Mamas, Make No Mistake: What You Are Doing Is Holy

Nap time is dying in our house. It’s been dead for months I guess, but I’ve only started to notice it really recently. Like on days when I’d give plasma for an hour of silence, or at least the freedom from verbal interaction with another humanoid for longer than 7 minute stretches.

This morning a couple girlfriends and I took 8 nearly indistinguishable blonde children to IKEA for kids eat free Tuesday, probably looking every inch the part of Sister Wives in so doing. Our friend with the smallest (so far!) visible number of children mentioned that she finally understood what it meant to get “the looks.” And, I mean, look away, 8 kids under 6 is legitimately gawk-worthy.

It’s nice to be past the point of caring even the smallest bit what or whether anyone thinks about you and your crew when you’re out rolling 4 or 5 or 8 deep, trying to keep it together.

I used to think I’d just become so mellow and peaceful that I’d stop worrying about keeping up appearances. It turns out it’s more like too busy counting heads and keeping butts in seats. When I look up to see if anyone is staring, they almost always are. But I never look up any more! And unless someone gets in my face for a compliment or light-hearted comment (frequent) or a rude remark (almost never), I have my blinders on. And they’re super effective.

(Except at Trader Joe’s. Everything at Trader Joe’s is sweetness and light. I make intentional eye contact with everyone in a Hawaiian shirt, and it’s a foretaste of the beatific vision, I’m sure of it.)

I’ve been re-reading Kimberly Hahn’s (prophetic? Challenging? Frustrating? Life-changing?) masterpiece, “Life Giving Love,” over the past couple weeks at bedtime, and almost every section leaves me with a new insight or some uncovered wound in need of spiritual Neosporin.

I picked the book up years ago, when I was a starry-eyed grad student and well before marriage became a reality. I remember sitting in Kimberly’s 4-part seminar on marriage and motherhood almost a decade ago now, scribbling furious notes and longing for the day I’d get to implement all this great stuff firsthand.

Well well well, that day is here. And I must have taken most of my notes with a rose-colored pencil. Because ouch. Ouch, ouch, ouch.

Everywhere I turn I’m tripping over my own ego, lying dead in a puddle of double digit sized jeans from the clearance rack, or else I’m bumping up against my own selfishness in the middle of the night when I’m praying somebody else (hi, honey!) hears that crying baby and rolls to a reluctant vertical position before I do. Or when I’m hunched over a Dollar Tree pregnancy test feeling pretty sure there’s no way but still wondering if maybe it’s worth looking into. (FTR: Not an announcement. Just a relatable anecdote.)

There are lots of opportunities to practice life giving love in marriage. And there are plenty in the priesthood and religious life too, I’ve been told.

But what I hadn’t been adequately prepared for, thanks more to my own ignorance and media consumption and less to any failure on my own parents’ part, was the extent to which I was going to be asked to take up my cross.


Yes, I know. It’s stupid. It’s in the Bible over and over again, the parts about being a disciple and accepting the sweet burden of the yoke of Christ and promises of how He’d help us carry it and we’d be few laborers in a field ripe for the harvest.

But I don’t think I internalized it all, adequately, in light of the sacramental vocation of marriage. Because I also had plenty of worldly input that led me to expect something along the lines of romantic self actualization and total fulfillment of wildest dreams and security and blissful candlelit dinners and relaxing beach vacations. (Don’t ask where exactly I picked all those ideas up, just know that they exist.)

And then for me, harder still than the promise of fun and security, was the false notion of deserving to look and feel a certain way, in exchange for having been faithful.

I think I honestly believed that God owed me one for being open to life.

That because I was “playing by the rules,” so to speak, I’d effortlessly drop that baby weight and have lots of silent time for sipping coffee and staring peacefully out the window into my sun dappled back yard, watching with pride as my well behaved offspring frolicked together in the grass.

Several of them did frolic in the grass this afternoon, matter of fact, but they were inexplicably naked and covered in dead grass and dried silly string when I retrieved them 6 minutes after idealistically handing over the long-coveted hose for the first bit of water play of the season. When will I learn?

Jenny Uebbing
Jenny Uebbing
Jenny Uebbing is a freelance writer and editor and a blogger for Catholic News Agency. Her popular blog “Mama Needs Coffee” covers everything from current events and politics to the Catholic Church’s teachings on sex and marriage to life with an army of toddlers. She has created content for Endow, FOCUS, EWTN, the USCCB, Catholic Exchange, and Our Sunday Visitor press. In her free time she watches HGTV on the treadmill and drinks La Croix by the case. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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