long day. What I really want is for him to “be me” for a couple of hours so I can relax, but that’s obviously not only unreasonable, but impossible.

  • Karie

    I remember those days when I had 3 under the age of 6. What a nightmare. I remember thinking how terrible it was to have so many without much help. I couldn’t afford to do classes because that meant a babysitter as well. My family did not live near me, and for a long time I did not have any close friends to rely on for cheap/free babysitting. It was only when we started homeschooling that a light began to grow. I remember feeling jealous of the moms who had older children because that meant that they could take a little “me” time and let the older kids babysit. I was told to be patient, it would come. It’s about 5 years later and I can see that time is coming. My kids are a lot more independent and can help me with the younger ones.

    But getting there is a slog. It is difficult and there is no way of getting around it other than through. And reach out as often as you can to find the help you need. And pray. There should be lots of prayers at this time. Even if it’s only “God, please help me!”

    • http://facebook marina

      Karie I know how you felt I was the same way with no family around or close friends , however what about moms like me who 18 years later at age 40 have another one and it feels the same however this time you are one of the oldest moms with least amount of energy.

  • Regina

    I just love this! Its so true! My husband doesn’t travel for his job, but he has a very demanding job that must, in most instances come before our family life. We currently have 3 kids ages 5, 3 & 1. It has definitely been a struggle to figure things out at times, and with my husband working hours between all three shifts sometimes having him home has been harder than having him away. But you are so right, once I started to let go of my expectations of what he needed to do when he was home things seemed to go much better. I do take the kids with me everywhere…I use two carts at the grocery store (one for the kids & one for the groceries), the kids and I sit in the back hall of the church so I can listen and watch through the windows but don’t disrupt everyone else. I always joke that everyone knows when we’re coming and going, because quite frankly, we make quite the commotion. And so I’ve been told on so many occasions (by what I can only say are well meaning people, more than likely “impressed” that I have all these little ones with me) “my you’ve got your hands full”. And it was at one of those points, where I felt like my hands were way too full that a new way of looking at things came to me. Now, whenever anyone stops me to remark how I’ve “got my hands full” I’ll politely tell them “yes…and I couldn’t be happier, because I’d rather be one of those people that goes through life with my hands full rather than empty handed.”. Needless to say that one comment usually renders people speechless. I hope, that even if it’s only for a few people, my one comment lets them step back and realize these little people, these children are truly gifts from God. For without them I know I wouldn’t be the person I am today, and without them I wouldn’t have the faith I have today…for its out of the frustration, the loneliness and the need for respite that I find myself further in my faith and closer to God.

  • Meredith

    Wow, Elizabeth, this is a masterful look at our situation as moms. I can identify with all the stages–and pitfalls–except the last one with older kids. I’m almost there! In the meantime, I feel blessed to be part of an informal playgroup as one of the older moms. It makes me look back and appreciate where I am right now. That is its own kind of medicine.

  • Melissa

    After reading Calah’s post the other day I have left the page open and reread it several times. I have probably over-identified with her, my heart is so heavy for her. I think several comments here are correct that the general culture in the Catholic church (at least mine) is not at all supportive of family, motherhood, and most especially larger families on any meaningful level. Sure people are nice and “love” kids. But the parking lot is empty within 15 minutes of the end of mass and there are no potlucks, home groups, moms day out or even Bible studies. Once they offered a Bible study that went into bedtime on a school night and never have offered nursery for anything. After almost 13 years in our church I have many aquaintances and a very few real friends. As a convert from evangelical churches, this loss of “fellowship” has been the most difficult cross to bear. I have questioned myself repeatedly in the last few days and prayed about what I can do, what ministry I can start, to help families like Calah’s, or mine.
    I am seeing the light at the end of the tunnel as I am now 41, but I can totally identify with anger at the teaching of the Church that I agree with but have found very difficult to live out. Will the cycle never end? Am I the most fertile woman on the face of the earth? All the promises of amazing communication between spouses, amazing encounters during the infertile times, have not always been true for me. I don’t regret following the Truth, or the very large family that I am so honored to be the mother of. But I do think it is time to be honest about just how difficult the cross of nfp can be for some couples. Good, faithful, loyal to the Magisterium couples. I have no answers other than the obvious above mentioned prayer and trust. I have many children to care for from 1 to 16 years. Some homeschool, some don’t. God may in fact bless us again, although it would not be my will. As much as I would love to start an Elizabeth ministry, I simply can’t handle anything but maintaining my own children these days. After reading your post I realize that, right now God is probably not calling me to start a new ministry that meets once a month on Wednesdays. He is more likely asking me to get over my fear of people realizing that my home and family are not perfect, and begin to ask moms and families to my home like I used to. Develop relationships and begin conversations. Help struggling younger moms see that they are doing the right thing in following the Church and that the benefits do in fact outweigh the sometimes overwhelming, drowning struggle that a faithful life can at times consist of.
    We must be supportive of each other. For me, someone being honest with me 18 years ago would have helped me to manage in a much more healthy way over the years. It is hard. Struggling with the Truth doesn’t mean you are a horrible Catholic.

    • Kelly @ In the Sheepfold

      Living a faithful life can be an “overwhelming, drowning struggle.” Beautifully (and hopefully) expressed. I, too, think we need to be honest about the cost of discipleship.

  • JMB

    This is a great piece Betty and I agree with much of what you say here. I’ve always shied away from “institutional help” myself, probably a direct result of my Irish background (a dead horse in the living room and nobody says a word!). So even if my parish offered cleaning assistance or babysitting from a kind elderly women I would not have accepted it because it would have been just too darn weird for me. That being said, my mother has a saying that goes ” When you stop banging your head against the wall it stops hurting”. It took my four children to realize that my husband and I did not have to go to Mass as a family every single weekend. Sometimes it was better to tag team and allow one of us to go alone. That was a wonderful break through for me, that I didn’t have to wrestle with a toddler or heaven forbid, nurse in the germ filled nursery. It is the sacrament that counts, and especially the Eucharist that will get us through trying days.

  • Ashley

    I’m overwhelmed with how well you’ve described my own feelings in relation to our family. My husband works away from the home most of the time and I have always struggled with reentry…then subsequently felt guilty about why it seemed so much more difficult having this person I’d been longing for home. Your perspective has helped tremendously and has given me hope! We’re also expecting #4 and I completely identify with your description of those stages too…as far as what to do? I’m too tired to try to figure it out.

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  • Catharine

    Wow, thank you for giving voice to my thoughts, perhaps more charitably than I would have done as I’m still on the four hour of sleep phase. I am a new mother. When we took our baby girl to be baptized, the “quilt ministry” gave me a pink quilt. (!) By contrast, our Evangelical neighbors a few doors down organized two weeks of meals for us, with some friendly proselytism thrown in. Thank God for Evangelicals.

    My experience has only confirmed my fear that the boomers that compose the majority of my parish never had children or have forgotten what it was like and that there is a chasm between them and the young, large families. Maybe I’m biased against the grey hairs, but I don’t think consideration toward new mothers falls on families of twelve.

    Sorry for the rant. The wound is fresh. I’ve not left the house for 6 weeks besides for the Baptism, doctor appointments, Mass and a holy day, and two GLORIOUS trips to Walmart.

  • Michelle

    I have four children six and under. I decided last year, after feeling like Calah and many other moms, to just be bold and try to start some sort of support for women at our parish. I had maybe one friend at the time. I was praying frequently that God would send me friends. Well he definitely did, but I had to be the one that extended myself, and I am so grateful for the ways I have grown and overcome my insecurities because of it. I have several close friends now that were just waiting for someone to open up to them, to introduce themselves to them. One of the things I helped do was start a monthly morning retreat of sorts. We have confession, mass and brunch/speaker after with babysitting. We’ve been able to recruit youth group teens for our babysitters so that all the women can attend. It might be a good model for other parishes to follow.
    Also, I have realized, though it seems counter-intuitive, the more you do things with your children (ie: take them to adoration, to daily mass, to a nursing home, to a parish event) the more comfortable you become being “out there” and the more natural it seems. I have had a shift in the way I view my motherhood. I believe my children learn more from me by tagging along while I do volunteer work or spiritual work than they would if I sat around the house thinking, “I can’t go out because I have four young children to get ready! Doesn’t everyone understand that?! Won’t someone help me?!”

    • Lori

      Wow- this is where I am at right now, with three being called to start something but now sure how- would you email me? Liddyd@hotmail.com, and let me know how you did it? Thanks

  • Melinda Loustalot

    What I think we may have lost site of is that in looking for a ministry to help us, we overlook a couple of things. .that we have the one, true, Church which IS our help and our salvation, and that our families are OUR ministry and we are in charge. .

    Do we tire? Yes we do. . do we despair? Yes we do. . but do we honestly think the saints in heaven did not tire. .did not despair? So why not we, here in the trenches of creating souls of heaven, think we will not have that same experience?

    Our homes and families are our apostolate. . we are charged with being light. .with being salt. .be secure in knowing you are doing God’s work on earth. .don’t show your dissatisfaction by imagining you’d do better if given some other work to do. .you have work. . get to it. .

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  • mrsB

    I don’t need any programs to help me out, but some casseroles delivered after a baby is born would be great. Our church has a food pantry and a soup kitchen and an outreach ministry that offers tutoring etc. That’s great and all but it would have been nice to get a few casseroles made for me when I had my last baby. We were in the middle of moving when I was 9mths pregnant, and I had a few health issues so I couldn’t stand on my feet for very long. We couldn’t afford for my husband to take off any time from work, he was needed at work and we needed the money. Not ONE casserole came to my home from my parish. I felt betrayed. Our church is there to help strangers, but where are they when it comes to one of their own? I left that parish right after that incident. I would understand if my parish didn’t have any kind of outreach, but they have plenty, just none for the mothers that are following the Churches teaching. I was just confirmed in the Catholic Church this year, and I came from a Pentecostal Church, and they always had meals for moms of newborns. A pentecostal Church that believed in contraception was more supportive of mothers than my own Catholic Church.

  • mrsB

    Michelle- Also, I have realized, though it seems counter-intuitive, the more you do things with your children (ie: take them to adoration, to daily mass, to a nursing home, to a parish event) the more comfortable you become being “out there” and the more natural it seems. I have had a shift in the way I view my motherhood. I believe my children learn more from me by tagging along while I do volunteer work or spiritual work than they would if I sat around the house
    Yes yes yes!! We do not go to bible studies or volunteer work unless our children can come with us. Most of the time we don’t ask, they just come with us. Our children are well behaved so we can take them with us, and they are a big help even though they are only 5 and 6 years old. Families should serve together. I’m not looking for someone to babysit my kids. My children are my ministry.

  • karyn

    I have found some of my greatest support at Church and have experienced some of my greatest struggle as well. There is a group of “little old women” who attend daily mass and who pray for me, give treats to the kids, and tell me about their mothering experiences. They threw a party for my husband and I when we married in the Church after my conversion and they collected money for a Christmas gift card for us one year. Such a blessing, just knowing that they survived the little kid years and that they believe children are a blessing.

    On the other hand, my RCIA teacher and our former priest both told me it’s okay to use birth control. And other parents often tell me how they “got fixed” – not that I asked. One woman with a little newborn was smiling as the priest said congratulation but then pointed to our pew and said she wasn’t going to be like that, though (we have five little ones right now).

    I guess what I’m saying is, the best way to support mothers is to pray for them, act as if children are blessings, and teach that the Church teachings are correct and that couples are right in following them, instead of acting like any “rational” person would go and get fixed by now.

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  • http://www.theveilofchastity.com Cindy@ The Veil of Chastity

    I loved everything you wrote but this was the best: “The Church is Christ’s body on earth, and as such, it doesn’t really owe any of us anything.”

  • Jessie

    In the end, I believe that we all must struggle for our salvation. It may not be very popular in our day and age, but St. Paul never said we would suffer a few inconveniences on our stroll down the wide and pleasant lane to heaven. He talked about a race and how hard it was even for him to keep running on the narrow path. Everyone suffers and to paraphrase JPII, we should not waste our suffering but instead turn it into sacrifice. I remember the advice one priest gave me in the mist of one of my hardest struggles, when I just didn’t want to do what I knew was right and what the Church taught was right…”pray that God will give you the desire to want to do His will.”
    Oddly enough, we are all improved when we come out on the other side of those trying times that test our faith….maybe thats the whole point.

  • Anne

    Wow! All my children are adults. I’ve experienced all of those stages of childrearing and dealing with my husband’s work and travel. You described it better than I could. God has always blessed me with at least one good Catholic friend who was in the same parenting stage and who understood me and was available for at least a quick phone call of encouragement. I thank Him for that every day and have learned to beg him for the gift of that kind of special friendship whenever I move or my life situation changes.

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  • http://anthonyjoseph2005.blogspot.com Joanne

    I have been thinking about this a lot lately. I don’t really think the church says “have big families” although I guess it could be construed that way. For myself, we have four kids who are 7, 4, 3 and 1 and my oldest has autism, and sometimes it’s a little kooky around here. I don’t expect the church to do anything but love me and this is what I’ve been thinking about lately. I have a friend, also pregnant with her sixth, who went to hear a priest speak about children in church and I couldn’t go but she told me about it. She said how the priest said how welcome children are at Mass, and how we are there not to get something out of the Mass but to give something and sometimes what we give is our presence and the presence of our kids. Then I go to Mass on Sunday morning, the *family* Mass, and the first announcement is that if ‘your little ones can’t be quiet, they can go to the cry room’. It’s the first thing they say! Sometimes it’s not my ‘little one’ who can’t be quiet, sometimes it’s my son who is seven and he literally can’t be quiet. But I want him to be there. To me, it seems that THAT is where the Church could support mothers and families. By accepting all people at Mass, not inventing cry rooms for children, and giving dirty looks to those who are trying to teach their kids how to behave.

    • mrsB

      We have not come across the “cry room” yet. I can’t believe that nonsense. I think we hav to remember that Mass is different than the Church. The Church is the people, the believers. Mass is for the Eucharist. We are not asking to get something out of Mass. We are asking for the fellowship and support of the Church-the people who go to Mass.

  • http://www.theloveliesthour.com Lauren

    Elizabeth, this is so wise – sums up dozens of conversations I’ve had with women over the past 12 years I’ve been a mother. Thank you!

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