Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Parenting and maintaining a spiritual life

We missed Mass on Sunday.  It got me thinking about some of the difficulties of being a parent particularly in the spiritual realm.  Quiet prayer time (or any quiet time!) is dang hard to come by with a busy toddler and a host of other responsibilities.  Even Mass is often a distracted family effort, trying to keep L from throwing missalettes at the people around us.  We sometimes end up outside the church entirely when even the crying room can’t contain our little wild one.  I very firmly believe in going to church together as a family, so going to separate Masses is out for us.  But taking L to Mass means that the one for sure bit of time set aside for our spiritual lives each week is less than reflective.  

We didn’t go to Mass this last Sunday.  L and I both had yucky colds, but we probably could have made it.  The truth is we are both pretty tired of making it through Mass with our very active 21 month old, and the idea of getting to Mass, stressing until we had to take her out, then stressing that we were being too loud for the foyer just sounded like too much to handle spiritually.  In many ways, Mass has become something we just make it through lately.  The church closest to us doesn’t have a crying room which adds additional obstacles.  We usually go to a church farther from us with a fantastic crying room but they only have morning masses and L’s cold was especially bad in the morning. Still, I’m sure we could have made it to Mass if we had really tried.  But Mass has just felt exhausting.  I honestly felt like it was going to be a problem spiritually for us to go this time.  It’s strange, because we so rarely miss Mass.  I feel a little bad about it, mainly because I have a feeling we are going to have little kids around for a while and should learn how to make it through.

Our missing Mass illustrates very well the challenges we’ve experienced in maintaining our faith along with child raising.  I will admit I often feel discouraged about how we will ever become more faithful people when Mass has become something chaotic and stressful.  I’m sure we will learn better ways to cope as we continue raising children, and I realize that lots of people out there wish they could wrangle a kid during Mass. But this is my challenge right now.  And I feel like it was something no one ever warned me about.  I suppose it should be obvious considering how many times I’ve seen parents in back with their kids, but like many things in life it doesn’t seem real until you are in the situation.

However, when it comes to the day to day, I often find myself feeling faith in the mundane.  There is nothing like L’s smile to help me believe in God.  She is so innocent and beautiful that her very existence points to something divine.  I will find myself feeling philosophical and, consequently, faith-filled while interacting with her.  But my belief and my prayer life look very different now than they did before she was born.  Before babies, I can't say I had an awesome prayer life, but I was frequently in the adoration chapel, and I said prayers every night.  I sought comfort and guidance in prayer.  When I think of what I am meant to do in life, I know that I am primarily responsible to A, to L, and also now to unborn-baby J.  It’s strange to have such a sense of purpose in life, but also very good.  I am also struck frequently by the profound in dull moments.  Emptying the dish washer and watching L ‘help’ is a moment of wonder that this little person wants to be with me, and participate in my day.  

My quiet moments are few and far between, and I will admit I have little semblance of a prayer life these days.  But I feel like I am living a much better life than I was in my single college days.  I wasn’t particularly bad in college, just selfish like most young people.  Now every day, whether I like it or not, I am not just living for myself.  My prayer life may be awful, and I may occasionally miss Mass out of sheer exhaustion, but I can only pray that God can use my daily efforts at caring for my husband and children and make me better through them.


1 comment:

  1. Mass with littles is such a challenge - I feel your pain! We were in a pretty good groove with our toddler for several months, but then baby #2 showed up and most Masses since has been a disaster since he always wants to nap then. We try to read the readings ahead of time as a family over the weekend (one reading per meal on Saturday/Sunday, as life allows) which helps alot. And I've started writing a new blog series on the Sunday readings from the standpoint of parenting, which also helps me approach Mass in a different light. But I'm just trying to accept that it's going to be a struggle for awhile again - and then it will get better! Blessings to you & your family.