I’m one of those mothers whose heart gets clogged with mushy emotion, not just on Mother’s Day, but every day. If you’ve read any of my pieces here or in other publication, you may notice that my specialty is raw emotion, some say sentimental sap. I can’t help myself. A summer breeze through cotton kitchen curtains innocently inspires me to ponder the child swinging on the play set just outside the window. Sitting around the full kitchen table with all my kids literally chokes me up. Baby gurgles and First Communions do me in. My offspring in graduation garb brings me to my emotional knees. I’ve been known to glance at a child who is plainly practicing the piano and be so overcome with emotion that I hug – he might say ‘squeeze to death’ – him spontaneously:
Don’t worry about me, though. Though tears may be dribbling down my cheeks at the littlest things, there is a smile beneath them. Like many mothers, feeling acutely is my weakness but it is also my strength. In feeling deeply I love deeply. I perceive deeply. In fact, I suspect that this depth is common to many mothers – we love and feel, give and receive, push and pull with a vigor like no other. In other words, we mothers are like other great inescapable cosmic forces. There is nothing so powerful as a mother’s love and devotion, and sometimes emotion. Where do you think all that intuition comes from?
Right now, though, I don’t want to write about what can make mothers cry (pretty much everything given the right lighting, thoughts or circumstances), or how being a mother has changed our lives (beyond our wildest expectations in most cases), or how motherhood has challenged us to unselfishness of which we never knew we were capable. I’m also not going to write about my own dear mother, who prepared me in many ways for our shared and wonderful vocation, and who has been one of the greatest influences in my life.
No, today I simply want to offer some thoughts for every day, for every mother, because after all, every day for a woman with children is a ‘mother’s day’.
I was invited to speak to a women’s group in Fort Wayne, IN five years ago. I asked the organizer what she wanted the topic to be. “Well, you can talk about what you want,” she said, “but what we really could use is a pep talk for mothers.”
Of course. We all try so hard and want to do so well that we need to “fill our cup” so to speak so that we can continue to give. When we’re flying on an airplane, the flight attendants, in going over emergency procedures, stress putting oxygen masks on ourselves first before trying to help others. The idea is that no one is any good in an emergency if she is suffocating. Fill your bucket at the well with good thoughts and ideas and then offer the cup to others. The same principle holds true in mothering. We need to be enriched in order to enrich.
So, that is what this article is for this Mother’s Day – hopefully a little bucket of refreshment, suggestion and with a little luck, inspiration to simply carry on. This is by no means a comprehensive list of suggestions. I’m struggling myself, you see. But I do hope in some small way it will provide encouragement. Feel free to add your suggestions in the comment section below.
How can we be perfect mothers? We can’t of course. With that settled, we are free to think of ways to follow God’s guide and be the mother HE wants us to be to the children He has chosen for us. We all know that the first key is to pray and frequent the sacraments. This can’t be stressed enough. God alone will give the inspiration and strength to help us be the best we can. What’s next can simply be recalled as the acronym “LOVE THEM”.
L – Little things mean a lot. Listening is one of the most important things we can do as a mother. Feeling understood is a basic human need. When we hug our child and open our ears and hearts we convey understanding. Giving a back rub at the end of the day or sharing a book together regularly are small things that make a huge difference in our children’s lives. Also, when we use a tablecloth and flowers on the table for Sunday dinner, encourage politeness and gentle speech and carefully create and serve special homemade desserts together, we make home life memorable for our children. We also introduce them to manners and refinement, important qualities for them to pass to their own offspring. When our children become adults, they will likely recall, with fondness, these happy little moments of their childhoods, and politeness and kindness will be the default mode of their behavior. While in the long-run it doesn’t truly matter if we set the table with paper plates or china, making ordinary days special is a way to imprint positive and happy recollections for our children. Saint Margaret of Scotland (who introduced tapestries and tablecloths to her cold, dreary castle when she married into royalty, and taught manners to her adopted people) had to civilize a nation. We only have to ‘civilize’ a family. Who else will teach manners and refinement to our children if we don’t? Who else will model politeness, courtesy, kindness, generosity? Little things do make a difference.
O – Organize. Periodically sit down and have a heart-to-heart talk with your husband. Together, decide upon (and adjust when necessary) a weekly schedule, a *flow* of life that suits your particular family. Then you (or you and he together) can make up Saturday and daily chore lists and dinner menus. Many moms buy a master calendar to keep track of schedules and events, recitals and sports activities. Don’t forget to write in monthly confession ‘dates’. Some moms like to use a large notebook binder and separate into categories: “Meals”, “Chores”, “Schedules”, etc. Find your family’s flow and start implementing little by little.
V – Visualize. Close your eyes and imagine yourself as you want to be. See yourself in a clean peaceful home, surrounded by those you love. What are you doing? What are those around you doing? What distractions can you eliminate? What steps do you need to take today?
E – Expect the best. And Exercise. “People become generally what you expect of them” is an old but true adage. Expect the best of your family and yourself. Also exercise! Moms need to be physically fit to meet the demands of their families. Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. Take care of it.
T – Turn off the TV. Some families get rid of their television completely but you don’t have to be that drastic. Just control the time you spend with this and other electronic devices. Besides the possibility of the TV introducing less savory aspects of modern culture right into your family room, it robs families of time together. Be aware, also of the time spent on the computer or needless chatting on the phone. Time is one of the greatest gifts of our life. Utilizing it wisely will pay off handsomely in the long-run.
H – Have time for yourself. Carve a little time for prayer, some spiritual reading (start with a favorite saint). This gives you some time to regroup after a busy day. Some moms like to take a walk in the evening or sneak out to Adoration alone. Find what works for you and schedule it in.
E – Enjoy your children. Ask them their thoughts.. What are their favorite foods? Their hopes for the future? And while you’re at it, enjoy your husband as well. God gave him to be your helpmate, your soul mate. What was it that first attracted you to him? How can you demonstrate kindness and appreciation to him today? Make time for each other. “If you truly knew what a gift your spouse was to you, you would die of happiness,” said a priest at a wedding homily. Build that relationship.
M – Mary our Mother. None of us is the perfect mother. We can, however, follow the example of Jesus’ Mother Mary and put our cares in her hands. She understands and she will help us. When we don’t know what to do in a sorrow or situation we should bring our concerns to her. By meditating on her life through the rosary we can live our lives like she did and grow in love for her Son and our families.
And so this Sunday, put your feet up, smell those roses if you are lucky enough to have received them, enjoy that chocolate, and go ahead and shed an emotional tear for the hand-made, scribbled card the toddler just placed in your hand. Then gear up for tomorrow because when you have children, every day is mother’s day.
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