A lovely Catholic mother of nine was recently talking about feeling overwhelmed. She seemed to be of the opinion that if she was doing things as God wanted her to do them, she would not feel thus.
As the very wise Father Buckley has stated: Just because you are a Christian doesn't mean that you will ride your surfboard on a continual wave of joy all your life.
True that... And so, if you are a mother, you are going to feel overwhelmed sometimes. It doesn't mean you are doing anything wrong, at least as far as being a Christian is concerned. Especially if you have nine children -- or even one, for that matter. Motherhood -- as well as any other vocation -- is going to leave you feeling overwhelmed from time to time. Or even quite often.
First, let's remember that thing called "The Fall." It happened in the Garden of Eden. And nothing has been the same since. If you are a Christian, you believe in "The Fall." And if you are not a Christian and you don't believe in "The Fall," I bet you would still be willing to admit that a lot of things in this world, for some reason or another, seem awfully "f-d" up. So, even if we are doing the very best job we can as mothers, we should not expect smooth sailing all the time. And, perhaps, if we can accept the imperfections and frustrations inherent in life -- and even the feeling of being completely overwhelmed at times -- we will actually have more peace of mind. Because at least we won't be beating ourselves up by blaming these normal feelings on our supposed shortcomings as Christian women.
Stuff happens... You know?
One day, when my kids were 4, 2, and newborn, I awoke to the following. The 4-year-old had peed in her bed, the newborn's diaper had leaked all over my bed, and the 2-year-old had thrown up sometime during the night (apparently without waking up) -- leaving me to find her, her bed, and the wall next to the bed absolutely covered in dried barf. And I am not good with barf -- ask any of my kids. I can take massive arterial bleeding better than I can take barf. My husband was hurrying out the door to work as I discovered all of these things, so he was unavailable to help. I cried. I didn't know which mess or which child to attend to first. I was all bleary-eyed, exhausted from taking care of the new baby during the night. Did I feel overwhelmed? You bet your little backside. Did I feel this way because I was lacking something in my relationship with the Lord? No. I was feeling this way because there was pee and barf all over my house, and I was the only adult present.
Another day, I thought I was finished with meals and messes for a little while. If you are a mother of three little children, you will know that life is a constant whirlwind of meals and messes. I was looking forward to some quiet playtime with my kids. But, as I walked into the kitchen, I discovered that my then 3-year-old daughter had colored the bottoms of her shoes with blue marker and walked ALL OVER the white kitchen floor. I wish I could say that I had a sense of humor about the whole thing, but I did not. A massively poopy diaper followed by blue footprints all over my white floor were not my idea of a good time. And I felt -- OVERWHELMED. Again, not because of my lack of a spiritual life. Simply because I was very tired and there were these freaking "decorations" covering my linoleum. Yes -- that is what my daughter told me she was doing -- "decorating" the floor, because white was boring.
Now, I admit that having a good prayer life will help you through these difficult times as a mom. But, life is life. And the world is fallen. So, when s**t happens to us as moms, and we feel overwhelmed, we shouldn't beat ourselves up over it. Jesus felt overwhelmed, too. Remember how he used to try to escape the crowds for a while, to have some peace and quiet prayer time? Of course, the people always managed to find him in his places of respite -- just like our kids always manage to find us.
Admittedly, it is wise for us mothers to look at how we are structuring our lives. It is wise for us to examine our daily routines and our expectations of ourselves and others. At times, we can find ways to do things more efficiently, leading to fewer occasions when we feel stressed to the max. And we should examine our spiritual lives. They are important. A positive spiritual life can definitely help us deal with difficult circumstances in more positive ways. Just like Jesus taking his quiet prayer time apart from the crowds helped him in his mission on earth.
But, life is life. It can be overwhelming. I think it's healthy to accept that. So, let's just say a little prayer, do the best we can from day to day, and try to remember that "this, too, shall pass..."