Hey moms, you don't have to be the Heart of your home
Or, all about the time I threw a pack n' play across my living room
It was almost nap time, that close-to-sacred daily anchor of my life at that time as a stay-at-home mom of five children under 9 years old.
Naptime was a light at the end of the tunnel. That day, I had set up our finicky old pack n’ play in the living room so that I could keep the baby safe from the Big Love of his less-than-two-year-old brother. I just needed to break it down and then set it up again in a back bedroom so that I could put both little boys down.
That morning, I’d fed and clothed and homeschooled and cleaned and disciplined and refereed and made small children cry with the wrong color sippee cup for six hours straight. I probably hadn’t had 15 minutes to myself since I woke up. And there were probably 50 things on my to-do list that day and I had no idea when I’d fit them in. I was doing All the Things and I felt All the Things.
Relief was close, though. I just had to get that pack n’ play moved.
The kicker: that tricky broken bar underneath the pack n’ play had to be held in just the right way in order to fit into that corner pocket…
Suddenly, I heard a thump and an indignant wail in the next room, and in my momentary distraction I stepped on a stray Lego and stumbled.
That broken pack n’ play bar popped back out and I absolutely lost it.
A guttural cry of rage. A surge of superhuman strength. And that pack n’ play was in the air, flying across my living room. It slid, metal bones clattering, into the opposite wall.
(No children were in its way or in the room…don’t worry).
For a split second, I could have taken on the world itself for daring to judge me.
Then I started in on judging myself.
We could talk about why that time in my life was such a beautiful-but-hard season. We could look at my temperament, at my wounds, at my faults, at society’s lack of supports for motherhood. We could estimate the number of conflicts and interruptions and negative interactions I had had with my kids that morning. We could talk about mind management skills. We could talk about how I really could have benefited from therapy around that time.
But what I want to talk about is what happened next.
I felt terrible about myself. But somehow I pulled it together enough to get all the kids settled for naptime. Then I closed the door to the hallway, crumpled into an armchair in my living room, looked up at the big crucifix on my living room wall, and was straight-up honest with my Savior.
Jesus, I have tried so hard to be a wonderful mother and wife - to be the heart of my home. Isn’t that what my job is? To be sweet and gentle and orderly and fun and patient… I’m a stay-at-home mother. This is my whole world, my ONE JOB, and it’s not going well. You’re not helping me enough. I’m overwhelmed. I’m struggling. I’m freaking yelling at my kids every single day. I’ve prayed and tried to conquer myself and I’m trying to trust You, but I’m honestly so, so, so ANGRY right at this second. This life here is not working because I can’t get it together here. Why aren’t You helping me to be the heart of my home I want to be?
I heard something back, surprisingly.
It was a still, small voice.
You are not the heart of your home. I am the Heart of your home.
In these gentle words were so many graces…and so much peace.
The grace to see that I’d created an impossible job description for myself, rather than stopping to ask Jesus what He was actually asking me to do.
The grace of feeling the compassion of my Father for his beloved, brave, ambitious, tired, flawed, big-hearted, wounded, hardworking, faithful, delightful daughter.
The grace to stop (even just for a moment) living as if everything depended on me.
I look back on that stressed out thirty-something that was me a few years ago, and I don’t judge her harshly. I don’t believe that simply reading the right book or taking an online course or changing her diet or getting a job or having more money or getting therapy or putting the kids in school would have solved all her problems.
I think the story of everyone’s life is that we are always finding a new place, big or small, where we need to enthrone Jesus Christ.
Since that season, I’ve learned that introverted moms didn’t get the short end of the stick. I’ve learned that I spent years with my thyroid and hormones out of whack.
I’ve learned how to give my husband a heads up about what I think I need before I blow up at him or everybody else.
I’ve learned to ask for, pay for, and accept as much help as I can.
And I’ve learned some important mind management skills that really help me take my thoughts captive to Christ.
But the lesson I learned that day - that I don’t have to be the heart of my home - is one of the deepest learnings of my adult life, especially as a wife and mother. Every woman needs to sit with the fact that we are beloved daughters. We women are so quick to forget that we still get to be little. And we forget that we all need to be healed, at every age, in many places in our hearts, and we shouldn’t be surprised or discouraged by that.
May God give each one of us the graces we need to enthrone Jesus Christ in our homes and in every part of our lives, instead of anyone or anything else.
God is there in these moments of rest and can give us in a single instant exactly what we need. Then the rest of the day can take its course under the same effort and strain, perhaps, but in peace. And when night looks back and you see how fragmentary everything has been, and how much you planned that has gone undone, and all the reasons you have to be embarrassed and ashamed: just take everything exactly as it is, put it in God’s hands and leave it to Him – really rest – and start the next day as a new life.
- St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross
Do not let the past disturb you. Leave everything in the Sacred Heart of Jesus and begin again with joy.
– St. Teresa of Calcutta