Jen Fulwiler at the National Catholic Register recently published an excellent blog post addressed to mothers of young children. She exhorts mothers to put aside all excuses and to thrive, not at some time in the distant future when all the kids are grown, but now, even though we are stretched by the demands of our vocation. Just because we are mothers does not mean that we should stop being ourselves and caring for ourselves; our lives do not stop when our children's begin.
Over the past few months I have been struggling with some of the same ideas. I feel a yearning to do something more, something beyond the day-to-day demands of my vocation. Then I feel guilty for not feeling completely fulfilled by faithfully tending to the needs of my family. But, I feel this need to create, to do something with the gifts God has given me. But, how am I to do that without taking away from my duties as wife and mother in some way? I want to be true to my vocation. I want to be true to me. Do those two different desires have to be in conflict?
At a recent mom's group meeting at my parish we had a wonderful guest speaker, Cathy Garcia-Pratz. I've mentioned her before in a blog post after a presentation she made to the same mom's group last year. This time her time with us was dedicated to only Q&A. During that session I asked her how she balanced being a wife and mother of ten boys with also being a published author of multiple books and a sought after speaker. She didn't answer directly, but instead she related her journey.
Cathy's passion had always been for teaching. Then she married and the babies came quickly. The first two came about a year apart and I think she said they had their first 5 boys in about 5 or 6 years. During that time she solely focused on her rapidly growing family. But, she also felt a deep need to do something for herself. Since she loved teaching she volunteered to teach preschool religious education classes at church for about an hour a week. Slowly that role grew and she was in charge of the entire preschool program. The time she was able to carve out to pursue her passion was limited, especially since they continued to add more precious little boys to their family; but, with the help of her husband, she made sure it happened.
She didn't begin writing books until her youngest son was in preschool, writing furiously during the three hours, three days a week that the house was quiet. One book eventually led to another and to more and more speaking opportunities. Today her youngest is now a senior in high school and she plans to dedicate even more time to writing once her nest is empty.
What I got out of her story is that when the kids are little, time for personal pursuits may be limited, but they should not be non-existent. Both Cathy and her family suffered when she didn't have her own creative outlet. It was not easy for her to get away, even for an hour a week, but together they did what they had to to make it happen.
I also realized that we mother's do have to be patient. We may not have all the time we desire to fulfill our longings, but it won't always be that way. A day will come when time is in abundance. But, we shouldn't give up on our dreams until the nest is empty. Start now, but in small ways that actually enrich the family (by energizing mom) rather than detract from it (by selfishly hoarding time or energy for personal pursuits).
I've been talking with Eric (repeatedly over many months) about this need I feel for a project, something of my own that excites me and gives me energy. I debated doing something more with photography or volunteering or pursuing a hobby like knitting or cross-stitching. Then Eric hit the nail on the head and named the longing of my heart that I had been afraid to speak out loud out of fear of failure.
"I think you should write."
To be continued.