“For this momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison…” 2 Corinthians 4: 17

Anyone who has been to our house over the past couple of months can attest to the fact that life is a little bit nutty around here right now J We love life with three kids at home, and the big kids have been very sweet with their new baby sister, but we are definitely still working out the logistical details of our days! Mealtimes, bedtimes, and out-the-door times seem to be especially challenging for us, and there have been plenty of meltdowns, time-outs, and lost privileges between the two big kids.

I am not surprised that the addition of another child to our family has rocked the boat a little bit – this is how it’s supposed to be, right?! What I am surprised by is how easily I can become unhinged when the details of daily life seem to be conspiring against me. There’s nothing like a sink full of dirty dishes, a toddler who has just (purposely) spilled her bowl of cereal for the umpteenth time, or an inconsolable baby to make me feel desperate and alone. It is so easy to get lost in the crazy little details – the un-swept floors, the whining, the sorry condition of the kids’ bathroom – and to lose sight of the big picture. It is also very easy to start feeling sorry for myself and to notice all of the difficult parts of my day, when there are also plenty of good things that I have overlooked.

Thankfully, the following verse was brought to my attention a couple of weeks ago, and I can honestly say that it has saved me several times in moments of near insanity:

“For this momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison…” 2 Cor 4: 17

When I take a step back to really think about what I am getting upset about, I realize that most of it is truly a momentary light affliction, and not something worth sacrificing my peace (or my family’s peace!) for. Yes, there are plenty of slightly traumatizing parts of being a mother. For example, a few weeks ago I took the big kids to Mass alone (Ed had been a lector the night before). Everything started out fine, but then my toddler started to scream about something and I took her to the cry room, leaving Christopher in the pew. When we came out for our second attempt in the church, the toddler started to scream again, only this time she was kicking and flailing as well. I made the “walk of shame” back to the cry room once more, flailing child in hand (the poor lady who had to get up every time we left the pew!), where my toddler proceeded to behave very, very badly. Once again, we made our way back to the pew – I couldn’t leave Christopher by himself for all of Mass! – and once again, my child began to have a fit. By the end of Mass, I had tears in my eyes and I was shaking all over. I can honestly say that being able to repeat the words “this momentary light affliction” saved me in that moment.

Each of us has our own list of slightly traumatizing mommy moments, and we live through them every day. Our families will never be perfect, nor will our days be free from conflict, but when we take a step back, most of our hardships truly are momentary and light. The house is a mess, but it will eventually be clean again. The kids whine all the time, but there will come a day when the kids won’t want to talk to us at all and we’ll wish that they were little again. Bedtime is chaotic and exhausting, but the kids will eventually fall asleep! The point is this: Many parts of our day can be hard to bear, but we must keep our focus on the reason that we do all of these things in the first place. We have taken on the vocation of beings wives and mothers, and we are working through daily life out of love for our families. We are raising our children to be responsible, kind, generous men and women of faith, and everything that we do day-to-day must work towards this goal. If we lose sight of this, then it is easy to get lost in the web of our daily lives.

God bless all of you as we near the end of this month of May, the month when we honor Our Blessed Mother, our perfect example of patience and humility. Mary, Mother of Hope, pray for us!

*Note: Many women (and some men, too!) struggle with post-partum depression, and this is very different from what I have talked about in this post. These mothers have tried everything that they know how to do to change their perspective, but it has not worked. Sometimes, medicine is necessary to restore the balance of chemicals in the brain and hormones in the body, along with counseling. Post-partum depression is a VERY serious condition, and the best thing that you can do for yourself, your baby, and your family is to seek medical attention immediately. There is no shame in seeking medical help - it is the responsible thing to do.

10 comments:

Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for this.

May 31, 2010 at 11:45 AM  

Does anyone have thoughts about this post?

http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/06/01/not-loving-your-child/

June 1, 2010 at 2:33 PM  

Kat, too true! I've really been thinking about this. Yes, it's a momentary light affliction. But it doesn't ever really feel easy. Maybe because the changes and growth that God works in us as we live out this vocation carry the weight, and gravity, of eternity. Very few days of motherhood are tragic or too heavy to bear, but almost every day is painful/uncomfortable in ways that sanctify us. There are the physical discomforts. There is the lack of control. There is that GREAT surrendering of almost all personal whims and preferences (God help me to bear this one!) There is fear of loss, fear of failure. There is lack of personal space, or loneliness, or whatever our particular struggle might be. Our vocation of shepherding little souls while being the heart and hands of the home is darn weighty and the purification that happens along the way hurts. St. Paul's word choice here--"light affliction"--is great. It's light, but it's also affliction!

June 1, 2010 at 3:48 PM  

JM, hello, and well said! I especially like your point that "there is that GREAT surrendering of almost all personal whims and preferences" - how true that is! Getting married teaches us a little bit about this surrender, but becoming a parent takes it to a whole new level!

June 1, 2010 at 4:02 PM  

Anonymous,

I would tell any parent struggling with not feeling love for their child that love is an action not an emotion. Ultimately love is not how you feel but what you do. There is no shame in feelings because we aren't in control of how we feel. But we are in control of what we do with our feelings.

I would tell them: go through the motions even if you feel like it's a lie. Hug your children, kiss them, cuddle them, say kind words, go out of your way to shower them with affection, with praise, with tender words. Eventually it won't feel like such a lie anymore. One day you will wake up and realize that you mean what you say.

June 1, 2010 at 4:04 PM  

I love this post...thank you! Your blog was recommended to me recently, and I just started following. Your honesty and insights are inspiring and uplifting...and I think almost every mother can relate! Thank you! :)

June 1, 2010 at 5:41 PM  

I haven't read the post about not loving your child, but I would say that for some people just going through the motions is not enough, and it is time to talk to a counselor/social worker/doctor about some help -- there may be reasons from your past that your are not bonding properly or you may be suffering from depression, but either way, you do not have to live like this, things can get better, but you are going to need to do something about it. Trying harder is a good start, but it just doesn't work for everyone. Babies are so cute and wonderful and lovable and if you pick up and hug your baby and you don't, at least some of the time, feel totally in love with them, you probably need help. I am totally serious.

June 2, 2010 at 10:04 AM  

Ok, just clicked through and read the nytimes blog -- I would really say counseling. on the one hand, those emotions/reactions are normal, but on the other they must be processed and dealt with -- she talks about a cycle which she is able to break with real work on the toddler/parent relationship, but not everyone is emotionally able, especially postpartum, to do that work alone, and if the child is starting to act out in response to mom's distance, things could get bad fast -- it is so, so hard to love a misbehaving toddler when you are exhausted and post partum. Some of this is to be expected, but if it is not getting better, Get help! Please, before you do damage that cannot be repaired. Help starts with your husband, mother, best friend, anyone who you can tell how you are feeling, and can advise you, but may have to progress to professional help.

June 2, 2010 at 10:09 AM  

Thanks for putting down these thoughts, Kat. Thanks to your post, this verse ran through my head as we had to abandon out errands this week when I realized that Jack-Jack had a live snail stuck in his nose. He thought it was very funny, not so much after he had to endure getting it out.

June 3, 2010 at 2:40 PM  

Tex ~ You're kidding, right?!! A snail? How does that happen?! Never a dull moment :)

June 3, 2010 at 3:40 PM  

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