Friends, it should come as no surprise to hear that stay-at-home-mothering is hard work. You cook, you clean, you play, you sing, you encourage, you discipline, you guide, you nurture, you love, you support... you're tired, isolated, frustrated, hungry, dehydrated, possibly over-caffeinated, over-touched... the list goes on and on. It's hard.
But the hardest thing for me as a SAHM is feeling unsuccessful. It is looking around my home at 7:30 pm on Wednesday, and wondering what in the world did I do today? Did I accomplish anything I planned on?
As I've worked in the home over the last year, and especially this summer, I've discovered that there are a few things I can do each week (or day) that help me to feel like I've accomplished something.
Six Things That Help Me Feel Like an Accomplished Mama
1.) Attending Mass on Sunday
I won't deny that getting to Mass can be a mental struggle for me. I know it is going to be difficult to wrestle my 1 yo solo for an hour and that I am likely to leave feeling exhausted than refreshed. However, I know that I am not only responsible for my own soul but also this young one, which means I need to take him to Mass and support his spiritual development. Nothing makes me feel better about myself as a mama than knowing that I have done the best I can (taking him to Mass each week) to help him walk closely with God as he grows up.
2.) Seeing a Healthful Grocery Cart
Grocery shopping is one of my favorite tasks I'm responsible. When I look down at my shopping cart while we wait in line, I get a strange, overwhelming sense of pride that I have knowledge and ability to take these fruits and vegetables, these whole grains, and other ingredients and prepare meals for my family. Eating healthy does not have to be expensive (pssst, ALDI). Knowing that I can stay in budget and take great care of my family makes me feel on fire for my family and vocation.
3.) Making My Baby Laugh
If I can start my morning with a laughing baby, I've set the tone for a loving, fun day. I don't love that my wake up routine has been taken by a tyrant who weighs less than 25 lbs, but a quick round of peek-a-boo or belly-tickles helps us both start on a good foot. Music as I prepare breakfast or playing outside on the porch are also ways that help us both being our day happy rather than grumpy or resentful and gives me at least one good thing to smile about as I look around the afore-mentioned destroyed house after bedtime.
4.) Reading a Book
How do you have time to read after all those things you listed earlier!? The same way you have time for Netflix or girl's night. Reading is possibly the best form of self-care for me. I get to use my brain, relax, and possibly learn something. I recently read Jennifer Fulwiler's One Beautiful Dream and loved it enough to write about it (you can read about that post here). I also just finished the novel Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter and really enjoyed it as well! Taking time to do something for me at the end of the day, accompanied with a cup of chamomile tea, goes a long way towards helping me feel like myself.
5.) Checking Off Three To-Do's (or not)
I've tried to keep myself accountable to my to-do lists this summer by doing my best to always do three things on that list. They don't always have to be big ones, like repairing the lawn mower (which sat on the to do list for almost two weeks), they can be as simple as getting all the dishes done or mailing that thank you card. If I don't get those three things done, I reflect on my day and recognize the three things I did accomplish. Sometimes it's that I kept the baby, my husband, and our dogs, all well-cared for. Other days, it is quality time with my family or a friend. The reality is, our worth does not rest in our tangible accomplishments. It can be found in just providing a fun, love-filled day for our family!
6.) Writing for Myself or Someone Else
Whether its a blog post for here or for the lovely Caitlin Shepherd, who you can find on here, a prayer journal entry or just a note for my husband to read when he comes home from a closing shift, writing is so cathartic for me. When I take a moment or two to put my thoughts and feelings down, even if no one will read them, I can sit back and breathe, resting in my sense of identity and purpose that God has given me.
The most important about all of this though is understanding that our sense of identity does not dwell in what we have done today or last week. There are wonderful people I know from law school who are preparing to take the bar exam and although that is a huge thing they are about to undertake, their value before God does not rest in their success on an exam. Friends from college have gotten married, others have not; others have traveled, some have returned home. Regardless, their value does not rest in those accomplishments, promotions, relationships, and adventures. Their value can only truly be found in God's love for them. It is easy to get caught up in the hustle mindset (which is incredibly dangerous, here's why). Although God calls us to work hard, to strive to care for those around us, and wants us to feel accomplished and proud of what we do. Which is why I can feel accomplished with small, everyday tasks like groceries and reading and so can you. Take pride in what you've done today, even it is a trip to the zoo, dishes, and a very late blog post.
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I am a glutton for the thrill of being busy. In college, I took immense pleasure in "complaining" (bragging) about how busy I was with my credit load, extracurriculars, and work on top of running a summer camp, preparing for the LSAT... the list would go on and on. But that over-busy, over-reaching lifestyle eventually caught up to me. Somewhere between moving to a new city, starting a new degree, and getting married I experienced an uphill battle with myself that made me take a hard look at the life I was leading. I was too tired on Sundays to pull myself up and go to Mass. Most days, my prayer journaling was a few sentences, if any, and promise that I would do better next time.
Sunday's Gospel assures us that God isn't asking for much. The yoke is easy and the burden is light. So why was I struggling so much with spending even just little time with God each week?
I was too focused on what this world was asking of me. Instead of coming to God with my burdens, I shouldered them on my own. I was my own task master, adding item after item to my to do lists rather than turning to God and admitting that I had bitten off more than I could chew. As I neglected my soul, I slowly felt myself burn out.
But God's yoke is easy and the burden is light. As I peeled away the unnecessary things off of my list, I found myself connecting more deeply with the Mass. When I admitted that what I was doing was too much, that I could not (should not) be committing so much of myself to these worldly things, my soul felt infinitely lighter. I found rest in minimizing my obligations to only what God asks of us and then slowly adding more while refusing to taking away from God. Minimalism at its finest; focusing only on what truly matters.
Take a moment today to actually write down your to do list and then reflect on which of these things are necessary and which are not. Does this thing make it easier for you to glorify God or does it take away from the time that you could spend in prayer in one way or another? Don't be afraid to make this a part of your prayer today: asking God for guidance in how you can better serve God and God's Church. Don't shy away from dedicating a task to God. Laundry folded in prayer and dedication to your vocation is as much a prayer as time in front of the Blessed Sacrament.