About Me, Catholics Do What?, Contraception, Family Life, motherhood, NFP, Parenting, reality check, Suffering, Uncategorized

If it’s so good, why is it so hard?

January 5, 2017

I found myself reflecting on the small matter of the myriad difficulties of this present life while wrestling an IKEA bookshelf into submission while being swarmed by preschoolers in Avenger’s costumes on the basement floor this morning. Sweating, with a small, chubby Batman strangling me by the shirt collar, I pressed on into idiot territory, confidant that I could complete the task without another adult present and in a timely and non-traumatic fashion.

(Maybe you are finding this scene I’m painting to be endearing or even rosy, but let me assure you that it was neither. The noise of Luke snapping in two one of the precious too-few twigs the Swedes had included with my shelving unit echoed off the wall and you would have thought it was my tibia he’d snapped based upon my reaction, which sufficiently chastened the 6 year old to reproach me with the disapproving “mom, a baby’s feelings are more important than IKEA furniture” at which point I had to agree with him and held the bawling offender in my sweating arms for a minute before continuing on.)

At any rate. Life with little kids (and, I suspect, also bigger kids) is not easy. I sometimes read words written by other mothers and I scratch my head a little and alternately hang it in shame because if I’m being brutally honest with you, as I am wont to do, I must confess that the precious, blissful “this is what it’s all about” encounters with the divine reality of the work I’m doing are few and far between these days.

I don’t mean that I don’t enjoy my children, and I certainly don’t mean that I don’t love them, but I often fail to find common ground with the “seize every moment, cherish every experience” genre because I struggle mightily to do both of those things.

I am immensely grateful for sweaty, fevered brows that respond to Tylenol and mommy’s murmured assurances in the dead of night, but my weak flesh quakes and resists the calls from down the hall at 3 am, every time. I find my footing on the floor beside the bed and tamp down feelings of anger, of resentment, of entitlement – above all else – that whisper into my brain promises of more leisure, more order, more comfort, if only…

If only what? If only I hadn’t had them? If only they numbered 50% fewer? If only I swore up and down that we were “done,” that I was “done,” that I couldn’t handle one single other demand made on my too-small, crowded to suffocation plate?

There is a lie present in our culture today, and maybe it’s The Lie that has been plaguing humanity since the beginning, just neatly adapted to look modern and scientific and reasonable-like. It’s the lie that whispers things into your ear like “you deserve this. Treat yourself. You’re not getting the best deal. Look over there at what she has, at what he does, at how they live.”

Envy. Resentment. Defiance. All bound together by a common thread of self mastery in the disordered sense. The belief that I am the master of myself, of my universe, and ultimately of the happiness that this life has to offer. 

Almost every difficulty I encounter in this difficult, exhausting season of marriage and family life stems from a warped perception of Whose life it is, actually. That I am entitled to a certain number of consecutive hours of sleep per night. That my body can (and should) look and perform a certain way despite having been laid down 4 times in the shallow grave of self-offering and co-creation with God. That Dave and I have the right to a certain amount of leisure time in the evenings, almost as if we deserve some kind of cosmic ‘atta boy’ for our openness to life and obedience to the Church’s teachings, and therefore everyone should sleep peacefully for 11 solid hours, 7 nights a week.

Please.

This is folly. And when I see it all spilled out across white space on the digital page, I can smile and nod my head that of course it is. But that doesn’t prevent me from whipping myself into an internal frenzy of hijacked control.

And, if I may be so bold, I believe we live in a time which uniquely encourages that illusion. Packages it up and sells it back to us in fact, beautiful and pixilated and oh-so-enticing.

Yesterday as I made small talk with a service man who’d stopped by the house to do an estimate, he gestured to the 4 precious people flopped on my couch watching Pound Puppies (yeah. But it’s 5 degrees Fahrenheit and snowing heavily) and winked at me, asking “are you done?” And I lowered my eyes to the ground and my cheeks reddened because this answer is never easy, and this question is never one I get out of gracefully.

“We’ll see,” I mumbled with the faintest of smiles.

“You’re not!” He slapped his thigh with the heartiest of guffaws, and I braced myself for the coming “so are you crazy AF??” stream of consciousness about birth control, etc. but suddenly he got serious and his eyes, I kid you not, moistened a little.

“I admire this, what you’re doing here. Not too many people willing to do it these days. To put in the hours and make the sacrifices. But they’re worth it. This is worth it.”

And with a nod and a tug on the brim of his hat, he disappeared out the front door like a belated Santa Claus in coveralls with a utility clipboard, and I looked over the scene he’d exited, dirty dishes piled in the sink and still sick kids languidly consuming Netflix and me in my kerchief and … you get the idea. And I could have wept for having my seemingly idiotic and irresponsible-in-the-eyes-of-the-world lifestyle reflected back to me in a luminous, undistorted picture by a perfect stranger.

Not because I needed him to agree with me that what I was doing was worthwhile, but because there are days, moments, hours when I question it myself.

Caught between a culture enthralled with youth, beauty, momentary pleasure, and wealth, and living knee deep in a Faith that calls for self denial, cross carrying, and yoking up alongside a God who does not broker an existence without pain, it’s a weird ride.

But it’s worth it, He whispers in the hard moments, bent over a budget spreadsheet that won’t balance or leaning beside a sick child vomiting for the fifth time since midnight. It’s worth it to give your life away. Even when it looks and feels and smells like death. It is the only thing of value we have to give to Him, and it’s all He asks of us.

I cringe a little over these words because their complaint reveals my real poverty, which is a deficit of gratitude. I live in a rich country and enjoy freedoms many people literally cannot dream of, and will never enjoy in this life. I have beautiful, healthy children who are safe and have food to eat. My marriage is a blessing beyond measure and utterly undeserved.

And yet, I still struggle. I struggle to make sense of a life freely chosen of self giving and offering of first fruits and a nagging interior revulsion to surrender. I cast longing glances at 2 child families in the play place and wonder whether the graphic that has been circulating frantically via text message among my girlfriends of a Utah study detailing “total weeks spent with viral load in home vs. number of children” is accurate, and what it must be like to go a whole month without someone barfing. Never mind that those families may well be suffering from the heartache of infertility, or a spouse who won’t budge on going for number 3, or are simply caught up in the convincing web of contraception.

Man, this piece is aaaaaall over the place, isn’t it? Sometimes that’s what happens when they nap together (or destroy the basement silently.) But all this to say, I don’t have it all together. And while I may write “Catholicism” professionally, I struggle mightily to live it out, day by day. And I’m trying to figure out the right balance of authenticity vs. this is some kind of nightmare vs. impersonal theoretical stuff. So, onward. Into 2017. Into a year of more self offering that is willing and done smilingly, even when teeth are gritted a little and tears are threatening.

For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. Lk 9:24

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60 Comments

  • Reply Drusilla Barron January 5, 2017 at 2:09 pm

    Totally spot on. Thank you.

  • Reply kristal January 5, 2017 at 2:14 pm

    yes. thank you.

  • Reply Ellen January 5, 2017 at 2:23 pm

    We have two living children 5 years apart and have lost 4 children to miscarriage. I really struggle with being envious of people who have 3,4,5,10, etc. children. What I always wanted was to be an old woman sitting at a table just overflowing with a ton of children, their spouses, and their children. Every time we conceive I mentally fill a chair at that future table and then we lose the pregnancy. And even with all of that, I struggle to be there for the two I have fully. To not be consumed by who we have lost and how much energy and sleep the two I have consume. It’s just a struggle, all around.

    • Reply Ann January 5, 2017 at 3:37 pm

      Yes. I have 3 living children, 2 of whom have disabilities. 3 miscarriages, and we just buried our daughter born at full term with a fatal birth defect.

      I simultaneously feel unable to serve the children I have; wishing deeply that I had 7 children, feeling denied and lost in their absence; and resentful that avoiding future pregnancies requires so much sacrifice.

      It’s all hard, loving is hard, Catholic is hard. Great post.

      • Reply Melita January 10, 2017 at 10:34 am

        Oh Ann, my heart aches and breaks for you and your family. To suffer the loss of miscarriage is a pain I know well, but having a newborn die is just so very heavy a cross to bear. My dear friends suffered the death of their little baby boy right before his birth… the pain is so very searing and deep even as a close friend, I don’t know how you carry on. I do know that you are not alone. That your sweet children in heaven are with you and watching over your from the arms of Jesus. Please know how deeply you are loved by God, and that He still has amazing plans for your life and for your family. Your light will still shine on your family. May God hold you during this time of grief🙏🏼

    • Reply MK January 5, 2017 at 6:07 pm

      I’m praying for both of you, Ellen and Ann, and for your families. I’m so sorry for your losses. I can pick out things that are hard for me, for us as a married couple and for our family, but the faith that you both have is such an example. Thank you for sharing such deeply personal stories.

    • Reply Diana January 5, 2017 at 7:33 pm

      I so understand your sentiment. We started “trying” over 7 years ago and by my (rough) count we’ve seen 50+ babies welcomed by family and close friends while we are going through a many year long adoption wait for our second (adopted our first almost 4 years ago). Many of those people have had many (3+) kids in the time we’ve been working on this and it kills me a little every. single. time. One of the many things I’ve told myself is that God just figured we can’t handle the extra kids. It’s so hard to keep trusting HIS plan when it’s not going according to mine, for completely unknown reasons. I get it. Praying for you!

  • Reply Rose S January 5, 2017 at 2:28 pm

    Thank you. Once again your writing was exactly what I needed, today, in this moment.

  • Reply Kate January 5, 2017 at 2:30 pm

    Thank you! Thank you for reminding that I am not alone in the mess and the chaos and the struggle to surrender it all cheerfully. God bless you, and all mothers, in our journey toward sanctification.

  • Reply Megan January 5, 2017 at 2:31 pm

    Your timing is impeccable. Thank you. Solidarity sister. Love you.

  • Reply jeanette January 5, 2017 at 3:07 pm

    Beautiful description of the struggle to live daily in faithfulness to what one believes with their whole heart. Being older, I can give you some long-range view into the outcome. A mom and/or dad who is serious about their faith and serious about parenting will do everything they can to “do it right” being unselfish all along the way. And in the end, you might not even recognize one shred of evidence IN THEM that you did all of these sacrificial things! I’m not kidding! But you will see an astounding difference in who you are. The one thing to always remember, whether you have one kid or ten, you are not really doing these things for them, per se, you are doing them for God and for your own sanctity. Your children give you the groundwork for becoming holy, and there is no other purpose for becoming holy except that you are head over heels in love with God, and that is how you demonstrate it! And I truly believe whether one has a great many children or just one, the results will be amazing in the end for everyone.

    “What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard,
    and what has not entered the human heart,
    what God has prepared for those who love him,” (1 Cor 2:9)

    • Reply Sarah January 5, 2017 at 6:18 pm

      Thank you for this perspective!

    • Reply Sarah January 6, 2017 at 11:33 am

      Beautiful!

  • Reply Sara Kazlauskas January 5, 2017 at 3:09 pm

    Well said! Solidarity, sister! Hugs and prayers for 2017!

  • Reply Megan January 5, 2017 at 3:20 pm

    …”but my weak flesh quakes and resists the calls from down the hall at 3 am, every time. I find my footing on the floor beside the bed and tamp down feelings of anger, of resentment, of entitlement… // …it is the only thing of value we have to give Him, and it’s all He asks of us. // …their complaint reveals my real poverty, which is a deficit of gratitude.”

    Yes, Jenny.
    Yes.
    Thank you and Amen.

  • Reply MK January 5, 2017 at 3:37 pm

    Love this post Jenny! We have two children currently and I work outside the home. I’ve been struggling with the same feelings, and also came to similar realizations recently that my negativity was based on what the world was dictating to me or how it has (or might!) react to our choices.

    Jeannette, thank you also for your reflections as a parent of older/grown children. Learning that it is our own sanctification (and hopefully we wind up becoming good guides and models to grown children!) at stake really changes the perspective on it all. And it reinforces what Jenny has said–that it is a sacrifice but that’s what’s asked of us.

    Reminds me of those commercials where you can push the “easy” button. Totally skews what is real or what is worthwhile about the gift of life we are given (and the gift of life we give to the children we bear).

    • Reply jeanette January 7, 2017 at 3:58 pm

      I like your comment about the “easy” button: if it were easy, we would think foolishly that we could do it all on our own (such is our ego), but because it is hard, we are daily reminded of how much God is available to us to give us the assistance we need through so many graced moments and helps, if we only are humble enough to acknowledge we can’t do it ourselves. So, thank God when things are hard, because it keeps you from becoming so convinced of your competence that you lose sight of the very God who sustains your life at every breath. Difficulties truly keep us close to God and open to the life He wants to pour into our souls.

      • Reply MK January 9, 2017 at 2:02 pm

        Jeannette,

        I plan to re-read this whenever I’m having a hard moment! Thank you!

  • Reply Rebecka January 5, 2017 at 4:26 pm

    Thank you for this! I can relate to all of it. We have 8 kids 14 down to 1 I can remember when all my kids were little (four under five) I could NOT see any fruit from my endless labors. But now that they are starting to get a little older I see good things in my older kids–things I can’t necessarily take credit for, but seeing God being faithful to me even when I sucked it up. I find sometimes in Catholic women’s writing a lack of realness which I think can cause normal, fallen women to not even begin to think the Church’s teaching can be lived out. So I think these posts are important for women to read. I am one of the More unlikely persons that ended up saying yes to God’s call to be open to kids. It has been hard–so hard–to die to my self. I have a shirt that says “I love Jesus but I cuss a little” and it PERFECTLY represents me. But I hope to cuss a little less next year and continued to be changed into the person that God made me. And these kids are part of His plan.

  • Reply ashley.elise January 5, 2017 at 4:31 pm

    So true and so beautifully said! You make me feel like I’m not actually a horrible person for finding this parenting thing so crazy hard and at times even miserable (4, almost exactly the same ages as yours!) and simultaneously encourage and inspire me to pursue my motherhood with less whining and grumbling. Thank you 🙂

  • Reply Shannon January 5, 2017 at 4:44 pm

    Thank you for this beautiful reflection. It’s just what I needed to read tonight after succumbing to the stomach bug that’s plagued our house this week. Struggling with dehydration (I’m also 15 weeks pregnant), I was just reflecting on Jesus’ words, “I thirst”. While my thirst is answered by a loving husband with ice chips and pedialyte, his was met with gall and scorn. I’m so grateful for our Church’s teachings on suffering–we can’t avoid it, but Jesus is with us always (much easier said/thought than lived, but still…). Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts.

  • Reply Aimee January 5, 2017 at 5:21 pm

    Following and living our faith is not for the faint hearted. All these difficulties will have immense merit if offered to God. And God always gives us enough graces to last through the day. Soldier on and remember, kids grow up very quickly.

    • Reply MK January 9, 2017 at 2:09 pm

      So true, Aimee! My husband was just saying that when you spend time discovering our Catholic, Christian faith, you realize it’s hard work!!! If approached sincerely, it’s hardly the simple/easy “crutch” that many non-believers label it as…

  • Reply Sarah January 5, 2017 at 5:51 pm

    I needed this today. Thank you. I just can’t today with being a wife and mother and good Catholic I needed to hear these words. Thank you for your honesty and openness.

  • Reply Kendra January 5, 2017 at 6:54 pm

    Thank you so much for this post. Definitely came at an absolute perfect time! I hope you will always continue to write. I enjoy your posts so much and definitely relate.

  • Reply Rachael January 5, 2017 at 7:24 pm

    “Interior revulsion to surrender.” (Gulp.) That is what I have. I am kind of a spoiled brat.

    I relate to everything you said, especially the struggle between trying to live out the calling to be open to life, but also feeling like a weirdo in this society where the responsible, reasonable thing to do is to draw a line somewhere and say no more kids. Just the other day someone said to me, “I assume you’re done having kids.” I have four and I’m 37, so I said with a smile, “Yeah, I assume I am too.”:) Probably a good assumption, given how long it took actively trying to conceive number 4.

    And then I hear my younger peers talking about all the fun things they do and will get to do soon now that they have no more kids in diapers. But, like you said, it’s all worth it. It just makes no sense to most people, and a lot of times makes no sense to me either.

    • Reply jeanette January 5, 2017 at 10:34 pm

      I like your “no more diapers” comment. We just had our first two grandchildren recently, one born in August, one 2 days before Christmas. I watch as my children are getting to experience the demand to completely empty themselves and learn how to be available for the unending need to nurse the baby and change the diapers, the very makings of UNSELFISHNESS 101!

      So, yeah, diapers will disappear for awhile… a long while…but there will come the day when you will rejoice again for diapers to be part of your lives as you become grandmothers! It will take on a whole new meaning. Much more fun, too! ; )

    • Reply MK January 9, 2017 at 2:11 pm

      I have it too, Rachael. Caught red handed! One of those situations though where I’m glad I caught myself…even if it’s hard, it’s the old saying that nothing worth doing is easily done. Whew…

  • Reply Diana January 5, 2017 at 7:35 pm

    I’ve been feeling particularly selfish lately with my child-free time and even when he’s awake and around. I needed to hear that I’m not entitled to my 7-8 hours of sleep (hello, 3 year old still awake at 11:30…) because it’s reallllllllly hard to not snap at him when it’s late and he just won’t sleep. And then I wonder how I want twins as if I’ll magically stop being selfish when they arrive. I doubt that’ll happen. It’s nice to hear the struggles aren’t just for me. Thank you!!

  • Reply Emily January 5, 2017 at 7:49 pm

    I have a strict “do NOT read any comments” policy for the entire internet. However, this is the only site where I read comments and I am so thankful for them. So you either have boatloads of spectacular readers or do a great job blocking jerks.
    Or both.

  • Reply Fr. John Retar January 5, 2017 at 10:32 pm

    This is really good homily material. Can I steal some of it?

    • Reply Jenny Uebbing January 6, 2017 at 1:09 pm

      I would be honored, Father!

  • Reply Marguerite January 6, 2017 at 1:15 am

    Shortly after reading your beautifu blog post, I read the following blog post which begins to explain why it’s so hard. God bless to everyone
    http://foreverymom.com/faith/dear-mama-satan-screwtape-letter-kelsey-shade/

  • Reply Elena January 6, 2017 at 6:39 am

    If I can add any bit of reassurance to this post, it is this. We have seven kids under 14. It is immensely easier now than it was when the four oldest were under ten. We used to get awful rounds of the stomach flu that we would christen the scourge of 2010, the scourge of 2011 etc. January through til June would be spent throwing up every six weeks and people who read my blog would look forward to the scourge chronicles. But, here’s the thing, it stops. It really, really does. The overall family immunity really improves and we now go a year or more without a stomach flu. My oldest son hasn’t been sick with anything in almost two years! And when one kids gets it, the others don’t. hallelujah!!!! The vomit season does pass and it all gets so much more manageable. Also, because there are so many kids, I find that the younger ones enter school with so many more immunities and don’t succumb to the kindergarten sicknesses. So, if this provides you with any hope, I’m happy. Keep slugging it out. You are doing a fabulous thing! (One more thing: I used to fret about the kids’ TV consumption – until they started school. Because we only use tv in the afternoon , their tv consumption became almost nil because they were no longer at home. It’s amazing how many of our worries just naturally right themselves with the progression of time.)

    • Reply MK January 9, 2017 at 2:13 pm

      Love this! Thank you 🙂

  • Reply Maureen January 6, 2017 at 7:44 am

    Motherhood is a younger woman’s occupation for a reason; they have the deep reserves of stamina needed to cope with it all. God designed it so I think. So when I had my 5 over a period of 13 years I had the strength given me to do it. Now I am a grandmother I don’t have that sort of strength, but a different sort. I have patience, I listen, I suggest alternatives.
    Watching my children become parents I have realised that somehow in all the chaos of washing, cooking, homework, discipline, and snatched moments of peace and prayer a miracle happened: my children grew to be kind, gentle, Catholic people. Now they don’t realise this. They think they are simply behaving in a civilised way. But I see that the mark of their Baptism is on them and in everything they do. They may not actively attend church, but their Master is in their actions.
    Why say this here and now? I hope it will comfort all you young mums when the going gets tough. We can only do what we can do and He knows it is hard. All we have to do is try. He will make it happen according to His Will. And the children will grow and be what He planned them to be when He formed them inside us, even if they were only there for a moment.

    • Reply Bertha January 6, 2017 at 11:32 am

      We are in a new “club” now, the grandmother club! I understand perfectly what you are saying & agree that these beautiful courageous young mothers need all the encouragement we veterans can give them!

    • Reply Cami January 9, 2017 at 1:31 pm

      Not all of us get to bear children young. I met my husband at age 32, married at 33, and had my first baby at 34. The next came a year later at 35. The third baby came at 37 and my fourth will arrive a couple months before I turn 40. My husband (already 40) and I agree this is so hard. We wonder if it would have helped if we met a decade sooner. But truth be told we were both very broken and spiritually immature in our 20s. I don’t think we would have ended up together and we certainly wouldn’t have been on the path we are today. We just spoke this weekend about how baby #4 could be our last since I’m turning 40 and my cycles have had some signs of menopause approaching but we are also trying to prepare ourselves that a fifth child may come to us. We love our children. I think the hardest parts for us is that our oldest is just 5 years old so we are on the 4 kids in 5 years track, we feel old and tired, husband is working 2 jobs to provide after losing a more reliable job last year, and we’ve chosen homeschooling so the kids are here with us (me) all.the.time. Since husband works so much I don’t dare ask for time away to maintain a healthy balance so I’m totally running on empty many days, especially at 32 weeks pregnant with today’s debilitating headache. Anyway, who knows why God let it fall into place this way? I do see my husband and I improving a lot as we journey towards our goal for heaven but this is that hardest time of our lives. It doesn’t help to have zero family members living out the faith as intensely as we do. So we lack their support. The word “vasectomy” gets thrown around a lot from them. All my sisters in law stopped at 2 kids so we look insane to them. At least we have friends who get it. Thanks for this blog, Jenny.

      • Reply MK January 9, 2017 at 1:42 pm

        That’s so tough, Cami. I understand. We have two kids (almost 3 year old and almost 1 year old – birthdays 5 days apart!), and we will both be about 36.5 when our kids birthdays roll around this spring. We certainly want to have more kids, and I know plenty of women who have – including my grandmother, who had her fifth and final child (my mom!) at age 42 (back in 1950!). I obviously don’t know what it would have been like to have children as a younger parent, although I am sure we both would have had more energy.

        We both, my husband especially, talk regularly about wishing we had started sooner. We were married for almost 4 years before I gave birth to our eldest. We also were dating for a number of years before marriage. But, like you, we both now come to the conclusion time and again that a big reason we didn’t move faster is that, at the time, we too were lacking spiritual maturity. We both had been raised Catholic and while I still considered myself Catholic, in truth I had veered away from (and in part, never really known) Church teaching and the beauty of what our faith has to offer in marriage and family vocations; and was busy in law school. My husband also had been raised Catholic but saw half of his family, including a parent, become atheist–still a hard pill to swallow. We are thankful because we believe God brought us each other to help one another improve spiritually and reach heaven, as this is what we are called to do in Catholic marriage. But it took time to realize this!

        Thankfully we were married in the Church but we still felt financially so behind, with my school debt and being in the midst of what was then the worst of the recession, etc. Which of course can be valid reasons to delay family. But even now, my husband wants to advise younger family members who are married or planning to marry about not delaying, simply because of the practical matter that he thinks most people don’t count on how long it can take to conceive, or even just how long from conception to birth to recovery (i.e., thinking about having the next child, and actually getting your cycle back and so on) it can take to build a family! I think he’s right. Our secular society is so contraceptive-minded that really no one is thinking about this sort of thing.

        In sum, I want you to know that you’ve given me inspiration and I know your story will inspire my husband, too. I told him it is all in God’s hands and if we are meant to have kids into our 40s, we will. It sounds like you have remained open to life, as has your husband, and while it’s tough at this time, you are doing God’s work – truly. Thank you so much for sharing your story! I will remember this as we continue to try to grow our family 🙂 May God continue to bless you and your family!

        • Reply Cami January 10, 2017 at 8:35 am

          We have student loan debt too. But there wasn’t time to wait to have children since we met so late. We felt called to grow our family right away. Anyway, I’m
          humbled that what I shared is helpful to you. Our Catholic faith is a gift. I understand this more and more as I see others leave the church mostly due to a lack of understanding. I thank God that I had a reconversion experience at age 30 through hearing Theology of the Body. It was so healing for me. And I’m blessed to have a truly Catholic husband who tries to be our spiritual leader. All of us here are so blessed to have our faith and our community. I don’t know what we would do without like minded friends near and far. I wish you the best, MK as your family grows. God bless you!

  • Reply Erika January 6, 2017 at 8:05 am

    I am in the throws of morning sickness with number eight and this post rang perfect. The scripture you listed is my constant as I manage to scrounge up enough energy to just wash the dishes, my 20 month year old starts screaming at me and tugging at my shirt to hold her. I don’t understand my life at those times. How can just a tiny thing be so difficult? It is so trying not to scream right back. But then I remember this is not my life. I gave my life to Him. Do I trust Him to make me happy? It’s not a very glamorous martyrdom, but if it can get me to heaven by my 20 month old drip her sippy cup into my morning coffee and finding her joy irresistible I guess it’s a good fit for me.

    • Reply Jean January 6, 2017 at 7:52 pm

      Hang in there, Erika. Your barfiness is our gain as you/we prepare to welcome your new baby.

  • Reply Katie January 6, 2017 at 11:10 am

    God Bless you and thank you for sharing these words!

  • Reply Bertha January 6, 2017 at 11:28 am

    This brought back so many memories. At the time, living it was oh so difficult but now looking back I miss it so much! Now they are in their 30’s & 40’s with children of their own and a whole set of new worries for me & my husband. I cant cuddle & comfort them the same way anymore. Now i watch from afar & pray like crazy for them. Yes my home is always clean now, the fridge is always full & we can come home from work to a peaceful home…and yet… I still miss the chaos sometimes.

    • Reply Jean January 6, 2017 at 7:50 pm

      Oh, so true, Bertha. I’m in the same position. I still remember the shock when one day, many years ago, I realized it had been a really, really long time since there had been playground sand under the kitchen table. When had they stopped digging in the sand, stopped playing with dolls – how many moons ago since I’d been up with a colicky or teething baby? I miss those days but not the work and exhaustion. All you young moms please know I pray daily for you and your families as well as for the visitors to this blog.

      • Reply Cami January 9, 2017 at 1:34 pm

        Thank you, Jean for the prayers! Much needed!

  • Reply Catie January 7, 2017 at 10:04 am

    Thank you, Jenny. This was beautiful and inspiring…To be not afraid to carry my own crosses. Thank you!

  • Reply Marie January 7, 2017 at 5:30 pm

    It’s tough to realize that God doesn’t ask us to “like” our lives! If we’re trying to be good and keep his teachings, we might not “like” our lives at all but it’s worth it! I’m struggling with coming to terms that my in-laws will soon be living with us indefinitely… He’s surely cleaning up my selfishness as this is pretty tough for me but I just have to let go of selfishness. Thanks for your wonderful post.

    • Reply Cami January 9, 2017 at 1:38 pm

      Marie, you said it. It really hurts to know that happiness and satisfaction are not really something we are entitled too. Mostly I feel inept and unqualified and exhausted and burnt out. There are glimmers of joy and satisfaction but they are just glimmers. Brief moments of peace. God bless you as you prepare to welcome in-laws. I know for me that would be a very, very heavy cross complete with rusty nails digging into my shoulders and cutting into my weak, resentful flesh. I pray it goes better than you imagine it will.

  • Reply Simone January 9, 2017 at 8:26 pm

    So very, very true. Thank-you for writing so candidly.

  • Reply jeanette January 9, 2017 at 10:26 pm

    This is such a great discussion you’ve initiated with this post, Jenny. I love to hear the voices of so many women sharing in the struggle of just what it means to be a mother and the challenges of just trying to refresh yourself when you are tired and burdened by the ongoing demands of just the ordinary day. And I’m thinking about what that means for you all. All of the external and material solutions in the world won’t give nearly as much in refreshment as God wants to give to you. That is where it is so important to remember the very littlest ways are sometimes the most profitable. You need to draw down those graces into your day!

    Time pressed doesn’t mean no time for prayer, just a creatively simple approach. Whatever it is for you, make it visual on one level (be sure to have places around your home where you glance at images such as a crucifix, a holy card tucked somewhere, a Sacred Heart or Immaculate Heart image, a statue of St. Joseph or some other beloved saint, a scripture verse posted on a refrigerator, bathroom mirror, chalkboard, at the computer, etc.) Put these around your home where you will encounter them regularly. They take only a moment to take in visually, but that moment is just what you need. Wear a crucifix or holy medal (like the Miraculous Medal) or a scapular, so that you carry this reminder on your very body and a simple touch of it can raise your heart up to the God who is with you. Have a rosary handy around the house (or in your pocket) where you can pick it up and finger it if for just a moment to be with Mary and draw some strength from her (you don’t have to pray a single word of the rosary…just hold it and raise your mind to Jesus through Mary). And if you are really blessed with a good opportunity of daily mass once or more a week, take it. If you are able to keep the habit of confession once a month or more, keep it. Take a bible, open it up and leave it laying open as an invitation to read the scripture of the day…or any verse you desire to reflect upon that day…at least eyeing a few words of it and holding it in your heart throughout the day. Don’t forget to invoke the Holy Spirit’s help…Come Holy Spirit! is sufficient. These little helps do the most in keeping you free to be there for your children and spouse and do the work before you while at the same time keeping your heart recollected throughout the day so that you can maintain the peace of heart God wishes you to enjoy. You will really know the depth of love that comes with maintaining that unceasing prayer that St. Paul tells us about. This goes hand in hand with being a mother, as you are the vessel which God has chosen to fill with love so that it may be poured out upon others.

  • Reply Jennifer January 10, 2017 at 10:43 am

    It is all very hard. As the only practicing Catholic in both of our families and among our friends, we are definitely the odd balls. We have 4 children. 19, 13, 9 and 11 months. I am open to more, my husband struggles. We fell into the contraception lie before we came into the church fully. He had a vasectomy and then had it reversed 9 years later. We now have a beautiful 11 month old. But everyone we know is telling us that this is enough kids. We don’t want to be old raising teenagers. What is the hardest part for us is the lack of support. We don’t have family to help us. We both work. I’d love to not have to work outside the home. I know we are doing what God has called us to. But it isn’t easy. I think so many families struggle due to the lack of support from our communities and families.

  • Reply Melita January 10, 2017 at 10:52 am

    Hi Jenny:) I always com back to your blog for a breath of fresh Catholic air:) As I gag for the 9th time with all-day “morning” sickness with my 8th pregnancy, I read your words and am laughing and sighing in agreement. After two heartbreaking miscarriages, we have been blessed with 5 living, healthy, awesome kids, and a big, fun house in the country. I help run a Catholic Mom’s group in town and someone asked me how I remain so happy and loving with my kids ( silent cackle!) I thought that was so sweet of her to think but reassure her that I have such deep times of difficulties, struggle with impatience, and often “run to the store” as soon as my hubby gets home just to clear my head. It has taken me 12 years of motherhood to really just accept and love the beauty of the cross that is motherhood. I accept that things won’t be perfect, socks will probably not be 100% matched and dinner might be fairly pitiful at times… but I will be there for my kids and husband. I will fight my own selfishness daily to out their needs ahead of my wants, and to crouch down and look at them in their amazing eyes and let the beauty of their little souls seep into mine. I have forsaken facebooked and instagram so I can focus on the small miracles I my own home. And a million times a day I fail. But God says’ ” Get up my love! I have amazing things in store for you! I need you to spread my light!” So I pick my sick self up and try again. I am so great full for blogs like yours that remind all of us on this journey that we are not alone! We are all stumbling toward God together! And we help one another up as onwards with kind words and good natured commiserations:) Parise God for the blessing of Sisterhood and for his Graces all around us. Praying for each of you in a special way today:)

  • Reply Sheila January 12, 2017 at 8:28 am

    I read a great essay the other day with an interesting theory about why it’s so hard. Check it out here: https://thefederalist.com/2017/01/05/stop-whining-learn-love-mother/ Don’t be turned off by the title. I don’t think you’re whining. Mussman’s basic theory is that it’s hard work being a mom, and it comes to seem impossible; and then when we see it as impossible, we take it as something to just suffer through, instead of trying to learn how to do it better. I think she’s a little too hard on all of us, but I’ve personally found it fruitful to start thinking, what do I find impossible about this job? Is it *actually* impossible, or is there a way I can learn to do it better? Anyways – this may or may not be a helpful thought for you but I thought I would pass it along. God bless you today and give you rest and peace!

    • Reply Jenny Uebbing January 12, 2017 at 12:08 pm

      Yeah, I did read that piece, and had the same reaction it sounds like you did: some good points, but overall the tone was lacking. Also, when I looked the writer up I discovered that she only has 2 little kids so far (which is fine! We’ve all been there!), and I think life looks a lot different when you’re still relatively the “master” of your house with 2 little ones who can be wrangled into submission. Also, she’s not Catholic, so I would imagine our positions on natural family planning do not align, nor our visions for what the next 20 years of motherhood might look like. (And I could be totally wrong, I know there are protestants who don’t use birth control…but I know they’re in the minority.)

      Thanks for reading!

  • Reply Allison Howard January 28, 2017 at 1:01 pm

    Jenny, if I move to Denver with my four, can we be besties? You speak to my heart. I am so thankful my husband found your blog and sent you to me! Praise God for that.

    • Reply Jenny Uebbing January 29, 2017 at 1:56 pm

      haha, sure 🙂

  • Reply Mandy January 28, 2017 at 4:13 pm

    this is so timely and well-written! Love your blog have read it a few times, first time commenting. The struggle is real all around, but, we must keep the faith! We recently lost our 4th due to an 8 week miscarriage and it was SO very hard. I am currently praying novenas feverishly for his intercession – whatever his will! My husband is scared (health issues for me, baby, money, etc) and has said ‘no more!’ I am only 36 and that’s a lot of years ahead to say ‘no’ to more life if it’s his will. He’s a recent convert to the faith – so any suggestions to help him understand and prayerfully have more openness to God’s plan if/when there would be more? We had fallen into the contraception trap earlier in marriage (I took the pill in my 20’s for promised ‘lighter and easier periods!). Now we do a modified NFP billings method as I’m very regular usually. But, I fear that he will resort or want to resort to vasectomy (which I’ve heard countless stories of the pain this can bring to a couple 🙁

    • Reply Jenny Uebbing January 29, 2017 at 1:58 pm

      Mandy, Life Giving Love by Kimberly Hahn is the gold standard. Hard, but so, so good. Read it yourself and maybe sections can be read together as a couple. There’s also a lot of good stuff in the archives on the website “One More Soul.” Simcha Fisher wrote a good book a few years ago called “Sinner’s Guide to NFP” (though I can’t vouch for her stuff of late. The book is solid, though.

      God bless you and I am so sorry for your loss!

  • Reply Marlon July 12, 2017 at 8:13 pm

    Thank you so much for this. A friend sent it to me today just as I wrap up a very hard day with number four sleeping in my arms (finally) and the husband away. It made me weep. I know others find it hard but Even then sometimes I feel so alone. I am an older mom and at 37 I am starting to give into gut- wrenching anxiety. Only with this last baby have I given into such anxious thoughts. We recently bought a house ( at peak price) and I worry that this will be the decision that will ruin us (even though it should be within our budget). I worry about the move. I worry about putting my kids in school (my eldest starts shortly). I worry about what will happen if I choose keep her home (will her and I live to regret it). I wonder if I was just hoping this blended family would work ( I have a stepson who is 12 with us) or if it was just pie in the sky. My husband has been a catechumen for a long time but never seems ready to take that final step. I read stats about children whose dads are not religious are not likely to keep the faith. I can start to despair. But then something like this, like reading this post reminds me that somehow, someway, this is my path to heaven….(please God). Thank you for sharing your words.

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